Feb. 10, 2012
Chicago, Ill. - Despite not being at full strength, the seventh-ranked UCLA Gymnastics team hit all 24 routines without a fall to take first place at the IGI/Chicago Style NCAA Invitational with a score of 196.85.
UCLA held slim leads over Boise State after each of the first three rotations but then pulled away in the final rotation with a strong performance on floor exercise (49.35) to win the meet by over eight-tenths of a point. Boise State was second with a score of 196.025, followed by Missouri in third with 195.525 and Illinois in fourth with 195.1.
The Bruins had event winners on all four events, with Olivia Courtney winning vault with a season-high tying 9.925 and tying for first on bars with Missouri's Mary Burke with a career-high tying 9.9. Mattie Larson picked up her first event win of the year, winning balance beam with a 9.85, and Alyssa Pritchett set a new career-high of 9.9 on floor exercise to win that event for the second time this year.
"I thought it was a good meet for us, especially considering the uncertainty of our health with the flu going through our team and not knowing till the last minute again who would be competing," said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. "They did a good job filling in for each other."
Competing on vault without top-ranked vaulter Vanessa Zamarripa, who was held out of vault and beam due to the hard surface of the competition floor, the Bruins nonetheless recorded a 49.275, tallying six scores of 9.825 or higher. Monique De La Torre contributed a 9.825 leadoff score on her first competitive vault of the year. Kaelie Baer added a 9.85, followed by 9.825 from Larson, 9.925 from Courtney, 9.825 from Samantha Peszek and 9.85 from Tauny Frattone. Boise State kept within striking distance with a score of 48.9 on floor exercise.
In the second rotation, Boise State closed the gap slightly, pulling to within 0.35 with a 49.2 score on vault, while the Bruins scored 49.175 on uneven bars. Courtney once again led the Bruins with a career-high tying 9.9. Zamarripa contributed a 9.875, Aisha Gerber scored 9.825, Larson recorded a 9.8, and De La Torre and Peszek each scored 9.775.
The Bruins moved to balance beam in the third rotation with a 98.45-98.10 lead over the Broncos. The top half of the lineup contributed 9.8+ routines, with Gerber and Lichelle Wong starting off with a pair of 9.8s and Larson adding a meet-winning 9.85. Baer scored 9.775, and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs scored 9.575 after touching the beam to save a fall. Peszek closed the rotation with a 9.825 to give UCLA a team score of 49.05, which was matched by Boise State on uneven bars.
Leading by just 0.35 heading into the final rotation, UCLA took command with six riveting performances on floor exercise. De La Torre started with a 9.775, and Wong scored 9.875. Courtney came in as a late sub for Larson and contributed a 9.85. Pritchett captured her second floor victory in three weeks with a career-best 9.9. Peszek's 9.85 secured the win, and Hopfner-Hibbs' 9.875 gave the Bruins a final floor total of 49.35.
The Bruins' victory was tempered, however, by an injury to freshman Dana McDonald during an exhibition floor performance. McDonald ruptured her left Achilles tendon.
"It's always heartbreaking when one of your athletes is injured," said Kondos Field. "No matter how well you do, you can't walk away from an event with a good feeling when an athlete goes down."
UCLA (7-1) returns to competition next Friday, Feb. 17 at Oregon State against the Beavers and California.