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Motivated after narrow loss to Utes, gymnastics aims to flip the score against Beavers

Junior Nia Dennis scored a career-high 9.975 on floor exercise during No. 3 UCLA gymnastic’s meet last Sunday versus No. 4 Utah. The Bruins have worked to use the loss as motivation for their meet at No. 18 Oregon State on Saturday. (Tanmay Shankar/Assistant Photo editor)


No. 18 Oregon State
Saturday, 1 p.m.

Corvallis, Oregon
Pac-12 Networks

By Riley Segal

Feb. 28, 2020 1:29 a.m.

Junior Nia Dennis said the Bruins, following a loss to their conference rival, did not let their disappointment linger as they prepared for their next meet.

“It’s more motivating than it is hurtful,” Dennis said. “We use (the Utah meet) as motivation because we know we still have room for improvement. Even though we made mistakes, we still came out with a 198 and we know what we’re capable of, so I feel like we’re all really motivated to keep thriving and hitting all of our routines.”

No. 3 UCLA gymnastics (5-2, 3-2 Pac-12) will fly to Corvallis where it will see No. 18 Oregon State (2-2, 2-2) on Saturday. The trip will be the Bruins’ final road meet of the regular season.

UCLA put up a season-high score of 198.025 in its narrow loss to No. 4 Utah, which posted a 198.075. Despite losing, the meet was dotted with multiple breakout performances, including senior Grace Glenn’s leadoff 10 on balance beam, the first in NCAA history. Other gymnasts also recorded career-high routines, with junior Savannah Kooyman and freshman Kalyany Steele setting career-bests on bars.

“So many individuals flourished this weekend,” said redshirt senior Nicki Shapiro. “There (were) a lot of breakout routines where the pressure put on, like after Felicia (Hano) fell on bars, two newer girls in the lineup – (Kooyman and Steele) – went out and hit. That was really impactful for the whole confidence of the team.”

Coach Chris Waller said the Bruins came off the meet against the Utes with energy that carried over into practice this week in preparation for the meet against the Beavers.

“When you go against your rival there’s plenty of emotion and energy that you sink into, so they dipped a little bit,” Waller said. “Yesterday and today, and today especially, were really good (training) days. We rebounded really well and today was a gigantic, successful workout in a lot of ways.”

UCLA and Oregon State have come away with similar outcomes against Pac-12 opponents Stanford and Arizona. Both programs were unable to best the Utes. Oregon State posted its highest score of 196.825 against Stanford on Feb. 2.

UCLA outranks Oregon State in all team events except for beam. In that event, the Beavers will enter Saturday’s contest ranked No. 9, while the Bruins sit two places behind at No. 11. However, Oregon State is not in the top 10 for any other event while UCLA is No. 1 in floor, No. 2 on uneven bars and No. 4 on vault.

Dennis said the Bruins want to continue to spread their success on floor to the other events.

“We’ve been working really hard on bringing that floor party to every event, because when we’re on floor it’s like nothing can stop us and we’re in a whole other world,” Dennis said. “We’ve been working really hard on that this week too, so I’m hoping we can carry that from last weekend.”

No athlete for Oregon State is individually ranked within the top 10, except Kaitlyn Yanish, who sits at a four-way tie for No. 10 on floor. UCLA has four total gymnasts ranked top-10 in an event, with senior Kyla Ross ranked in every event.

Though the Bruins will not be on their home floor, Shapiro said she is looking forward to the team bonding that travel meets bring.

“I just like spending more time bonding and being in a different setting,” Shapiro said. “We get to go to the hotel together, get to have breakfast together. We don’t (usually) get to have breakfast together because we train in the morning.”

UCLA will face Oregon State at 1 p.m.

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