Bruins Host Alabama, Arkansas, Cal State Fullerton In Home Finale
March 5, 2008
This Week -- Eighth-ranked UCLA (13-1) will host sixth-ranked Alabama (6-1), 12th-ranked Arkansas (4-5) and Cal State Fullerton (4-7) in Pauley Pavilion on Sunday, Mar. 9 at 2 pm. The quad meet will be UCLA's final home meet of the season, and Bruin seniors Natalie Padilla, Jordan Schwikert and Tasha Schwikert will be honored in pre-meet ceremonies.
Live Coverage -- UCLA will provide a free live video and audio broadcast on UCLA All-Access, with Darren Preston, former Bruin gymnast and current undergraduate assistant coach Lindsey Vanden Eykel, and former U.S. Olympian and NCAA champion Steve McCain providing the call. Live stats will also be available at UCLABruins.com.
Tickets -- Tickets are $12 for adults/$10 for youth for lower level seats and $8 for adults/$6 for youth for mid-level seats. UCLA students are free with valid UCLA ID.
Padilla, who transferred to UCLA last season from the University of Iowa, has become a high-scoring performer for the Bruins this season on vault and floor exercise. She set career-highs on both events at Arizona on Feb. 22, earning a 9.9 on vault and 9.85 on floor. In her last four meets, she is averaging 9.85 on vault, with a pair of second-place finishes.
Jordan Schwikert has been one of the most consistent gymnasts for the Bruins all season, hitting 27 of her 28 routines on the year, including 22 in a row. She is averaging over 9.77 on all four events and is currently ranked 16th in the nation on uneven bars, where she has two event titles this season. Last year, she earned All-Pac-10 honors on uneven bars, and as a freshman was a second-team All-American on the balance beam as well as an All-Pac-10 honoree in the all-around. She has posted career-highs of 9.975 on bars, 9.95 on vault and 9.925 on beam and floor, along with a 39.5 in the all-around.
Tasha Schwikert made an immediate impact upon her arrival in Westwood in 2005, tying for the Pac-10 all-around title, winning the NCAA West Regional all-around crown and then capturing the NCAA title and earning the maximum five first-team All-America honors. She scored four perfect 10s that season - two each on uneven bars and floor exercise. In 2007, she was a Honda Award finalist and the West Region and Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year. This year, she is currently ranked third in the nation on uneven bars and sixth on vault. She has posted 12 individual victories this season and leads the team with 27 Top 3 finishes. In her career, she has won eight All-America honors and seven Pac-10 individual titles.
In The Rankings -- UCLA moved up one spot to No. 8 in the national rankings, which is based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). The Bruins' RQS now stands at 196.255. UCLA remains second on uneven bars (49.305), fifth on vault (49.260) and 18th on floor (48.920) and is now eighth on beam (49.000).
Individually, sophomore Anna Li is tied for seventh in the all-around (39.375) and 19th on floor (9.865) and ranks second on bars (9.915). Redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough ranks 18th in the all-around (39.185) and 10th on vault (9.890). Tasha Schwikert is tied for third on bars (9.910) and sixth on vault (9.905), and Jordan Schwikert moved into a tie for 16th on bars (9.860).
RQS is compiled by taking the top six regular-season scores, a minimum of three coming in away meets, dropping the high and averaging the remaining five scores.
Bruins Best Beavers -- Last week, UCLA stopped Oregon State's six-meet winning streak with a 196.775-195.950 victory. The Bruins were competing without top all-arounder Anna Li, who did not compete after suffering injuries in UCLA's last meet, but other competitors stepped up in her place to help UCLA capture the victory and its second-highest team total of the season. Tasha Schwikert won the all-around with a season-high 39.625, and Brittani McCullough made a triumphant return to the all-around after suffering a concussion during floor warmups the week before. McCullough tied for second in the all-around with a career-high tying 39.275.
