UCLA Falls Short Of Super Six Bid After Tiebreaker

April 16, 2009

Lincoln, Neb. - UCLA fell just short of qualifying to the Super Six Team Finals, losing a tiebreaker to Utah for the third spot and finishing in seventh place for the second consecutive year.

The Bruins started the prelminaries with a bang, scoring 49.425 on vault, led by a 9.95 from freshman Vanessa Zamarripa and 9.9s from senior Ariana Berlin and freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, but stalled on uneven bars a bit, counting a fall and scoring 48.7. The Bruins rebounded on balance beam, however, scoring 49.2, and did all they could on floor in the final rotation, scoring 49.3 and tying Utah for third place with a 196.625, but in the tiebreaker, where all six scores count, the Bruins fell just short, 234.650-234.575.

Zamarripa placed third overall in the all-around, scoring a career-high 39.575. Berlin tied for fourth overall with a career-high 39.525. Zamarripa qualified for the event finals on vault, beam and floor. Berlin qualified on uneven bars, and Brittani McCullough qualified on floor.

Alabama won the session with a 197.025. Arkansas made its first-ever Super Six, placing second with a 196.950, and Utah qualified after the tiebreaker with the Bruins, scoring 196.625. For the second year in a row, UCLA's score would have qualified the Bruins in the earlier session.

UCLA began the Championships on vault in the first rotation. Sophomore Mizuki Sato got things started with a stuck Yurchenko layout full for a 9.85. Freshman Kaelie Baer got good height on her vault but took a step back for a 9.7. McCullough, competing in her first NCAA Championship after missing the last two due to injury, took a step back on her vault and scored 9.825. Berlin nailed her vault with huge height and scored a career-high tying 9.9. Hopfner-Hibbs also rocked a strong vault, scoring 9.9, setting up Zamarripa perfectly for a huge score. Zamarripa complied by sticking her vault and receiving a 10 from one judge and three 9.95s for a final average of 9.95, giving UCLA a 49.425 to start off the competition. The Bruins' vault score put them in first place. Alabama was second with a 49.125 on floor. Illinois was third with a 48.875 on bars, followed by a 48.325 on beam by Oregon State.

With UCLA on a bye in rotation two, Alabama compiled a 49.325 on vault to take a two-event lead with 98.45, followed by Illinois, whose 48.575 on beam increased its point total to 97.45. Utah began its competition on uneven bars and totaled 49.275. Arkansas scored 49.15 on floor exercise in its first event.

The Bruins moved to uneven bars in rotation three. McCullough led off by sticking her dismount and scoring 9.8. Freshman Aisha Gerber had a solid routine going but sat down her full-twisting double back dismount, scoring 9.275. Berlin continued her hot streak, nailing her elements and sticking her full-twisting double back dismount for another 9.9, tying her season-high. Zamarripa also had a strong routine, scoring 9.85. Hopfner-Hibbs had her best bar routine in some time, scoring 9.85, but Li fell on her Tkatchev, forcing the Bruins to count her 9.3. The team total was 48.7, pushing the Bruins into third place with a 98.125, behind first-place Arkansas (98.6) and second-place Alabama (98.450). Utah had to count a fall on balance beam, scoring 48.775 for a two-event total of 98.050, good for fourth place. Oregon State's 49.175 on floor improved the Beavers' team total to 97.5, good for fifth place, and Illinois stood in sixth with a 97.45.

The balance beam loomed large in the fourth rotation, but Berlin was her usual rock, nailing yet another huge routine for a 9.875 leadoff. Sato was solid in the second spot, hitting a career-best 9.85. Niki Tom had a few wobbles but stayed on and scored 9.7. Zamarripa came up big with a near-stick on her 2.5 twist dismount and tied her career-best with a 9.9. Hopfner-Hibbs made it 5-for-5 in hit routines, scoring 9.875. With a 49.2 already in hand, Gerber's fall on her dismount did not count in the team beam score, and the Bruins moved into second place with a 147.325, .325 behind first-place Alabama. Arkansas and Utah were on byes in the rotation.

With the Bruins on a fifth-rotation bye, Arkansas and Alabama maintained their positions ahead of UCLA. The Lady Backs scored 49.1 on bars for a three-event total of 147.7, .375 ahead of UCLA. Alabama finished strong on beam with a 49.375 on beam and a final score of 197.075,25. Utah's 49.175 on floor kept them one-tenth behind UCLA with a 147.225.

Ending on floor exercise, UCLA needed to score four-tenths better than Arkansas on beam to pass them. The Bruins did all they could, hitting six routines and scoring 49.3, led by a pair of 9.875s from Zamarripa and McCullough. Arkansas hit beam to finish in second, but Utah finished with a 49.4 on vault to finish tied with UCLA for third place. After the tiebreaker, which counts all six scores, the Bruins fell short, 234.650-234.575.

Berlin, Zamarripa and McCullough will conclude competition on Saturday, Apr. 18 in the Event Finals. Berlin will finish her career as a four-time All-American, earning first-team honors in the all-around and on bars and second-team acclaim on vault and floor. Zamarripa earned five All-America honors - first-team in the all-around, vault, beam and floor and second-team on bars. McCullough earned first-team honors on floor. Hopfner-Hibbs received second-team acclaim in the all-around, vault, bars and floor. Tom earned second-team All-America acclaim on floor.

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