UCLA Hosts Arizona In Home Opener On Jan. 18

Jan. 14, 2009

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Bruins Host Arizona Sunday -- The third-ranked UCLA gymnastics team (0-1) will host 26th-ranked Arizona (0-1) on Sunday, Jan. 18 in the fourth annual John Wooden Challenge. The meet will take place at 2 pm in Pauley Pavilion.

Tickets -- Tickets for the meet can be purchased in advance at the UCLA Central Ticket Office (310/UCLA-WIN or tickets.ucla.edu). Adult admission is $12 for lower level seating and $8 for mid-level seating. Youth prices are $10 for the lower-level seats and $6 for mid-level seating For the best value, season tickets in the lower level are available for just $35 for five meets. UCLA students are free with ID.

As part of the John Wooden Challenge, Honoring Academic and Athletic Success, UCLA faculty and staff can receive complimentary general admission for up to four with Bruin ID card or paystub at Gate 1. In addition, United Teachers Los Angeles members can receive up to two free mid-level general admission tickets by showing their UTLA membership card at Gate 1. UCLA Recreation card holders can also receive up to four complimentary general admission tickets by showing their membership card upon entry at Gate 1.

Meet Promotions -- The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a John Wooden Pyramid of Success giveaway. Meet program posters, featuring the Bruin team, will also be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. In addition, the 2009 gymnastics posters will be distributed during a post-meet autograph session with the Bruins. Rhythmic Gymnasts from the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics will perform prior to the meet, beginning at approximately 1:45 pm.

Live Coverage -- A free video webcast will be available at UCLABruins.com. In addition, an audio-only link will be provided for those unable to view the webcast. Calling the action will be Darren Preston and two-time NCAA all-around champion and 2000 Olympian Tasha Schwikert. Live scoring will also be provided for Sunday's meet. Please check the calendar tab at UCLABruins.com for the live scoring and broadcast links.

In The Rankings -- UCLA, which opened the season ranked No. 4 in the pre-season coaches poll, moved up to third in the first week of regular season rankings, which are based on season average. Freshman Aisha Gerber is tied for first in the nation on beam (9.9) and ranks in the Top 20 on vault (18th) and bars (11th). Two of Gerber's freshman teammates are also ranked in the Top 20 - Vanessa Zamarripa on vault (6th) and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs on beam (13th). Sophomore Mizuki Sato ranks 25th on both events on which she competed last week (vault and floor), and junior Anna Li (11th) and senior Ariana Berlin (21st) are both ranked on bars.

About The Wildcats -- Arizona dropped its season opener against Minnesota, 194.375 -192.575. The Wildcats outscored the Gophers on vault and floor but scored just 47.425 on bars. Sophomore Colleen Fisher led the team with a 38.65 all-around score. Like UCLA, Arizona introduced large group of freshmen in the season opener, with five gymnasts making their collegiate debuts. Last season, Arizona finished with a 15-11 record and placed fourth at the NCAA Regionals.

The Series With Arizona -- UCLA holds a 53-10 regular season record against Arizona, with the Bruins winning the last two dual meets, including last season's 196.575-196.050 victory in Tucson. The last time the two teams met in Los Angeles, the Bruins won by over three points, 196.75-193.075 in 2007.

Last Week -- In the season opener on Jan. 9 at Utah, a youthful Bruin squad was just edged out against the second-ranked Utes, 196.175-196.075. The Bruins had just two routines from upperclassmen, and the youngsters came through in a big way, leading the team to its highest season-opening score since 2005. Aisha Gerber led the Bruins with a third-place all-around finish (38.625). Gerber took home first place honors on beam with a 9.9, joining classmate Vanessa Zamarripa (vault) as one of two Bruins to score 9.9 in the meet.

Youth Is Served -- With seven freshmen and five sophomores on a 16-member squad, the 2009 Bruins are undoubtedly a young team, and they were put to the test immediately, with the underclassmen holding 22 of the 24 slots in the competitive lineup in the season opener.

