Georgia On Their Minds

April 7, 2001

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - While No. 4 Alabama exploded to a meet-winning 198.000 to defeat all comers, Arizona State's ninth-ranked women's gymnastics team did just enough to grab second place at the NCAA Central Regional Saturday, thus earning a bid to the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga., April 19-21.

In front of a crowd of 4,720 in Alabama's Coleman Coliseum, the Sun Devils' hit 23-of-24 routines for a team total of 195.950, coming from behind to finish ahead of No. 16 Minnesota (195.800), Kentucky (195.150), No. 21 Ohio State (194.925), and No. 20 Kent State (192.675).

'It was perfect,' said ASU senior Kelly Cowley, who would have seen her collegiate career end in Alabama had the Sun Devils failed to earn one of the top two spots. 'I told the team after our last event that even if we didn't qualify for nationals, I wouldn't feel bad about the way we went out. Tonight, we did everything we could. We were awesome.'

Having trailed Alabama, Ohio State and Minnesota going into the fourth of six rotations, ASU earned a slim lead on the uneven bars with a 49.100 performance. Leading things off was junior Rhonda Robinette, a late addition in the event, with a 9.8 in only her second appearance on bars in the last seven meets.

Cowley and sophomore Margaret Wojciak duplicated Robinette's effort, before junior Laura Moon and senior Kim Skinner closed out the event with scores of 9.875 and 9.825, respectively.Entering the fifth rotation with a half-tenth hold on second place, ASU encountered a situation it had prepared for all week in practice by blasting stereo-manufactured crowd noise during balance beam workouts. While the Alabama crowd vociferously cheered the Crimson Tide on floor exercise, the Sun Devils remained focused on beam and posted their best team total of the night: 49.200.

'Beam was unbelievable,' ASU head coach John Spini said. 'We practiced with the noise, we practiced closing out on beam. I just have to give credit to my staff and the girls on that one.'

Leading the way on beam was sophomore Ashley Ellsberry's 9.875 total. Moon and freshman Maggie Germaine posted 9.85s, and Robinette finished off a strong night with a 9.825 effort.

'The best part was when Rhonda was up and the crowd was chanting, `ten, ten, ten' (for an Alabama floor performer),' Cowley said. 'That showed why we deserve to go to nationals. That showed that in any situation we can perform and get the job done.'

Said Robinette, 'I pretty much blocked it out. I could hear that they were chanting, but that's about it. It was an awesome feeling.'

With their night completed, ASU was forced to wait out Minnesota's effort on floor in the sixth rotation. The Golden Gophers needed a team total of 49.225 to tie ASU, but managed only a 49.075, missing the invitation to Georgia by a tenth-and-a-half (0.15).

'The girls were fantastic tonight, and that's the way you want to win it (a tournament berth), when the meet is really close,' Spini said.

This will mark ASU's 16th team appearance at the NCAA Championships in 20 years. Last year, ASU failed to send a representative to the national meet for the first time ever.

'You can't be out two years in a row,' Spini said. 'We have a tradition at ASU. You don't want to lose a tradition. We had to be back at nationals (this year) and we did a great job tonight to see that we were.'

Final Team Results:
Alabama 198.000, ASU 195.950, Minnesota 195.800, Kentucky 195.150, Ohio State 194.925, 192.675

ASU Results (in order of competition):
Floor (49.15) - Moon 9.75, Ellsberry 9.725, Germaine 9.8, Cowley 9.825, Fanning 9.875, Vreeke 9.9
Vault (48.5) - Moon 9.7, Wojciak 9.625, Cowley 9.725, Skinner 9.725, Germaine 9.725, Vreeke 9.475
Bars (49.1) - Robinette 9.8, Germaine 9.775, Cowley 9.8, Wojciak 9.8, Moon 9.875, Skinner 9.825
Beam (49.2) - Moon 9.85, Ellsberry 9.875, Germaine 9.85, Vreeke 9.75, Robinette 9.825, Wojciak 9.8

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