What’s on Tap: The No. 14 Arizona women’s gymnastics team (0-7) will host its first home meet of the season this Friday as the Calirfornia Golden Bears (2-5) travel to Tucson. The meet is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. in McKale Center.
Watch it Live: ArizonaAthletics.com will provide live statistics and a free live video webcast of the event (video is of Wildcat gymnasts only), and free on-demand video of all four Arizona events after the meet. The four subsequent meets will be available for All-Access subscribers only. For more information, please log onto ArizonaAthletics.com. There will also be a link to live stats provided in this story prior to the meet beginning.
A Look Back: The No. 14 Arizona gymnastics team could not overcome an early deficit to then-No. 17 Arizona State, falling 195.300-195.150 last Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena. The crowd of 1,095 included supporters of two Wildcat gymnasts from the Phoenix-area who saw Arizona earn its highest team score this year.
Needing to make up three-quarters of a point heading into the final rotation, Arizona’s young and inexperienced beam team responded with its season-best score of 48.675, however, it was not enough to overtake the Sun Devils. Briana Bergeson tallied a career-best 9.800 to claim second place in the event. Sophomore Karin Wurm (9.775) and Junior Jamie Holton (9.700) each established new personal-best marks.
Arizona opened the meet on the uneven parallel bars and posted a team score of 48.825. Junior Aubrey Taylor established a new career-high with a 9.900 to share first place honors in the event. Wurm matched her career-best set a week ago of 9.875, while classmate Danielle Hicks earned a 9.750. Competing in front a large gathering of family members and former teammates from Arizona Dynamics gymnastics, Bergeson, a native of Gilbert, Ariz., turned in a 9.725 to open the meet for the Wildcats. Alexis Greene also added a 9.575.
Trailing 49.175-48.825 entering the second rotation, Arizona scored a team total of 48.775 on the vault. Wurm paced the Wildcats with a 9.825, setting a season high while also matching her career-high. Greene earned a 9.755, while fellow freshman Bree Workman scored a 9.750. Hicks chipped in a 9.725, while Taylor earned a 9.700.
The Wildcats moved to the floor for the third rotation, tallying a season-best 48.875. Wurm again led the way for Arizona posting a 9.800, matching teammate Greene for the top floor score overall. Senior Erin Muirhead recorded a 9.775, as did Taylor. Holton, a Phoenix native, turned in a solid 9.725 in front of her hometown fans.
For the third time this season, Wurm, Taylor and Hicks each competed in all four events. Wurm claimed second overall, totaling a 39.250. Taylor scored a season-high 39.075, while Hicks added a 37.800.
Arizona broke the 195-barrier for the first time this season, a feat they didn't accomplish until the sixth meet of the season in 2005, even with a much more experienced squad.
The Rankings: The Wildcats remained No. 14 in the country following their performance at Arizona State last week. As a team, the Wildcats rank in the Top 25 in all four individual events, including No. 7 in the floor exercise, No. 23 on the beam, No. 3 on the uneven bars and No. 17 on the vault. Individually, Aubrey Taylor and Karin Wurm are No. 11 and No. 16 on the bars, respectively. The Wildcats began the year ranked No. 17 in the preseason coaches poll. Arizona has been ranked in 62 of the last 63 polls.
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 93-110-3. 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 also 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 Golden Bears: California enters the week unranked following a home-opening loss to Pac-10 foe Oregon State (193.950-190.750) last week. The Golden Bears opened the season at the Aloha Gymfest in Honolulu, Hawaii, taking fifth place out of six teams, while scoring a 189.350. The team then returned to the state of California to take on Sacramento St., picking up the dual meet victory, 191.625-190.475. The Golden Bears have improved their beam score in each meet this season, setting their season high last week with a 48.075. Junior Justine Cephus's career-high 9.750, senior Britani Pittullo's season-high 9.600 and freshman Lydia Williams' career-high 9.775 last week helped California to its season-high mark. The Golden Bears are coached by Cari DuBois who is in her fourth year at the school.
Throw the Records Out, For Now: While Arizona has yet to pick up a victory this season, it doesn’t mean the Wildcats have performed poorly. All seven Wildcat opponents the team has faced this season are ranked among the top 18 in the nation currently, including five of the top eight teams. Despite a winless record, the Wildcats are still ranked No. 14 following their team score of 195.150 last week at Arizona State. This week, however, the club will be looking to pick up a win as it takes on the first unranked opponent on the schedule thus far. Obviously, you can only fall to so many teams ahead of you in the rankings and still expect to be among the nation’s top teams.
Home-Openers: Under Coach Ryden, Arizona is 10-2 overall in home-openers. The school’s last defeat in a home-opener was back in the 2001 season when the club fell to Utah. When opening the home slate against a Pac-10 opponent, the Wildcats have gone 3-1, losing only to UCLA in 2000. Arizona picked up three victories in its first home meet last year, knocking off Missouri, Michigan State and Illinois-Chicago.
Home at Last: The Wildcats will finally get to host a home meet this week in the friendly confines of McKale Center following a three-week road trip that began in Cancun, Mexico. The road swing was the longest stretch to begin a season away from home since 2001 when the team opened up at N.C. State, at San Jose St., and at California. The Wildcats went a combined 2-7 before returning home that season. Arizona then fell to Utah 196.400-193.925 at home.
