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What a week for UCLA Gymnastics!
Coming off their win last week over UC Berkeley, the Bruins have a bit of momentum as they finish off the softer part of their Pac-12 Schedule. While you can never take a team lightly, going off of averages alone, if the Bruins do what they are capable of doing, they will beat ASU every time.
In front of a home crowd of a little over 6,000, the UCLA Gymnastics team defeated the ASU Sun Devils, 196.925 to 194.950, the team's highest score of the season since week 1 when they narrowly lost to defending champion Florida.
For final team scores and event scores, see here.
Let's start with the highlights of Saturday's meet:
1. Samantha Peszek
After being out nearly a month with a heel injury, Peszek had been targeting this meet as her return date, and her return to the lineup was a welcome sight. With the Bruins wavering on bars, starting with Elette Craddock falling off the bars twice in the leadoff position, Peszek and her perfect 10 anchored the Bruins to a solid bars score of 49.525, their highest score on any apparatus this season.
With Danusia Francis out with illness, Peszek also returned to solidify the beam for the Bruins, as the judges somehow found a place to deduct a fraction of a point, scoring a 9.950, also winning the event.
One of the joys of watching Peszek compete is how much she enjoys it - you can feel her smile the entire routine. She is the perfect college gymnast.
2. Uneven Bars back to form
With the exception of Craddock's fall, the Bruins returned to their normal high flying form on the uneven bars. Overshadowed by Peszek's 10 was Sophina DeJesus's career high 9.975 on the bars, with a practically perfect routine that featured great height and she was nearly complete with the twists in her dismount before her body passed the high bar.
3. Hallie Mossett and Olivia Courtney
Mossett continues to impress as a freshman, winning the all-around with a score of 37.325, with solid scores on all four apparatuses of 9.825 or 9.850. I'm giving Olivia Courtney kudos as she had her wisdom teeth removed on Sunday yet was able to compete on Saturday. Amazing, along with an amazing 9.925 on both vault and bars. I think her score on floor felt a bit low, but ASU was imploding over on the beam, having to count two falls, so it wasn't a big deal.
Areas to improve:
The Bruins are at the halfway point of their season, and while things are trending upward, there are still major areas of focus.
UCLA has a tradition of being spectacular on the floor. Sydney Sawa has stepped it up this year, as she is currently ranked third in the country on the floor. Overall the team is ranked 6th, and there are still areas to improve - the gymnasts need to dial down their power a bit to make sure they stay in bounds during their passes, yet still show the fantastic tumbling we possess. Sadiqua Bynum's double layout is spectacular, especially in how far she travels with it, but she keeps traveling out of bounds. She fixed the problem this week, let's hope this continues.
Ranked 14th in the country, the Bruins are still the weakest on the beam, with an average score at 48.815. This is too low and must improve if the Bruins want a shot of making the Super Six. If Mikaela Gerber hadn't fallen, this week our lowest beam score would have been a 9.775, and if that's what we have to drop each week, we're in fantastic shape. The Bruins did miss Danusia Francis, and if you're assuming she's awesome Nush as always, the overall beam score probably would been higher by at least 0.10, pushing the Bruins into the 197 overall team score range.
Vault doesn't concern me yet, but I think some of these 9.8s can be pushed up to 9.9 once we work on those hops on the landing.
Overall, my thoughts on ASU is that, like Cal, they are improving, but they still have a bit of a ways to go to match the quality of UCLA, but that means UCLA cannot take a recruiting season off. There is always a Utah and a Oregon State to contend with, along with Stanford in the Pac-12.
The Bruins travel to Washington this Sunday to take on the Huskies at 2pm. It will air on Pac-12 Network.