California Gymnastics Notes

Dec. 30, 2005

THIS WEEK: The California Golden Bear women's gymnastics team will open the 2006 season at the Aloha Gymfest in Oahu, Hawaii on Jan. 3 at 6 p.m. (HST). Joining California at the meet are Oregon State, Washington, UCLA, Arkansas and Sacramento State.

THE RANKINGS: After not being ranked at the conclusion of last season, the Golden Bears received votes in the Preseason Coaches poll. California finished the 2005 season with a 6-12 record (0-6 Pac-10). The Bears welcome 10 new freshmen, helping them boost their depth for the 2006 season. About the rankings: Unlike other rankings, college gymnastics rankings are not based on wins or losses or votes. The teams are ranked by their meet scores alone. the polling place: Out of all 25 teams ranked California will face seven teams, which includes six teams from the Pac-10. The Golden Bears will also face five of the teams who recieved votes in the preseason poll.

SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: Oregon State: Oregon State enters the 2006 season with six newcomers after losing eight letterwinners. The Beavers finished the season third in the Pac-10, third in the North Central Regional and 13th at the NCAA Championship. With eight returnees, Tanya Chaplin's squad hopes to improve on their 2005 season-high score of 195.975 at Washington on Feb. 11.

Washington: The Washington Huskies completed the 2005 season with a 16-13 record and a fifth- place finish at the Pac-10 Championship. During last season, Washington recorded their season-high score 195.325 at Boise State (3/14/05). Returning 10 from their third place West Regional team, the Huskies look to replace all-arounder Carly Dockendorf (2005 season-high: 39.525 at Boise State 3/14/05).

UCLA: The Bruins of UCLA open their 2006 season returning two NCAA Champions and three All-Americans. After their fourth-place finish of 197.15 at the NCAA Championship, Valorie Kondos Field welcomes seven newcomers to her squad. After a 20-3 finish in 2005, UCLA swept their 11th Pac-10 championship. The 2005 all-around NCAA Champion and a first-team All-American, Tasha Schwikert returns for her sophomore season, and joins two-time All-American Kate Richardson to lead the Bruins in 2006.

Arkansas: Always a major force, Arkansas returns 10 gymnasts for their 2006 campaign. The Lady Razorbacks capped off the 2005 season with a 9-16 record and a final national ranking of 20th. Arkansas will introduce four newcomers, Breanne Guy, Alexandra LaChance, Kelley Owen and Alison Schmohl, at the Aloha Gymfest.

Sacramento State: Sacramento State owned a 15-8 record in 2005. Returning 14 and losing only six, the Hornets are poised for another successful run. In 2005, Kim Hughes and her staff led their team to a 194.550 season-high score. Stefanie Aeder (floor), Melissa Genovese (beam) and Alexis Tsurumoto (bars) all qualified for the 2005 NCAA Regional.

