#6 UCLA Hosts #1 Georgia On Sunday In Live Fox Sports Prime Ticket Meet
March 3, 2009
This Week -- Two of the top collegiate gymnastics programs of all-time will battle it out in a dual meet on Sunday, Mar. 8 when sixth-ranked and five-time NCAA champion UCLA (10-2) hosts top-ranked and nine-time NCAA champion Georgia (10-0) in Pauley Pavilion. The meet will be televised live on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
Early Start -- Due to the live TV broadcast, all pre-meet activity, including introductions, will take place 20 minutes earlier than normal. Pre-meet entertainment featuring the UCLA Kyodo Taiko drummers will start at approximately 1:40 pm, and intros will take place at approximately 1:50 pm. Fans are encouraged to arrive before 2 pm. Doors will open at 1 pm.
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. UCLA students are free with ID.
Live Coverage -- The meet will be televised live on Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Jim Watson and 2000 Olympian and two-time NCAA all-around champion Tasha Schwikert will call the action. Due to television restrictions, there will only be an audio broadcast and live scoring at UCLABruins.com.
Meet Promotions -- UCLA is looking to Turn Pauley Pavilion blue. Fans are encouraged to wear blue, and the first 500 fans with paid admission will receive a free Blue UCLA T-Shirt upon entry. Meet program posters, featuring Anna Li and Brittani McCullough, will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis to the first 1,000 fans in attendance.
Olympic Medalist Alicia Sacramone To Make Appearance -- Olympic silver medalist and two-time World champion Alicia Sacramone will make a special appearance at the UCLA-Georgia meet on Sunday. Sacramone will be available for a limited autograph session (first 150 fans) inside Pauley Pavilion at 1 pm.
Olympians In Abundance -- There will be no less than six Olympians in attendance at Sunday's meet - UCLA gymnast Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (2008 Canadian team), UCLA assistant head coach Chris Waller (1992 U.S. team), Georgia competitors Courtney Kupets (2004 U.S. team) and Courtney McCool (2004 U.S. team), Alicia Sacramone (2008 U.S. team) and Fox Sports commentator Tasha Schwikert (2000 U.S. team).
Berlin's Dance Crew To Perform -- UCLA senior Ariana Berlin will not only be performing her top-notch gymnastics on Sunday, but she will also showcase her dance skills in a special postmeet performance with her dance crew, World Famous. Based in Southern California, the World Famous Crew fuses B-Girl breakdancing with old/new-school hip-hop. For more information and for videos of the World Famous Crew, visit www.myspace.com/worldfamousdreamteam.
In The Rankings -- The Bruins improved their RQS to 196.430 but dropped two spots to No. 6 in the national rankings. UCLA holds the third-highest season average in the nation, averaging 196.434. The Bruins grabbed the top spot on vault (49.345) and ranks fifth on beam (49.105), seventh on bars (49.180) and 10th on floor (49.075). Georgia ranks first overall with a RQS of 197.035 and is first on bars (49.405) and beam (49.355), third on vault (49.270) and fifth on floor (49.175).
Vanessa Zamarripa ranks first on vault for the second consecutive week with a 9.940 RQS. Aisha Gerber ranks eighth on beam (9.880) and 16th on vault (9.875). Ariana Berlin is tied for 20th on uneven bars (9.855). Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs ranks 15th on beam (9.865) and 20th on floor (9.860).
Powerhouse Teams - UCLA and Georgia have been the premier teams in the nation in the last 12 years, with the two teams combining for 11 of the last 12 NCAA titles. The only other school to win a NCAA Championship during this 12-year span was Alabama in 2002. Overall, UCLA has won five NCAA titles (2004, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1997), while Georgia has won nine (2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 1999, 1998, 1993, 1989, 1987), including the last four consecutive.
About The Gym Dogs -- Top-ranked and undefeated Georgia is the four-time defending NCAA champion and is coming off a monster meet against Florida last weekend, scoring a national-best 198.2. The score was the highest by a Georgia team in 10 years. The Gym Dogs have eight returning All-Americans, including three NCAA champions in 2008 floor champion and 2004 Olympic medalist Courtney McCool, 2008 beam champion Grace Taylor, and 2006 and 2007 all-around champion and two-time Olympic medalist Courtney Kupets, who currently ranks first in the nation in the all-around, bars and beam. Georgia is coached by Suzanne Yoculan, who is retiring at the end of the season after 26 years.
A Look At The All-Time Series -- UCLA's all-time record against Georgia in regular season action is 5-14. The two teams met last year in Athens, and the Bruins scored a season-high 196.925, but it wasn't enough to defeat Georgia, which scored 197.9. In the last meeting in Pauley Pavilion on Mar. 4, 2007, the Bruins edged out the Gym Dogs, 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.
Perfect 10 Battle -- Sunday's meet will match the only two gymnasts in the nation who have posted multiple perfect 10s this season - UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa and Georgia's Courtney Kupets. Zamarripa has totaled perfect marks on vault, including two in consecutive meets on Feb. 15 and Feb. 22. Kupets had two perfect 10s, on bars and beam, the same night that Zamarripa scored her first 10 (Jan. 23) and added her first career 10 on floor on Feb. 28.
