Season-Opener Full Of Positives For GymDawgs

Jan. 8, 2010

SEATTLE - Facing one of the top teams in the country in their season opener, the No. 25 Washington gymnastics team shook off some early nerves to show plenty of promise for a successful 2010 campaign, battling the No. 15 Nebraska Cornhuskers before falling, 195.700-193.450, Friday at Bank of America Arena.

With no seniors on the squad, the Huskies are a young but talented team which they showed in front of a home crowd of 1,052. Sophomore Hatsune Akaogi led the Huskies with a second-place finish in the all-around, just barely getting edged by Nebraska's Maria Scaffidi, 39.000-38.950. Her best performance came on bars when she had the third-best score of the night with a 9.775. Junior Samantha Walior also had a standout night for the Dawgs, tying Akaogi on bars and capping the night with a dazzling 9.850 to finish second in the event.

'I took a lot of positives from this meet because we knew we'd start off a little weaker on vault. I was surprised a little on bars because in practice we've been doing better there so that was definitely nerves that hurt us a little but hopefully we got those out tonight,' head coach Joanne Bowers said. 'The thing I enjoyed very much is, instead of getting down after those first two events, we stepped it up. And we didn't have to count a fall on beam and that's a first for us in our first meet since I've been here. That's usually the most pressure-filled event and that's where you'll see some mistakes. That was big for us.'

'Our goal was to go out on floor and hit seven-of-seven routines, including our exhibition, and we did that and ended on a very high note. For our first meet, our score wasn't bad and we'll take a lot of positives from this. I wanted to see how they would react under pressure, how they would encourage each other and those are the things I saw tonight that got me really excited.'

The Huskies started off well despite the early nerves on the vault, led by freshman Lauren Rogers' 9.700. Akaogi and Amanda Cline each posted scores of 9.675 and the Huskies trailed the Huskers after the first rotation by just 48.750-48.225.

UW settled down late in the second rotation, getting a couple huge scores from their veteran leaders to keep the score close. After their teammates started slowly on bars, Akaogi and Walior put together back-to-back 9.775s to bring the score after the second rotation to 97.750-96.125.

The Huskies had their best performance as a team to that point on the beam in the third rotation, with freshman Paige Bixler starting things off by wowing the crowd with a 9.650 in her debut in the Purple and Gold. Akaogi then continued her big night with a 9.725 and Anna Epps posted a career-best 9.700 as the Huskies tried to chip away at the Nebraska lead. Haley Bogart then wrapped up a strong rotation for the Huskies with a team-best 9.750 and the Huskies finished with a team score of 48.475 on beam heading into the final rotation, with the Huskers leading, 146.650-144.600. Bogart's score was good for fifth-best in the event.

Rogers kept the Huskies rolling, starting the final rotation off strong with a 9.700 on floor. Epps followed with a 9.725 and Akaogi capped a solid night with her second 9.775 of the night, tying her career-best on floor and posting the fifth-best score on the floor all night. Bogart followed with a 9.700 and Walior finished off a great opening night for the Huskies with a 9.850, the second-best of the night. The team's total of 48.850 on floor was their best of the four events.

Overall, Bowers was pleased with both the leadership of her veterans and the tone set by the freshmen.

'Hatsune has been such a workhorse all fall in terms of coming to practice and hitting her routines every day and she seemed confident and prepared. I was really curious to see if that's what we were going to see today or if the nerves would hit her but it was so wonderful to see her just do what she does. I thought she hit four good events. She had a great start and she could have a great season,' Bowers said. 'I look at Sam Walior and she struggled in warm-ups on bars but then hit when we needed her to. She had a major wobble on beam but managed to stay on and still hit her routine and then ends up having a lights-out floor routine so that was great. Anna Epps has worked so hard and has been through a lot of adversity. She prepared herself so well and earned the right to be in there and she hit all three of her routines. It was great to watch someone who wants it so badly, someone who was a walk-on in our program, step up. That was fun to watch.'

The Huskies stay home next weekend when they face another ranked team, hosting No. 5 UCLA on Friday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.

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