Monday, July 15

Unbeaten UCLA gymnastics squad to face NorCal schools

Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and UCLA will face Cal and San Jose State tonight.

Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs and UCLA will face Cal and San Jose State tonight. Evan Luxenberg

When facing Cal and San Jose State tonight in a three-way meet in Berkeley, the Bruins are looking to maintain focus throughout the meet and step up the energy Sunday against No. 8 Stanford (1-1, 1-0).

Coming off a low-energy performance last week against Washington, first-ranked UCLA (2-0, 1-0) is looking for a sharper performance against the No. 37 Bears (0-1, 0-1) and the No. 34 Spartans (4-1) tonight.

With the competitions so close together, the Bruins will prepare a different lineup for each meet in order to prevent fatigue early in the season. Every gymnast who has a routine will compete this weekend, either in competition or as an exhibition, coach Valorie Kondos Field said in a weekly update.

In the tri-meet, UCLA will feature an adjusted lineup that Kondos Field hopes will be able to score around a 195 overall.

Both the Golden Bears and Spartans are coming off losses last week against Arizona State and Boise State, respectively.

Kondos Field has higher expectations for Sunday’s dual competition against No. 8 Stanford (1-1, 1-0), aiming for a team total close to 197. The Cardinal won their first home meet last week against No. 24 Arizona, 196.025-194.675 after narrowly losing by one-tenth of a point to then-No. 1 Georgia in the season-opener.

Despite the Bruins’ previous lack of focus against Washington after defeating higher-ranked Utah, Kondos Field believes that the Bruins will not have trouble transitioning to Stanford’s higher level of competition after tonight’s meet against Cal.

“I don’t think we are going to have the same letdown as we had last week partly because we coaches have let (the team) know that competitive greatness is being able to be your best whenever you need to be your best,” she said. “It’s not just being able to pick and choose your meets to show up for.”

The productive practices that the team had this week have put Kondos Field in an optimistic mood about the Bruins’ ability to perform with energy regardless of the competitor.

“We had a great workout yesterday, and part of that is because every person knows that they are competing,” Kondos Field said. “Everybody is really excited. Anna (Li) was just so excited yesterday. She got done with her workout quickly and spent the whole rest of the time helping out her teammates that are getting ready to compete for the first time this season.”

Stanford has challenged UCLA at the top of the Pac-10 each of the past six seasons; the two teams split the last six conference titles. The Cardinal, who finished eighth in last year’s national championships, are returning eight starters, including six-time All-American Carly Janiga.

Now a senior, Janiga is the defending Pac-10 all-around champion and this week’s Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week after scoring a 39.325 in the individual all-around against Arizona.

The Stanford squad also features freshman Ashley Morgan, who had strong performances against Georgia and Arizona, especially on vault.

With fewer starters competing in Friday’s meet against Cal, the Bruins’ team total may be lower than in the past two meets and could drop them from their current No. 1 ranking.

However, Kondos Field emphasized that UCLA’s place in the standing was not the top priority for the team.

“We are going to do our best to (maintain the ranking), but that really is not our focal point right now,” Kondos Field said. “Those athletes that have been training really hard, they deserve to compete, so we are going to give them that opportunity. Hopefully we will be able to come out within the top three this weekend if not maintain the No. 1 ranking.”

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