UCLA Heads To Nebraska For Masters Classic

Feb. 18, 2009

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This Week -- The third-ranked UCLA gymnastics team (7-1) will make what it hopes to be the first of two visits to Lincoln, Neb. this year. The Bruins will compete at the Masters Classic on Sunday, Feb. 22 against host Nebraska (4-2), along with Minnesota (5-3) and North Carolina State (8-7). The meet will take place at the Devaney Center, which will be the site of the 2009 NCAA Championships Apr. 16-18.

Live Coverage -- Live stats will be available at Huskers.com

In The Rankings -- With national rankings now based on Regional Qualifying Score (RQS), the Bruins dropped one spot to No. 3 with a RQS of 196.330. The Bruins remain No. 2 on vault (49.240) but drop down to third on beam (49.045), sixth on bars (49.065) and 13th on floor (48.875).

Individually, no Bruin is eligible for all-around rankings, since no one has competed in the all-around more than five times this year. Vanessa Zamarripa ranks second on vault with a 9.915 RQS (her season average of 9.929 is tops amongst all athletes, however) and tied for 20th on uneven bars (9.825). Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs ranks sixth on balance beam (9.865), and Ariana Berlin is tied for 17th on uneven bars (9.835).

About The Opponents -- Nebraska is the highest-ranked of the three Bruin opponents, checking in at No. 12 with a 195.295 RQS. The Huskers rank above UCLA on floor exercise, checking in at eight with a RQS of 48.995. Nebraska is led by All-American Tricia Woo, who ranks fifth nationally on beam (9.870), and All-American and former Canadian National champion Kylie Stone, who ranks 21st in the all-around (39.025) and sixth on floor (9.875). North Carolina State ranks 30th overall with a RQS of 193.035. Minnesota has not yet competed in enough away meets to earn a RQS but holds a season average of 194.808.

A Look At The All-Time Series -- UCLA is unbeaten against both Minnesota (12-0) and North Carolina State (1-0) in regular season action and 10-5 against Nebraska. The Bruins faced both Nebraska and North Carolina State at the NCAA Southeast Regionals a year ago, outscoring both to advance to the NCAA Championships. UCLA and Minnesota have not faced each other since 2004, when the Bruins earned a dual meet victory in Minneapolis.

Last Competition -- UCLA cruised through its first three events in a home quad meet against Boise State, Washington and Cal State Fullerton, posting big scores on vault (49.525), bars (49.25) and beam (49.2) but could not maintain the momentum on the final event, floor exercise, counting a fall and an out-of-bounds deduction. The Bruins, however, still came away with the quad meet win with a score of 196.375. Boise State placed second with a 195.7. Washington (194.4) was third, and Cal State Fullerton (193.15) placed fourth. Bruin freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs won the all-around with a 39.375, and classmate Vanessa Zamarripa earned her second perfect 10 of the year on vault.

Zamarripa Perfect Again -- Freshman Vanessa Zamarripa became the first gymnast in the nation this year to score multiple 10.0s on the same event, recording her second perfect 10 on vault on Feb. 15 with her flawless Yurchenko full. Zamarripa previously scored a 10 at Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 23. She is the first UCLA gymnast to score multiple perfect 10s in a season since Kristen Maloney and Tasha Schwikert both did it in 2005. In addition, Zamarripa's two 10s on vault mark the first time a Bruin gymnast has accomplished this feat in one season since Jeanette Antolin had eight in 2004. Zamarripa, who earned Pac-10 Special Performance of the Week honors for the second time this season, is currently ranked second in the nation on vault with a RQS of 9.915. Her season average of 9.929 tops all vaulters.

