April 20, 2013
Los Angeles, Calif. - Sixth-seeded UCLA compiled a team score of 197.100 to finish fourth at the 2013 NCAA Super Six Team Finals in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night. Bruin alum Rhonda Faehn (UCLA '94) coached Florida to its first-ever NCAA team title with a score of 197.575.
Women's gymnastics has not had a first-time team champion since UCLA won in Gainesville in 1997. All of the 31 previous titles had been won by Georgia (10), Utah (9), Alabama (6) or UCLA (6). The Gators had to count a fall on beam in Rotation 1, but came back with a record-setting floor exercise performance to get back into contention. They clinched the win in the final rotation with a 49.475 on uneven bars.
UCLA started on bars in Rotation 1, and had five solid routines to take the early lead with a 49.375 on the event. Vanessa Zamarripa posted UCLA's top score with a 9.925 from the anchor position. Sophina DeJesus tied her career-high with a 9.90, Olivia Courtney scored a season-high-tying 9.875. Danusia Francis (9.85) and Monique De La Torre (9.825) also contributed to the team score.
The Bruins held on to the lead after two rotations, scoring 49.175 on beam. UCLA opened with a 9.80 from Kaelie Baer, Lichelle Wong followed with a 9.825, and DeJesus checked in with a score of 9.875. Courtney had been able to save a fall on beam on Friday but was not as fortunate on Saturday, but hit routines from Zamarripa (9.825) and Francis (9.85) prevented the Bruins from counting a fall.
With UCLA on a bye, Alabama and Florida pulled ahead. Alabama used a 49.5 on floor and 49.25 on vault to take the lead with 98.750, and Florida set a NCAA Championships record on floor exercise by scoring 49.725 to jump back into the game with a two-event total of 98.600 after its nearly disastrous beam start. UCLA stood in third place with 98.550.
On floor, the Bruins used four 9.9+ scores to post 49.45 on the event. After Zamarripa's 9.9, Alyssa Pritchett scored 9.925, and Courtney and Sydney Sawa hit back-to-back 9.9s, Sawa's being a season-best. The scores gave UCLA a three-event total of 148.00 heading into vault.
Vault was the strength of the Bruins in Friday's semifinals, but UCLA was unable to replicate that performance on Saturday. Courtney led the team with a 9.900 on the event, Baer scored a 9.875, and Wong posted a 9.825, but the Bruins had to count two scores of 9.75 to finish with a event score of 49.1 and a final score of 197.1.
With UCLA's competition finished, Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma battled it out for the title. Florida hit all six bars scores for 9.85 or higher to score 49.475 and clinch the victory with 197.57, and when Alabama was forced to count a 9.625 on beam, Oklahoma moved into second place with a final total of 197.375 after scoring 49.4 on floor. Alabama finished in third with 197.350. Finishing behind the Bruins were fifth-place LSU (197.05) and sixth-place Georgia (196.75).
Despite not winning the title, UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field was pleased with her team's performance. "I actually feel really good," she said. "The fact that we were even in it at all is just remarkable. I say it over and over and over again: this is the little team that could. We've been pushing that envelope. Even the last few weeks of season when we should have been cutting back and letting them rest, we couldn't. We had to get better. It's just remarkable; absolutely remarkable."
"Emotionally, physically, mentally, we are spent," she continued. "We left it all on the floor. As a coach, I could not ask more from them."
This marks the end of the team season, but five Bruins will compete in individual event finals on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion. Baer, Courtney, Wong, and Zamarripa will compete on vault, Francis will compete on beam, and Courtney will compete on floor exercise.