What’s on Tap: The No. 10 Arizona women’s gymnastics team (1-7) will host the Washington Huskies (3-6) this Friday, Feb. 3, in a Pac-10 Conference dual-meet at 7:30 p.m. in McKale Center.
Watch it Live: ArizonaAthletics.com will provide live statistics and a live video webcast of the event (video is mostly of Wildcat gymnasts only). As always, the live stats are free, while the live webcast this week will be available to All-Access subscribers only. Check back to ArizonaAthletics.com on Monday for free video clips of each event. Links will be provided in this article prior to the meet beginning on Friday. For more information, please log onto ArizonaAthletics.com.
A Look Back: The No. 14 Arizona women’s gymnastics team (195.875) set a new season-high, and Aubrey Taylor won the first all-around title of her career as the Wildcats earned their first victory of the season over California (191.325).
Looking to improve upon their season-best performance from the week prior, the Wildcats wasted no time in getting off to a solid start in the first rotation on the vault. Sophomore Karin Wurm matched her career-high with a mark of 9.825 to share the individual title with teammate Bree Workman. Freshman Alexis Greene added a 9.800, and Taylor set a new season-best with a 9.725. Sophomore Rachelle Silberg chipped in a 9.775 to help the Wildcats to a 48.950 in the event.
Arizona took a comfortable advantage to the uneven bars in the second rotation, an event the team was ranked third nationally entering the competition. The Wildcats did nothing to hurt that ranking, as the team posted a 49.150. Taylor claimed the individual title by tying her career-best mark with a 9.900, a score she earned a week ago as well. Wurm took second place individually with a 9.850, and classmate Danielle Hicks placed third with a 9.825. Greene also turned in a solid routine, earning a 9.800. Sarah Parsons added a 9.775.
Coming off a season-high performance the week before on the balance beam, Arizona again improved their score in the event to take control of the meet. Freshman Briana Bergeson captured the first individual title of her career with a 9.850 to lead the Wildcats to a new season-high 48.725. Taylor again set a season-best with a 9.750, as did Hicks with a 9.800. Junior Jamie Holton and Wurm chipped in scores of 9.675 and 9.650, respectively.
The Wildcats closed the meet in style, earning a season-high team score of 49.050 on floor. Arizona was paced by 9.825 marks from a trio of gymnasts. Senior Erin Muirhead and Greene each established career-high scores, while Hicks also shared the title. For the fourth time in the meet, Taylor at least tied her career-best mark, this time with a 9.800. Holton also broke her season-high score, earning a 9.775.
Taylor earned the first all-around title of her career, totaling a 39.175, her highest score since Feb. 20, 2004. Hicks set a season-best all-around score of 39.150 to claim second-place overall, while Wurm took third-place with a 38.650.
Arizona gymnasts claimed the top three spots in all four individual events, claiming all four individual titles. The Wildcats’ team score of 195.875 was their highest since the Pac-10 Championships last year.
The Rankings: The Wildcats jumped into a tie for 10th-place in the nation with UCLA following their performance last week. As a team, the Wildcats rank in the Top 25 in all four individual events, including No. 6 in the floor exercise, No. 21 on the beam, No. 3 on the uneven bars and No. 14 on the vault. Individually, Aubrey Taylor and Karin Wurm are No. 10 and No. 14 on the bars, respectively. The Wildcats began the year ranked No. 17 in the preseason coaches’ poll. Arizona has been ranked in 63 of the last 64 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 94-110-3. 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 Huskies: The Huskies enter the week unranked after beginning the season ranked No. 18. Washington is coming off a meet that picked up a victory against Seattle-Pacific while falling to Arizona State at home. The Huskies posted a team total of 191.525, their second highest score of the season. Freshman Ashley Houghting claimed the individual vault title with a mark of 9.900, an event she leads the conference in with an average of 9.881. She also placed fourth on the bars with a score of 9.800, and earned an all-around score of 38.700. The Huskies also feature two other all-arounders, including Chelsea Bakken and Natalie Gillan. As a team, Washington is ranked fifth in the Pac-10 on the vault, sixth on floor, and seventh in both the bars and beam. Senior Kelly McDonald leads the Husky bars-team with an average of 9.850, which ranks her No. 13 in the country. The Huskies are coached by Bob Levesque who has compiled a record of 158-129-1 in his 14 years at the helm of the program.
Top 10 Cats: The Wildcats moved into the Top 10 this week for the first time in nearly two years. The last time the program cracked the Top 10 was during the week of March 1, 2004, when the team was ranked No. 9. The Wildcats had been ranked as high as No. 6 earlier in the season before falling out of the Top 10. The club finished the season ranked No. 14 that year. This year, the Wildcats began the season tabbed as the No. 17 team in the nation in the Gym Info Preseason Coaches Poll.
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.
Throw the Records Out, For Now: While it took four meets to do it, Arizona recorded its first victory of the season against California last week. However, the 1-7 record is nothing to be ashamed about. The Golden Bears were the first unranked team the Wildcats faced this season, while all seven previous opponents the team had faced this season are currently ranked among the top 16 in the nation. The Wildcats are ranked No.10 following their team score of 195.875 last week. Arizona remains among the top teams in the country because each week gymnastics teams are not only competing against teams at the meet, but all other teams around the country.
One Meet at a Time: Expanding on the notes from above, Arizona has seen its meet total improve significantly every meet this season. The Wildcats began the year with a 192.925 at the Cancun Gymnastics Classic, a score that earned a fifth place finish out of five, and four of the team’s seven losses. The following week, the club improved 1.425 points to a total of 194.350, despite picking up losses to Penn State and Alabama. The Wildcats then broke the 195-barrier against Arizona State, improving 0.8 points while still falling to the Sun Devils, whose score of 195.300 is still a season-high. Last week, Arizona continued the trend, scoring a 195.875, an improvement of 0.725 points. In total, the Wildcats have seen their team total improve by 0.983 points each meet this season.
