Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
No. 14 Gymnastics Ready for Showdown with No. 10 Stanford
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: February 15, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Arizona Gymnastics Meet Notes ?- Stanford (2/17/06)


What’s on Tap: The No. 14 Arizona women’s gymnastics team (3-7) will travel to Palo Alto, Calif., to take on the No. 10 Stanford Cardinal (8-2) on Friday, Feb. 17. The Pac-10 Conference dual-meet is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. (PST) in Burnham Pavilion.


The Rankings: The Wildcats remained at No. 14 in the nation this week following their third-consecutive Pac-10 victory and fourth-straight team total of 195.0 or better. The Wildcats have competed in six meets, meeting the standards to achieve a Regional Qualifying Score. Arizona, which has a season average 0f 194.837, has an RQS of 194.630. As a team, the Wildcats rank in the Top 20 in all four individual events, including No. 10 in the floor exercise, No. 18 on the beam, No. 4 on the uneven bars and No. 20 on the vault. Individually, Aubrey Taylor is ranked No. 10 on the bars with an average of 9.867. The Wildcats began the year ranked No. 17 in the preseason coaches’ poll, and were ranked as high as No. 10 for the week of Jan. 30. Arizona has been ranked in 65 of the last 66 polls, including 18 straight.


About the Rankings: Unlike other collegiate athletic rankings, collegiate gymnastic rankings are not based on wins and losses or votes. Gymnastic teams are ranked by their meet scores alone.  Teams are ranked by their highest score from Jan. 9-15.  From Jan. 16-Feb. 16, teams will be ranked by their total season average.  Starting Feb. 20, teams and gymnasts will be ranked by a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS).  An RQS is based on a team's top six regular-season scores, with three scores coming from away meets. To obtain the RQS, the team's or gymnast’s highest score is dropped and the remaining five scores are averaged. 


Arizona Head Coach: Bill Ryden is in his eighth season at the helm of the Arizona gymnastics program, owning a school and career record of 96-110-3. Ryden made his head coaching debut at Arizona in 1998 and made his first appearance as a head coach at the NCAA Championships in 2002, the program’s first appearance since 1996.  In 2002, Ryden earned Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year honors as well as South Central Regional Coach of the Year honors, becoming the first head coach in Arizona history to have earned Regional Coach of the Year honors. Additionally, Ryden has coached in 15 Pac-10 Championships, 12 NCAA Championships and 15 NCAA Regional meets. Ryden has also trained 12 All-Americans and 18 All-Pac-10 gymnasts in his tenure at Arizona.


Scouting the Cardinal: Stanford enters the week ranked No. 10 in the county following back-to-back Pac-10 victories over California and Arizona State. In doing so, the Cardinal bested its season-high team totals each of the last two weeks, including last week’s impressive 196.325 in Tempe against the Sun Devils. The Cardinal is led by one of the nation’s top all-around gymnasts, Tabitha Yim. The 5-2 sophomore is ranked No. 4 in the nation as an all-arounder, with an average of 39.425. Additionally, she ranks No. 4 on the floor, No. 6 on the beam and No. 12 on the bars. Classmate Liz Tricase, who competed as an all-arounder at times last year despite injuries, has been one of the top three-event competitors in the nation as well. The 5-0 sophomore ranks No. 6 on bars and No. 12 on vault. The lone senior for the Cardinal is Natalie Foley, who competes as a regular all-arounder. The eight-time All-American recorded a 39.125 to help the Stanford to its victory a week ago. The Cardinal is coached by Kristen Smyth, who is in her fourth year at the school.


Familiar Faces: This week’s matchup will mark the second time the Wildcats and Cardinal have met. The teams squared off earlier this year at the Cancun Gymnastics Classic on Jan. 6. In that meet, the Cardinal outscored Arizona 194.850-192.925. Victories by Glyn Sweets on the vault (9.925), Liz Tricase on bars (9.875) and Natalie Foley on beam (9.775) helped Stanford to its second-place finish. For the Wildcats, Aubrey Taylor (38.575) and Danielle Hicks (38.525) placed eighth and ninth, respectively, in the all-around.


