Tuesday, February 25

UCLA gymnasts to avenge only loss of season against Stanford

Junior Brittani McCullough performs her floor routine against Arizona State on Jan. 31. McCullough and the Bruins host Stanford Sunday. Amy Ta

The last time Stanford and UCLA faced off on the blue gymnastics mats this season, the Cardinal emerged victorious, defeating the Bruins by about half a point in Palo Alto. In this Sunday’s rematch, the UCLA gymnastics team seeks revenge against its Pac-10 nemesis, hoping to flip, twist, jump and swing its way to a win in front of a supportive Pauley Pavilion crowd.

The No. 5 Bruins’ only loss so far this season has come against No. 8 Stanford (6-2, 3-1 Pac-10). The defeat dropped UCLA (6-1, 4-1) from its No. 1 ranking. Since the loss, the Bruins have won their past two meets with scores greater than 196. The Cardinal is coming off a victory at home in last Friday’s four-way competition against Washington, San Jose State and Sacramento State after suffering a close road loss against No. 7 Oregon State the previous week.

“We really feel that they are our Pac-10 rivals and our West Coast rivals,” coach Valorie Kondos Field said of the Stanford gymnasts. “They always compete well against us, and we usually compete well against them. We’re really excited to have them here after losing to them two weeks ago.”

The Cardinal is led by All-American senior Carly Janiga and stand-out freshman Ashley Morgan, the current Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week. Janiga and Morgan are ranked No. 11 and No. 3, respectively, in the national all-around standings. UCLA has three gymnasts in the top 25 of the individual all-around: sophomore Vanessa Zamarripa at No. 4, followed by senior Anna Li at No. 6 and sophomore Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs at No. 7.

Hopfner-Hibbs, who was able to perform only on beam against Stanford because of an injury, said she is especially excited to compete in Sunday’s rematch.

“I’m really happy to be back on all the events now except bars,” she said. “When I did beam at Stanford, it wasn’t my best beam routine, so I have been working really hard on my mental game for that event, and I think that it has improved.”

Redshirt junior Brittani McCullough may debut her new vault in Sunday’s match, a one and a half twisting Yurchenko. Kondos Field said she believes that the new vault’s landing will put less stress on McCullough’s problematic ankles. McCullough could also compete on balance beam for the first time this season, and Lichelle Wong will give her second exhibition performance on the apparatus.

UCLA is hoping to boost up its newly determined regional qualifying score with a win against Stanford. Kondos Field believes that the Bruins’ current score of 195.905 is substandard for the team.

“The plan was that even if we knew we were going to get a low score against Cal, but we were going to use the competition against Stanford to get a nice high score and keep our ranking and RQS high,” she said. “(The loss against Stanford) messed up the whole plan. We’ll be fine, but are we satisfied? No. We’ll never be satisfied because we can always get better.”

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