Coming into this meet, UCLA had defeated Utah eight consecutive times. Two storied programs in women's collegiate gymnastics, but lately, UCLA had the upper hand on the Red Rocks. Saturday, Utah took the streak and told it "not in our house."
While UCLA shuffles lineups even late in the season, I don't remember seeing this much lineup shuffling in quite a while. Sam Peszek has been hurt, and I suspect her achilles may be giving her problems. She only competed on the uneven bars on Saturday, the opposite of her freshman year, when she had a wrist injury and managed to win the NCAA beam title with a "hands free" program. (Remember, at the 2008 Olympics, Peszek hurt her ankle during warmups and she only competed on uneven bars during the team final.)
UCLA started on uneven bars, and with Danusia Francis slowed by a stomach bug, the Bruins had too many errors to overcome, and too many "little' deductions that had them falling behind Utah after the first rotation, behind by nearly a point. Ellette Craddock had two falls, and while we did not have to count that routine, Sophina DeJesus came too close to the bar on her release move and was dinged appropriately.
A point in gymnastics is monstrous to overcome, and the Bruins couldn't do it. They rallied on the vault, scoring a 49.1, but Utah put up 49.525 on the bars, increasing their lead. While the Bruins were able to recover some points on the floor while Utah had some bobbles on the beam, Utah closed the night on the floor and closed the door on any thought of a UCLA comeback. As I noted in the open thread, we needed at least two falls in two routines to have a chance. Unfortunately the falls and wobbles came from UCLA on the beam.
The gymnast of the night would be freshman Hallie Mossett, who competed in the all-around for the first time in her collegiate career, scoring a total of 39.075 on four events, beating out Tory Wilson from Utah, who scored 39.050. Sydney Sawa scored 38.525 in the all-around, which was hampered by a complete miss on her tumbling sequence on the beam, otherwise she would have easily won the all-around after a fantastic 9.925 on the floor. Francis had the arena captivated with her unusual side arial to a single flip and twist dismount, scoring a 9.950.
Other bright spots: Angi Cipra has also been great in her freshman season, scoring well on vault and floor, and Jennifer Pinches improved on vault from last week.
If there is a bright side, it is that it's early in the season. Coach Val pulled Olivia Courtney off of the beam when it became really clear that UCLA could not catch up, so there was no point in taxing our gymnasts, especially when our next meet is on Friday. We're still having problems on balance beam, but it could be attributed to some late lineup changes, but all gymnasts should be ready to go. I'm terrified at the problems on bars, as we have got to get it together. Ideally you want to peak in March as you gear towards the post season, and there's nowhere to go but up as the freshmen gain more experience and some injuries heal.
UCLA next travels to #25(ish, updated rankings are available tomorrow) UC Berkeley on Friday (1/31) at 6pm and it will be televised on the Pac-12 Network in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. There's nothing I enjoy more than defeating UC Berkeley, and to do it in their house will be fantastic.