Comforte Back On Two -- Junior Kristina Comforte is making her way back into the competition lineup after injuring her right knee on Jan. 27 during her floor exercise routine. A bone bruise sidelined her for four meets before she returned to the competition lineup with a 9.825 on uneven bars Feb. 24 against Utah. On Mar. 2 against Oregon State, she returned to the vault lineup and stuck a big Yurchenko full for a 9.9 and then added a season-high tying 9.9 on uneven bars. Comforte is back to training on balance beam and could return to the beam lineup shortly.
Injury Update -- Anna Li's status for this weekend's meet is listed as possible. Li sat out last week's competition with a concussion.
Perfect In The Pac -- UCLA finished a perfect 6-0 in Pac-10 Conference matchups this season. The Bruins also picked up additional victories over Oregon State, Stanford and Washington in invitational meets that did not count as conference matchups. Overall, UCLA is 9-0 against Pac-10 teams this season.
Bruins Off To Best Start In 19 Years -- With a 13-1 record heading into the week, UCLA is off to its best start since the 1989 team went 23-1 and just missed out on the NCAA title by .05. This year's 12-0 start was the best by a UCLA team since the 1988 team went 17-0 in the regular season. The 2008, 1988 and 1987 teams are the only teams in UCLA history to win their first seven meets of the year.
Church Makes Memorable Debut -- In her first ever competitive routine as a Bruin on Feb. 24, freshman Shavahn Church earned a 9.85 on the uneven bars, placing fourth overall against Utah. She scored 9.825 a week later against Oregon State. Church, who missed the first half of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in late December, was a 2005 World Championships competitor for Great Britain and 2006 Commonwealth Games medalist. She was also a member of the U.S. Junior National Team in 2003.
Bars Team Hardly Uneven -- With the return of Kristina Comforte and the addition of Shavahn Church, the Bruins are loaded on uneven bars. The bars team of Ariana Berlin, Brittani McCullough, Church, Jordan Schwikert, Comforte and Tasha Schwikert racked up a season-high total of 49.425 last week, with all six gymnasts scoring 9.825 or better and the final three all going 9.9+. When Anna Li, who is ranked No. 2 in the nation on bars, returns to the lineup, the Bruins could top that mark. Li has a career and season-high 9.975 and averages 9.863 on the year, with five scores of 9.9 or better.
The Bruins have scored 49.25 or better on bars in the last five meets. Career-highs from the Bruins on bars include a 10.0 from Tasha Schwikert, 9.975s from Berlin, Jordan Schwikert and Li, 9.95 from Comforte, 9.875 from McCullough and 9.85 from Church in just her first-ever collegiate routine. Also capable of 9.8+ scores are Allison Taylor (season-high 9.8 set at Cal) and two Bruins who have yet to see action this year on bars - Melissa Chan and Ashley Jenkins, both of whom have career-bests of 9.825.
Setting The Table -- Competing comfortably and more than capably in the leadoff position on most events is junior Ariana Berlin. The leadoff position is not typically one that is embraced by most competitors, but Berlin thrives in the role of setting the tone for the rest of her team and setting them up for big scores. In 15 of 26 leadoff routines this season, Berlin has recorded a score of 9.8 or greater, including a 9.875 on uneven bars at Cal that set the tone for a then-season-high 49.4 team score, a winning mark of 9.85 on balance beam at Washington that led to a season-high team score of 49.15 and a 9.8 on floor exercise that led to another then-season-high team mark of 49.275 in Chicago. Perhaps Berlin's most impressive leadoff moment came last year at the NCAA Team Finals, when she scored a 9.9 as the leadoff vaulter, helping the Bruins capture fourth place.
Freshmen Get In Mix -- The Bruin freshmen have been making big contributions this season. Niki Tom has competed in six of nine meets on the year, recording highs of 9.825 on vault and floor and 9.85 on beam. Allison Taylor has posted a high of 9.8 on bars and got her first taste of action on floor exercise at Arizona. Marci Bernholtz has a high of 9.875 on the balance beam with a first-place showing at Fullerton and a second-place finish against Stanford. Mizuki Sato is a regular in the Bruins' floor lineup and recorded a season-best 9.875 that placed second at Arizona. She also had a big mark in an exhibition beam performance, scoring 9.825. Talia Kushynski competed on floor exercise at Fullerton and scored 9.675 in her competition debut. She also hit her exhibition beam routine in Las Vegas for a 9.5. Shavahn Church made her collegiate debut on the uneven bars against Utah Feb. 24 and scored 9.85 to place fourth.
