#5 UCLA Travels To #4 Alabama For Second-Straight SEC Matchup
March 6, 2007
UCLA vs. Alabama - The fifth-ranked UCLA Gymnastics team (9-4) will travel to fourth-ranked Alabama (6-2) for a Friday, Mar. 9 dual meet at Coleman Coliseum. The meet will take place at 7:30 pm CT. UCLA and Alabama are two of only four teams who have won NCAA gymnastics titles. The Bruins have won five (2004, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1997), while Alabama has won four (2002, 1996, 1991, 1988).
Live Coverage - Full coverage of the meet, including live scoring and commentary, as well as a radio broadcast, can be found at rolltide.com.
Bruins Seeking Second-Straight Over SEC - Fresh off an upset victory over second-ranked and previously undefeated Georgia, UCLA looks to unseat a second consecutive SEC team in Alabama. It will be a tall order for the Bruins, however, as UCLA has never defeated the Tide in Alabama. UCLA is 2-5 overall against Alabama, with the last win coming in 2001 in Los Angeles. The only other regular season victory came in 1984. The last time the two teams met in dual meet action was in 2002 in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won the meet, 197.650-197.000.
Another Olympic-Sized Matchup - For the second consecutive week, UCLA will face a team led by a 2004 U.S. Olympic double medalist. Last week it was Georgia and Courtney Kupets. This week it is Alabama and Terin Humphrey. The Bruins counter with their own Olympian in Tasha Schwikert, who was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team. Schwikert was the team captain of the 2003 U.S. squad that captured the country's first-ever World Championship team gold medal. Humphrey was also a member of that World Championship team and won two silver medals at the Olympic Games (team, uneven bars).
In The Rankings - UCLA moves up one spot to No. 5 in the national rankings with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 196.280. The Bruins rank fourth on vault (49.275), fifth on uneven bars (49.250), sixth on floor exercise (49.160) and eighth on balance beam (48.900). Alabama ranks fourth overall with a team RQS of 196.520. The Crimson Tide are third on vault (49.320) and floor exercise (49.300), sixth on uneven bars (49.215) and tied for 17th on balance beam (48.725).
Individually, the Bruins have four gymnasts in the Top 25 national rankings. Junior Tasha Schwikert is the only gymnast in the nation who is ranked in the Top 10 on every event and the all-around. Schwikert is tied for sixth in the all-around (39.335), second on balance beam (9.895) and third on vault (9.930) and ranks fourth on uneven bars (9.900) and ninth on floor exercise (9.890). Freshman Anna Li ranks No. 13 in the all-around (39.265) and No. 7 on uneven bars (9.890). Senior Ashley Peckett is tied for 20th on vault (9.860), and sophomore Ariana Berlin is tied for 25th on uneven bars (9.850). Alabama's Terin Humphrey is ranked No. 19 in the all-around, tied for No. 5 on uneven bars (9.895) and tied for No. 24 on vault (9.855). Crimson Tide freshman Morgan Dennis ranks No. 6 on vault (9.895) and No. 10 on floor (9.885).
UCLA Upsets Georgia, Snaps 27-Meet Unbeaten Streak - Behind a season-high team score of 197.15, UCLA upset second-ranked and two-time defending champion Georgia on Mar. 4 in the Bruins' home finale. With Georgia posting a final team mark of 197.00, UCLA needed a 9.775 from freshman Anna Li on floor exercise to win the meet, and she came through with a career-high 9.9 to give UCLA the win by .15. It was a total team effort, with all eight Bruin competitors making big contributions. Jordan Schwikert placed second in the all-around with a season-high 39.45. Ariana Berlin recorded yet another career-high in the all-around with a 39.425. Li placed third in the all-around with a 39.4, and Ashley Peckett was fourth with a season-best 39.35. Ashley Jenkins contributed a career-high 9.9 on beam to tie for second. UCLA seniors Peckett and Michelle Selesky went out in style, with each winning an event title (Peckett tied for first on floor with a season-high 9.925, and Selesky won vault with a career-high 9.925). UCLA's victory snapped Georgia's 27-meet, 57-opponent unbeaten streak. The Gym Dogs had not lost a meet since placing second at the 2005 NCAA Regionals.
Jordan Schwikert Makes Successful All-Around Return - Junior Jordan Schwikert, who had been limited to just uneven bars in the Bruins' first five meets due to a hamstring injury, has given two successful all-around performances since returning to all-around competition on Feb. 25. She placed third at the John Wooden Challenge with a 39.2 and scored a career-high 9.975 on uneven bars. Against Georgia on Mar. 4, she placed second in the all-around with a 39.425 and was subsequently named the UCLA/Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week. Schwikert's all-around return was a welcome sight for the Bruins, as she was an All-Pac-10 all-around performer as a freshman. She holds a career-high all-around score of 39.5 and has career-bests of 9.925 or higher on all four events.
