Women's gymnastics season kicks off Friday
By the Pac-12 Conference
The women's gymnastics season starts this Friday, Jan. 4. OREGON STATE and STANFORD are the first Pac-12 teams to get into action as the Beavers travel to the Cancun Classic to face Michigan and BYU at 7 p.m. CT. The Cardinal keeps it closer to home in the NorCal Quad with San Jose State, UC Davis and Sacramento State at 7 p.m. PT. On Sunday, Jan. 6 CALIFORNIA hosts Pac-12 foe ARIZONA, as well as Auburn and Kentucky at 2 p.m. PT., the meet will be tape delayed on the Pac-12 Networks. UCLA hosts Southern Utah at 2 p.m. PT to begin their season.
In a preseason poll of the Pac-12 women's gymnastics coaches, UCLA was voted the season favorite with Utah close behind in second place. Six of the eight Pac-12 teams were ranked in the top 25 in the national preseason coaches poll, with four of the teams in the top 10. The Bruins led the Pac-12 with a second-place ranking, the Utes were ranked fifth, the Cardinal was next in sixth and the Beavers rounded out the top 10 placings for the Pac-12 at ninth. The Huskies and the Sun Devils ranked 17th and 19th, respectively, in the national preseason poll. This year Pac-12 women's gymnastics will see an unprecented coverage in women's gymnastics with 10 meets being covered by the Pac-12 Networks. Visit Pac-12.com for a complete listing of all televised events.
Fri., Jan. 4
OREGON STATE at Cancun Classic 7 p.m. CT
With Michigan & BYU
STANFORD at San Jose St. 7 p.m. PT
With UC Davis & Sacramento State
Sun., Jan. 6
ARIZONA at CALIFORNIA 2 p.m. PT
With Auburn & Kentucky
On Pac-12 Networks (Tape Delay)
Southern Utah at UCLA 2 p.m. PT
*All times listed local to site.
PAC-12 GYMNASTICS NOTES
The Wildcats return 11 gymnasts from the 2012 season after appearing in their 26th consecutive postseason competition. The team lost four seniors from last season with the hardest to replace being Katie Matusik. Matusik returns to the team as an undergraduate assistant coach for the 2013 season. Aubree Cristello returns for her senior season after a standout junior year, tallying many accolades including Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week, first-team All-Conference and qualified for the NCAA Championships in the all-around.
With seven freshmen added to the roster you can expect to see new faces in the lineup this season. The Sun Devils have the most newcomers of any Pac-12 team and are coming off a strong season, recording the highest regional finish at fourth since 2006. The team graduated five seniors from last year and will have lineup spots to fill.
With the highest number of returning gymnasts and a new head coach in Justin Howell, the Bears are able to pick up right where they finished last season. Cal returns 11 gymnasts from the 2012 season and can expect to see the three freshmen contribute right away. The Golden Bears return both all-around competitiors and regional qualifiers in seniors Madisyn O'Brien and Mariesah Pierce from the 2012 season.
The Beavers will rely upon seniors and returning All-Americans Makayla Stambaugh and Melanie Jones, as well as redshirt senior Stephanie McGregor this season. McGregor is returning after tearing her achilles tendon last December. The Beavers will have to fill a major hole with the loss of All-American Leslie Mak. The Beavers expanded their roster this year with the addition of five freshmen, as well as transfer Hailey Gaspar for her final season.
Coming off a fourth-place finish in the NCAA Championships, Stanford returns five of the school-record seven All-Americans from last season. Among those returning are Kristina Vanculik after competing at the London Olympics for Canada where she helped contribute to a fifth-place finish, the nation's best-ever team finish. The Cardinal faces the loss of three seniors, but added four incoming freshmen to fill the void.
The Bruins enter the 2013 season on fire after winning the inaugural Pac-12 Championship last year and placing third in the NCAA Championships. They had seven gymnasts named to the All-Pac-12 team, the most of any team, and return four of those gymnasts. The Bruins, however, do face the loss of standout gymnast Samantha Peszek after tearing her achilles tendon in December and will be redshirting this season. The team will relying on junior Olivia Courtney and seniors Vanessa Zamarripa and Alyssa Pritchett for the season.
With an all-star lineup returning this season the Utes will be a force to deal with. Utah returns nine members from the 2012 team including the Pac-12 all-around champion Corrie Lothrop as well as Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Georgia Dabritz. The Utes will also look to Kailah Delaney, an NCAA vault finalist for strong performances this year. The junior class will have to step up this season as the Utes are the lone Pac-12 team without any senior leadership this year.
The Huskies lost four seniors from the 2012 squad, but fill the spots with four incoming freshmen. Washington will look to junior Aliza Vaccher to stand out for the team once again this year. Vaccher qualified in the all-around for the NCAA national championships two years in a row and finished fourth at regionals in the all-around last season. In addition, she was the regional vault champion. Sophomore McKenzie Fechter is another big returnee for the Huskies as she qualified as an alternate in the all-around for the NCAA national championships last year.