Feb. 29, 2012
UCLA at Georgia -- The third-ranked UCLA gymnastics team (9-1-1) travels to fourth-ranked Georgia in a marquee showdown on Friday, Mar. 2 in Athens, Ga. UCLA and Georgia have combined to win 16 NCAA Championships, including eight of the last nine.
In the Rankings -- With national rankings now determined by Regional Qualifying Score (RQS), UCLA moves up to No. 3 overall (197.025). The Bruins are first on vault (49.450), second on floor (49.265), third on beam (49.220) and fifth on bars (49.205).
Vanessa Zamarripa ranks second in the nation on vault (9.925) and is joined in the Top 20 on vault by Olivia Courtney (No. 5, 9.910) and Tauny Frattone (No. 20, 9.875). On uneven bars, three Bruins are in the Top 25 - Zamarripa (No. 12, 9.870), Aisha Gerber (No. 16, 9.860) and Courtney (No. 23, 9.845). Samantha Peszek and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs are ranked in the Top 15 on beam, with Peszek No. 7 (9.875) and Hopfner-Hibbs No. 15 (9.850). Hopfner-Hibbs is the lone Bruin ranked on floor, checking in at No. 14 (9.870).
Battle of Champions -- UCLA and Georgia have been the premier teams in the nation in the last 15 years, with the two teams combining for 13 of the last 15 NCAA titles and for 16 titles overall. The only other school to win a NCAA Championship during this 14-year span was Alabama in 2002 and 2011. Overall, UCLA has won six NCAA titles (2010, 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1997), while Georgia has won 10 (2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 1999, 1998, 1993, 1989, 1987). The two teams also have a combined total of 69 individual NCAA champions - 38 for Georgia and 31 for UCLA.
About the Bruins -- UCLA returns eight All-Americans from last year's NCAA runner-up squad, including reigning NCAA beam champion Samantha Peszek and 2010 NCAA vault champion Vanessa Zamarripa, who redshirted a year ago with a torn Achilles tendon. Other All-Americans back for UCLA are 10-time All-American Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, two-time honoree Aisha Gerber, 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Olivia Courtney, Monique De La Torre, Tauny Frattone and Sydney Sawa. The Bruins also bring in an outstanding freshman class, led by 2010 U.S. floor exercise champion and World Championships silver medalist Mattie Larson, as well as U.S. national team member Cassie Whitcomb.
The Bruins are coached by UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame member Valorie Kondos Field. She is assisted by Associate Head Coach and 1992 Olympian Chris Waller. New to the staff in 2012 are familiar faces to Bruin fans - assistant coach Randy Lane, who helped guide UCLA to two NCAA titles and was the 2000 NACGC/W National Assistant Coach of the Year, and volunteer coach Amy Smith, who was the co-captain for UCLA's 1997 NCAA championship team and an assistant coach at the University of Missouri from 2007-11.
About the Gym Dogs -- Georgia (5-3) ranks fourth in the nation with a RQS of 196.830. The Gym Dogs, who recorded a season-high of 197.525 last weekend, rank in the Top 10 on all four events - No. 2 on bars (49.260), No. 4 on beam (49.150), No. 6 on floor (49.170) and No. 9 on vault (49.240).
Georgia is led by defending NCAA bars champion Kat Ding, who ranks No. 1 on that apparatus with a RQS of 9.905. Ding also ranks fifth on vault (9.910). Noel Couch ranks 15th in the nation in the all-around (39.240) and 10th on floor (9.880).
In regular season competition, UCLA is 5-17 all-time vs. Georgia, with the Gym Dogs winning the last four in a row. The Bruins won the last matchup in Athens at the 2011 NCAA Regional Championships, outscoring Georgia, 197.425-196.750.
Bruins Break 198 -- UCLA made a big statement, scoring 198.050 in a dual meet victory over 24th-ranked Arizona State (194.850) on Feb. 26. The score was the highest in the nation this year and the highest by a Bruin team since winning the 2004 NCAA Championships. The Bruins posted team totals of 49.475 or better on every event, including a 49.6 on floor, and totaled 13 marks of 9.9 or higher, including three 9.95s and a 9.975.
Vanessa Zamarripa won the all-around with a mark of 39.625, the highest by a Bruin this season. Olivia Courtney won vault with a career-high 9.975 and tied for firth on floor exercise with Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs with another career-high 9.95. Monique De La Torre won uneven bars with a career-high 9.95. Zamarripa, Samantha Peszek and Mattie Larson tied for first on balance beam with scores of 9.925.
Zamarripa Named Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week -- Vanessa Zamarripa was awarded Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week honors for the week of Feb. 20-26. after leading UCLA to the highest team score in the country this season, 198.050, against Arizona State. The O'Fallon, Ill., native won the all-around, scoring a team season-high 39.625 and also recorded season-high scores of 9.925 on the beam and floor, placing first and third, respectively.
The Gymnast of the Week nod is Zamarripa's sixth of her career. She has earned Special Performance of the Week honors twice this year and seven times total in her career.
