Follow here after the jump throughout the day for scoring updates on the Saturday meets.
But first, a few thoughts about yesterday, particularly the performances of Florida and UCLA. It was a very 2011 day for these two teams, with Florida recording a tremendous score and knocking on the door of 198, and UCLA having a truly spectacular combustion for a devastating 194.600.
The UCLA performance was disappointingly predictable the moment we heard that Val would be putting some of the “depth” into the lineup for this meet. Now, I use depth in quotes because based on the way these second-string gymnasts performed, they cannot be relied upon to be depth for this team. This has become the classic UCLA conundrum, but one that we have seen them solve in the past. If we get a press conference about this meet, I expect Val to give us a variation on the usual, “I’m not upset about the obvious things. I’m not upset about the falls. I’m upset because we didn’t warm up well and competed tight.” This time, there is some truth to the assessment that the falls aren’t as relevant, but it’s because most of the major mistakes came from gymnasts who won’t find themselves in the lineup again for a while. The much more troubling aspect of UCLA’s performance was the parade of 9.7s from top performers and the inability of the team to get the meet back on track after poor performances – to “hit refresh” as the team is fond of saying all the time. Which begs the question, if you say something enough, does it lose all meaning? They certainly didn’t hit refresh yesterday.
However, this meet was nothing new for UCLA because of the traditional commitment to try out different lineups throughout the season. Val made specific mention that they needed to get Frattone and Baer into the beam lineup this week so they could get competitive routines under their belts. No one is expecting either to compete against Stanford next week (unless there is injury, and perhaps Mattie was out of the lineup v. Washington more because of the ankle than because of rest, so we’ll watch that). Let’s contrast that to Florida, where Rhonda Faehn has done a commendable thing in being willing to try new strategies and completely change the training schedule, which certainly seemed to influence the team’s scores in the first few weeks. They finally arrived yesterday with something much closer to what we’re accustomed to seeing from Florida at home in January. While most teams would be celebrating such a humongous score, Florida fans have seen it all before. January 197s don’t win championships.
So here’s the question: have both of these teams fallen into old patterns? I say this because, while Florida has attempted to address the peaking issue, they have not yet adequately addressed the depth issue. While UCLA felt the need to get their backup routines into the lineup and eat a bad score in order to move forward with a stronger team, Florida put the same six gymnasts up on the balance beam (last year’s demon) as they have in every meet. If this continues, how comfortable will Rhonda be making a change in April? She didn’t feel comfortable taking out Mahlich last year.
I hope that we don’t see these patterns continue next week. I hope that UCLA can find a way to be a successful team without being horrible for large stretches of the regular season, and I hope that Florida doesn’t completely rely on yesterday’s lineup for the rest of the year just because it was successful this weekend. Florida needs to be willing to climb down to get up. They need to go into the crevasse.
Kat Ding leads Georgia to 49.325 on the first rotation, but LSU has to count a poor routine on bars for 48.500. They need an immediate recovery on their best event, the vault.
Oh Shayla – a fall on bars. She’s been desperately trying to change the narrative this season. This won’t help. Georgia does manage a 49.325 on the back of Ding once again, so they are on solid 197 pace so far, but with floor still to come. They don’t have Ding to lead them on the next two, and that’s when things get dicey.
Rheagan Courville continues to score well on vault, leading LSU to a 49.300 with her 9.950. They would be right in this if not for the fall on bars. In the last few meets, LSU has seemed a bit too much of a one-rotation team, though, so hitting the next two events will be crucial.
Halfway: Georgia 98.650, LSU 97.800
You know things are gong well for Georgia when Kat Ding hits beam. Strong 9.850s to start for them. Can Shayla come back after bars and hit beam?
Another hit routine from Davis – she’s been consistent for 9.8s today. If they can get her scoring a bit higher on bars, she will really have arrived. If Georgia can conquer floor finally, they’ll have a 197 meet on their hands.
Shayla hits beam for 9.925. Playing it safe with the beam dismount appears to have solved her consistency problems on this event, though it’s still a bit troubling to me that a former elite of her talent level couldn’t handle (or fix problems with) a double full beam dismount. A gainer full does not show off her skill set.
LSU has a good enough floor, anchored by Hall’s 9.9. They go 48.975, counting Courville’s 9.675.
After 3: Georgia 148.000, LSU 146.775
Everyone is hitting in the 9.8s to start the final rotation, which is all Georgia needs. Even just a 49 would be a victory on this event, but it looks as though they will easily exceed that. They are hitting all over the place. Even Nuccio and her rickety body were able to hit for 9.9. I think they were feeling left out of the 197 party – meaning that only Alabama will be yet to get there from the top teams. We’ll watch that next week.
Final: Georgia 197.250, LSU 195.750
Not an amazing score for LSU, but not a disaster either. They’ll be disappointed by the low score on bars, because otherwise it would have been a strong performance. They hit beam and floor for around 49, so they can work from there. Jessie Jordan wins the AA with 39.250.
Georgia joins the 197 club, which is not too surprising, but it’s a big deal for them to get 5 solid floor routines. They can build from this performance in terms of confidence (both in ability to hit routines and in lineup decisions – this is looking close to the right group). Except, they will still want to get Davis into the AA and Cheek back from injury, which should increase their scoring potential somewhat. Earls and Davis do appear to be finding their places on this team – a necessary evolution.
The challenge now, as it is for all the top teams, is figuring out how to bring this level of performance (we can’t necessarily expect the scores) on the road. Next week at Utah will be a big deal for this team.
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Nebraska doesn’t mess around with starting their meets. I like it. Most teams would barely have started introductions by 15 minutes past the hour. Last home meet they went 197.375. Let’s see what today brings.
Good start for Nebraska putting up 49.300 on vault, anchored by Schleppenbach’s 9.900. Giblin, whose 39.500 still has her as the top AAer in the rankings, is not the AA today. Missouri is very 9.7 on bars for a 48.775. Nice to see them in the top 25 this week. They had a poor season last year after the graduation of Sarah Shire in 2010.
Penn State recorded a poor 48.525 on bars, featuring Musser’s surprisingly low 9.675. No one reached the 9.8 mark. They will have to pick up the scoring to stay top 10. Oregon State, just below them in the rankings, scored 196.800 this week.
Missouri goes unexpectedly huge at the end of their vault lineup for 49.250, just .050 short of what home team Nebraska recorded. Nebraska, however, does record a solid bar rotation for 49.125, able to drop the 9.675 from Skinner. No one new in the Nebraska lineup yet, so it looks like they’re sticking with the eight competitive gymnasts from last week. It still makes me nervous…
After 2: Nebraska 98.425, Missouri 98.025
For Penn State, they recovered a bit on vault (well, Merriam and Musser did), but they still unexpectedly trail Minnesota at the halfway point 97.550 to 97.525.
Uh oh, the beam bug bites again for Nebraska. They had been doing so well this year…for two meets. (Although, nice to see Busacker come in. A 9th gymnast!) They’ll be counting at least a 9.300 and a 9.475.
Update with final scores, Nebraska had a horrifying beam rotation (46.950…ACK!) and did their best UCLA impression to finish with 194.550 and lose to Missouri’s 195.725.
The other final: Penn State 195.475, Minnesota 195.150