UCLA Travels To Top-Ranked Georgia For Regular Season Finale
March 12, 2008
This Week -- Tenth-ranked UCLA (14-3) will close out the regular season with a dual meet at top-ranked Georgia (8-2) on Saturday, Mar. 15. The meet will take place at 7:30 pm in Stegeman Coliseum, which is the site of the 2008 NCAA Gymnastics Championships.
Live Coverage -- Live scoring and play-by-play commentary is available at georgiadogs.com. A live webcast is also available to G-Xtra subscribers. A monthly subscription costs $9.95. Comcast Sports South is televising the meet on a delayed basis. It will air on Mar. 18 at 7 pm ET and on Mar. 19 at 12:30 pm ET.
In The Rankings -- UCLA dropped two spots to No. 10 in the national rankings, which is based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). The Bruins' RQS is 196.255. UCLA remains second on uneven bars (49.305), fifth on vault (49.300) and is now 11th on beam (49.000) and 20th on floor (48.920).
Individually, sophomore Anna Li is ranked eighth in the all-around (39.375) and tied for second on bars (9.915). Redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough ranks 24th in the all-around (39.185) and 12th on vault (9.895). Tasha Schwikert is tied for fourth on bars (9.910) and is ninth on vault (9.910), and Jordan Schwikert is tied for 21st 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 Place Third In Home Finale -- UCLA had to count a fall on both balance beam and floor exercise and saw its two-rotation lead turn into a third-place finish in a quad meet that served as the Bruins' home finale. Arkansas won the meet with a season-high 196.425, and Alabama edged out the Bruins for second place with a 195.925. UCLA was third with a 195.800, and Cal State Fullerton placed fourth with a 192.625. Tasha Schwikert and Jordan Schwikert both saw success in their Senior Day meet, with Tasha winning the all-around and floor exercise with season-high scores of 39.675 and 9.975, respectively, and Jordan placing third in the all-around with a season-high 39.4.
McCullough Out With Season-Ending Achilles Injury -- More devastating for UCLA than the quad meet loss was the loss of redshirt freshman Brittani McCullough to a ruptured left Achilles tendon. McCullough suffered the injury on the takeoff of her opening tumbling pass. She will have surgery next week and will miss the remainder of the season. This will be her third season-ending injury in as many seasons. In 2006, she had surgery on her right Achilles tendon, and last year, she was in a car accident and severed a tendon on her toe and had to redshirt the season.
Schwikerts Surging -- Seniors Tasha Schwikert and Jordan Schwikert have been on fire as of late. Although consistent all season, having each hit 31 of 32 routines on the year, each has been building their scores as the season has progressed. Tasha has improved her all-around total in each of her last four efforts, going from 39.55 in Chicago and against Utah to 39.625 against Oregon State and finally to a season-best 39.675 last weekend. She has also scored 9.925 or better on her last four floor routines, with a 9.975 coming a week ago, and 9.9 or better on her last four vaults. Jordan, although often competing in the early half of the lineup, has scored 39.35 or better in each of her last three meets, with a season-best of 39.4 coming last weekend. She has scored 9.875 on floor in her last three meets and has four 9.9+ scores on the year. Tasha has hit 27 straight routines, while Jordan has hit 26 straight.
About The Gym Dogs -- Top-ranked Georgia is the three-time defending NCAA champion. Although the Gym Dogs lost two-time defending NCAA all-around champion Courtney Kupets to a torn Achilles two weeks ago, Georgia is loaded with talent. Seven All-Americans returned from last year's squad, including 2004 Olympic medalist Courtney McCool and 2007 SEC Gymnast of the Year Katie Heenan. McCool is the top-ranked gymnast in the nation on floor exercise, while freshman Cassidy McComb ranks 10th. McCool is also fourth on balance beam. On uneven bars, where Georgia ranks No. 1 just ahead of UCLA, three Georgia athletes are ranked in the Top 7 - No. 1 Kupets, No. 6 Heenan and No. 7 Grace Taylor.
UCLA's all-time record against Georgia in regular season action is 5-13. In the last meeting on Mar. 4, 2007, the Bruins edged out the Gym Dogs in Pauley Pavilion, 197.150-197.000, to snap their 27-meet, 57-opponent unbeaten streak. Anna Li's then-career-best 9.9 on floor exercise clinched the victory. The last time UCLA competed in Athens was in 2006, and an injury-depleted Bruin team lost, 197.525-195.200. UCLA's last win at Georgia was in 2004, 197.850-197.475.
Powerhouse Teams -- UCLA and Georgia have been the premier teams in the nation in the last 11 years, with the two teams combining for 10 of the last 11 NCAA titles. The only other school to win a NCAA Championship during this 11-year span was Alabama in 2002. Overall, UCLA has won five NCAA titles (2004, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1997), while Georgia has won eight (2007, 2006, 2005, 1999, 1998, 1993, 1989, 1987), including the last three consecutive.
Star Power -- UCLA and Georgia typically boast rosters stacked with the biggest names in gymnastics. Each team has a U.S. Olympian (UCLA - Tasha Schwikert, Georgia - Courtney McCool and Courtney Kupets) and a plethora of national team members. The two teams have a combined 14 former National Team members from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain on their rosters. UCLA has seven (Marci Bernholtz, Shavahn Church, Kristina Comforte, Ashley Jenkins, Brittani McCullough, Jordan Schwikert and Tasha Schwikert), and Georgia has seven (Nikki Childs, Katie Heenan, Courtney Kupets, Hilary Mauro, Courtney McCool, Marcia Newby and Grace Taylor).
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.
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 Have Best Start In 20 Years -- UCLA started the season 12-0 with wins in its first seven meets to get off to its best start 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 against Oregon State, with all six gymnasts scoring 9.825 or better and the final three all going 9.9+. That lineup did not even include Anna Li, who is ranked No. 2 in the nation on bars and sat out that meet with a concussion. Li has a career and season-high 9.975 and averages 9.858 on the year, with five scores of 9.9 or better.
The Bruins have scored 49.175 or better on bars in the last seven 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, 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 17 of 30 leadoff routines this season, Berlin has recorded a score of 9.8 or greater, including a 9.85 on vault last week that led to a season-high team score of 49.425, 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. The consistent Berlin averages over 9.7 on all four events and has hit all seven of her beam routines this year for 9.7 or higher. 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 10 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. Sato is ranked 10th in the Pac-10 on floor with a RQS of 9.830. The only Bruin teammate ranked ahead of her is Anna Li. 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 27 routines in a row and 31 of 32 this season ... Dating back to last year, Schwikert has hit 90 of her last 91 routines ... In her career, she has hit 151 of 157 routines (96.2%) without a fall ... Schwikert has also hit 36 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 26 routines in a row and 31 of 32 ... Ariana Berlin has competed in 38 straight meets and has hit 130 of 136 career routines (95.6%) without a fall ... Anna Li's streak of 22 straight meets competing in the all-around ended Feb. 22 when she did only 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. She 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.
Looking Ahead -- UCLA begins post-season play on Saturday, Mar. 29 at the Pac-10 Championships in Seattle, Wash. The Bruins are the defending Pac-10 Champions and have won a total of 13 Pac-10 team titles.