The freshman class alone competed 16 of the 24 routines. Two freshmen competed in the all-around at Utah - Aisha Gerber, who placed third in the all-around and won the balance beam, and Vanessa Zamarripa, who placed fourth in the all-around and third on vault. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs competed on three events and earned a third-place finish on beam. Kaelie Baer hit 3-for-3 on her routines, scoring 9.8 on vault, 9.775 on beam and 9.75 on floor. Alyssa Pritchett had a successful showing as well, scoring 9.8 on vault as a last-minute substitute for Ariana Berlin. Five freshmen saw action on vault - Gerber, Zamarripa, Baer, Tauny Frattone and Pritchett.

The sophomores came up big for the Bruins at Utah, hitting 6-of-6 routines for 9.725 or better, including 9.8+ routines from Mizuki Sato on vault and floor and Marci Bernholtz on beam. Sato competed on vault for the first time in her collegiate career and scored a 9.825. Bernholtz competed on bars for just the second time and earned a career-best 9.725. Also competing on two events was Niki Tom, who earned a 9.775 on beam and 9.75 on floor. Allison Taylor performed an exhibition floor routine that scored 9.725.

Upperclassmen Nursing Injuries -- The Bruin upperclassmen enter the season rehabbing injuries and will be limited in action to start. Senior Ariana Berlin (bone bruise in her knee) was limited to uneven bars only at Utah, as was junior Anna Li, who had bone spurs removed in the fall. Redshirt sophomore Brittani McCullough is close to coming back on one or two events after also undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in her ankle. Senior Melissa Chan had the same surgery in December and is out indefinitely.

Comforte Retires Due To Injury -- Senior Kristina Comforte has retired from gymnastics due to a labrum tear in her left shoulder and will move into a coaching role as an undergraduate assistant coach. Comforte was a five-time All-American during her three seasons of competition. Last season, she earned All-America honors on all three events on which she competed (vault, bars and beam) and was the NCAA runner-up on uneven bars. She also captured the balance beam title at the 2008 NCAA Southeast Regional Championships and earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors. As a freshman in 2006, she earned NCAA runner-up honors on vault and first-team All-America status in the all-around and on vault.

The three-time U.S. National Team member from Burr Ridge, IL was the last Bruin to score a perfect 10, receiving the mark on vault at Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 3, 2006. She had career-high marks of 9.95 on uneven bars, 9.9 on balance beam and floor exercise and 39.525 in the all-around.

Gerber Honored By Pac-10 -- Freshman Aisha Gerber was awarded the first-ever Pac-10 Special Performance of the Week honor for her 9.9 meet-winning balance beam routine in the Bruins' season opener at Utah. Gerber, who hails from Cambridge, ON, commenced her collegiate career with stunning proficiency, capturing first place honors on the balance beam with a 9.9 in the Bruins' narrow 196.175-196.075 loss at No. 2 Utah. Her routine helped the Bruins accumulate the fourth-best team score in the nation this season, and her win on beam was the only roadblock to Utah's efforts to sweep each of the event first places in the meet. It was also one of just two 9.9 scores awarded to the Bruins in the meet. Gerber earned 9.85 or better on three of her four events in the season opener.

Berlin's Streak Remains Intact -- Senior Ariana Berlin's streak of consecutive meets was extended to 45 after her performance on the uneven bars at Utah that scored a 9.825. Berlin, who joined the UCLA squad in 2006 as a walk-on who had not competed in five years, has competed in every meet of her collegiate career.

Looking Ahead -- UCLA will compete twice in the Southland next weekend, traveling to Orange County to face Cal State Fullerton on Friday, Jan. 23 at 7 pm and then hosting California on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 2 pm in Pauley Pavilion. The Cal meet on Jan. 25 is UCLA's annual breast cancer awareness meet.

UCLA-Georgia Meet On Live TV -- UCLA's Mar. 8 home meet against four-time defending NCAA champion Georgia will be broadcast live on FSN Prime Ticket.

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