Streaks -- Tasha Schwikert has hit 23 routines in a row and 27 of 28 this season ... Dating back to last year, Schwikert has hit 86 of her last 87 routines ... In her career, she has hit 147 of 153 routines (96.1%) without a fall ... Schwikert has also hit 35 straight vaults for 9.8 or better and has scored lower than 9.8 just once in her career (9.75) ... Younger sister Jordan Schwikert has been just as consistent this year, hitting 22 routines in a row and 27 of 28 ... Ariana Berlin has competed in 37 straight meets and has hit 126 of 132 career routines (95.5%) without a fall ... Anna Li's streak of 22 straight meets competing in the all-around ended Feb. 22 when she did two events at Arizona ... The Bruins had a streak of hit balance beam routines end at 30 on Feb. 17 at Cal. UCLA has hit 6-for-6 on beam in five of eight meets this year.
Tasha Schwikert To Be Inducted Into USAG Hall Of Fame -- Senior Tasha Schwikert will be inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame this summer as a member of the 2003 U.S. Women's World Championships Team. Schwikert was the team captain of the 2003 U.S. squad that won the country's first-ever team gold medal at the World Championships. Schwikert, who was also a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team and a two-time U.S. all-around champion, is the first UCLA woman to be inducted in the USAG Hall of Fame.
About The Opponents -- Sixth-ranked Alabama is UCLA's third consecutive Top 10 opponent. The Crimson Tide are led by defending NCAA floor exercise champion Morgan Dennis and two-time NCAA uneven bars champion Terin Humphrey, as well as former U.S. National Team member Kassi Price, who ranks 12th in the nation in the all-around. Alabama, which is coached by Sarah and David Patterson, is coming off a season-high score of 197.225. UCLA's all-time regular-season record against Alabama is 2-6. Alabama won the last meeting a year ago in Tuscaloosa, 197.225-196.475. This will be the Crimson Tide's first regular-season trip to Los Angeles since a 2001 quad meet that UCLA won with a 197.5. Alabama placed second (196.975) and Cal State Fullerton third (194.4).
No. 12 Arkansas is coached by former UCLA assistant coach Mark Cook, who shares coaching duties with his wife Rene. Mark Cook was UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field's top assistant in 1997 when the Bruins won their first NCAA title. Last week, the Gym Backs lost a dual meet to top-ranked Georgia but scored their second-highest team total of the year, 195.950. Sophomore Casey Jo Magee ranks 17th in the all-around (39.215) and 11th on beam (9.860). UCLA is 3-0 in the regular season against Arkansas but lost in a post-season matchup at the 2006 NCAA Regionals. This is Arkansas' first visit to Los Angeles since its inaugural season in 2003. UCLA won that meet, 198.175-193.475.
Cal State Fullerton ranks eighth in the West Region with a RQS of 192.075. The Titans, who are coached by Jill Hicks, have a season-high of 194.825. Freshman Alaina Baker has had a standout season, ranking sixth in the West region in the all-around (38.440) and eighth on floor exercise (9.820). Baker placed first on floor with a 9.9 when UCLA competed at Fullerton in a quad meet earlier in the season. The Bruins are 44-27 all-time against the Titans.
Looking Ahead -- UCLA will travel to Athens, Ga. to take on top-ranked and three-time defending NCAA champion Georgia on Saturday, Mar. 15. The Bruins hope to make a second visit in April, as Georgia is hosting the NCAA Championships.
TV Alert -- UCLA's Feb. 24 dual meet against Utah will be broadcast on Los Angeles cable station LA36 on Saturday, Mar. 8 at 3:30 pm and 10 pm. Randy Rosenbloom and Tasha Schwikert will provide the call. LA36 is also available online at www.la36.org.