Terrific Trio: Through the first four meets of the year, 48 of Arizona’s 96 (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 778.3 points, while Wurm, Taylor and Hicks have combined for 465, or 59.6 percent. Additionally, Wurm and Taylor have each captured all-around titles, while Hicks set a new season-high last week, scoring a 39.150. With Hicks breaking the 39.000-mark, all three have now scored a 39.000 or better at least once, with Wurm and Taylor accomplishing the feat twice.
Home Sweet Home: The Wildcats will get to perform in front of the McKale Center faithful for the second week in a row after beginning the season with three straight meets outside of Tucson. After last week’s home-opening victory, the Wildcats improved their home record over the past three years to 11-1-1. A large part of the team’s success at home can be attributed to the team’s great fan support. Last week, the official attendance was 1,061, nearly 100 more than the average set in 2005.
Target 196: In the early part of the season, the 195-mark is a good measuring stick as to how a team is developing. The Wildcats have reached that benchmark each of the last two weeks and thus have found themselves in the Top 10. Now, after scoring a 195.875 last week, Arizona will look to break the 196-mark, a feat only six teams can claim to this point in the season. 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 ninth-best to date in the country. That mark is the highest the team has earned since the Pac-10 Championships last year, when the club captured second-place with a 195.925.
Leader of the Pac: The Wildcats are tied with defending Pac-10 champion UCLA at No. 10 in the nation and tops in the Pac-10 this week with a scoring average of 194.575. Arizona also 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 49.006. The club also ranks first on the floor, with an average of 48.819. Additionally, Arizona is ranked No. 4 on the vault (48.706) and No. 5 on beam (48.706).
She’s Back: Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week 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 three meets, Taylor has seen her all-around total improve each meet. The 39.175 she earned last week to capture her first ever all-around title was the highest total she has recorded since setting her career-high of 39.350 on Feb. 20, 2004. She has also claimed back-to-back bars titles against conference foes Arizona State and California, recording a career-best 9.900 each time.
Sensational Sophomore: Karin Wurm has quickly emerged as one of Arizona’s most consistent scorer this season. Competing as an all-arounder in all four meets this season, Wurm has scored a 39.025 or better twice this season. At Penn State, she broke the 39.000 mark for the first time in her career with a 39.025, and bested that score 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 on 10 different occasions in various events the last three weeks. She finished in the Top 3 of each event against the Sun Devils, including a first-place title on the floor, which she shared with teammate Alexis Greene. Against California, she shared the vault title with teammate Bree Workman and placed second on the bars.
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 all four meets to begin the season. Last week, she earned a 9.8 or better on the vault, bars and floor. She claimed a share of her first individual title on the floor exercise two weeks ago at ASU with a mark of 9.800, and bettered that score with a 9.825 and a share of the floor title last week. Her 9.800 on vault last week was also a career-high as she finished in third place. She also set a career-high on bars a week ago with a fourth-place mark of 9.8. In all, Greene as recorded six Top 5 finishes in meets this year (two on vault, two on bars and two floor titles).
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. 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 last week 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. Against California, she posted season best scores on the beam and vault, placing second and first, respectively, in each event. Her floor title happened to be the first of her career.
Beamer on Beam: Freshman Briana Bergeson, known better by her teammates as ?'Beamer’, has quickly become the Wildcats’ top scorer the last two weeks on the balance beam. Last week, with a mark of 9.850, Bergeson bested her career-high and captured her first career individual title. The week prior, Bergeson scored a 9.800 to claim second place at Arizona State.
Workman-like Performance: Freshman Bree Workman stuck her vault last Friday, earning 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, and has earned an average of 9.744 this year on vault.
Instant Impact: The Wildcats have called upon four freshmen to play key roles in various lineups this 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. Last week, Bergeson captured her first career beam title. Greene has also claimed at least a share of two floor titles this season, while Workman shared the vault title last week with Karin Wurm. The freshmen hold three of the team’s top individual event scores, including Green on the vault (9.875) and floor (9.825), and Bergeson on the beam (9.850). Workman also has the second highest vault score (9.850). Sarah Parsons has also earned a 9.825 this year on bars, the fifth highest on the team. 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 two weeks with scores of 48.675 at Arizona State and 48.725 last week. Led by freshman Briana Bergeson (9.800), the Wildcats received four other scores of 9.700 or better at Arizona State, something only Danielle Hicks had achieved entering the meet. Against California, Bergeson (9.850) and Hicks (9.800) each broke the 9.8-mark. Aubrey Taylor also added a season-high 9.750 last week to help the team to its season-best performance.
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,10 of which are currently ranked. The list includes No. 10 and defending Pac-10 champion UCLA, as well as No. 1 and defending national champion Georgia, which the Wildcats faced in Cancun. Arizona also squared off with No. 3 Alabama and No. 15 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 four weeks of competition. Arizona and UCLA lead the way tied for 10th, while Arizona State is ranked No. 12, Stanford No. 13 and Oregon State No. 19. 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 last week, posting a score of 9.825. She also earned a Top 3 finish on the floor 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 39.175 last week. Holton has also had two of her best meets the last two 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 she scored a season-high 9.775 on 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 has made 10 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, as she has averaged a 9.738 in the event 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: After two consecutive home meets, the Wildcats will hit the road again as the team travels to Corvallis, Ore., for a Pac-10 Conference dual-meet with No. 19 Oregon State next Friday, Feb. 10.