Friday, Mar. 7 - 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
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Three of Nation’s Top 8 Teams Meet Friday
Eighth-ranked UCLA (6-2) will travel to seventh-ranked Michigan (12-2) to take on the Wolverines and sixth-ranked Utah (9-1) in a tri-meet between Top 8 teams on Friday, Mar. 7. The meet will take place at 7pm ET/4pm PT at Crisler Arena.
These three teams are among the giants in the sport of gymnastics. Utah has won nine NCAA titles, most recently in 1995, and UCLA has won six, most recently in 2010. Michigan has two second-place finishes and 10 Super Six appearances. These three teams last met on the same floor at the 2013 NCAA Semifinals, with UCLA tying for second, Michigan finishing fourth and Utah fifth.
In the Rankings
UCLA moved up one spot to No. 9 in the nation with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 196.740. 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 (49.320) and floor (49.330) and No. 11 on vault (49.235) and beam (49.045). Five Bruin gymnasts are ranked this week - Olivia Courtney (No. 11 on vault and No. 19 on bars), Sydney Sawa (No. 5 on floor), Danusia Francis (No. 10 on beam), Sophina DeJesus (No. 14 on bars) and Samantha Peszek (No. 15 on bars).
Bruins Earn Season-High 197.5 at Arizona
UCLA recorded nine 9.9+ and 22 9.8+ scores en route to a season-best team total in a 197.500-196.250 win at Arizona. UCLA scored a season-high 49.5 on floor and had event winners on all four events. Olivia Courtney led a UCLA 1-2-3 all-around sweep with a season-high 39.5, with Sydney Sawa tying her career-high with 39.45 and Hallie Mossett setting a new personal best with 39.425.
Courtney, Peszek Earn Pac-12 Weekly Honors
UCLA seniors Olivia Courtney and Samantha Peszek each earned Pac-12 Weekly honors, as Courtney was named Gymnast of the Week for the second time this year and Peszek earned Specialist of the Week honors for the second-straight week.
Courtney won the all-around for the second-straight meet, scoring a season-best 39.5 to help UCLA record a season-high 197.5 in Saturday’s win at Arizona. Courtney also tied for first on vault with her fifth-straight 9.9+ vault score and tied for second on floor with a season-high 9.925. Additionally, she tied for fourth on beam with a 9.85 and seventh on bars with a 9.825. Courtney’s floor score contributed to a team season-high 49.5 on floor. With the victories on vault and all-around, Courtney now has 13 individual wins on the season, including a team-best six on vault and three all-around victories in three appearances.
Peszek scored 9.9 on all three events in which she competed at Arizona and tied for first on vault and bars while placing second on beam. Peszek has racked up nine 9.9 scores and nine individual victories in 14 routines this season, and she averages team-bests of 9.9 on bars and 9.92 on beam. She also has a season average of 9.892 on vault. This is her second-straight Specialist of the Week award and third in the last four weeks.
Bruin Perfect 10s
UCLA has scored two perfect 10s this season, with Samantha Peszek and Sydney Sawa becoming the 24th and 25th Bruins to join the perfect 10 club. Peszek scored UCLA’s 20th perfect 10 on uneven bars on Feb. 8 vs. Arizona State. The last Bruin to score a 10 on bars had been Anna Li at the 2010 NCAA Regionals. Sawa followed suit two weeks later, scoring her first perfect 10 on floor exercise vs. Stanford on Feb. 22. Sawa’s 10 was the 102nd perfect 10 in school history and the 38th on floor exercise but first since Kristen Maloney at the 2005 NCAA Championships.
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).
About the Opponents
Michigan has had 45 percent of its routines this season come from seniors Joanna Sampson, Natalie Beilstein, Shelby Gies, and Reema Zakharia. Sampson is the defending NCAA floor exercise champion and ranks ninth in the nation in the all-around. Beilstein won the Big Ten vault title in 2010. Head coach Bev Plocki is in her 25th season at Michigan.
Utah has just one blemish on its record this year, a road loss to Stanford on Feb. 17. The Utes are led by four-time Pac-12 Specialist of the Week Georgia Dabritz, who ranks second in the nation on floor and third on bars, and top-ranked vaulters Tory Wilson and Kailah Delaney. Wilson ranks eighth nationally in the all-around and boasts a season-high of 39.6. Co-head coach Greg Marsden is in his 39th year at the helm of the Utes, while Megan Marsden is in her fifth as co-head coach and 30th overall on staff.
The Series with ...
