UCLA Seeks NCAA Championship Berth At Regionals
March 30, 2009
This Week -- Seventh-ranked UCLA (17-3) will travel to Iowa City, IA for the 2009 NCAA North Central Regionals. At stake is one of two berths in the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships. The Regional meet will take place at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Apr. 4 at 6 pm CT. Also competing in the meet are No. 6 Florida, No. 18 Minnesota, No. 20 Denver, No. 23 Iowa State and No. 28 and host Iowa.
Coverage -- Live stats will be available at http://live.iowagymnastics.com.
Rotation Order -- The Bruins will begin the regional meet on uneven bars then will move to balance beam, then a bye before closing on floor exercise and vault. The Bruins will end the competition on a bye. Iowa State begins on vault, Denver begins on a bye before bars, Iowa starts on beam, Florida starts on a bye before floor, and Minnesota begins on floor.
Regional Championship History -- The Bruins have won 17 regional titles, including eight in the last 10 years. Last season, UCLA placed second to Florida at the Southeast Regional in Gainesville, FL. A Bruin gymnast has won the all-around title at their regional in nine of the last 10 years, and Bruins have won at least a share of the uneven bars and balance beam titles every year this decade.
Last Year At Regionals -- Competing in a field that included three of the Super Six teams from 2007, UCLA earned a second-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Southeast Regionals to gain a spot in the NCAA Championships. Host team Florida won the meet with a 197.525, while UCLA scored 196.625. The Bruins got off to a terrific start with a 49.375 on uneven bars in the first rotation after the last five competitors stuck their dismounts. Balance beam started off shaky when leadoff Ariana Berlin had a rare fall, but her teammates backed her up with five solid performances that totaled 49.1. The Bruins fought their way to a 48.875 on floor before wrapping things up with a 49.275 on vault. Anna Li tied for the uneven bars title with a 9.95 and received a 10.0 from one judge. Kristina Comforte tied for the balance beam title with a 9.875.
A Look At The Regional Field - Florida is the top seed in the Regional, ranking sixth in the nation with a RQS of 196.715. The injury-depleted Gators are coming off a gutty and inspiring third-place finish at SECs, where they scored 196.75 despite competing with just seven gymnasts. The Gators have Top 4 finishes at the last three NCAA Championships. Minnesota is the third seed with a 195.710 RQS and No. 18 national ranking. The Gophers placed fourth at the Big Ten Championships, and senior Carmelina Carbajal won the all-around and beam. Minnesota's last NCAA appearance was 2002. Denver, which is ranked 20th with a RQS of 195.430, is led by 2008 Olympian and All-American Jessica Lopez. The Pioneers have qualified to the last two NCAA Championships. Iowa State is coming off a season-high total of 195.775 at the Big 12 Championships, where the team placed fourth and three gymnasts took home event titles - Megan Barnes (vault), Ceilia Maccani (bars) and Jasmine Thompson (beam). The Cyclones last qualified for NCAAs in 2006, when they advanced to the Super Six for the first time in program history. Iowa finished seventh at the Big Ten Championships and placed two gymnasts - Jenifer Simbhudas and Houry Gebeshian on the All-Big Ten first team. The Hawkeyes last qualified to NCAAs in 2003.
Regional Travel Partners? - UCLA and Florida will be competing in their third regional together in the last four years. The Gators won the previous two regionals, in 2006 in Arkansas and 2008 in Florida.
Gators Have Bruin Ties - Florida has strong ties to UCLA, starting with Gator head coach Rhonda Faehn, who was a Bruin gymnast from 1990-92 and an undergraduate assistant coach from 1992-94. Faehn earned All-America honors in the all-around and on beam in 1992 and also won the Pac-10 bars title that season. Gator junior gymnast Maranda Smith was on the UCLA team with Bruin seniors Ariana Berlin and Melissa Chan in 2006 and competed in two meets before being sidelined for the season with a shin injury. She left UCLA prior to the 2007 season and transferred to Florida in 2008.
Mentors Meeting Mentors - Former ballerina and now UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field got her start in gymnastics as a piano player and then dance coach for Jim Stephenson's club gym in the Sacramento area. Stephenson, who is now the co-head coach at Minnesota, taught Kondos Field the fundamentals of the sport. She went on to become an assistant coach at UCLA and eventually the head coach in 1991. One of her gymnasts was current Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn, who Kondos Field coached to All-America honors in 1992. Faehn got her start in coaching as a Bruin undergraduate assistant under Kondos Field, and from there, was an assistant coach at Maryland and Nebraska before becoming the head coach at Florida in 2002.
In The Rankings -- The Bruins finish the regular season ranked No. 7 in the national rankings with a 196.580 RQS and fourth overall in season average (196.450). UCLA ranks No. 1 on vault (49.430), No. 7 on bars (49.220) and beam (49.150) and No. 11 on floor (49.200).
