The UCLA gymnastics team has never lost a home season opener.
The Bruins continued that tradition on Sunday with a defeat of the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, 196.150 to 194.875.
3,018 gymnastics fans witnessed the team’s return home to the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion where the Bruins improved to 12-0 all-time in season openers at home.
UCLA looked confident, aggressive and excited for its return to Pauley Pavilion and for the kick-off to the Bruins’ season.
The Bruins are expected to have another stellar season in 2013, having won the Pac-12 conference title and placed third in the NCAA tournament last year.
They were ranked No. 2 in the preseason coaches’ poll as well as number one in the Pac-12 coaches’ poll.
The meet began with UCLA on vault and Southern Utah on uneven bars. Junior Olivia Courtney led the Bruins with an impressive performance, scoring 9.875 out of a possible 10.
“Olivia Courtney has always been a rock star competitively. But now that Samantha Peszek injured her Achilles tendon, Courtney has really stepped up,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field.
With additional strong routines by senior Kaelie Baer, sophomore Dana McDonald, junior Sydney Sawa and redshirt senior Vanessa Zamarripa, the Bruins led by .05 after the first round of performances.
The meet continued with Southern Utah on vault and UCLA taking uneven bars. Senior Lichelle Wong sparked some momentum for the Bruins with a 9.9 winning routine, which freshman Sophina DeJesus continued with a 9.9 performance of her own. UCLA extended its lead over Southern Utah to .75 after round two.
UCLA continued its strong performances with the beam and floor events. Zamarripa scored 9.875 on the beam, leading her team, in addition to an impressive 9.800 by both DeJesus and freshman Danusia Francis.
The peak of the meet was UCLA’s striking floor routines.
“There’s something about being back in New Pauley. It rejuvenated everyone,” Kondos Field said.
After an initial strong performance by McDonald to start the team off, the Bruins impressed the audience with an energetic routine by DeJesus, a poised and technical routine by Pritchett, a challenging and playful routine from Courtney and a graceful performance by Zamarripa.
Zamarripa’s routine earned her a 9.975, a career-high mark, and the best all-around title.
“My floor routine is not as difficult as it could be. As the season progresses I’m going to upgrade my routine. It’s nice to know that I can do this kind of routine and score really well,” Zamarripa said.
While things aren’t exactly where Zamarripa and her teammates hope to be at the end of the season, they still managed a winning performance.
“We’re just going to keep going in the gym every day, having hunger and drive, (and) never losing focus on our number one goal, which is to win, ultimately,” Courtney said.