Terrific Trio: Through the first six meets of the year, 72 of Arizona’s 144 (50 percent) routines have been performed by three gymnasts: Karin Wurm, Aubrey Taylor and Danielle Hicks. Together, the trio has brought consistent scoring and experience to Arizona’s lineup. In fact, nearly 60 percent of the Wildcats’ points earned this season have come from the three all-arounders. As a team, Arizona has scored 1,168.025 points, while Wurm, Taylor and Hicks have combined for 698.55, or 59.8 percent. Additionally, each has captured an all-around title and posted a 39.0 or better at least twice. Taylor has broken the 39.0 mark three straight weeks, while Hicks has done so in each of the last two meets.


On the Road Again: Arizona will be on the road again this week for the second consecutive week, and the fifth this season. After this week, Arizona will only have one more regular season trip away from to Tucson, to Denton Texas for a tri-meet at Texas Women’s University. To start the season, the Wildcats opened with three straight away meets. The road swing was the longest of its kind since 2001. Arizona has posted an 1-7 record away from home this season, although the team has improved its scoring in each road meet (Jan. 6: 192.925, Jan. 14: 194.350, Jan. 22: 195.150, Feb 10: 195.400).


Target 196: In the early part of the season, the 195-mark was a good measuring stick as to how a team was developing. The Wildcats have reached that benchmark in each of the last four meets. Now, Arizona will look to break the 196-mark. The last time the Wildcats scored a 196 or better was on Senior Night last year when the team earned a total of 196.375, while picking up victories over Cal-State Fullerton, Texas Women’s and Ball State. Additionally, Arizona’s season-high score of 195.875 is the highest the team has scored since the Pac-10 Championships last year, when the club captured second-place with a 195.925.


Leader of the Pac: As a team, Arizona leads the Pac-10 in scoring average in two events. Paced by two scores of 49.0 or better this season, the Wildcats’ bars team is tops in the conference with an average of 48.983. The club also ranks first on the floor, with an average of 48.867. Additionally, Arizona is ranked No. 4 in the conference on the vault (48.679) and No. 5 on beam (48.308).


Steady Improvement: The Wildcats got off to a shaky start on the beam this season, but have since found some consistency in their young lineup. After posting a season-low 47.350 in the second meet of the year at Penn State, Arizona has since improved its team score on beam in four of the last five meets. The most significant improvement came as the Wildcats rebounded from the season-low to score a 48.675 the following week, an improvement of 1.325 points. Arizona then bested its score again the following week against California, earning a 48.725, an improvement of 0.050 points. Two weeks ago, the squad again showed marked improvement, tallying a 48.850, for an improvement of 0.125 points. Last week, Arizona scored a 48.825, just 0.025 below its mark set the week before.


She’s Back: Named Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week three weeks ago, Aubrey Taylor has re-emerged as an all-arounder this season, returning to the vault lineup, the one event she didn’t compete in a year ago. Over the last four meets, Taylor has broken the 39.0 mark and earned a then-season-high 39.175 in the Wildcats’ victory over Cal, which earned her the weekly honor. Last week, she broke her season-best mark in the Wildcats victory at Oregon State, totaling a 39.250. The two scores have each captured her all-around titles, the first two of her career. Her score last weekend was the highest total she has recorded since setting her career-high of 39.350 on Feb. 20, 2004. She has also claimed three bars titles this season, as she posted 9.900 scores against Arizona State, California and Oregon State, and is ranked No. 10 nationally in the event.


Back to Form: Despite being a freshman a year ago, Danielle Hicks became one of the Wildcats’ most consistent performers at the end of last season, competing as an all-around in the final six meets of the season and capturing two titles. Hicks got off to a bit of a slow start this year, however, seeing both Karin Wurm and Aubrey Taylor earn more consistent all-around totals early in the year. That changed three weeks ago when Hicks scored a 39.150 and placed second in the all-around, a total much more reminiscent of the scores she earned as a freshman. She bested that total two weeks ago and claimed her first all-around title of 2006 with a score of 39.175 against Washington.


Star in the Making: Freshman Alexis Greene has wasted no time in making a significant impact in the Wildcat lineup this season. The 5-5 native of Severn, Md., has competed in three events in five of six meets to begin the season and has won three floor titles. In all, Greene as recorded 10 Top 5 finishes in meets this year (three on vault, four on bars and three floor titles).


Beamer on Beam: Freshman Briana Bergeson, known better by her teammates as ?'Beamer,’ has quickly become the Wildcats’ top scorer the last four weeks on the balance beam. In three consecutive meets, she bested her career-high and has placed no lower than second in those meets. At Arizona State, she earned a 9.800 to claim second. Against California she claimed the individual title with a 9.850. Two weeks ago against Washington, she set a season team-high 9.900 on the beam to claim her second-consecutive beam title. Last week at Oregon State, she earned a third-place finish with a score of 9.825.