Target 195: In the early part of the season, the 195.000 mark is a good measuring stick as to how a team is developing. The Wildcats scored a 195.150 last week against Arizona State, a feat the Wildcats didn’t reach until the sixth meet of the season a year ago despite having a much more experienced team. Arizona is one of 14 teams to have broken the early season barometer. After the first week of the season, only two teams could claim the accomplishment, and after two weeks, only eight teams had reached the feat.
Leader of the Pac: Arizona leads the Pac-10 in scoring average in two events, and ranks among the Top 5 in the other two. Paced by the team’s 49.300 score at Penn State, the Wildcats’ bars team is tops in the conference with an average of 48.925. The club also ranks first on the floor, with an average of 48.742. Additionally, Arizona is ranked No. 4 on the vault (48.625) and No. 5 on beam (47.817)
Three’s A Crowd: Through the first three meets of the year, half of Arizona’s 24 routines have been performed by three gymnasts: Karin Wurm, Aubrey Taylor and Danielle Hicks. Wurm (39.025) made her second collegiate appearance as an all-arounder and captured her first-ever all-around title two weeks ago at Penn State. Aubrey Taylor has also emerged as an all-arounder this year, having not competed on vault a year ago. Hicks, who competed in the all-around six times last year as a freshmen, has remained a mainstay in all four lineups this year. She posted a season-high 38.975 at Penn State.
Sensational Sophomore: Karin Wurm has quickly emerged as Arizona’s most consistent scorer this season. Competing as an all-arounder in all three meets this season, Wurm has seen her all-around total improve each meet. Two weeks ago she broke the 39.000 mark for the first time in her career with a 39.025, and bested that score last week at Arizona State with a second-place total of 39.250. She captured her first all-around title at Penn State, and has placed in the Top 10 six different times in various events the last two weeks. She finished in the Top 3 of each event last week against the Sun Devils, including a first-place title on the floor, which she shared with teammate Alexis Greene.
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 Severm, Md., has competed in three events in all three meets to begin the season. Greene has particularly excelled on the vault and floor. She claimed a share of her first individual title on the floor exercise last week at ASU with a mark of 9.800. She also scored 9.775 on the vault in Tempe, the second best mark on the team. The week prior, Greene earned a second-place finish on vault with a personal-best 9.875 on the vault. Her highest bars finish was in her first collegiate meet in Cancun, when she recorded an 11th-place finish with a 9.750.
Instant Impact: The Wildcats have called upon four freshmen to play key roles in various lineups only three meets into the season. In fact, the freshmen’s most significant contributions have come on one of the team’s highest scoring events, the bars. Briana Bergeson, (9.750), Alexis Greene (9.850) and Sarah Parsons (9.825) all gave tremendous routines on the bars to close out the meet at Penn State on Jan. 14 and help the Wildcats post their highest score in the event (49.300) since 2004. In all, seven of the team’s 24 routines have been performed by freshmen in each meet this season.
Beamer on Beam: Freshman Briana Bergeson, known better by her teammates as ?'Beamer’, turned in her best collegiate effort on the beam last week against Arizona State. Performing in front of a large cheering section of family members and former Arizona Dynamics teammates, Bergeson captured her first Top 5 finish with a second-place effort of 9.800. The mark was the highest of any Wildcat in the event 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 responded with a season-high 48.675 at Arizona State last week. Led by freshman Briana Bergeson (9.800), the Wildcats received four other scores of 9.700 or better, something only Danielle Hicks had achieved entering the meet. Karin Wurm picked up a Top 3 finish with a career-high 9.750, while Danielle Hicks (9.725), Aubrey Taylor (9.700) and Jamie Holton (9.700) each recorded Top 10 finishes.
Destination Corvallis: If all goes well, it is possible that the Wildcats will make three separate trips to Corvallis, Ore., this season. Arizona’s first scheduled trip to the Pacific Northwest is on Feb. 10, when the club will face the Beavers in regular season Pac-10 competition. Arizona will then travel back up the coast on March 25 for the Pac-10 Championships and could make a return trip if the team would advance to the NCAA Championships on April 20-22.
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, and 10 of which are currently ranked. The list includes No. 9 and defending Pac-10 champion UCLA, as well as No. 1 and defending national champion Georgia who the Wildcats faced in Cancun. Arizona also squared off with No. 3 Alabama and No. 7 Penn State two weeks ago, and will face No. 5 Florida at home later in the year.
Stacked Pac: Once again the Pac-10 will be one of the toughest conferences in the country. Five teams are ranked after the first three weeks of the competition. Stanford leads the way at No. 6, followed by No. 9 UCLA, No. 13 Arizona State, No. 14 Arizona and No. 19 Oregon State. The same five teams plus Washington had been ranked in the first two polls. 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. She also earned a Top 3 finish on the floor last week against Arizona State with a 9.775 mark.
Junior Duo: The Wildcats also turn 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, and scored a season best 39.075 at Arizona State last week. Holton also had one of her best meets last week, scoring a career-high 9.700 in only her third beam competition, and added a 9.725 on the floor.
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 made her ninth-straight all-around appearance dating back to last season, while Wurm made her debut as an all-arounder this year. Silberg again has led off Arizona’s vault lineup in each meet this season.
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 remain at home for one more week at the club takes on Washington in a Pac-10 dual meet next Friday in McKale Center. The meet is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. (MST).