Tuesday, October 15

UCLA gymnastics hopes to outshine Arizona State Sun Devils with consistency

Sophomore Vanessa Zamarripa performs on the beam during UCLA's match against Utah. The gymnastics team will be facing Arizona State this Sunday at Pauley Pavilion.

Sophomore Vanessa Zamarripa performs on the beam during UCLA's match against Utah. The gymnastics team will be facing Arizona State this Sunday at Pauley Pavilion. Evan Luxenberg

At the beginning of Thursday morning’s practice, the atmosphere in Yates Gymnasium was an interesting blend of relaxation and focus.

Coach Valorie Kondos Field joked encouragingly about class and midterms, but when the team started to lose its rhythm during warm-ups, she immediately told everyone to stop fooling around and stick to a consistent, unified pace.

To Kondos Field, consistency is the key for the gymnastics team heading into Sunday’s home meet against Arizona State (1-4, 1-1). The No. 7 Bruins (4-1, 2-1), who are coming off a road loss to No. 5 Stanford, hope that a strong performance against the Sun Devils will help them move up several spots in the national rankings after a six-spot drop this past week.

After posting scores of 194.425 and 195.875 last weekend, the Bruins dropped from No. 1, with Alabama taking the top spot. However, Kondos Field is not worried about the rankings quite yet; the rankings, she said, are not an accurate indicator of the team’s standings until UCLA’s regional qualifying score is determined.

And for the 20-year coach, the most effective way UCLA can regain its “swagger” and No. 1 ranking is to hit all 24 routines in Sunday’s competition.

According to Kondos Field, the Bruins can take two different approaches: Either compete with risky routines, hoping for high scores, or settle for safer, less difficult routines resulting in lower scores.

“Here is an example: Should we put Lichelle (Wong) up on beam? If Lichelle hits a beam routine, she can go 9.90 or higher, but (she) hasn’t competed beam more than once this year, so we don’t really know what she will do up there. Or, do we go with a sure bet and go all 9.80s and 9.85s and just hit 24 for 24 routines?” Kondos Field said. “We have decided to go with (the latter) philosophy: consistency rather than mega-scores.”

Consistency has been a predominant theme in this week’s practice, especially when it comes to balancing equal training for all four events. After the competition against Utah, the team switched its focus from floor exercise to bars and beam routines.

“We wanted to make sure that in those two events we’re ready to contend with the best. You saw (improvement) on Sunday. We had by far our best performance on beams and on bars over the weekend,” assistant coach Chris Waller said.

Unfortunately, in those same meets against Cal and Stanford, the Bruins’ floor performances were not as sharp as before, with several UCLA gymnasts committing crucial mistakes against the Cardinal, which potentially cost the Bruins the win.

“The issue isn’t that we need to get better on floor,” Kondos Field said. “The issue is that we need to maintain training in the gym so that we can flush out potential problems on floor. That is where we have switched up our training this week. We want to go back to having intersquads in every event.”

In each event, the most effective way for the Bruins to score higher will come from increasing attention to detail.

“Last meet I had just really minor mistakes that prevented me from getting a 10.00 so focusing on the little things is definitely important.” sophomore Vanessa Zamarripa said, referring to her near-perfect 9.975 on beam last Sunday.

“We have made a couple mistakes these past meets, but it has only made us stronger,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to this meet, I think we are going to do well. We are ready.

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