No. 8 Women's Gymnastics Sets Sights On Pac-10 Championships

March 20, 2001

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This Week --
Encountering some of the nation's toughest teams, the 8th-ranked Sun Devils (10-5) will vie for a conference title at the Pac-10 Championships at Bank Of America Arena in Seattle, Wash., March 24.

ASU In The Rankings --
After posting a 195.575 total in last week's quadrilateral meet, ASU's Regional Qualifying Score remained at 196.490 for the second week in a row, as did the Sun Devils' No. 8 ranking. In the event-by-event breakdown, ASU slipped to 11th on vault (49.015 RQS/48.712 avg.), held at 13th on bars (49.15/49.020) and dropped to eighth on beam (49.12/48.837) and sixth-t on floor (49.365/49.062).

Recent Results --
Struggling to its third-worst total of the season (195.575) the No. 8 Sun Devils defeated No. 12 Iowa (193.425) and unranked Kentucky (194.350), but could not overcome a 197.100 by No. 7 Nebraska, falling for the just the third time in its last 44 home meets while waving good-bye to its 25-meet home winning streak. The Sun Devils' one shining event was vault. Getting key contributions from freshman walk-on Jada Cox and senior Kim Skinner, who are filling in for the injured Amber Giorgianni and Ashley Stewart, ASU finished with a season-best 49.175 on the apparatus. Cox, who saw her competitive debut two weeks ago, scored for the first time of her collegiate career with a 9.75. Skinner, in the vault line-up for just the third time this year, earned a 9.725 that also scored for ASU. Sophomore Cassidy Vreeke established a career-best with her 9.875 effort, while senior Kelly Cowley tied her career mark at 9.9. Freshman Maggie Germaine improved her personal-best with an ASU season-best 9.925. Despite the strong opening rotation, ASU's momentum train quickly derailed on bars, where a pair of early falls negated a 9.9-9.925 event finish by sophomore Margaret Wojciak and junior Laura Moon. Two more falls on beam led to ASU's second-worst 2001 total on the apparatus, 48.650. In the final rotation, ASU failed to earn a score of 9.9 or better on floor for the first time in six meets, finishing with a 48.925 event total.

Pacific-10 Championships --
While a conference title is always the goal, ASU can turn in its best finish in five years if it can earn runner-up honors. Over the past four seasons, the Sun Devils have finished fourth (2000), third (1999), third (1998) and sixth (1997). Prior to that was a pair of second-place finishes in 1994 and 1995. ASU has never won a team title at the Pac-10 Championships, but its most recent conference championship came in 1986, when the Sun Devils defeated UCLA, Arizona and Stanford to claim the Pacific West Conference title. ASU and its aforementioned Pac West opponents were included in the Pac-10 Conference one year later.

The Field --
The winner of Saturday's meet will only earn a conference title, but in doing so they'll defeat some of the nation's best gymnastics teams. In addition to the eighth-ranked Sun Devils, the remaining six conference squads are also nationally ranked: No. 1 UCLA, No. 6 Stanford, No. 13 Oregon State, No. 16 Washington, No. 24 Arizona and No. 25 California. The Sun Devils have a 5-2 record against Pac-10 opponents this season. Its only losses came against UCLA at the season-opening Maui Invitational and at Stanford, Feb. 9. ASU is the only team in the nation to defeat UCLA this year. The Sun Devils' come-from-behind 196.350-196.000 win in ASU's home opener drew a crowd of 2,108 at Wells Fargo Arena -- the largest in over five seasons.

Moon Rising --
After two MVP seasons at Maryland, Scottsdale native Laura Moon is back in the Valley and back being a team leader. One of two Sun Devils to appear in the national top-25 rankings, Moon is tied for third on bars (9.95 RQS/9.915 avg.) and ranks 18th in the all-around (39.285/39.156). One of nine Sun Devils ever to record a perfect-10, Moon earned the first 10.0 of her career on bars at the UNO's Classic (Feb. 23), launching her to a Pac-10 Gymnast Of The Week award for Feb. 21-26. Two weeks later vs. Auburn, Moon earned her second perfect score on bars en route to a second Pac-10 Gymnast Of The Week honor. Also tallying a personal-season-high 9.825 on vault, a career-best-tying 9.925 beam, plus a 9.85 on floor, Moon accumulated an all-around total of 39.6 against the Tigers, breaking Meagan Wright's 1997 school-record mark of 39.575.

