No. 11 Women's Gymnastics To Face No. 3 Utah Friday

Feb. 14, 2001

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This Week --
Arizona State's 11th-ranked women's gymnastics squad (3-3) will attempt to break the 160-meet home winning streak of No. 3 Utah (5-1) in what is being titled the Freeport.com Invitational, Friday, Feb. 16., at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.

Recent Results --
On the road at No. 5 Stanford, the 15th-ranked Sun Devils did everything but win. Posting team season-highs in every event except the floor, ASU produced its third-best all-time team total of 196.725 (see chart, page 3), but still fell to Stanford, which produced a 197.05. En route to that season-best score, ASU matched or set season-highs in every discipline except the uneven bars. On vault, Maggie Germaine matched Ashley Stewart's season-high 9.85. On beam, Rhonda Robinette reclaimed the top mark with a 9.925. On floor, Kelly Cowley improved her team-leading score to 9.9. And in the all-around, Germaine matched Laura Moon's 39.325 total. Although not matching her season-best of 9.95, Moon led ASU with a 9.925 on bars, one of four 9.9-or-better marks the Sun Devils manufactured that night. Stanford won every event except vault (48.95-48.9), and topped ASU with seven scores of 9.9 or better. Leading the way for the Cardinal was Lindsay Wing's outstanding 39.657 all-around, including a 9.975 on beam, a 9.925 on floor and a 9.9 on vault.

Utah (5-1) --
One of five teams to break the 197-point barrier this season (others: UCLA, Alabama, Stanford, Nebraska -- each has done it twice), Utah has produced the fourth (197.225) and fifth (197.125) highest scores of the year en route to its No. 3 national ranking. As a team, the Utes are ranked second on beam (49.054) and floor (49.367), third on bars (49.296) and tenth on vault (48.692). Among the Utes' leaders are nationally-ranked junior Diedra Graham (15th in the all-around), senior Theresa Wolf (15th on floor, 19th in the all-around), junior Shannon Bowles (15th on beam, 19th on floor), sophomore Theresa Kulikowski (3rd on bars) and freshman Melissa Vituj (t-21st on floor). Utah will be without the services of sophomore All-American Kim Allan for the rest of the season. Allan ruptured her left Achilles tendon in a Feb. 4 practice. She had hit 12-of-12 routines this season prior to her injury. The Utes are coached by Greg Marsden (26th year). Marsden has a career record of 726-108-3, all at Utah.

Last Time vs. Utah (2/18/00) --
Paced by what would be its best beam total (49.15) and second-best bars total (49.275), ASU performed to its second-best team total (195.85) of the 2000 season and defeated all-comers at the UNO's Classic -- No. 2 Alabama (195.3), No. 21 Minnesota (195.15) and No. 4 Utah (194.675). In a remarkable team performance, seven different Sun Devils scored 9.9 or better: Lea Carver (9.9, beam), Kelly Christensen-Cowley (9.9, vault), Ashley Ellsberry (9.9, beam), Elizabeth Reid (9.95, bars), Elizabeth McNabb (9.9, floor), Kim Skinner (9.9, bars) and Margaret Wojciak (9.9, bars). While Utah was strong on bars (49.475), a beam score of 47.525 was the Utes' most apparent downfall.

All-Time vs. Utah --
Utah leads the series with a record of 18-8-1 vs. ASU. The Sun Devils won last year's meeting 195.85-194.65. ASU hasn't won back-to-back meetings with Utah since the Reagan administration: In 1986, the Sun Devils topped Utah 186.95-185, before besting the Utes 188.75-188.15 at the Southwest Cup in 1987.

Moon Rising --
After two MVP seasons at Maryland, Scottsdale native Laura Moon is back in the Valley and back being a team leader. The only Sun Devil to appear in the individual national rankings, Moon's 9.837 average on beam -- headlined by a 9.9 against Washington -- has her 14th on that list, while her 9.87 bars average is in a two-way tie for 19th. Moon's best bars effort -- and standing Sun Devil season best -- was a personal-best 9.95 at the Maui Invitational, where she was limited to just one event due to an ankle injury. In four of ASU's other five meets, Moon has competed in the all-around, leading ASU on three occasions including her ASU 2001-high (tied with Maggie Germaine) 39.325 performance in the upset of No. 1 UCLA. Of ASU's six 9.9-or-better performances this year, Moon is responsible for half.

