The outcome of UCLA gymnastics’ meet against Utah was decided early as the Bruins suffered multiple mistakes against one of the nation’s best teams.
When the No. 8 UCLA gymnastics team stepped into Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center to compete against No. 4 Utah, the Bruins were hoping to beat the Utes squad that they faced five times last year but only defeated once. Instead, UCLA began the meet with several falls in its first rotation, eventually losing to Utah 196.725 to 194.725.
As two of the first three UCLA gymnasts suffered falls in the first rotation of uneven bars, the Bruins faced the pressure of closing the gap between its low event score of 48.100 against Utah’s 49.450 – the Utes’ best vault score of the season. While everything seemed to take off for the Utes on the vault, the Bruins struggled to find their rhythm.
“We were playing catch-up,” said junior Danusia Francis.
Although UCLA picked up its pace in its second rotation, its vault score could not reach Utah’s 49.450, stopping short at 49.275. The Bruins suffered from little mistakes, such as issues with clean landings, which have become a lingering problem for UCLA this year.
Things started to improve in the third rotation, as UCLA scored its season best in the floor exercise. The routines drew applause from even the Utes’ fans.
But in the last rotation, little mistakes came to the forefront for the Bruins once again. The UCLA gymnasts took to the balance beam with multiple balance checks, connection issues and even a fall from redshirt sophomore Christine Peng-Peng Lee. Even with standout performances on the preceding vault and floor exercises, the Bruins were unable to overcome their mistake-ridden performances on the uneven bars and the balance beam.
“You gotta play four quarters,” said coach Valorie Kondos Field.
By the time the first rotation was finished, the Bruins had already fallen into a hole that they could not climb out of.
A highlight of the meet, in the middle of the Bruins’ struggle to catch up to the Utes’ score, was the rivalry between Utah’s senior Georgia Dabritz and UCLA’s redshirt senior Samantha Peszek, who are ranked first and second in all-around, respectively.
Although the veteran Peszek performed solid routines in all the events and contributed double 9.900s and even a 9.950, the Bruins – as a team – failed to land clean combinations, all adding up to a huge two-point lead in the total score.
While Peszek won the all-around against her rival Dabritz, with a total of 39.625 to 39.575, the team lost, and the Bruins said that the loss was a learning experience for the team.
“It was good slap in the face,” Francis said.
Francis said that Friday’s loss might also have been due to some of the UCLA gymnasts’ lack of experience competing in front of a huge crowd, and thus many Bruins were lacking confidence.
“(The team needs) more confidence,” Peszek said. “We have (to go) out there knowing instead of wondering.”