Hopfner-Hibbs On A Roll -- Freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs has been the model of consistency and excellence for the Bruins, hitting 17 consecutive routines with scores of 9.775 or better, with 12 of those hit routines going 9.85 or better. She ranks second on the team with seven individual victories and 15 Top 3 finishes. Her consistency has been most evident on balance beam, where she ranks sixth nationally with a RQS of 9.865. She holds a season average of 9.875 on that event and has placed in the Top 3 on beam in every meet this season. Last weekend, she won the all-around and scored career-highs on vault (9.85) and bars (9.875).

Berlin Maintains Consistency -- Senior Ariana Berlin remains one of the most consistent gymnasts in UCLA history, hitting over 96% of her routines throughout her career. So far this season, she has hit all 14 of her routines, with 12 of those 14 scores going for 9.8 or better. She averages 9.8 or higher on all four events - 9.85 on vault, 9.842 on bars, 9.819 on beam and 9.8 on floor. She has three event titles this season, two coming at Arizona State on Jan. 30, when she tied her career-high on vault with a 9.9 and won the all-around in her first all-around attempt this year, scoring 39.3. Also at that meet, Berlin accomplished a feat she has been working on for three years - competing an Arabian double front on floor exercise. Berlin performed the E-level skill for the first time in competition and hit it, scoring 9.8 to lead all Bruins on the event.

Tom Cruising Along -- Like Ariana Berlin, sophomore Niki Tom has had a perfect season so far, hitting all of her routines without a fall. Tom is 15-of-15 on the year, hitting 11 routines in competition and four in exhibition. She has won two-straight beam titles and is averaging 9.85 on the event, with a career-best of 9.9 set at Arizona State on Jan. 30. She has also competed on floor in every meet this season and has a high of 9.875.

McCullough Returns On Floor -- Redshirt sophomore Brittani McCullough made an emotional return to the floor exercise lineup last weekend, competing on floor for the first time since rupturing her Achilles tendon on the event a year ago. McCullough, who captivated the audience with her unique dance, tumbled a double pike for her opening pass and ended with a double tuck to earn a 9.675 on her routine, which was valued at 9.9.

Gerber Cleared To Compete -- Freshman Aisha Gerber has been cleared after she was forced out of competition halfway through last weekend's meet. Gerber fell on top of the low bar during one-touch warmups and was unable to complete her uneven bars routine, getting all the way to the dismount before dropping down due to shortness of breath. She was pulled from the remaining events for precautionary reasons. X-rays were negative, and Gerber is expected to compete at Nebraska.

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 first two meets of the season.

The freshman class alone competed 16 of the 24 routines in the season opener. 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. Five freshmen saw action on vault - Gerber, Zamarripa, Baer, Tauny Frattone and Pritchett.

The sophomores have come up big as well, hitting 25-of-30 routines in competition for 9.7 or better, including three 9.9s from Mizuki Sato on vault and floor, a 9.9 on beam and 9.875 on floor from Niki Tom, and three 9.8s on beam for Marci Bernholtz.

Upperclassmen On Their Way Back -- After starting the season limited to no more than one event, the Bruin upperclassmen are on their way back to all-around action. Senior Ariana Berlin went from one event (uneven bars) in the first two meets to all-around action on Jan. 30. Junior Anna Li also did just uneven bars in the first two meets and is now back on two events, having competed on balance beam three times now. Redshirt sophomore Brittani McCullough, who sat out the first meet after having her ankle scoped in November, is now competing on three events (vault, bars and floor).

The Streak Lives On -- Senior Ariana Berlin's streak of consecutive meets has increased to 50 after competing all-around at Arizona State. 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 and has hit over 96% of her routines over her career.

Looking Ahead -- The Bruins will travel to Corvallis, OR to take on Oregon State in a Pac-10 Conference dual meet on Friday, Feb. 27 before heading back home for a pair of home meets on consecutive Sundays to close out the regular season. UCLA will first host Georgia on Mar. 8 before hosting Nebraska on Mar. 15 for Senior Day.

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. The meet will begin promptly at 2 pm, so all pre-meet festivities and entertainment will take place earlier than usual.

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