Last night, the 9th ranked Bruins advanced to the NCAA Championships to be held tonight in Fort Worth, Texas. Not only did the Bruins earn a place in the Super Six, but the incredibly brilliant, entertaining, and beautiful gymnast, Danusia Francis, once again wowed the crowd with her balance beam performance, earning her a championship in the balance beam. Her 9.95 score tied the score of Florida's Bridget Sloane, and last night they both stood on the platform to earn their championship trophies.
The Bruins placed third in their group, behind #1 Oklahoma and #4 Alabama. They outscored #5 Utah, #12 Nebraska, and #11 Berkeley. While the Bruins performed well, not making any major mistakes, they also left some room for improvement coming into tonight's finals. On the floor, they were creative and brilliant as usual, but a couple of athletes had difficulty with their landings, one coming up short, another straying out of bounds... very uncharacteristically. On the vault, they looked solid, however, several of their landings propelled them to take an extra big hop. So tonight, if the Bruins can maintain their consistency through each rotation and clean up these uncharacteristic point deducting mistakes, they have a chance to do well in tonight's championship.
Once again, the beam was what separated the Bruins from the 4th and 5th place teams. While the Bruins were solid, as usual, Utah, Nebraska, and Berkeley all took a back seat to UCLA. The Bruins put up a 49.3625, the two other schools in contention at the time for that 3rd place slot, could only muster a 48.1375 (Utah) and a 49.0750 (Berkeley). All six Bruins scored 9.8375 or higher on the beam. The beam has been UCLA's go to event this year and once again, it was their "money ball".
And if you think Danusia's dismount has become easier over time, think again:
Doing that dismount, it’s still just as scary as the first time. But tonight, I managed to pull off a good one to finish off beam. Definitely the cherry on top of making it to the Super Six.
The Bruins got off to a strong start on the bars, with Danusia Francis putting together a great routine (9.85), followed by JaNay Honest (9.8625), Katelyn Ohashi & Christine Peng-Peng Lee (9.825), and Sophina DeJesus (9.875). After the end of the third rotation, UCLA was in third place with 98.6 points behind Oklahoma (98.850) and just barely behind Alabama (98.6125). You can see the complete rundown of scores at the NCAA Women's Gymnastics website.
Here is JaNay's routine from last night (thanks again to Gymnut1):
The Bruins leading scorers on the floor were Sadiqua Bynum with a 9.875, Francis and Angi Cipra, each with 9.825s, and JaNay Honest with 9.8. The Bruins could take it easy on the vault, but instead they attempted difficult vaults. According to Napualani Hall:
We all told ourselves ‘Go big, give it your all, and don’t stop until you give it your all.’
Napualani went big and led the Bruins scoring on the vault with a 9.8625, followed by Honest’s putting up a 9.8375 and Bynum a 9.8.
You can listen to Katelyn Ohashi's take on the semis below:
Tonight's Championship Meet
Tonight the #9 Bruins will face #1 Oklahoma, #2 Florida, #3 LSU, #4 Alabama, and #8 Georgia. There are only six teams that have ever won the National Championship, and five of those will be competing tonight. Only LSU is looking for its first title. Despite being the underdogs, the Bruins are confident about their chances. From the Daily Bruin:
"Tomorrow we just go out there," Kondos Field said. "Go out, show what we got and see where the chips fall."
UCLA has not won the title since 2010 and winning tonight's will be quite the challenge. Oklahoma has dominated all year, going 21-1. They beat UCLA this season, as did Georgia and Florida. UCLA was able to defeat Alabama in January. Florida, ugh - Florida, will be going for it's 4th straight title, they split the title with Oklahoma two years ago.
The Super Six will air on ESPNU at 6 pm Pacific Time. You can also stream it on ESPN3, (allowing you to watch the event UCLA is competing on) and keep track of the meet stats here. I also suggest following along on twitter @UCLAGymnastics and at #BruinStrong.
This is an amazing Bruin team, with amazing heart, passion, joy, and commitment. And we are all very proud of what they are accomplishing - together. You can hear it in how they talk about each other and from how they are with each other. From Danusia:
It is so great. We really bonded this year and are really good friends inside and outside the gym so just to have that type of bond and see everyone perform like that today was amazing and when we made it everyone was very excited and hyper on our team and there was a lot of screaming and shouting. it was a good moment.
Congratulations to Coach Val and this incredible Bruin team. Have a great meet tonight!
For more information, check out our semifinal preview, our regional primer where you can learn and see more about the Bruin gymnasts, the official site's meet notes, and the NCAA Women's Gymnastics site. And enjoy this video, which I think is quite inspirational, as you get ready for tonight's meet:
This will be your open thread for tonight's meet. And as always ...