Fab Frosh --
She may be a freshman, but Maggie Germaine has been providing ASU with veteran-type leadership all season. The only Sun Devil to compete in the all-around at all five meets, Germaine has hit 16-of-20 routines this year, including her last 11-of-12. Tied with Laura Moon for the season-best all-around total of 39.325 (which she set against Stanford), Germaine is also second on the list at 39.3 (vs. UCLA). Against Stanford, Germaine moved into a tie with Ashley Stewart for the team lead on vault (9.85). Although she has yet to record a 9.9 or above, Germaine has turned in scores of 9.8-or-better 11-of-20 times (55 percent).

Captain Cowley --
Kelly Cowley, a team co-captain and ASU's only returning All-American, has been the model of consistency for the Sun Devils. Competing in every event except beam at all four meets, Cowley's scores have counted toward the team total all but once. All totaled, she has hit 14-of-15 routines this season and has scored a 9.8 or above in seven of her last nine routines. Against Stanford, Cowley improved her season bests in all three events, to 9.825 on vault, 9.825 on bars and 9.9 on floor.

Essentially Ellsberry --
Much like the team around her, sophomore Ashley Ellsberry may have started the season cold, but she's been heating up ever since. A beam and floor specialist, Ellsberry missed on both performances at the Maui Invitational, but has hit eight-of-eight since. It took only two meets for Ellsberry to tie her previous best of 9.75 on floor, and three to smash it, recording a 9.875 against UCLA. Since then, Ellsberry has turned in beam and floor combinations of 9.8, 9.8 (vs. Washington) and 9.85, 9.85 (vs. Stanford).

Fantastic Fanning --
One of four seniors on the squad, Kristin Fanning has been a rock of stability for the Sun Devils this season. Although she's yet to achieve higher than 9.775 on bars (career high 9.9) in three attempts, Fanning has been fabulous on floor. Performing at all five meets this year Fanning has a team-high 9.845 average (high of 9.875, low of 9.8) in the exercise.

Radically Robinette --
While she has also worked bars in four meets (season-high of 9.8), Rhonda Robinette has been a force on beam in her junior season. Since falling at the Maui Invitational, Robinette has scored no worse than 9.8 (vs. Washington) and seems to be improving over time: 9.825 vs. OSU (1/19), 9.875 vs. UCLA (1/26), 9.925 vs. Stanford (2/9). The latter mark (9.925) is not only a team season-high, but is also Robinette's career best.

Stewart Special --
Competing on vault only at all five meets, junior Ashley Stewart has been making the most of her role as an assignment athlete. Although coming off her first fall of the year (vs. Stanford), Stewart still holds a tie for the ASU team lead on vault with her 9.85 effort vs. UCLA (Germaine equaled that mark vs. Stanford).

Wojciak Attack --
Sophomore Margaret Wojciak has already increased her contribution since her freshman season. Against Oregon State, Wojciak made her collegiate debut in the all-around and finished with a 38.475, higher than any ASU all-around performance in 2000. Since then, Wojciak has competed in no more than two events for a single meet, but that didn't stop her from matching her career high on bars with a 9.9 vs. Stanford.

Tale Of Two Top-Three's --
Not quite halfway through the season, 2001 has truly seen some of the best and worst times for ASU gymnastics. At the season opening Maui Invitational, the Sun Devils stumbled to a team total of 191.525, its third-worst score since 1997 (see chart, left). Considering that 10 of the last 15 season openers had seen ASU put up its lowest total of the year, there was reason to think that ASU would improve, but this much? In the five meets since, the Sun Devils have put up two totals that rank among ASU's all-time top-ten. While the 196.35 points that upset No. 1 UCLA stand fifth, the Sun Devils most-recent performance against Stanford is tops this season and No. 3 all-time at 196.725 points.

The Streak --
If it appears as if ASU's home winning streak grew in the off-season, it did. Contrary to many recent reports (after the 2000 season, ASU was listed as having won 20 straight at home against 29 opponents), further statistical review shows that the Sun Devils have won their last 23 home meets, defeating 35 opponents -- including two meets against two opponents in 2001. The last team to defeat ASU in Tempe was Utah, which bested the Sun Devils 193.875-193.25, Feb. 2, 1996. That loss was ASU's first in its last eight home meets, and its first since Utah snapped a nine-meet home wining streak, Feb. 11, 1994. Thus, ASU has won 39 of its last 41 home meets, defeating 58 opponents. The last team to beat the Sun Devils at home other than Utah was Oregon State (192.7-192.55) Feb. 7, 1992.

Rule Change --
Unlike previous years in which gymnasts were allowed two attempts on the vault (with the higher score counting), this year athletes will only be allowed one attempt at the apparatus.

Up Next --
The Sun Devils return to the friendly confines of Wells Fargo Arena, where they will attempt to defend their home meet winning streak against Boise State, California and UC Santa Barbara in the UNO's Classic, Friday, Feb. 23, at 7:00 p.m (MST).

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