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Gymnastics undaunted by Saturday meet despite 2-year losing streak to unbeaten Utah

Junior Felicia Hano notched a 9.900 on vault, a 9.875 on the uneven bars and a season-high 9.950 on floor exercise for UCLA gymnastics against Arizona on Saturday. (MacKenzie Coffman/Assistant Photo editor)

By Riley Segal

February 22, 2019 12:57 am

The Bruins have not beaten the Utes in a dual meet since 2016.

But coach Valorie Kondos Field said the team is unfazed.

“We honestly are just having such a great time,” Kondos Field said. “I don’t even think we know who we’re competing against next.”

No. 2 UCLA gymnastics (6-0, 5-0 Pac-12) will square off against No. 4 Utah (7-0, 5-0) in Salt Lake City on Saturday. This meet comes after UCLA reached Kondos Field’s goal of breaking the 198 threshold, defeating Arizona (1-5, 1-4) 198.025-194.975 on Saturday.

“This season we’re focused on beating ourselves, continually improving and working on the little details that are gonna push us over the 198 mark every time,” said junior Felicia Hano. “I don’t think the fact that we’re going up against Utah is going to change our mindset.”

Kondos Field also attributes this success to strong leadership from the upperclassmen. Their love of winning and of the team, she said, are key differences in comparison to the last two years.

“We’ve got really, really seasoned upperclassmen that are totally bought into the culture of this program,” Kondos Field said. “If the coaches didn’t show up one day for a practice or a meet, I think that everything would run just as smoothly.”

Despite the success and the win over the Wildcats, the Bruins stumbled in their performance on balance beam. Of all the athletes in the lineup, only junior Kyla Ross broke 9.900 with a 9.925, leading to UCLA’s lowest beam score of the season.

This uncharacteristic showing led to a focus on beam during practice this week.

“A lot of the girls actually restructured their routines a little bit,” Ross said. “Some girls are fixing their dismounts or changing their leap combo to make sure we can get all the 10s we can (or) just to try to improve our beam overall score.”

Utah will be the highest-ranked opponent UCLA has faced so far this year. Though the Utes have yet to reach the 198 mark, they are the only other undefeated team in the Pac-12.

However, the Bruins don’t feel any added pressure.

“If we go in and play our own game, we should come out having won the meet,” Kondos Field said. “We hit 198 doing poorly on balance beam, (so) it’s like, we’re a great team, they just need to play to win versus playing not to make mistakes.”

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Riley Segal | Sports reporter
Segal is currently a reporter on the gymnastics beat. She was previously a contributor on the women's volleyball beat.
Segal is currently a reporter on the gymnastics beat. She was previously a contributor on the women's volleyball beat.
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