First meets are good barometers, especially for a team with 10 new freshmen. The collegiate atmosphere proved to be an obstacle.
“We weren’t prepared for the crowd and how amped up everyone was going to be, and I think we didn’t know how to channel that energy to help improve our gymnastics,” said freshman Felicia Hano, who is slated for vault and floor.
The initial overabundance of energy may be behind them, but the challenge only gets tougher. On Sunday, No. 8 UCLA will go toe-to-toe with No. 2 Oklahoma, the defending national champion, on its home turf in Norman, Oklahoma.
The Bruins lacked consistency and clean execution in their routines, edging out a victory over No. 17 Arkansas thanks to a 9.8 from senior Hallie Mossett.
The experience has created a sense of calm within the Bruin camp.
“They know what to expect now. Some of them were a bit too amped up,” said coach Valerie Kondos Field. “They’ve calmed down.”
In the Sooners’ first meet, they bested the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide by just over a full point. UCLA is confident it can perform despite the strong opposition.
“Sunday’s meet is going to be a big one because it’s against one of the top schools,” said sophomore Stella Savvidou. “We’re really excited to go out and show them that we’re not the underdogs.”
The road trip also introduces a different set of obstacles from the Bruins’ opening meet at home.
At the same time, traveling presents an opportunity for the team members to build greater familiarity with one another.
“We have a lot of time in buses and planes and airports studying together,” Savvidou said. “We get to learn how everyone likes to spend their ‘me’ time, as well as what they like to hear before they go and compete.”
While the team may be looking forward to the bonding experience that accompanies a road meet, the preparation this week has been focused on individual needs.
Freshman Kyla Ross reworked her balance beam routine to ensure her start value will not be decreased like it was during the Arkansas meet. Other freshmen, Madison Kocian and Hano, focused on their energy levels.
“Some (of the gymnasts) need to do more to get ready and some need to do less to get healthy,” Kondos Field said.