2006 SEASON OUTLOOK: There is a new positive atmosphere over the California women's gymnastic team. After a year of struggles in 2005, the California women's gymnastics team looks to bounce back with experienced, healthy veterans and exciting newcomers. With eight returnees and 10 freshmen on campus, the team gives Head Coach Cari DuBois the most depth in her four-year career at Cal. The Golden Bears are led by senior Britani Pittullo and a trio of juniors including Justine Cephus, Isabel Garcia and Elyse Wong. With the addition of the 10 freshmen, including nationally recruited Lydia Williams, Bridgette Glass, Jessica Kelley and Joanna Bennett, California has all the opportunity to return to national prominence, which DuBois hopes will come from the changes to the program overall. With a team that has the potential to reach the NCAA Championship, DuBois hopes the determination will be there for the four months of competition. Seniors Returning from a season-ending injury this season, senior Britani Pittullo looks to bounce back for a strong senior season. During her sophomore campaign, Pittullo posted Cal's second-highest all-around score (39.000) at the NCAA West Regional. During the same season, she also led the Bears in vault scoring average (9.824). Juniors Every junior returns in 2006. Junior Isabel Garcia competed consistently on the vault, beam and floor for the Bears in 2005. Garcia collected a career-high 9.725 on the beam and 9.675 on the vault during her sophomore season. Junior Elyse Wong entered the Bears' lineup mid-way through the 2005 season. Wong tallied a career-high, 9.725, on the beam against Utah State. Also competing in the floor exercise, she posted a 9.504 season average. Returning to action for the first time since 2004, junior Justine Cephus will be breaking into the lineup after rehabbing a knee injury the past two seasons. Sophomores The sophomores host four individuals who were entered in action as true freshmen last year, as the Bears struggled through injuries. Sophomore Nicki Wells competed in 10 all-around competitions last season, posting her career-high 38.625 in a tri-meet against Utah, Stanford and Florida. Sophomore Siobhan Luce, who also worked her way into the lineup last season, competed regularly on the vault, bars and floor for Cal. She recorded a career-high 9.850 on the vault, 9.650 on the bars and tallied a 9.750 three times during her initial campaign. Focusing mainly on the vault and bars in her freshman season, sophomore Alli Szutu twice recorded a career-high 9.675 on the vault and 9.775 on the bars. Struggling through ankle injuries sophomore Keiko Nakamura hopes to be healthy enough to compete for a position in the lineup. Recording her career-high 9.625 on the beam in her first collegiate match, DuBois hopes to have Nakamura represent the Bears on the beam. Freshmen After bringing in an astonishing 10 freshmen to form the 2009 class, DuBois is excited for the opportunities they will provide the Bears this season. California landed one of the best recruits in the nation with Lydia Williams. The native of Toronto was a member of the Canada Sports Seneca Gymnastics Club team. Williams competed on the Canadian World team, which placed second at the PanAm Games in 2003. She suffered a spinal injury that prevented her from competing in national competition in 2004. A local product from Oakley, Calif., freshman Bridgette Glass has also made a national name for herself. In 2001 she was a United States Championship qualifier, in addition to being a United States Classic qualifier (international elite), ending the Classic with a fourth-place finish on the vault. Freshman Jessica Kelley, also known nationally for her competition at Junior National events, was a member of the Airborne Gymnastic clue where she was a five-time Level 10 National qualifier, with top finishes in the all-around at the Level 10 Junior Nationals. Coming off some ankle injuries in her senior year of high school, freshman Joanna Bennett is picking up where she left off. In 2005 she placed 10th in the all-around and seventh on the bars at the Junior Olympic Nationals. Bennett was also the 2004 Northern California state floor champion. In 2005 freshman Kendall Zdvorak was the Level 9 Southern California State vault, bars, beam and all-around champion. Freshman Sarah Fiorillo is an excellent beam specialist, who placed seventh on the beam in the 2005 Junior Olympic Nationals after being sidelined with a fractured pelvis for six months prior to the competition. Coming off several ankle injuries in high school, Vanna Rocchi is a strong contender on the bars. She competed on the Oroville Gymnastics club team. The freshman is pushing double-duty since coming to Cal; she is an active member of the campus' R.O.T.C program. Since stepping foot on campus, freshman Melissa Stinar has gone through a growth spurt. Through the difficulties of facing new struggles with her height, the former member of the Browns Gymnastics club team has made head-way as a Golden Bear. Freshman Tiffany Tam will provide explosion on the beam for Cal. Currently freshman Caitlin Atikenhead is struggling through some injuries that she arrived with that have setback her progress in the gym.

SCHEDULING THE BEST: The Golden Bears are faced once again against the best competition in the nation. With the Pac-10's success over the last decade, the Bears face at least five teams who are in the top 25 regularly in conference competitions alone. Cal opens in Hawaii against UCLA, Oregon State, Sacramento State and Arkansas. After several competitions in California, the Bears will travel back East to face the likes of West Virginia, Pittsburgh, George Washington and North Carolina State.

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