Peszek Goes Hands-Free -- Samantha Peszek tied her career-high on balance beam last weekend by not only performing one of the most difficult beam routines ever in NCAA competition but by doing it without use of her hands. Peszek has been battling wrist soreness from an academic injury for the last two weeks and modified her beam routine to do non-weight-bearing skills. She scored 9.925 on a routine, now dubbed the "bluetooth" routine, that included a standing full, front aerial/back pike and standing layout stepout to layout full dismount. Watch the routine HERE.
Vault Powerhouse -- UCLA's vault lineup has been the best in the nation this season. The Bruins are averaging 49.425 on the event and have scored 49.45 or better in six of eight meets. Three Bruin vaulters are ranked in the Top 20 nationally - No. 2 Vanessa Zamarripa (9.925 RQS, national-best 9.932 average), No. 5 Olivia Courtney (9.910 RQS, 9.907 average) and No. 20 Tauny Frattone (9.875 RQS, 9.863 average). Five others average over 9.8 - Samantha Peszek (9.890), Monique De La Torre (9.875), Mattie Larson (9.855), Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (9.831), and Kaelie Baer (9.816).
The Bruins' vault total of 49.575 at Cal ranks as the sixth-best vault score in school history, while the 49.55 from the season opener against Utah ranks as the seventh-best.
Senior Strength -- The Bruins have received strong performances all season from their seniors Kaelie Baer, Tauny Frattone, Aisha Gerber and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs. Baer is averaging 9.816 on vault as the leadoff vaulter and has also contributed high marks on beam, including a career-high 9.85 in the win over Stanford. Frattone remains one of the strongest vaulters in the nation, twice recording scores of 9.95 and averaging 9.863. On floor exercise, usually competing at the top of the lineup, she is averaging 9.814, with highs of 9.875. Gerber, the reigning Pac-12 bars co-champion, has been terrific on the event in 2012 as well, ranking 16th nationally, recording a team-best three wins and scoring 9.9 four times. Hopfner-Hibbs has returned to the all-around lineup in the last two meets, averaging 39.475. Last weekend, she tied her career-high on floor with a 9.95 and came within .025 of her career-high in the all-around, scoring 39.575. Hopfner-Hibbs ranks 15th nationally on beam and 14th on floor.
No Sophomore Slump -- Sophomores Samantha Peszek and Olivia Courtney have been as consistent as they get for the Bruins. Peszek has hit 23 of her 24 routines this season, with her only fall coming on beam at Oregon State when she modified her routine in order to be non-weight-bearing on her sore wrist. Twenty-one of Peszek's 24 routines have scored 9.825 or higher, and she has won the all-around in four out of five meets, with a career-high of 39.55 set Feb. 5. Peszek, who sat out the first month of last season with a foot fracture and was limited to no more than three events the rest of season, has posted career-highs on all but one event this year, earning high marks of 9.925 on vault and beam and 9.9 on floor.
Courtney has hit 20 of 21 routines for 9.7 or higher, with 13 of her 21 routines scoring between 9.875 and 9.925. In her last meet vs. Arizona State, she set new career-highs on vault (9.975) and floor (9.95) to take first place honors. On both routines, she received a perfect 10 from one of the two judges. Courtney has two event titles each on vault, bars and floor and has totaled 13 Top 3 finishes over those three events, including six on vault.
Zamarripa Finds Perfection Again -- Over a year after rupturing her Achilles tendon and sitting out the 2011 season, Vanessa Zamarripa is back to her perfect ways, recording a perfect 10 on vault on Jan. 15 in just her second meet back from her injury. The 10.0 was the fifth of her career. Only one other Bruin gymnast has scored more 10s on vault (Jeanette Antolin - 12), and Zamarripa now ranks fifth on UCLA's all-time list for most perfect 10s, tying with Kristen Maloney.
Zamarripa has scored 9.9+ on vault in 16 consecutive meets and in 29 of 35 meets in her career. She has never scored lower than 9.8 on vault and holds a career average of 9.916. She has also hit 65 consecutive routines in team competition.
Injury Update -- Junior Lichelle Wong ruptured her right Achilles tendon on Feb. 17 at Oregon State and will miss the remainder of the season. Freshman Dana McDonald also suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on Feb. 10 in Chicago, rupturing her left Achilles tendon while performing an exhibition routine on floor exercise. McDonald had performed in exhibition in a total of five meets. Sydney Sawa, who had shoulder surgery early in the year, could return to action in a week or two.
Looking Ahead -- UCLA hosts No. 2 Oklahoma on Sunday, Mar. 11 in the Bruins' regular season finale. It will be Senior Day for Bruin seniors Kaelie Baer, Tauny Frattone, Aisha Gerber and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs.
2013 Season Tickets On Sale -- It's never too early to plan ahead. Fans can now purchase season tickets for the 2013 season. Every 2013 season ticket ordered earns you a gumball, which you can redeem from a giant gumball machine at the last home meet this season (Mar. 11 vs. Oklahoma). Whatever color you get will determine your prize. Prizes include t-shirts, sweatshirts, invitations to the team banquet, tickets to the 2013 NCAA Championships, and much more!