After two meets, No. 5 UCLA gymnastics looked like it was off to a slow start.
On the uneven bars and balance beam, the Bruins were solid, although they did give away points on their handstands and landings.
On floor exercise and vault, however, the team was plagued with miscues, especially during floor exercise. UCLA had to count scores of 9.4 or lower against Arkansas and Oklahoma.
According to freshman Madison Kocian, the Bruins’ issues were symptoms of a larger concern – uncertainty with a little rustiness mixed in.
“I think during the first two meets, we were second guessing ourselves,” Kocian said. “It was the beginning of the season, we weren’t sure – not used to competing for a while.”
After their bye in the third week of the season, the tide turned.
The routines were clean and the attention to catching the crucial details started to show up, and the 197-plus scores against Oregon State and Arizona State were proof.
Coach Valorie Kondos Field believes the tenseness inherent in the team’s first two meets gave way to charged, enjoyable gymnastics.
“They’re understanding that the only reason why we work so hard and do all this is to go out to compete hard and have fun,” Kondos Field said. “Our team has notoriously done better the more fun we have.”
UCLA’s showings on floor during the last two meets are a strong indicator that the outlook has improved. Scores of 49.2 against No. 11 Oregon State and 49.3 against Arizona State are a step up from 48.475 against No. 23 Arkansas and 48.95 against No. 1 Oklahoma.
The floor routines were both clean in their execution, and team members on the side cheered and danced with the performing gymnasts, crowding around each other after they were done.
The Bruins carried their excitement with them to the other events.
“The energy was just so connected,” said senior Angi Cipra. “We were just having so much fun out there and we kept building the fun and carrying the fun to each event.”
With a second half of the season that includes a road trip to face No. 4 Utah and long home stretch ahead, Kondos Field believes the way forward involves finding the proper balance between hard work and fostering an enjoyable team atmosphere.
“I never have to worry about them getting serious and focused,” Kondos Field said. “I have to worry about them getting too serious and too focused.”