2007 Women's Gymnastics Outlook
Jan. 15, 2007
In previous years it has been primarily Ashley Kelly making headlines for Arizona State gymnastics. This year; however, it could be any given gymnast on any given night. With 12 of their athletes returning, the Sun Devils are looking towards the 2007 season as being similar to last year, full of depth. Last season the Sun Devils finished ninth nationally and hope to improve on that finish.
The Sun Devils are led this season by team captain April Boone and fellow seniors Cassandra Jusino, Lisa Lanza and Lauren Powell. Boone returns as one of the most consistent all-around gymnasts on the team. Last season she recorded her first perfect 10 on the vault and averaged above a 9.700 on every event.
'April is a true leader,' says Head Coach John Spini, 'She has matured as a gymnast and as a leader during her time here.'
Jusino returns as a powerful all-arounder.
'Cassandra is very explosive on vault and floor,' says Spini 'She has come back strong.'
Lanza trains mainly on bars and beam and is willing to step in if needed.
'Lisa is all about the team,' says Spini. 'She is a hard worker.'
The Sun Devils also bring Powell back for a fifth season after she was granted a medical redshirt. Powell will likely compete as an all-arounder
'We are very happy to have Lauren back,' says Spini, 'She is the hardest worker in the gym and leads by example.'
The Sun Devils only have one junior on the roster, Josie Hancock of Mesa, Ariz., who was out with an injury all last season. Despite being sidelined, she still did have a huge hand in the team's accomplishments. If healthy she could help out on floor.
Perhaps the most powerful gymnasts are in the sophomore class, which returns seven gymnasts to the squad.
'I don't know where we'd be without our sophomores,' says Spini. 'They're the bulk of our team.'
Returning All-American Nicole Harris comes back to help lead the team in the all-around. While working on upgrading her vault to a higher level, she remains consistent on the floor but her strengths are on beam and bars.
'Nicole is outstanding on beam and bars,' says Spini. 'She has gorgeous lines and loves showing off her strength and flexibility in these events.'
After being out most of the season with a foot injury, Tia Orlando comes back stronger than ever.
'Tia has trained unbelievably hard,' says Spini, 'She was so motivated after her injury and worked hard all summer.'
With her strong work ethic, Orlando will be a solid all-arounder this year, especially on the floor.
Ashlee Hinkle returns for the 2007 season after a very impressive freshman campaign. Recording only one fall last season, Hinkle will likely start on beam, vault and floor again.
'Ashlee is our `silent killer,'' says Spini. 'She quietly made a huge difference last season.'
After graduating from high school and joining the team in January, Ashley Toner and Tiana Jean return excited to be a part of preseason practices. Toner, who started on the floor last season, will likely lead off the rotation again this year. She has also worked on her bars and beam routine and might see some time on those events. Jean is expected to return to her starting bar position after stepping up last season.
'Vanessa stepped up on vault and has a very good chance of making the lineup,' says Spini. 'She is outstanding mentally and has increased her level of consistency. She could be the surprise of the season.'
Finley has also been working hard on vault, as well as on floor.
'Carrie is a great team player and is the first to help out,' says Spini.
'Kaitlynn is very good on vault and beam,' says Spini, 'She has a high level of difficulty on beam.'
Barnum came in with a wrist injury and will be out for 8-12 weeks before the season starts. When healthy she could compete on beam, bars and vault with her specialty being on vault.
Perhaps last season's most consistent event, the Sun Devils ended the regular season ranked eighth on vault. They scored the highest score in the nation for the year, 49.625, against Iowa State. This year the Sun Devils look to improve on last season's scores by increasing the difficulty level and becoming even more consistent.
'We are looking at Lauren, Cassandra, and April to be our biggest vaulters,' Spini says.
Last season Boone scored her first career 10.0 on the vault against Iowa State. Orlando recorded a 9.9 against Arizona before her foot injury. The starting lineup for the Sun Devils also includes Harris, Orlando, and Hinkle. Bormann, Rocca, and Finley may also see some time on vault.
Unlike most of the other events, where depth is not an issue, uneven bars will be somewhat of a challenge this year for the Sun Devils. Last season the Sun Devils recorded the national season high, 49.500 in the UNO's Classic. Harris, Orlando, Boone, Powell, Jusino and Jean are looking at making up the starting lineup again this year. Jean will likely lead off again while Harris will anchor the event.
