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UCLA Seeks NCAA Championship Berth
Eighth-ranked UCLA (13-6) is the No. 2 seed at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional and will compete for one of two available berths in the NCAA Championships, which are being held in Birmingham, Ala. The Regional meet will take place at Arkansas’ Barnhill Arena on Saturday, Apr. 5 at 4 pm CT. Also competing at the Regional are fifth-ranked Utah, 17th-ranked and host Arkansas, 24th-ranked Arizona State, 30th-ranked Utah State and 34th-ranked UC Davis.
The rotation order for the Regional was determined by blind draw prior to the selections. The No. 2 seed, UCLA, will start on a bye before floor. No. 1 seed Utah starts on a bye before bars. Host and No. 3 seed Arkansas has Olympic order and will begin on vault. No. 4 Arizona State begins on floor. No. 5 Utah State starts on bars, and No. 6 UC Davis starts on beam.
Pride of the Pac
All eight Pac-12 Conference teams have qualified to NCAA Regionals for the second consecutive year. Seven Pac-12 teams are ranked in the Top 25. Utah is 5th, UCLA 8th, Stanford 10th, Oregon State 12th, California 19th, Arizona 21st and Arizona State 24th. Washington ranks 33rd.
Regional Championship History
The Bruins have won 20 regional titles, including three in the last four years. UCLA finished second behind LSU at last season’s Regional meet at Ohio State, scoring 196.950 to LSU’s 197.275. Olivia Courtney won her second Regional all-around title, tying for first with a score of 39.45. In 2012, the Bruins won the Fayetteville Regional with a score of 197.225, four-tenths ahead of second-place Arkansas.
Familiar Faces in Fayetteville
There will be no shortage of familiar faces in Fayetteville for the NCAA Regional. UCLA has already faced three of its opponents in March (Utah twice in March, Arizona State and Utah State). This will be UCLA and Utah’s fourth matchup this season. The Bruins also faced Arkansas and UC Davis just a year ago. UCLA is 1-2 against Utah, 2-0 against Arizona State and 1-0 against Utah State. The Bruins defeated both Arkansas and UC Davis at home last season.
Regular Season All-Americans
Five UCLA gymnasts were awarded regular season All-America honors by the National Association of College Gymnastics Coaches (NACGC/W). The Bruins earned a total of three first-team honors and three second-team honors. First-team honorees were Samantha Peszek and Danusia Francis on balance beam and Sydney Sawa on floor exercise. Earning second-team acclaim were Olivia Courtney on vault and Peszek and Sophina DeJesus on uneven bars. Courtney now has a total of nine All-America honors in her career. Peszek has six, Francis three, and Sawa and DeJesus two each.
Four Earn All-Pac-12 Honors
Four members the UCLA Gymnastics team were named to the 2014 Pac-12 All-Conference team, led by Pac-12 balance beam champion Samantha Peszek, who earned first-team acclaim on that event, along with teammate Danusia Francis. Each had been second-team honorees on beam in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Receiving first-team acclaim for the second time in her career was senior Sydney Sawa on floor exercise. Senior Olivia Courtney earned second-team honors on vault, becoming a four-year honoree on the event.
In the Rankings
UCLA finished the regular season ranked No. 8 in the nation with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 197.005. RQS is determined by taking the top six scores, three of which must be on the road, dropping the high score and averaging the remaining five marks. The Bruins are ranked No. 6 on bars (49.380) and beam (49.240), No. 7 on floor (49.400) and No. 12 on vault (49.305). Five Bruin gymnasts are ranked - Olivia Courtney (No. 15 on vault), Samantha Peszek (No. 5 on beam, No. 12 on bars), Sophina DeJesus (No. 13 on bars), Danusia Francis (No. 4 on beam), and Sydney Sawa (No. 8 on floor).
Bruins Fourth at Pac-12 Championships
Difficulties on bars and floor contributed to a fourth-place finish by UCLA at the Pac-12 Championships. The Bruins scored 196.525, well behind Utah, who scored 197.925 to claim its first Pac-12 title in any sport. Stanford was second (197.175), followed by host California (196.550), who claimed its highest-ever finish at the Championships. The Bruins did not come away empty-handed, however, as senior Samantha Peszek claimed the balance beam title with a 9.925.
UCLA seniors Olivia Courtney, Sydney Sawa and Samantha Peszek have undoubtedly been the team leaders this season. The trio have combined for 37 of UCLA’s 49 individual wins, with Courtney and Peszek each winning 14 and Sawa picking up nine. They are also setting the pace in 9.9+ scores, with Courtney totaling 19, Peszek 17 and Sawa 15. Peszek has a 10.0 on bars, Sawa has a 10.0 on floor, and Courtney has a 9.975 on vault.