Workman-like Vaulter: Freshman Bree Workman has become one of the Wildcats’ top vaulters this season. She ranks second on the team behind classmate Alexis Greene with an average of 9.729 this season. Against California three weeks ago, she earned a 9.825, good enough to claim her first-ever vault title. The 5-5 native of Lansing, Mich., set her career-high (9.850) at Penn State earlier in the year.


Instant Impact: The Wildcats have called upon five freshmen to play integral roles this season. Alexis Greene has been a regular in three events and has won three floor titles. Briana Bergeson holds a team-best 9.900 on beam and has won two titles in the event. Three weeks ago, Bree Workman claimed her first-career vault title. Sarah Parsons, who has a season-high 9.825 on bars, joins Bergeson and Greene as regulars in the bars rotation. Against Washington, filling in for Greene, Suzanne Alvey made her Wildcat debut and scored a 9.675 on vault. In all, seven of the team’s 24 routines have been performed by freshmen in each meet this season.


Fresh Faces: Arizona’s beam lineup is made up of four gymnasts who made their collegiate debuts in the event to begin the year. While the team got off to a slow start on the beam in the first two meets (47.425 and 47.350), the club has responded the last four weeks with scores of 48.675 at Arizona State, 48.725 against California, 48.850 against Washington and 48.825 against at Oregon State.


Facing the Best: Arizona always competes against some of the top programs in the nation year in and year out, and this season is no different. The Wildcats will face 12 of the nation’s Top 25 teams tabbed in the preseason coaches poll throughout the season, 11 of which are currently ranked. Arizona has already faced No. 1 Georgia, No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 10 Stanford, No. 12 Arizona State, No. 15 Penn State., No. 16 Denver and No. 19 Oregon State. The Wildcats still have meets which include No. 5 Florida, No. 9 UCLA and No. 25 BYU. Arizona is 1-7 against ranked teams this season, and 2-0 against unranked opponents.


Stacked Pac: Once again, the Pac-10 will be one of the toughest conferences in the country. Five teams are ranked after the first five weeks of competition. UCLA  leads the way at No. 9, followed by No. 10 Stanford, No. 12 Arizona State, No. 14 Arizona and No. 19 Oregon State. The same five teams plus Washington had been ranked in the first two polls of the season. California is the lone team that has yet to be ranked this season.


The Lone Senior: When a team graduates six seniors in one class, it usually means that the following year they will rely on a number of underclassmen. That certainly is the case this year for the Wildcats, but don’t tell that to senior Erin Muirhead. Muirhead, the team captain, looks to provide veteran leadership as she returns for her final season as a Wildcat. Coming off of a foot injury that cut short her season last year, Muirhead earned marks of 9.600 on beam and 9.675 on floor in Cancun. Her appearance on beam was the first of her career. The South River, N.J., native claimed a share of her first floor title against California, posting a score of 9.825. She also set a new career-high on beam last week with a 9.750 against Oregon State.


Junior Duo: The Wildcats have also turned to the leadership of a pair of juniors, Aubrey Taylor and Jamie Holton. Taylor has emerged as an all-arounder for the first time since 2004, scored a season-best 39.250 last week against Oregon State and was named Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week earlier this year. She has now scored a 39.0 or better in four straight meets. Holton has also had two of her best meets the last few weeks, scoring a career-high 9.700 in only her third beam competition, and adding a 9.725 on the floor at Arizona State. Last week, the 5-5 junior set a new career-high on beam with a 9.725, and matched her season-high on floor with a 9.775.


Super Soph’s: Danielle Hicks, Karin Wurm and Rachelle Silberg all played vital roles on the Wildcat squad as freshmen. Now as sophomores, each are playing a prominent role in the Arizona lineups. Hicks has made 11-straight all-around appearances dating back to last season, while Wurm made her debut as an all-arounder this year. Silberg again has remained a mainstay in the club’s vault lineup, and won her first vault title last week with a 9.775.


Destination Corvallis: If all goes well, last week’s trip to Corvallis, Ore., could end up being the first of three to the Beaver State this year. The Wildcats picked up a regular-season Pac-10 conference victory with their team score of 195.400. The next trip will be on March 25 for the Pac-10 Championships, and Arizona could make a return trip if the team advances to the NCAA Championships on April 20-22.


Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week: Junior Aubrey Taylor was named the Pac-10 Conference Gymnast of the Week for the week of Jan. 24-30. The 5-2 native of Burlington, Ontario captured the first all-around title of her career last week while matching or setting a new season-high in every event, and earned her highest all-around score, 39.175, since Feb. 20, 2004. Taylor turned in a near-flawless routine on the uneven parallel bars, again tying her career-best mark of 9.900 to claim her second title in as many weeks. She also placed third on the balance beam, scoring a 9.750, and tallied a 9.800 on the floor to take fourth-place individually behind a trio of Wildcats that shared the individual title. Taylor also added her best score of the season, a 9.725, on vault.


A Look Back: The No. 14 Arizona women’s gymnastics team used strong performances early and late to outlast the No. 19 Oregon State Beavers, 195.400-194.925, last Friday night in Gill Coliseum before 3,537 fans.


The Wildcats, who last won in Corvallis in 1997, were able to pull out the victory despite having to overcome strong second and third rotations from the host Beavers, who set new team season-highs on both the bars and beam. Wildcat gymnasts won individual titles in three of the four events, while junior Aubrey Taylor captured her second all-around title in three weeks.


The Wildcats opened the meet on the uneven parallel bars and recorded a team score of 48.975, to take an early lead on the Beavers who scored a 48.100 on the vault. Taylor led the Arizona bars team, which ranks No. 4 in the nation in the event, as she matched her season and career-high with a 9.900 to earn a share of her second bars title of the season. Karin Wurm added a 9.825 to share third place in the event, while Alexis Greene tallied a 9.800 to share fifth place. Danielle Hicks and Briana Bergeson chipped in marks of 9.775 and 9.675, respectively.


For the second rotation, the Wildcats moved to the vault and notched a team score of 48.625. OSU, however, made up ground on the bars, posting a season-high team score of 49.025, paced by Jami Lanz who tied Taylor for the individual title.


On the vault, Arizona was led by sophomores Rachelle Silberg and Wurm, who shared the individual title as each received 9.775 marks. Greene and Hicks shared fifth place following their scores of 9.725, while Bree Workman and Taylor each chipped in a 9.625 to tie for eighth place.


Leading 97.600-97.125 heading to the third rotation, the Wildcats moved to the floor exercise and scored a 48.975. On the beam, the Beavers chipped away at the lead, scoring a season-high 49.075. For the Wildcats, Taylor and Wurm closed out the rotation in style, each earning a 9.875 from the judges to share the individual title. Jamie Holton matched her season-high for the third straight-week, tallying a 9.775. Hicks and Greene added scores of 9.750 and 9.700, respectively.


Holding onto 146.575-146.200 lead, Arizona would not back down as it headed to beam, the one event that plagued the team early in the season. Erin Muirhead and Holton started the scoring off, each setting new career-high’s with scores of 9.675 and 9.775, respectively. Wurm then added a solid 9.675, before Taylor turned in a season-best mark of 9.850, which earned her a second-place finish. Bergeson then followed with a third-place score of 9.825. All counted, the Wildcats scored a 48.825, their second highest team score on beam this season.


For the fourth-consecutive meet, two Wildcats scored a 39.0 or better in the all-around. With her 39.250, Taylor won the second all-around title of her career, and posted her highest total since Feb. 20, 2004. Wurm, who scored a 39.150 to place third, tallied her highest total since winning her first career all-around at Arizona State on Jan. 22. Hicks, who won the all-around the week prior, finished fourth with a 38.925.


The win marked the first time since 1997 that Arizona has defeated OSU in Corvallis when the Wildcats placed third out of six teams at the Shanico Invitational, one spot ahead of the Beavers. Previously, the Wildcats had fallen to the Beavers in 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1998.


Only three current gymnasts ?- Muirhead, Taylor and Holton ?- had previously competed at OSU.


Future Cats: Last November, Head Coach Bill Ryden announced the signing of three student-athletes who inked their names to National Letters of Intent to come to Arizona for the 2006-07 academic year. The future Wildcats are Brittney Morgan of Charlottesville, Va., Miranda Russell of Oshkosh, Wisc., and Jamie Custer of La Grange Park, Ill.


Looking ahead: The Wildcats will return home for the first of three consecutive meets in McKale Center on Friday, Feb. 24, as the defending Pac-10 champion UCLA Bruins visit Tucson.
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