There goes two wins in a row for the Bruins, but the gymnasts said their second victory was left with something to be desired.
In the home opener of the season, the No. 8 Bruins defeated the No. 22 Arizona Wildcats 195.975 to 195.300. Although UCLA beat Arizona by a large margin of 0.675, the Bruins only managed to land a modest score due to errors.
“There were some errors but it’s all experience for us,” said sophomore Mikaela Gerber. “We also know what we can improve on, and what we can do better for next time.”
The Bruins began the meet with high jumps and soft landings on vault, leading the event with 49.250. The Bruin gymnasts were all able to post scores of 9.800 or higher, except for redshirt sophomore Christine Peng-Peng Lee whose step after her landing cost her a deduction and landed a score of 9.750. Both new faces, freshman LaNiesha-Jopré Irvin and graduate transfer from Arizona Jordan Williams contributed a pair of 9.850s.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Wildcats struggled on uneven bars in their first rotation and stopped short with 49.050.
Next, the uneven bars had a number of errors, costing the Bruins and falling short with the total of 48.700. While junior Danusia Francis started the Bruins off with a 9.775, freshman Sonya Meraz and Lee had falls, scoring a low score of 9.275 and 8.975, respectively. However, redshirt senior Samantha Peszek made sure UCLA ended on a high note with a 9.975.
The second rotation for the Arizona Wildcats had 48.675 on vault and was stuck against the Bruins’ lead of the meet.
UCLA moved onto its third rotation, balance beam, and the home crowd awaited to see if Francis could make a comeback after falling for the first time in a meet last week against Oregon State. Both Gerber and senior Ellette Craddock carried the team into a solid spot earning a pair of 9.800s. A clean routine by junior Sophina DeJesus evoked a big applause on the beam, and received an extra 9.825. Francis did not disappoint this time with her signature side aerial to full-twisting layout combination, helping the team with a 9.925. Lee mounted onto the beam with her signature move – Homma Flairs – and redeemed herself from the fall that she took in uneven bars with a 9.850. To add to the team’s lead, Peszek scored 9.950.
The floor exercise for the Arizona Wildcats was their fun ground as they incorporated a rhythmic and energetic routine and received a total of 49.100, few points above the Bruin’s total score of 48.675 in the same apparatus.
Arizona was unable to carry over the momentum from the floor exercise as its first gymnast in the beam rotation, Shay Fox, fell off the beam multiple times and received a 8.175. There was another fall by Kennady Schneider, who earned a 9.250. However, the Wildcats did regain their composure and finished the event with a total score of 48.475.
The Bruins started with sophomore Jennifer Pinches, as she contributed a 9.775. Meraz came out to redeem herself from the fall in the second rotation, and performed an energetic number and added a 9.825 to the team’s lead. The highlight of the event was Francis’s 9.925. Francis’s exciting and dramatic routine made the audience members stand on their feet. Gerber carried on the excitement from Francis’s routine and performed a graceful and dramatic combination, earning her a career-best of 9.825. However the ending was incomplete with freshman Napualani Hall and sophomore Angi Cipra’s shaky landings on both of their last jump combinations, receiving 9.275 and 9.325, respectively.
“It does get a lot of getting used to the home crowd. We had a lot of people who haven’t competed at home before,” Francis said. “I definitely see the potential.”
Peszek won three out of the four apparatuses: vault, beam and bars while Francis won floor. Even though the Bruins managed to sweep the individual awards, coach Valorie Kondos Field still felt like there was something missing.
“We are not a 195, 196 team,” she said. “We are a 197 team.”