UCLA Qualifies To 25th NCAA Championship

April 4, 2009

Iowa City, IA - UCLA qualified to the NCAA Championships for the 25th time after placing second at the NCAA North Central Regional in Iowa City, IA. The Bruins were a close second to first-place Florida, scoring 196.625 to the Gators' 196.775. Iowa State placed third with a 195.650, followed by Denver (195.6), Minnesota (193.775) and Iowa (193.625).

The Bruins rebounded from a slow start, scoring 49.425s on their last two events, floor and vault. The Bruins stood in third place at the halfway point but rallied with huge scores on their best two events to claim second place by just .150. Vanessa Zamarripa posted the Bruins' best all-around total, placing third with a 39.4. Anna Li won the uneven bars title for the third-straight year, scoring 9.9.

After a late start due to glare issues at the vault judging tables, the Bruins kicked off competition at 6:37 local time on the unven bars. Brittani McCullough and Aisha Gerber started out with a pair of 9.775s. Ariana Berlin stuck her full-twisting double back dismount with ease and scored 9.825. Zamarripa scored 9.85, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs received a 9.725, and Li closed with a beautiful routine with a huge Tkatchev and a stuck double layout dismount, earning a score of 9.9. UCLA's team total of 49.125 put the Bruins in first place after one rotation. Iowa State was second with a 48.975 on vault, followed by Minnesota with a 48.775 on floor and Iowa with a 48.175 on beam.

Berlin led off on balance beam with a rare fall on her flight series and scored 9.1, but Mizuki Sato and Niki Tom picked things up with a pair of 9.75s. Zamarripa had a wobble on her flight series but held on and then nailed her 2.5 twist dismount to score 9.775. Hopfner-Hibbs had a few wobbles throughout her routine and took two steps back on her double back dismount and scored 9.55. Gerber was money in the anchor position, receiving a team-best 9.825 and giving the Bruins a team total of 48.65 and a two-event total of 97.775. Minnesota's 48.825 on vault brought its two-event total to 97.6, while Florida earned 49.075 on floor, and Denver received 48.775 on bars.

In rotation three, while the Bruins were on a bye, Florida scored 49.225 on vault to take over the lead with 98.30 after two events. Iowa State also moved ahead of UCLA with a 97.85 after scoring 48.875 on bars, but the Cyclones also had an unfortunate injury during the rotation, when senior Ceilia Maccani was unable to finish her bar routine due to injury. Iowa also had its anchor go down with an injury, as senior Jenifer Simbhudas was injured on her first tumbling pass on floor and could not continue. The Hawkeyes scored 47.8 on the event for a two-event total of 95.975. Denver scored 48.75 on beam to push their two-event total to 97.525.

The Bruins moved to floor exercise and got a 9.85 leadoff from Sato. Tom, who had not competed floor since Feb. 27, showed no signs of rust, earning a career-high tying 9.875. Zamarripa and McCullough also scored 9.875s, and Hopfner-Hibbs shook off her beam troubles to nail a 9.9. Berlin, competing in the anchor spot for the first time in her career, scored a 9.9 to give UCLA a much-needed 49.425 on floor. The Bruins' three-event total improved to 147.2, good for first place. Iowa State remained steady on beam, scoring 48.8 for a three-event total of 146.65, good for second place. Minnesota moved into third with a 146.3 after scoring 48.7 on bars, and Iowa's 48.9 on vault brought their three-event total to 144.875.

UCLA ended its meet on vault in rotation five. Sato started off with a nice Yurchenko layout full that scored a career-high tying 9.9. Kaelie Baer also scored a career-high with a 9.85. McCullough and Berlin also scored 9.85s, followed by a 9.925 from Hopfner-Hibbs and a 9.9 from Zamarripa for a team total of 49.425 and a final score of 196.625, which all but sewed up a berth in the NCAA Championships.

With first place on the line, Florida ended on beam needing to score 49.2 to outscore the Bruins. After a 9.95 from Corey Hartung, Alicia Goodwin needed to score just 9.75 for the Gators to claim the victory, and she earned 9.875 to clinch the win and a final team score of 196.775.

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