Talking 10s --
What's the significance of Moon's perfect-10 parade? Consider the following: The ninth Sun Devil to achieve the feat, Moon is responsible for the 14th and 15th 10.0 scores in ASU history. ... She has two of ASU's three such marks on bars ... ASU's only other 10.0 on bars was logged by Jenny Ester in 1993. ... While Tina Brinkman (floor `92, vault `94) and Carie Courtney (vault `97, `98) each achieved two perfect scores in their ASU careers, Moon and Danna Lister are the only Sun Devils to record perfect scores twice in one season. Lister, ASU's all-time 10.0-scoring leader, achieved perfection on beam four times from 1993-95, including two times in 1994. ... Elizabeth McNabb's 10.0 on floor in 1999 is ASU's only other perfect score over the past three seasons.

Fab Frosh --
She may be just a freshman, but Maggie Germaine has been providing ASU with veteran leadership all season. The only Sun Devil to compete in the all-around at all ten meets, Germaine has hit 35-of-40 routines, including her last 30-of-32. After debuting in the national rankings at No. 24 three weeks ago (Feb. 26), Germaine is currently ranked 16th in the all-around (39.310 RQS/39.047 avg.). Germaine's season-best all-around total of 39.55 came against Arizona (3/2), when she posted a 9.9 vault, a 9.85 on bars, a personal-best 9.875 on beam and a personal-best-tying 9.925 on floor. ... Although she turned in 24 routines without scoring a 9.9 or better to start the season, Germaine has reached or crossed the 9.9 plateau in seven of her last 16 routines. In ASU's final regular-season meet, Germaine improved her team-leading vault to 9.925.

Dynamic Duo --
Both newcomers to ASU, freshman Maggie Germaine and junior-transfer Laura Moon combine to make one of the nation's most potent one-two punches in the all-around. Ranked (by RQS) at No. 16 and No. 18, respectively, only No. 2 Georgia (No. 2 Kristi Lichey and No. 8 Cory Fritzinger) and No. 9 Iowa State (No. 7 Shelly Kringen and No. 10 Sissy Huey) have a twosome ranked higher than the Sun Devils' terrific tandem.

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 ten meets, Cowley's scores have counted toward the team total all but twice. All totaled, she has hit 28-of-30 routines this season and has scored a 9.8 or above in 19 of her last 24. Against Utah, Cowley had her best meet of the year with a personal season-best effort on vault of 9.875, a career-best-tying 9.925 on bars and a 9.9 on floor. Against Arizona, Cowley upped her career-best on floor to 9.975, leading ASU to a school-record 49.625 in the event. The following week vs. Auburn, Cowley turned in her sixth consecutive score of 9.9-or-better on floor.

Essentially Ellsberry --
Sophomore Ashley Ellsberry may have started the season cold, but she's been hot ever since. A beam and floor specialist, Ellsberry missed on both routines at the Maui Invitational, but has hit 18-of-18 since. Entering the season with a career best 9.9 on beam and 9.75 on floor, Ellsberry has improved both marks considerably this season. Her first breakthrough on beam came at the UNO's Classic, when she turned in a 9.925 (Feb. 23). Two weeks later vs. Auburn, Ellsberry earned an ASU season-best 9.95. On floor, Ellsberry has scored above her previous personal best eight times, including a 9.9 vs. Arizona.

Fantastic Fanning --
One of four seniors on the squad, Kristin Fanning has been a rock of stability for ASU this season. While her season-best of 9.85 on bars has aided the ASU effort (career high 9.9), Fanning's biggest contribution has been on floor. Performing at all ten meets, Fanning has a team-high 9.862 average in the exercise, highlighted by a 9.95 total at Arizona. Ever-dependable, Fanning has produced a floor score below 9.85 only twice this season.

Radically Robinette --
While she has also worked bars in five meets (season-high of 9.8), Rhonda Robinette has been a force on beam her junior year. Robinette's top beam scores of the season include a 9.9 vs. Arizona and a career-best 9.925 vs. Stanford. Minus a pair of falls, Robinette's lowest score of the year was a 9.8 vs. Washington.