Follow The Lead-Off - As one of UCLA's most consistent athletes, sophomore Ariana Berlin has been an ideal lead-off competitor on three of four events. Berlin, last year's Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year, starts the Bruins off on vault, beam and floor and has been setting her teammates up for big scores with solid scores of her own. Since her first all-around meet on Feb. 10, Berlin has recorded career-high all-around marks in every single meet, starting with a 39.25 on Feb. 10 and 16, a 39.325 to win the John Wooden Challenge on Feb. 25 and a 39.425 to place third against Georgia. In addition to winning the John Wooden Challenge, Berlin also earned her first career 9.9+ score, shattering her career-high with a near-perfect 9.975 on uneven bars. In her career, Berlin has hit 83 of her 86 routines (96.5%) without a fall. Berlin, whose training has been limited due to pain caused by the rod in her leg, ranks 25th in the nation on uneven bars and is averaging 39.313 in the all-around.
Tasha Schwikert Back To 2005 Form - Junior Tasha Schwikert is back to the form that brought her the NCAA all-around title in 2005. Although she has sat out floor exercise the last four meets to rest a strained Achilles, the two-time Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week has averaged a whopping 39.588 during her four-meet all-around winning streak. She has posted the top two all-around scores in the nation this year, a 39.7 vs. Arizona on Jan. 21 and a 39.675 at Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 19.
Twenty-two of Schwikert's 35 scores this season (63%) have been 9.9 or higher, including 19 of her last 24 routines. She leads the team with averages of 39.396 in the all-around, 9.900 on vault, 9.900 on floor and 9.831 on beam. She also averages 9.835 on bars. On the year, she has accumulated 24 individual victories, including four straight in the all-around. Schwikert, a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, missed nearly all of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery. She returned to competition in the last regular season meet of 2006 and also competed on three events in the Pac-10 and NCAA Regional meets. She qualified for the NCAA Championships on vault.
Peckett Picks Up Bruins - Long considered one of UCLA's most consistent performers, it was only natural to call upon Ashley Peckett to step in on balance beam with the Bruins short-handed the last three weeks. Although she had not competed beam since 2006 and had only competed on beam nine times prior in her four-year career, Peckett did not skip a beat her first time out, scoring a 9.775 at Oregon State on Feb. 16. In just her fifth ever all-around appearance, she scored 39.25 to tie for second place. On Feb. 25, she recorded a season-high 9.9 on uneven bars to help the Bruins record a national season-best 49.7 on the event, and on Mar. 4, she scored a season-best 39.35 in the all-around and tied for first on floor with a season-high 9.925. Peckett has hit 91 of her last 93 routines without a fall, including 32 of 33 this season.
Li Makes Stellar Debut - Freshman Anna Li made her Pauley Pavilion debut a memorable one, winning the all-around (39.0) and uneven bars (9.85) in her first collegiate meet on Jan. 6. Making the event even more special was the presence of her parents, Yuejiu Li and Jiani Wu, who had won Olympic team medals for China in the same arena at the 1984 Olympic Games. Li improved her all-around score the following week at Utah, scoring 39.2 to place fourth. She also placed second on beam with a 9.825. More career-highs were set at Fullerton on Jan. 19, as Li placed second in the all-around with a career-high 39.275. She also improved her personal-bests on vault (9.85 to tie for third), bars (9.875, second place) and beam (9.825 to tie for second). Li had an even better meet on Jan. 21 vs. Arizona, scoring a career-high 39.55 in the all-around to post what was then the highest score by any freshman in the nation. She also won the uneven bars with a career-high 9.95 and placed third on vault (9.825), second on beam (career-high 9.9) and tied for second on floor (9.875). Against Georgia, she clinched the victory for the Bruins with a career-high 9.9 on floor exercise in the final rotation. Li, who is currently ranked 13th nationally in the all-around and sixth on uneven bars, has four individual victories this year, including three on the uneven bars. She also ranks second on the team with 21 Top 3 placings and is the only gymnast on the squad who has competed on every event in every meet this year.
Selesky Shines - Senior Michelle Selesky has brought big scores to the Bruins in 2007. The former walk-on had only seen competition time just five times prior to this season but has been not only a mainstay but a top contributor on vault and floor. In the season opener, she won the floor exercise with a 9.9 and tied for third on vault with a 9.825 to make the medals stand for the first time in her career. Both scores were, at the time, two-tenths higher than her previous career-bests. She continued her success the following week, twice scoring 9.825s on vault and earning a 9.825 on floor at Utah to tie for fourth. She improved her personal-best on vault at Cal State Fullerton, scoring a 9.85 to tie for third place and improved it again against Arizona, scoring a 9.9 to earn her first vault victory, tying with teammate Tasha Schwikert. On Senior Day against Georgia on Mar. 4, Selesky had a story-book ending, winning the vault with a career-high 9.925. Selesky has placed in the Top 3 on vault in five meets with two victories.