'Nicole is outstanding on the bars,' says Spini, 'Her level of difficulty is one of the highest in the country.'
Just like the previous year, the Sun Devils are looking to the balance beam as their strongest event.
'It's never easy, losing a national champion like Ashley Kelly,' Spini says, 'but we have a lot of talent and depth on beam.'
The Sun Devils are looking at Harris to step up and fill Kelly's shoes. Harris was named a second-team All-American on the beam last season and is looking to anchor the team this year. Hinkle returns as being arguably the most consistent on the beam, averaging a 9.777 last season. Orlando has also trained hard and will be in the lineup along with Boone and Powell. Bormann, Jusino, and Rocca will likely compete on beam as well.
The Sun Devils are looking to two seniors and a sophomore to lead them on this event.
'April and Cassandra are our biggest tumblers,' says Spini. 'And Tia is the most powerful on the floor.'
The Sun Devils will likely have Toner again as their consistent starter. Harris will be returning to the starting lineup on the floor along with Hinkle, who is upgrading her routine. Look for Powell to compete on floor if healthy.
Five Sun Devils will likely compete in the all-around this season. Senior captain Boone returns as the most consistent. She finished the regular season ranked 17th in the nation in the all-around. Sophomores Harris and Orlando, who were both selected to compete in the 2004 Olympic Trials, will also be competing in the all-around again. Jusino and Powell will likely be in and out of the all-around competition.
John Spini returns to the Sun Devils for his 27th year as head coach. With him he returns his two assistant coaches from last year, Maggie (Germaine) Ethier and Bob Peterson. A former Sun Devil All-American, Ethier's primary coaching responsibilities are floor and beam. She is also in charge of the choreography for both of those events. Last season she helped coach Nicole Harris to All-American status on beam. Ethier's main strength is knowing how to coach all four events with a strong sense of communication with the athletes during competition. Peterson is moving from a temporary coaching position to full time. He will mainly help coach vault and uneven bars.
'We are really excited to get Bob back,' says Spini. 'He is great with the team.'
'Ashley has great sense of technical skills and will mainly help us out on beam and bars,' says Spini, 'Ashley and Karissa have been helping out a lot everywhere.'
Roe Kruetzer returns to bring her USA gymnastics experience to the Sun Devils for the 15th season as a volunteer coach.
'Roe helps out a couple days a week,' says Spini, 'She helps calm and relax the girls.'
The Sun Devils were able to enjoy their first summer workouts in their new state-of-the-art gym. With the new facility, they are able to condition more thoroughly and are able to train harder earlier.
'While we will always be grateful to Desert Lights for providing us with facilities for years,' says Spini, 'we are so excited to have a gym that is designed just the way we want it.'
Some of the gym's amenities include in ground pits and resi's to save ankles, cameras and TV's for the gymnasts to record and view their routines, luxurious locker rooms and brand new equipment.
Hosting the Pac-10 Championships, along with four other home meets highlight ASU's schedule this up-coming season.
'It's going to be a tough schedule,' says Spini, 'especially our first three meets.'
The Sun Devils open the 2007 slate at the defending Pacific-10 Conference champions Stanford on January 19. They return home the following week to take on perennial power UCLA on January 26. The next week they travel to Corvallis, Ore., to compete against Oregon State on February 2. On February 9, the Sun Devils host the annual UNO's Classic against California, Oklahoma and Air Force. The Sun Devils travel to Tucson on February 23 to compete against in-state rival Arizona. On March 2, the Sun Devils will host an alumni meet while they compete against Washington. The alumni meet includes the men's club team as well as honoring former men's gymnastics coach Don Robinson.
After the alumni meet the Sun Devils leave for Southern California to challenge Cal State Fullerton on March 11. On March 16, the Sun Devils host Arkansas in the first annual 'Flip for the Cure.' This meet will be a fundraiser to support breast cancer research. The gymnasts will wear pink and encourage the crowd to do the same. The Sun Devils round out the regular season at powerhouse Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 23. They return to Tempe to host the Pacific-10 Championships and then travel to an NCAA Regional and return to Salt Lake City for the NCAA Championships in April.