Rare Live Broadcast -- Live broadcasts of collegiate gymnastics are rare, and Sunday's Fox Sports Prime Ticket broadcast of the UCLA-Georgia meet is believed to be the first of its kind since the early 90's. Jim Watson and Tasha Schwikert will be calling the action. Schwikert, a 12-time All-American at UCLA and a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, won the NCAA all-around titles in 2005 and 2008. She may have just finished her competitive gymnastics career, but she is no stranger to broadcasting, having done color commentary for WCSN's World Championship broadcasts from 2006-08 and UCLA gymnastics broadcasts for UCLABruins.com and LA36.
Last Competition - Bruins Beat Beavers -- Needing to score at least a 9.775 on balance beam in the final rotation for UCLA to clinch the victory, freshman Aisha Gerber came through with a 9.875 to lead the fourth-ranked Bruins to a 196.575-196.350 win over eighth-ranked Oregon State in Corvallis on Feb. 27. With the Bruins suffering a fall just one routine prior to Gerber's, there was little room for error, and Gerber had little error in her routine. Her 9.875 gave UCLA enough of a cushion to hold off the Beavers, whose 9.95 on floor from Mandi Rodriguez that was not enough. Vanessa Zamarripa won the all-around with a 39.375, while Ariana Berlin placed third with a season-high tying 39.3. Berlin and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs tied for first on bars, and Niki Tom, Zamarripa and Gerber tied for first on beam.
Zamarripa Finds Perfection Three Times -- Freshman Vanessa Zamarripa notched her second consecutive perfect 10 on vault on Feb. 22 at Nebraska, floating a perfect Yurchenko layout full for an easy stuck landing. It was her third 10.0 of the season - she previously scored 10s at Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 23 at home in a quad meet on Feb. 15. Zamarripa is the first UCLA gymnast to score three perfect 10s in a season since Tasha Schwikert in 2005 and the first Bruin to score three 10s on the same event in one season since Jeanette Antolin had eight 10s on vault in 2004. Zamarripa, who earned Pac-10 Special Performance of the Week honors for the second time this season, is ranked first in the nation on vault with a RQS of 9.94. Her season average of 9.939 also tops all vaulters.
Hopfner-Hibbs On A Roll -- Freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs has been the model of consistency and excellence for the Bruins, hitting 24 of her last 25 routines with scores of 9.775 or better. Eighteen of those 24 hit routines have gone for 9.85 or better. Her streak of hit routines ended at 24 in UCLA's last rotation on beam at Oregon State. Hopfner-Hibbs leads the team with 21 Top 3 finishes and ranks second with nine individual victories. She holds a season average of 9.854 on vault and has averaged 9.9 in her last three meets. On floor, she averages 9.831, and on beam she averages 9.791, second-best on the squad. Hopfner-Hibbs leads the team with three all-around titles. She has twice earned Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week honors (Jan. 27 and Feb. 24).
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 21 of her routines, with 17 of those 21 scores going for 9.8 or better. She averages 9.771 or higher on all four events - 9.853 on bars, 9.845 on vault, 9.825 on floor and 9.771 on beam. She has five individual titles this season, including a team-best three on bars. Two of her individual titles came 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.
McCullough Back On Floor -- Redshirt sophomore Brittani McCullough made an emotional return to the floor exercise lineup Feb. 15, 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. She earned the same mark a week later at Nebraska after incurring an out of bounds deduction but earned a score of 9.85 from one of the two judges, and she had a career-best routine on Feb. 27 at Oregon State, tying her career-high with a 9.875.
Gerber Returns As Good As New -- Freshman Aisha Gerber returned to competition Feb. 22 after being forced out of competition halfway through the Feb. 15 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 off the bar due to shortness of breath. She was pulled from the remaining events for precautionary reasons but returned a week later to compete on three events at Nebraska. Gerber tied for first on beam with a 9.85, tied her career-high on vault with a 9.9 and debuted a full-in on floor exercise and scored 9.825. Gerber had another successful meet at Oregon State, clinching the Bruin victory with a clutch 9.875 routine on balance beam.
O Canada -- UCLA has a long history of tapping into the Great White North for gymnastics talent. With three Canadians on the Bruin squad this season - sophomore Marci Bernholtz and freshmen Aisha Gerber and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs - it has now been 16 consecutive years that UCLA has had a Canadian on the roster, with 1993 marking the last year no Canadians graced the Bruin roster. Bernholtz has represented Canada at the 2006 and 2007 World Championships and was the alternate for the 2004 Olympic Games. Gerber competed for Canada at World Cup events, the 2006 American Cup and 2004 Pacific Alliance meet. Hopfner-Hibbs represented Canada at the 2008 Olympics, 2005-07 World Championships and 2006 Commonwealth Games.
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 32-of-41 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 a 9.85 on beam for Marci Bernholtz. The sophomores have already racked up seven individual wins on the season after capturing just one a year ago.
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 and Feb. 27. She scored 39.3 in both meets. 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, has competed on three events (vault, bars and floor) the last three meets.
The Streak Lives On -- Senior Ariana Berlin's streak of consecutive meets has increased to 52 after competing all-around at Oregon 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 end regular season action on Sunday, Mar. 15 with a rematch against Nebraska. The meet is also Senior Day, and the Bruins will honor seniors Ariana Berlin, Melissa Chan, Kristina Comforte and Alyssa Kitasoe.