Courtney is a nine-time All-American who has won four Pac-12 individual titles and two NCAA Regional all-around titles. She has career-best marks of 9.9 or better on all four events, including 9.975 on vault and 9.95 on floor. Sawa earned All-America honors on floor exercise in 2014 and 2011 and holds career-high marks of 9.9 or better on all four events, including 10.0 on floor and 9.95 on vault. Peszek is a six-time All-American, 2011 NCAA beam champion and 2014 Pac-12 beam champion. Her career-bests are 9.95 or better on all four events, including a 10.0 on bars, set Feb. 8, and she is currently averaging over 9.9 on bars and beam.
Francis Joins Perfect 10 Club
Danusia Francis became the third Bruin this year and 26th overall at UCLA to join the perfect 10 club. Francis scored her first career perfect 10 on beam on Mar. 16 in a tri-meet with Utah State and Bowling Green. It was just the eighth in school history on beam and the first since Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs scored a 10 at Georgia in 2010.
Also scoring perfect 10s this season have been Samantha Peszek and Sydney Sawa. Peszek scored UCLA’s 20th perfect 10 on uneven bars on Feb. 8 vs. Arizona State. Sawa followed suit two weeks later, scoring her first 10 on floor exercise vs. Stanford on Feb. 22. Sawa’s 10 was the 38th on floor in school history. UCLA now has a total of 103 perfect 10s.
Three other Bruins have flirted with perfection this year, earning a 10 from one of two judges on a routine: Olivia Courtney on vault (9.975 on Jan. 11), Sophina DeJesus on bars (9.975 on Feb. 8), and Angi Cipra on floor (9.95 on Jan. 19). Peszek also received a 10 from one of four judges on beam at Pac-12 Championships and finished with a 9.925.
Peszek Back in All-Around
Back in the all-around for the first time since the 2012 NCAA Championships, Samantha Peszek is averaging 39.592 in three meets, with career-highs set in her first two meets back. In her all-around season debut against Michigan and Utah Mar. 7, she scored a career-best 39.65 to place first. A week later, she bested that mark with a meet-winning 39.7 against Utah State and Bowling Green. She scored 39.425 and placed second at the Pac-12 Championships on Mar. 22.
Peszek missed the 2013 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and had been limited in competition earlier in the year due to a stress reaction in her heel. She has only done floor exercise the last three meets, scoring 9.925 at Michigan and 9.85 last Sunday in her first-ever floor exercise performance in Pauley Pavilion (the only other year Peszek has competed on floor was 2012, when UCLA was temporarily housed in the Wooden Center during the Pauley Pavilion renovation).
Francis Makes History with Beam Dismount
Sophomore Danusia Francis achieved a gymnastics first this season, becoming the first gymnast to do a sideways side aerial into a layout full dismount off the side of the beam. The difficult and innovative combo has led her to a No. 4 national ranking and her first career perfect 10 on Mar. 16. Last season at the NCAA Event Finals, Francis became the first collegiate gymnast to do a sideways side aerial on beam. (Note: Samantha Peszek also achieved an NCAA first on beam in 2011, becoming the first collegiate gymnast to compete a standing full, which she did to win the NCAA beam title.)
Two Bruin regulars have perfect marks with hit routines, with Samantha Peszek going 26-for-26 with no score under 9.825, and Danusia Francis hitting 23-for-23 (and 54-for-54 over her two years). Also right up there is Olivia Courtney, who has hit 36 of 37 routines this year and over 96% of her routines throughout her career, and Hallie Mossett, who has hit 36 out of 37 routines without a fall.
Bynum Brings It
Sadiqua Bynum has transformed in 2014, bringing huge vaults and powerful tumbling on floor. She has posted career-high marks of 9.925 on vault and 9.9 on floor. She is averaging 9.802 on floor and 9.795 on floor, with three 9.9+ scores on each apparatus. A year ago, she was not in the vault lineup, and she averaged 9.564 on floor.
Freshman Flourishing as Leadoff on Beam
Freshman Hallie Mossett has been an invaluable competitor on balance beam, serving as the team’s leadoff performer the last five meets. Not coincidentally, UCLA’s Top 3 beam scores (49.525, 49.375, 49.3 twice) came as soon as she began competing in the leadoff spot. She is averaging 9.85 in her five meets as the leadoff beam worker and 9.825 overall in the season.
Prior to this season, Mossett had missed two years of competition due to injuries. She had two hip surgeries related to a car accident and then tore her ACL during her senior year of high school. Mossett, who has two all-around wins in five attempts and a season high of 39.425, has twice earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors.
Each week during the season, Samantha Peszek hosts an episode of Bruin Banter on uclabruins.com. The show, in its second season, features an interview with a member of the UCLA team. This week’s interview features Olivia Courtney and head coach Valorie Kondos Field.