Vanessa Zamarripa ranks first on vault for the fifth consecutive week with a 9.955 RQS. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs ranks 15th in the all-around (39.410), tied for 18th on floor (9.890) and tied for 20th on beam (9.875). Aisha Gerber is tied for 11th on beam (9.885), Ariana Berlin is tied for 21st on bars (9.870).
Vaulting To The Top -- The nation's top-ranked vault team has scored 49.3+ in its last six meets, with a national-best 49.575 achieved at Nebraska on Feb. 22. Vanessa Zamarripa has been ranked No. 1 on vault for most of the season, including the last five weeks. She has scored 9.9 or better in nine of 11 meets and has three perfect 10s. UCLA has totaled 18 9.9+ scores and 53 9.8+ scores in 66 attempts.
Bruins Capture Pac-10 Title -- Needing to hit a 49.15 on beam in the final rotation to surpass Stanford, UCLA scored a season-high 49.325 to claim its 14th Pac-10 title. The Bruins recorded a team total of 196.725, outscoring second-place Oregon State (196.550) and third-place Stanford (196.525). The Bruins scored 49.0 or better on all four events and saved the best for last, conquering their beam demons in a big way with a 6-for-6 performance to take the victory. Freshman Vanessa Zamarripa was the team's top all-around finisher, placing third with a 39.4. Junior Anna Li captured a share of the uneven bars title with a season-high-tying 9.9 for her second career Pac-10 event title (she previously won the beam title in 2007).
All Eight Pac-10 Competitors Honored -- Showing that UCLA's Pac-10 win was a true team effort, all eight Bruins who competed at the Pac-10 Championships were honored with all-conference acclaim. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and Vanessa Zamarripa received first-team honors in the all-around. On vault, Ariana Berlin earned first-team honors, while Brittani McCullough was named to the second team. Also receiving first-team honors were Pac-10 co-champion Anna Li on bars, Aisha Gerber and Niki Tom on beam and Mizuki Sato on floor.
The All-Conference first team consists of the top six all-around competitors, plus the top three competitors in each individual event who are not among the all-around honorees. Individuals may earn All-Conference honors in multiple individual events. Scores are determined by a combination of 50 percent regional qualifying score (entire regular season composite) and 50 percent Pacific-10 Conference Championships score. The All-Conference second team consists of 10 individuals who were not honored on the first team.
Hopfner-Hibbs Named Pac-10 Freshman Of The Year -- Freshman Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs was selected as the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, UCLA's sixth honoree in the 10 years the award has been given. Hopfner-Hibbs is the highest-ranked freshman all-arounder in the nation and ranks 15th overall. She is also ranked in the Top 20 on beam and floor. The three-time Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week leads UCLA with 28 Top 3 finishes and ranks second with 11 individual wins. Hopfner-Hibbs holds season averages of 9.861 on vault, 9.839 on floor, 9.809 on beam, 9.716 on bars and 39.281 in the all-around. Her season-highs are 39.525 in the all-around, 9.95 on vault and floor, 9.925 on beam and 9.875 on bars.
Berlin Honored As Pac-10 Scholar Gymnast Of The Year -- Senior Ariana Berlin was honored as the 2008-09 Toyo Tires® Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for gymnastics. She is the first Bruin gymnast and the fourth UCLA student-athlete ever to receive this award. Berlin has earned a cumulative GPA of 3.55 in World Arts & Culture (Dance concentration) and is a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection and two-time NACGC/W Scholastic All-American. In addition, she has earned All-Pac-10 honors three times and has hit 97% of her career routines. She has not missed a meet in her career, competing in 55 consecutive meets. This season, Berlin has recorded career-high marks of 9.9 on vault, beam and floor and 39.5 in the all-around and is averaging over 9.825 on vault, bars and floor and over 9.7 as the leadoff on beam.
Four Bruins Named To Pac-10 All-Academic Team -- Four members of the 2009 UCLA Gymnastics squad have been honored on the Pac-10 All-Academic team. Senior Ariana Berlin earned her third academic honor, being named to the first team with a cumulative GPA of 3.55 in World Arts & Culture (dance concentration). Sophomores Marci Bernholtz, Mizuki Sato and Niki Tom received honorable mention acclaim in their first year of eligibility.
Youth Is Served -- With seven freshmen and five sophomores on a 16-member squad, the 2009 Bruins are undoubtedly a young team, and they were put to the test immediately, with the underclassmen holding 22 of the 24 slots in the competitive lineup in the first two meets of the season.
