UCLA Comes From Behind To Beat Nebraska, 196.625-195.85
March 15, 2009
Los Angeles, CA - Balance beam is known as the make-or-break event in gymnastics, and in the regular season finale between seventh-ranked UCLA and 12th-ranked Nebraska on Sunday in Pauley Pavilion, the beam broke both teams. Fortunately for the Bruins, they were able to rebound with a season-high floor exercise score of 49.575 to come away with the victory, 196.625-195.850.
UCLA had two falls on beam in the third rotation and scored just 48.375, dropping behind Nebraska by 0.65. The score could have been worse if Mizuki Sato had not put her hands down on her handspring front mount to avoid a fall. That save, which cost three-tenths of a point rather than the minimum five-tenths, prevented the Bruins from having two straight falls to start the rotation, which could have been disastrous for the team. Instead, Sato scored 9.575, and Niki Tom and Aisha Gerber followed with 9.75 and 9.875, respectively. Another fall put freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs in a tough situation, but she responded with a 9.825 to help minimize the damage.
Needing some help to win the meet, the Bruins got it in the fourth rotation when Nebraska's first two gymnasts also fell victim to the balance beam. With the door open, UCLA pounced, unleashing a season-high 49.575 on floor exercise, its highest floor score in three years and the ninth-highest in school history. Sato got things started with a 9.85, and Vanessa Zamarripa, Ariana Berlin in her last routine in Pauley Pavilion, and Gerber followed with three-straight 9.925s, which were career-bests for all three. Hopfner-Hibbs hit for a career-high 9.95, and Brittani McCullough closed it out with a 9.85. As the Bruins were posting career-best numbers, Nebraska suffered a third fall on beam and scored just 48.15 on the event to drop to second place.
'I told the team 'Come on, we are winning this thing!', and if Nebraska opened the door, we were going to take it,' said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. 'Ariana (Berlin) said we were not losing her last home meet, and they went on floor and played hard to the end and got the win.'
Sato got the Bruins started with a bang in rotation one, sticking her Yurchenko layout full vault for a 9.85. Kaelie Baer tied her career-high with a 9.8, and Berlin, Hopfner-Hibbs (with a stuck vault) and Gerber followed with back-to-back-to-back 9.875s. Zamarripa closed with a 9.95, bringing UCLA's total to 49.425. Nebraska kept up the pace on bars, scoring 49.3, led by Brittney Williams' career-high tying 9.9.
In rotation two, McCullough's leadoff routine on uneven bars merited a 9.775. Gerber recorded a 9.8, followed by a 9.9 from Zamarripa and 9.875 from Berlin. Hopfner-Hibbs revamped her routine a bit and earned a 9.85. Anna Li, competing on a sprained ankle, hit her routine and scored 9.825, bringing up the Bruins' bars total to 49.25. Marci Bernholtz continued the hit parade with a 9.8 exhibition score that was her career-best score. Nebraska scored 49.175 on vault, led by a 9.9 from Tricia Woo.
Hopfner-Hibbs won the all-around with a 39.5, and Gerber placed second with a 39.475 in her first all-around performance in nearly two months. Zamarripa, who exhibitioned on beam and scored 9.85, had the equivalent of a 39.625 all-around score and had first-place showings on vault and bars and a second-place showing on floor. Berlin, UCLA's lone senior competitor, earned a career-high 9.925 on floor to tie for second and had third-place finishes on both vault (9.875) and bars (9.875) in her last home meet.