Coach Valorie Kondos Field was sick for the home opener, but the Bruins were still able to dominate the Buckeyes in their season opener.
“We reminded them all about how we should do this for Val, and what Val loves more than anything is when people put themselves out there as big and as beautiful as they can and that inspires everyone around them,” said associate head coach Chris Waller. “I think Val would be proud of the team on many levels.”
No. 6 UCLA (1-0) took down No. 22 Ohio State (0-1) by a score of 196.250-193.200 in the Bruins’ season opener on Saturday.
Although UCLA was able to win the meet by a considerable margin, redshirt senior Peng-Peng Lee said she thinks the Bruins have a lot of room to improve throughout the season.
“After our meet we huddled and talked about it as a team and we said that was definitely not exactly what we wanted as our opener, and we know we’re capable of so much more,” Lee said. “We have a really young team, and it’s good they got their feet wet and got that experience that they needed for a first meet.”
The team started on vault, where two athletes fell on their landing.
“Vault was surprising because they’ve been very consistent in practice, they’ve warmed up well,” Waller said. “We hit the emotional reset button before bars.”
Ohio State outperformed UCLA 48.750 to 48.500 in the vault, but the Bruins would go on to best the Buckeyes in the remaining three events.
Freshman Pauline Tratz led the Bruins in the opening event, posting a meet-high 9.85 on vault with a Yurkchenko full. Tratz competed on vault and floor in her NCAA debut, while fellow freshman Nia Dennis competed on all four events.
“They’ve been training really strong from the beginning,” said sophomore Kyla Ross. “I think they’ve really embraced the team aspect and I think we’re going to have a really great season with them this season.”
Lee posted the highest score of the meet in the uneven bars with a 9.975 and on the balance beam with a 9.925.
The Bruins posted team scores of above 49 in bars, balance beam and floor, including a 49.425 on floor, in which two athletes posted scores of 9.90 and three scored 9.875.
“We got more comfortable as a team as we progressed through the events,” Ross said. “The first meet in Pauley with all the fans and the first meet for all the freshmen … it is really an eye-opener, and I think it’s something that takes time – practice can’t really simulate that.”
Ross led the Bruins in the all-around, winning the meet title and recording three 9.9s along the way. Waller noted the significance of her success on floor exercise.
“Kyla, who’s struggled to do floor and really make a strong last pass, crushed floor, and she worked her butt off to make that happen,” Waller said.
Another floor standout was sophomore Gracie Kramer.
“She’s been hitting floor routines for a year and a half in practice, but just about every time that she has to go under pressure … she folded,” Waller said. “So the fact that she had that stumble on vault, and then on floor she was the first off, lead off, and for the first time ever you could see her fighting the demons in her head. … She made that routine because she decided to make all the right decisions at the right time.”