Suddenly Skinner --
Through ten meets, senior co-captain Kim Skinner has been a regular in ASU's bars rotation, competing all but twice on the apparatus. However, knee injuries to Ashley Stewart and Amber Giorgianni have thrust Skinner into the vault line-up the past two weeks where she has contributed to the team total both times with marks of 9.775 and 9.725, respectively.

Valuable Vreeke --
After a disastrous start, Cassidy Vreeke has been rebounding toward a fine finish to her sophomore season. Through the first four meets, Vreeke competed once on floor, three times on vault and four times on beam, yet scored a 9.6-or-better in only three of the eight routines. Since then however, Vreeke has scored 9.8 or better in 10-of-15 routines. Included in that stretch is a career-high 9.875 on vault, three 9.85s on beam and a career-best 9.925 on floor.

Wojciak Attack --
After turning in a 38.475 vs. Oregon State in her only collegiate all-around appearance the second week of the season, sophomore Margaret Wojciak has competed in no more than two events per meet. Working bars a total of nine times this year, Wojciak has been heating up of late, with three career-best-tying marks of 9.9 in her last six routines, plus marks of 9.85 and 9.875.

Instant Injuries --
What had been a relatively injury-free season was redefined two weeks ago as ASU prepared for its dual vs. Auburn. First, in a March 6 practice, junior Ashley Stewart suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the season. Three days later, in ASU's final warm-up on vault, freshman Amber Giorgianni went down with an injured knee. While Giorgianni had also been a regular on beam (9.875 season-high), the Sun Devils' experience their greatest loss on vault, where Giorgianni had appeared in seven-of-eight meets and Stewart had competed in eight-of-eight. Combined, Giorgianni and Stewart produced five scores at 9.8 or better in 2001, including personal highs of 9.825 and 9.85, respectively.

Tale Of Two Extremes --
With the regular season complete, 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. 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 nine meets since, the Sun Devils have put up six totals that rank among ASU's all-time top-ten: a school-record 197.45 vs. Arizona, a previous record-tying 197.125 at the UNO's Classic (now 2nd), a fifth-best 196.725 vs. Stanford, a seventh-best 196.35 that upset No. 1 UCLA, a ninth-best 196.15 vs. Auburn and a 10th-best 196.1 vs. Utah. Before the season, ASU had only seven scores of 196.0 or above.

The Streak --
For 25 straight meets -- including four in 2001 -- no one could overcome ASU at Wells Fargo Arena. Not even No. 1 UCLA. In that span, the Sun Devils beat 39 consecutive opponents dating back to 1996. However, in the 2001 season finale, ASU defeated Iowa and Kentucky, but could not top No. 7 Nebraska, which shot to No. 4 in the rankings after turning back ASU for only the third time in the last 44 meets at Wells Fargo Arena. The dates of ASU's last four home losses are as follows: Nebraska (3/16/01), Utah (2/2/96), Utah (2/11/94), Oregon State (2/7/92).

The Fans --
If you win, they will come. While ASU's attendance report might not rival Utah's (annually the nation's leader), this year the Sun Devils drew some of their biggest crowds in recent history. Drawing 2,108 vs. UCLA, 1,508 for the UNO's Classic and 1,108 vs. Washington, ASU welcomed its first, third and tenth biggest regular-season crowds in six years. Add to that totals of 907 (vs. Auburn) and 1,040 (vs. Nebraska, Iowa, Kentucky) and ASU finishes the 2001 season with a total attendance of 6,671 (1,334.2 per meet). In recent years, only the 1998 season comes close to rivaling this year's effort. That year, a six-meet schedule that included the Midwest Regionals drew 6,906 fans, for an average of 1,289. In 1997, ASU averaged 1,289 per meet with a four-meet total of 5,157.

Up Next --
The Pac-10 Championship meet is ASU's final opportunity to improve its qualifying score for the upcoming NCAA Regionals, April 7. The nation's top 18 teams will be seeded out to the six regional hosts, three per site. Remaining slots will be filled from within each host's region. The top-two finishers at each regional meet will advance to the NCAA Championships, April 19-21 at the University of Georgia. Regional pairings will be announced Monday, March 26.

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