The freshman class alone competed 16 of the 24 routines in the season opener. Two freshmen competed in the all-around at Utah - Aisha Gerber, who placed third in the all-around and won the balance beam, and Vanessa Zamarripa, who placed fourth in the all-around and third on vault. Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs competed on three events and earned a third-place finish on beam. Kaelie Baer hit 3-for-3 on her routines, scoring 9.8 on vault, 9.775 on beam and 9.75 on floor. Alyssa Pritchett had a successful showing as well, scoring 9.8 on vault as a last-minute substitute. Five freshmen saw action on vault - Gerber, Zamarripa, Baer, Tauny Frattone and Pritchett.
On the year, underclassmen have performed an astonishing 83% of the team's routines (218 of 264), with 53% of the team's routines (141) coming from the freshman class. Only Ariana Berlin and Anna Li have competed amongst the upperclassmen, and they have totaled 46 routines (17%).
Triple Tens For Zamarripa -- Freshman Vanessa Zamarripa has scored perfect 10s on vault three times this year and ranks No. 1 in the nation on the event with a RQS of 9.955. Her first 10 came on Jan. 23 at Cal State Fullerton, and it was UCLA's first perfect score since Kristina Comforte also scored a 10 on vault at Fullerton in 2006. Zamarripa earned back-to-back 10s on Feb. 15 in a home quad meet and on Feb. 22 at Nebraska to become the first UCLA gymnast to score three perfect 10s in a season since Tasha Schwikert in 2005. She is also the first Bruin to score three 10s on the same event in one season since Jeanette Antolin had eight 10s on vault in 2004. Zamarripa has earned Pac-10 Special Performance of the Week honors three times this season and Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week honors once. She holds a season average on vault of 9.93 and has scored below 9.9 just twice this year - receiving a 9.875 at Arizona and at Pac-10s.
Zamarripa is tied with Georgia's Courtney Kupets for most 10s in the nation this season, but Zamarripa is the only gymnast this year to receive multiple 10s on the same event and one of just two gymnasts to score a 10 on vault.
Berlin Brings It -- Senior Ariana Berlin remains one of the most consistent gymnasts in UCLA history, hitting 97% of her routines throughout her career. So far this season, she has hit 32 of her 33 routines, with 27 of those scores going for 9.8 or better. She averages 9.825 or higher on three events (9.859 on vault, 9.857 on bars, 9.840 on floor) and has five individual titles this season, including a team-best three on bars. Two of her titles came at Arizona State on Jan. 30, when she tied her career-high on vault with a 9.9 and won the all-around in her first all-around attempt this year, scoring 39.3. Also at that meet, Berlin accomplished a feat she has been working on for three years - competing an Arabian double front on floor exercise. She performed the E-level skill for the first time in competition and hit it, scoring 9.8 to lead all Bruins on the event. Berlin had another big meet on Mar. 8 against top-ranked Georgia. After injuring her knee just three days prior to the meet, her competitive status was in major doubt, but she not only competed on all four events but scored a career-high 39.5 to take second place. Against Nebraska a week later, on her last ever performance in Pauley Pavilion, Berlin scored a career-high 9.925 on floor exercise. She also tied her career-high on vault at the Pac-10 Championships, scoring 9.9.
Hopfner-Hibbs On A Roll -- Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs has been the model of consistency and excellence for the Bruins, hitting 36 of her last 37 routines, with 26 of those routines going 9.85 or better. She had a streak of 24 consecutive hit routines end in UCLA's last rotation on beam at Oregon State but is now starting another streak that is now at 12 in a row. Hopfner-Hibbs leads the team with 28 Top 3 finishes and ranks second with 11 individual victories, including four in the all-around. She holds a season average of 9.861 on vault and has averaged 9.895 in her last five meets. On floor, she averages 9.839, and on beam she averages 9.809, second-best on the squad.
O Canada -- UCLA has a long history of tapping into the Great White North for gymnastics talent. With three Canadians on the Bruin squad this season - sophomore Marci Bernholtz and freshmen Aisha Gerber and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs - it has now been 16 consecutive years that UCLA has had a Canadian on the roster, with 1993 marking the last year no Canadians have graced the Bruin roster. Bernholtz has represented Canada at the 2006 and 2007 World Championships and was the alternate for the 2004 Olympic Games. Gerber competed for Canada at World Cup events, the 2006 American Cup and 2004 Pacific Alliance meet. Hopfner-Hibbs represented Canada at the 2008 Olympics, 2005-07 World Championships and 2006 Commonwealth Games, winning a bronze medal on the balance beam at the 2006 Worlds to earn Canada's first-ever World medal on the women's side.
The Streak Lives On -- Senior Ariana Berlin's streak of consecutive meets has increased to 55 after competing all-around at the Pac-10 Championships. Berlin's streak was nearly broken on Mar. 8 when her knee locked up three days before the Georgia meet, but she recovered in time to not only compete but compete all-around and score a career-high 39.5. Berlin, who joined the UCLA squad in 2006 as a walk-on who had not competed in five years, has competed in every meet of her collegiate career and has hit 97% of her routines over her career.