UCLA Edged Out By Utah, 196.175-196.075
Jan. 9, 2009
Salt Lake City, UT - If Friday night's season opener was any indication, the future looks more than bright for the fourth-ranked UCLA gymnastics team. Bruin underclassmen competed 22 of the team's 24 routines, including 16 by the freshman class alone, leading the way to a near victory at Utah. The second-ranked Utes eeked out the win, 196.175-196.075 in front of 12,951 fans at the Huntsman Center. Despite the inexperience of the squad, the Bruins did not have to count a fall on any of the four events.
Freshman Aisha Gerber took home first place honors on balance beam, scoring a 9.9. She also placed third in the all-around with a 38.625.
The Bruins got off to a strong start on uneven bars in the first rotation when sophomore Marci Bernholtz, performing on bars for just the second time in collegiate competition, recorded a collegiate-best 9.725. Senior Ariana Berlin followed with a stellar routine and stuck full-twisting double back dismount that merited a 9.825. Gerber added a 9.85, freshman Vanessa Zamarripa scored a 9.8, and junior Anna Li added a 9.85 to give UCLA a 49.05. Utah, led by a 9.95 from Nina Kim, hit a 49.425 on vault to take the early lead.
In the second rotation, the Bruins counted five 9.8+ scores to total 49.175. Sophomore Mizuki Sato earned a 9.825 on her first collegiate vault, and freshman Kaelie Baer recorded a 9.8 on her first routine. Gerber added a 9.85, and Zamarippa scored a team-high 9.9 on an effortless Yurchenko full. Freshman Alyssa Pritchett, pressed into last-minute duty, came through with a 9.8 on a Tsukahara layout full. UCLA outscored Utah in rotation two with a 49.175 on vault to Utah's 49.075 on bars, which trimmed the Utes' lead to .275, 98.500-98.225.
UCLA hit five of six floor routines in rotation three but were hit hard by the judges on start values and credit for skills. Sophomore Niki Tom led off with a 9.75. Baer followed with another clean routine but had one judge award just a 9.9 start value, which dropped her score to 9.75. Sato had the team's high score with a 9.825. Zamarripa did not fully complete her double turn and had her start value lowered to 9.9, giving her a 9.75 final score. After a fall on her second pass by Gerber, Hopfner-Hibbs needed a hit routine to keep the Bruins from counting a fall, and she delivered with a stuck Arabian double front opening pass and a double pike dismount. A stumble on a pair of illusions, however, dropped her score to just 9.675, bringing UCLA's total to 48.75. Utah, meanwhile, totaled 49.025 on beam and increased its lead to 147.525-146.975.
Finishing up on balance beam in the final rotation, the Bruins relied on two sophomore and four freshmen to try to make up ground. Bernholtz opened with a 9.8, and Tom scored a 9.775. Baer followed with a 9.775, and Gerber earned a first-place mark of 9.9. Things got interesting with both teams' final two performers. First, Zamarripa suffered two falls, then Utah's Nina Kim fell twice on floor exercise. Hopfner-Hibbs delivered a strong anchor routine on beam with a 9.85 to give the Bruins a final score of 196.075. When Utah All-American Kristina Baskett fell on her final tumbling pass, the Utes would have to count a fall, but her 9.375 was enough to give Utah a one-tenth victory.
The team score of 196.075 was the highest by a Bruin squad in a season opener since the 2005 team scored 197.3 at Utah in 2005.