UCLA Qualifies To NCAA Super Six Team Finals
April 15, 2011
Cleveland, OH - Defending NCAA Gymnastics champion UCLA moved on to the Super Six Team Finals after placing third in the first semifinal on Friday afternoon at the Wolstein Center. The Bruins built up a big lead after three events, leaving plenty of room for error on their final event. When the errors did come, it hardly mattered, as UCLA had scored enough to safely secure third place with a final team score of 196.5, over a point ahead of fourth-place squads Arkansas and Georgia (195.45). Oklahoma won the semifinal with a score of 196.775. Michigan was second with a 196.7. The Top 3 teams in each semifinal qualify for Saturday's team finals.
UCLA went lights-out on its first three events, scoring 49.325 on floor, 49.45 on vault and 49.35 on bars, but had to count a fall on beam in the final rotation for a score of 48.375.
The Bruins started strong on their first event, with all six competitors scoring 9.8 or above. Tauny Frattone led off with a 9.85, followed by a 9.8 from Niki Tom and a pair of 9.85s from freshmen Sydney Sawa and Olivia Courtney. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs earned a 9.875, and defending NCAA floor champion Brittani McCullough put herself back in event finals for a chance to defend her title after scoring a 9.925.
UCLA's vault rotation was the highest-scoring of the meet, with the Bruins totaling 49.45. Monique De La Torre started with a 9.825, followed by 9.875s from Samantha Peszek and Hopfner-Hibbs. McCullough stuck a high and powerful Yurchenko layout full for a career-high-tying 9.95, and Frattone and Courtney closed the rotation with a pair of 9.875s, giving UCLA a two-event total of 98.775.
Uneven bars brought more high marks for UCLA, who scored 49.35 on the strength of a career-high-tying 9.925 from De La Torre, a 9.9 from Hopfner-Hibbs and 9.85s from Courtney and Peszek. McCullough recorded a 9.825, and Aisha Gerber added a 9.75.
Armed with a three-event score of 148.125 (49.375 average) going into the final event, the Bruins headed to beam needing a 48.675 to overtake Oklahoma for first place. Gerber provided a strong leadoff score of 9.85. Hopfner-Hibbs was not credited for her leap series by two of the judges and finished with a final score of 9.725. After Tom earned a 9.775, McCullough took UCLA's first fall of the competition, coming off the beam on her backhandspring/layout and scoring 9.15. Peszek, however, ensured clinched a Top 3 finish for the team with a 9.875. Although Frattone fell in the anchor spot, UCLA was so far ahead of the fourth-place teams that counting one fall did nothing to knock the Bruins out of the Top 3.
"I thought that we did well," said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. "We had two falls on beam, which is uncharacteristic for us at this time of the year. I am not concerned about our team at all, they are right on track. They are prepared both emotionally and physically. They know what they need to do, and if they make a mistake, it is because it is hard, it is gymnastics, and not because they got tight and tense or doubting themselves or any of that, which is nice as a coach. Not to worry about your team and individuals doubting themselves. Or if someone has a mistake and it is spiralling out of control. I don't consider us to be a veteran team, but we are competing like veterans. It has been a great championship so far."
Hopfner-Hibbs said, "When you come out on day one, it's always easy to get super tense, when focusing on that goal and trying to reach it to the Super Six. I think it's important for us to know that we accomplished that goal, and we are going to go out and let loose and do the performances we are capable of and start off with a bang and try to finish all four events strongly."
Saturday's team final begins at 4 pm ET. UCLA, Oklahoma and Michigan will be joined by the Top 3 from the second semifinal, which takes place tonight.
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