Feb. 17, 2012
Fighting through adversity and a modified lineup, UCLA came from behind to tie Oregon State for first place in a tri-meet against the Beavers and California in Corvallis Friday evening. Both the Bruins and Beavers totaled 196.775, while the Bears finished in third with a score of 192.350. UCLA rallied from a 0.40 deficit at the halfway mark, recording strong marks on vault (49.45) and uneven bars (49.2) to catch up to the Beavers.
The Bruins had to tinker with the expected lineup several times after injuries to Samantha Peszek, who only competed on balance beam due to wrist soreness, and Lichelle Wong, who suffered an Achilles injury during the three-minute touch on floor exercise. Additionally, Mattie Larson competed on just one event due to illness.
One of UCLA's strengths, however, is its depth, and while they lost those potential all-around competitors, they gained two others in a pair of All-Americans. Veterans Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and Vanessa Zamarripa made their season debuts in the all-around and finished third (39.375) and fourth (39.325), respectively.
The Bruins scored 49.025 on balance beam in the first rotation, falling slightly behind the host Beavers, who scored 49.2 on vault. UCLA had five solid routines to start. Aisha Gerber and Wong led off with scores of 9.825, and Larson contributed a 9.8. Zamarripa scored 9.75, and Hopfner-Hibbs added a 9.825. Peszek changed her routine to take pressure off her sore wrist and suffered her first fall of the season, breaking a streak of 30 consecutive routines without a fall, but with the first five hitting before her, her score did not count in the team total.
Moving to floor exercise in rotation two, the Bruins had to adjust the lineup after Wong's injury during the three-minute touch. With Zamarripa being inserted in her place, the Bruins totaled 49.1. Monique De La Torre led off the rotation with a 9.75, followed by a 9.775 from Tauny Frattone and 9.8 from Zamarripa in her first floor routine since 2010. Olivia Courtney tied her career-high with a 9.9, and Hopfner-Hibbs provided a 9.875 to close the rotation. Oregon State increased its lead after scoring 49.325 on uneven bars and took a four-tenths of a point lead into the halfway point of the meet.
The Bruins, ranked No. 1 in the nation on vault, totaled 49.45 on the event to make up some ground on the Beavers, who scored 49.175 on beam. After Kaelie Baer's 9.725 leadoff score, Hopfner-Hibbs contributed a 9.825. De La Torre stuck her Yurchenko layout full for a career-high 9.925, and Courtney scored 9.9, followed by a 9.85 from Frattone. Zamarripa closed the rotation by blasting a meet-winning 9.95.
UCLA entered the final rotation trailing by .125, 147.7-147.575, and came back to tie by scoring 49.2 on uneven bars while Oregon State scored 49.075 on floor exercise. A miscue by De La Torre in the leadoff position put pressure on, but once again the Bruins held strong in the face of adversity. Freshman Ellette Craddock and Hopfner-Hibbs both made their competitive season debuts in the bars lineup and scored 9.8 and 9.85, respectively. Courtney added a 9.825, and Gerber recorded a season-high tying and meet-winning 9.9. Zamarripa anchored with a 9.825 to give UCLA just enough to tie.
"Our plan was to come out here and on every event go out and do our best," said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. "With Lichelle's injury and with Mattie waking up this morning sick, and Sam (Peszek) not being able to do anything on her wrist, I had no idea what the lineup was going to be until after the three-minute touch on every event. I'm really proud of how they handled it. It's a testament to their character that they don't take it personally if they're in and out of the lineup and that they trust that we make the best decisions for the team."
UCLA returns to action on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 pm with a home meet against Arizona State.