Making The Most Out Of Injury - Freshman Ashley Jenkins has been held out of the lineup on bars the last four meets and sat out floor for two meets due to a hyper-extended elbow, but, ironically, the injury has brought her more success on balance beam. The Bruin coaches re-worked Jenkins' beam routine so as to not put any weight on her injured elbow, and the changes have brought out the best in Jenkins. Since the injury, she has scored two 9.8s, a 9.775 and a career-high 9.9 to place second against Georgia. She is averaging 9.82 on beam with her new routine. Jenkins returned to the floor exercise mat on Feb. 25 with another reworked routine and scored 9.55 and improved to a 9.775 on Mar. 4.
Padilla Providing Much-Needed Depth - Junior transfer Natalie Padilla has stepped in for her injured teammates with solid performances during the Bruins' last four meets. At Denver on Feb. 10, she earned a career-high 9.725 on beam, a 9.6 on bars and 9.325 on floor in her first competitive routines of the season on those events. At Oregon State on Feb. 16, she scored 9.725 on bars and a season-high 9.6 on floor to contribute to the team's second-highest team score of the season. Padilla recorded another season-high on uneven bars on Feb. 25, earning a 9.75 to help the Bruins along to a national season-best 49.7 on the event.
Dantzscher's Momentum Slowed With Injury - Sophomore Janelle Dantzscher's stress fracture in her foot could not have come at a worse time for her, as she had hit her stride in her last five competitions, averaging 9.84 on floor and 9.66 on beam. Dantzscher placed in the Top 3 on floor in her last four meets and has more Top 3 showings on floor than anyone on the team outside of Tasha Schwikert. Dantzscher scored a career-high 9.9 vs. Stanford on Jan. 15 and has placed second on the event in her last two consecutive meets. She was also coming off a season-best beam score of 9.725, set at Arizona State.
Comforte, McCullough Out For Season - Sophomore Kristina Comforte's long-time battle with ankle injuries has forced her out of competition for the year. An old fracture in her left ankle that has been causing her pain for the last four years was recently discovered, and she will sit out the rest of the year to heal. Comforte competed through the injury all of 2006 and earned first-team All-America honors in the all-around and on vault. She competed in six meets on balance beam this year, averaging 9.767, with a high of 9.825. Freshman Brittani McCullough, a 2006 U.S. National Team member, severed a tendon in her toe in a car accident in November and will redshirt the season.
Setting The Bar - UCLA recorded a national season-best 49.7 on uneven bars on Feb. 25, en route to a 196.25 team score that enabled the Bruins to handily win the John Wooden Challenge over Denver, California and Cal State Fullerton. The Bruins counted no score lower than 9.9 on bars, with Ashley Peckett recording a season-high 9.9, Tasha Schwikert and Anna Li posting 9.925s, and Ariana Berlin and Jordan Schwikert earning career-high 9.975s. The 49.7 tied for the fourth-highest bars score in UCLA history.
Schwikert On Schwikert - Junior gymnast and aspiring sports broadcaster Tasha Schwikert provided color commentary on the delayed television broadcast of the Bruins' quad meet against Denver, California and Cal State Fullerton. Days after the meet, Schwikert joined veteran broadcaster Randy Rosenbloom in the studio to tape a TV broadcast that will air on local Time Warner Cable station LA36 on Friday, Mar. 9 at 9 am and 8 pm. The meet will also air on the LA36 website at www.la36.org. Schwikert has previous experience as a color commentator with WCSN for the 2005 and 2006 World Gymnastics Championships.
Looking Ahead - The Bruins will enjoy a week off before closing the regular season against No.3 Stanford on Mar. 25 in Palo Alto. Assuming Stanford remains in the Top 5 by that time, it would be the third consecutive meet for UCLA against at Top 5 opponent.
High-Level Recruiting Class To Join UCLA In 2008 - Head coach Valorie Kondos Field signed another strong recruiting class during the early signing period, inking 2006 World Championships competitor and 2004 Olympic alternate Marci Bernholtz from Unionville, Ontario, Canada (ASF Gymnastics); international elite and 2003 U.S. Championships competitor Allison Taylor from Dallas, Texas (WOGA); and three-time Level 10 National qualifier Mizuki Sato from Fair Oaks, Calif. (Technique Gymnastics).
'We are looking forward to the addition of Marci, Allison and Mizuki to an already nationally competitive squad,h said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. 'They will round out the depth on every event for us in the future and will certainly enable us to continue our yearly challenge for the national title.'