UCLA is 8-6 in regular season meets against Michigan and 7-25 against Utah. The Bruins have lost each of the most recent regular season meetings against the two teams, dropping a 195.875-197.125 decision to Utah on Jan. 25 in Salt Lake City and placing second behind Michigan in a tri-meet in 2013 in Pauley Pavilion.
This is UCLA’s first meet at Michigan since 2005. The Wolverines won that matchup, 196.25-195.25.
Wieber Returns to Michigan
UCLA team manager and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber will be returning to her home state of Michigan this weekend. The freshman from DeWitt, Mich. has no NCAA eligibility and cannot compete for the Bruins, but is contributing in a support role.
Wieber won team gold at the 2012 Olympic Games and was the 2011 World all-around champion, also winning team gold and individual bronze on beam. She won four U.S. senior national titles during her career, capturing the all-around, bars and floor crowns in 2011 and repeating as the all-around champion in 2012.
UCLA seniors Olivia Courtney, Sydney Sawa and Samantha Peszek have undoubtedly been the team leaders this season. The trio have combined for 31 of UCLA’s 42 individual wins, with Courtney winning 13 and Sawa and Peszek nine each. They are also setting the pace in 9.9+ scores, with Courtney totaling 14, Sawa 11 and Peszek nine. Peszek has a 10.0 on bars, Sawa has a 10.0 on floor, and Courtney has a 9.975 on vault.
Courtney is an eight-time All-American who has won four Pac-12 individual titles, the most of any active gymnast in the conference. 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 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 four-time All-American and 2011 NCAA beam champion. Her career-bests are 9.95 or better on all four events, including a 10.0 on bars, set Feb. 8. Peszek is currently averaging 9.892 on vault, 9.9 on bars and 9.92 on beam.
Francis Makes History with Beam Dismount
Sophomore Danusia Francis achieved a gymnastics first on Jan. 11, 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 paved the way for a 9.9 score. She improved upon her score on Jan. 19, earning 9.925 to place first, and she tied her career-best on Jan. 25 at Utah with a 9.95. 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.)
Francis, who tuned up for the 2014 season by competing at the World University Games and qualifying for floor finals, has been amazingly consistent, hitting all 45 of her collegiate routines in team competition without a fall. She sat out two meets in February due to a virus but returned Feb. 22 to score 9.925 on beam and a meet-high 9.825 on bars. She improved on her beam score the following week at Arizona, scoring 9.95 to win the event.
Bynum Bringing the Goods
Sadiqua Bynum has transformed in 2014, bringing huge vaults and powerful tumbling on floor. Her last three meets, in particular, have been stellar. At Washington on Feb. 16, she tied her career-high with a 9.9 Yurchenko layout half vault and set a new standard on floor with a 9.9 after hitting a double layout, double tuck and double pike. She nearly matched those marks a week later against Stanford, scoring 9.9 on floor and 9.875 on vault. She scored her third 9.9 in a row on floor at Arizona. Bynum is now averaging 9.838 on vault and 9.8 on floor. A year ago, she was not vaulting, and she averaged 9.564 on floor.
Mossett Most Consistent
Freshman Hallie Mossett has been one of UCLA’s most consistent athletes, hitting all 27 routines she has competed this season without a fall. She averages 9.775 or better on all four events, with a high average of 9.819 on beam. She has taken over leadoff duties on beam the past two meets and, not coincidentally, the Bruins have posted their top two beam marks of the season, 49.525 and 49.375. Mossett scored 9.875 and 9.85, respectively, in those meets.
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 four attempts and a season high of 39.425, has twice earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors.
MacArthur Making a Push for Playing Time
Freshman walk-on Jessy MacArthur made a case for herself for inclusion in the Bruin uneven bars lineup, scoring 9.85 in an exhibition routine at Arizona. MacArthur has made the lineup once this year, scoring 9.75 at Washington. She has posted two other 9.75 exhibition scores and averages 9.74 over five routines performed this year.
Conference of Champions
The Pac-12 Conference has seven teams ranked in the Top 25. Utah is 6th, UCLA 8th, Stanford 10th, Oregon State 15th, Arizona 18th, Arizona State 21st, and California 22nd. Washington ranks 31st. All eight Pac-12 teams were ranked in the preseason Top 25.
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 will feature associate head coach Chris Waller.
UCLA hosts Bowling Green and Utah State on Mar. 16 in the regular season finale in Pauley Pavilion. The meet will start at 2pm, with Senior Day festivities taking part post-meet.