Jan. 11, 2012
UCLA at Cal Sunday -- Preseason No. 1 UCLA (1-0) travels to Northern California to take on Pac-12 foe California (1-0) on Sunday, Jan. 15 at Haas Pavilion. The meet is scheduled to begin at 2 pm. Admission is free. Live scoring will be available at calbears.com.
In The Rankings -- UCLA opens the season ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches poll for the second consecutive year. The Bruins, who finished a close second at the 2011 NCAA Championships, received 932 points and eight of 40 first-place votes, edging out defending champion Alabama, who had 17 first-place votes and 926 points total. The Bruins will face nine of the Top 25 teams in the polls this season, including five in the Top 10. In addition to being voted No. 1 in the preseason national poll, UCLA is also picked No. 1 in the Pac-12 preseason coaches' poll, receiving six of eight first-place votes. Cal was picked to finish seventh, tied with Arizona State.
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.
About The Golden Bears -- Cal returns all but one gymnast from last year's squad that finished sixth at the Pac-10 Championships. The Golden Bears, who are now under the guidance of first-year head coach Danna Durante, won their season opener on the road last Friday, 190.375-189.725 over Sacramento State.
UCLA holds a 57-1 regular season record against Cal, with the Golden Bears' lone win coming in 1985.
Bay Area Bruins -- Three Bruin freshmen will have a chance to return to their home area this weekend. Sadiqua Bynum is from Berkeley and attended Berkeley HS. Ellette Craddock hails from San Francisco (Ruth Asawa School), and Dana McDonald is from Piedmont and attended Piedmont HS.
Bruins Win Opener Against Utah -- UCLA took a big lead after the first event with a postseason-worthy vault rotation, nearly gave it all away on balance beam, but then hung on in the last rotation to squeak out a season-opening 196.075-196.025 victory over No. 5 Utah on Jan. 8 at a sold-out John Wooden Center. The Bruins started big with a whopping 49.55 on vault in the first rotation, with UCLA's last four gymnasts each scoring 9.9 or higher (9.9 from Olivia Courtney and Vanessa Zamarripa, 9.925 from Samantha Peszek and 9.95 from Tauny Frattone). After scoring 49.275 on bars to take a 1.075 lead at the halfway point, the Bruins faltered on beam in rotation three, scoring just 48.375. UCLA held on in the final rotation, scoring just enough on floor exercise (48.875) to squeak out the victory by five-one-hundredths of a point. Frattone and Peszek's 9.875 routines led the way.
Peszek Wins All-Around in First Attempt -- Competing all four events for the first time since the 2008 Olympic Trials, sophomore Samantha Peszek won the all-around vs. Utah with a score of 39.45. Peszek, who was limited to three events in 2011 after suffering a foot injury in the early part of the season, competed on floor exercise for the first time since 2009 and scored 9.875 to tie for second place. She had three second-place event finishes (vault - career-high 9.925, beam - 9.825 and floor - 9.875) in addition to her all-around win.
Senior Strength -- UCLA's senior class of Kaelie Baer, Tauny Frattone, Aisha Gerber and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs provided strong performances and leadership in the season opener. All four seniors saw action, with Baer competing on vault; Frattone on vault (9.95, first place) and floor (9.875, second place); Gerber on bars (9.9, first place), beam (9.8, third place) and floor; and Hopfner-Hibbs on beam and floor. This was Baer's first time in the competitive lineup since her freshman season in 2009; she sat out 2010 and most of 2011 with injuries.
Vaulting To Top -- The Bruins were in postseason form on vault in the season opener, scoring 49.55 on their first event of the year. The 49.55 ranks as the seventh-best team vault score in school history and the highest ever by a Bruin team on vault in a season opener. Kaelie Baer kicked things off with a leadoff score of 9.825. Mattie Larson followed with a 9.875, and then it was all 9.9+ from there, with Olivia Courtney going 9.9, Tauny Frattone tying her career-best with a 9.95, Samantha Peszek setting a new career-high with 9.925, and Vanessa Zamarripa closing with a 9.9.
Frattone, who averages 9.855 in her career on vault, has posted 26 consecutive vault scores of 9.8 or higher and has scored 9.9 or better in seven of her last 10 attempts. She has 10 vault victories in her last 12 meets dating back to last year.
Zamarripa's 9.9 vs. Utah improved her 9.9+ scoring streak on vault to 10 consecutive meets. She has scored 9.9 or better in 21 of 26 vaults in her career and has never scored lower than 9.8. Her career vault average is 9.919.
Zamarripa Returns To Competition -- After sitting out the 2011 season with a torn Achilles tendon, redshirt junior Vanessa Zamarripa returned to competition for the first time since the 2010 Visa Championships. The 2010 NCAA vault champion and Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year competed on two events for the Bruins against Utah, scoring 9.9 on vault and 9.825 on uneven bars. Since Jan. 24, 2010, Zamarripa has hit 45 consecutive routines in team competition.
Larson Shines In Bruin Debut -- Sunday's meet marked the collegiate debut of former U.S. National Team star Mattie Larson. The Bruin freshman placed fourth in the all-around with a score of 39.05 and had strong performances on vault (9.875), bars (9.825) and beam (9.8).
Bruins Sweep Pac-12 Weekly Awards -- UCLA swept the first ever Pac-12 Gymnastics weekly awards, with sophomore Samantha Peszek and senior Tauny Frattone being awarded the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week and Pac-12 Special Performance of the Week honors, respectively, for the week of Jan. 2-8. Peszek won the all-around with a score of 39.45 to lead UCLA to a season-opening win over Utah. Frattone won the vault with a career-high tying 9.95 to lead UCLA to a team total of 49.55 on the event. The award was the third of Frattone's career and the first for Peszek.
Heart of a Champion Meet -- UCLA's second annual Heart of a Champion meet will take place on Sunday, Jan. 22 when the Bruins host San Jose State at 2 pm. The Heart of a Champion meet helps raise funds for Camp del Corazon, a non-profit organization that provides a summer camp to youngsters with heart disease.
Season and Single-Meet Tickets On Sale Now -- Tickets for the 2012 season are on sale now. For just $30, fans can purchase a UCLA season ticket which includes seats in the center-most section at all five home meets. Single-meet general admission tickets are also available for sale for $7 adults/$5 youth (16 and under). All home meets in 2012 will take place at the John Wooden Center. Tickets can be purchased online at www.tickets.ucla.edu or by phone at 310-UCLA-WIN.
UCLA to Host 2013 NCAA Championships -- UCLA will host the 2013 NCAA Championships in Pauley Pavilion on Apr. 19-21, 2013. Pauley Pavilion will have a new look by 2013, as it is currently under renovation. It will be reopened for intercollegiate athletic competition in Fall 2012. This will be UCLA's fourth time hosting the NCAA gymnastics championships. The Bruins won the national title the last time they hosted in 2004, scoring an NCAA record 198.125. UCLA also previously hosted in 1998 and 1984.