Jan. 5, 2004
What's on Tap: The No. 17 University of Arizona women's gymnastics team will kick off the 2004 season on Friday, Jan. 9, in East Lansing, Mich., when the Wildcats face No. 10 LSU, Michigan State and Western Michigan. The meet is set for 8 p.m. (CST) in Michigan State's Jenison Field House.
The Rankings: Arizona opens the 2004 season as the No. 17 ranked team in the nation. The Wildcats earned 290 points in the Preseason Coaches poll. Arizona finished the 2003 season as the No. 19 ranked team in the nation, owning a regional qualifying score (RQS) of 196.100 and a record of 7-19 (2-12 Pac-10). Complete rankings can be viewed at www.troester.com.
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 will be ranked by their highest score from Jan. 12-19. From Jan. 26-Feb. 16, teams will be ranked by their season average. Starting Feb. 23, teams and gymnasts will be ranked by Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). A Regional Qualifying Score is based on a team's top-six regular-season scores, with three scores coming from away meets. To obtain the regional qualifying score, the team's or gymnast's highest score is dropped and the remaining five scores are averaged. Complete rankings can be viewed at www.troester.com.
Arizona Head Coach Bill Ryden... is in his sixth season at the helm of the Arizona gymnastics program and holds a school and career record of 56-82-1. Ryden leads Arizona into 2004 after making his first appearance as a head coach at a NCAA Championship (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.
About the Spartans: The Michigan State University Spartans open the 2004 season unranked, but earned a few votes in the Preseason Coaches poll. The Spartans finished 2003 as the No. 25 ranked team in the nation and with a record of 15-6. MSU returns 8 gymnasts from last year's squad that finished with a team RQS of 195.340. Head coach Kathie Klages (Central Mich. '77) enters her 13th year at the helm of the Michigan State program, and owns a career record of 201-95-2.
About the Tigers: The LSU Tigers look to pick up where their football team finished, and enter 2004 as the No. 10 team in the nation. The Tigers finished 2003 where they now start 2004 at No. 10, after a 10th-place finish at the 2003 NCAA National Championships in Lincoln, Neb. LSU ended 2003 with a record of 18-15 and an RQS of 196.485. LSU returns 13 letterwinners from last year's squad, including two All-American gymnasts. Head coach Sara "D-D" Breaux (LSU '76) enters her 27th season at the helm of the Tiger program and holds a career record of 428-270-7.
About the Broncos: The Western Michigan Broncos enter 2004 unranked. The Broncos finished last year with a 7-8 record and an RQS of 193.290. Western Michigan returns 14 gymnasts from last year's roster. Head coach Terry Karwoski (WMU '90) enters her sixth year at the helm of the Bronco program and owns a career record of 40-51.
A Look Back: Friday's match up marks the fourth-ever meeting between Arizona and Michigan State, and the teams' first since 1991. The Wildcats own a perfect 3-0 record against the Spartans. Under head coach Bill Ryden, the Wildcats have not faced Western Michigan and are 0-2 versus LSU. Arizona and LSU last met in the first round of the 2002 NCAA Championships, where LSU finished fifth (195.85) ahead of sixth-place Arizona (194.975).
Fast Starts: It seems like head coach Bill Ryden has a knack for starting his teams off on the right track to open a season. Under Ryden, Arizona is 9-2 in season openers, including a 4-0 mark over the last two seasons. This is the fourth consecutive season Arizona has started its season away from Tucson, but the Wildcats own a 6-1 record under Ryden in season openers on the road.
Welcome Home Duce: Jamie Duce gets a chance to start her junior season off in front of a home crowd. For the Flushing, Mich. native, it is her first appearance in her home state as an Arizona Wildcat. The Arizona program tries to schedule at least one meet close to the hometown of each Gymcat before they graduate.
Stacked Pac: The Pacific-10 Conference is becoming one of the most competitive and dominant conferences in collegiate gymnastics. All seven Pac-10 squads are ranked in the 2004 Preseason Coaches poll. Defending national champion UCLA tops the list at No. 1, followed by (6) Stanford, (9) Arizona State, (11) Oregon State, (15) Washington, (17) Arizona and (21) California.
We take on the best: Arizona sure isn't scared to face the best gymnastic teams in the nation. Of Arizona's 13 opponents in 2004, eight of those teams are ranked in the Preseason Coaches poll. In addition to Arizona's six ranked Pac-10 foes, the Wildcats will face No. 10 LSU (twice) and No. 7 Florida during the course of the season.
Up Next: Arizona will return from the state of Michigan to host UCLA on Friday, Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m. (MST) in McKale Center. The meet will be Arizona's first home meet of the season and will serve as the Wildcats' Pac-10 season opener.
2004 Arizona Season Outlook:
If the University of Arizona's 2004 season is the lottery, with the grand prize being a trip to the Super Six at the NCAA Championships, then 0, 1, 18, 11 and 2 will be Arizona's winning numbers. Each season, Arizona is always in the hunt to win big, which is earning its first Super Six appearance since 1993. The Wildcats have enjoyed 17 consecutive regional championship appearances, including two NCAA Championship appearances in the last eight years. But coming close and actually winning big are two different things. The Wildcats are tired of coming close to the Super Six and are ready to cash in their winning ticket in 2004.
"This team is capable of reaching the NCAA Finals," head coach Bill Ryden said. "If we put our best team on the floor in April, the rest will take care of itself."
With a lineup of three seniors, six juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen, the 2004 Arizona squad is poised to be one of the most dynamic and talented teams in the program's history.
"We are more athletic this year," Ryden said. "We definitely have more talent out on the floor. The level of athleticism and the skill level have all been raised, which will make this one very exciting team to watch."
But for Arizona to meet the team's full potential, The Wildcats will have to deal with their first winning number: 0- the ideal number of team injuries. Last season, the Wildcats struggled greatly with injuries, making each week a battle to put together a healthy lineup.
"Last year, our team didn't have any luck with keeping everyone healthy," Ryden said. "From the very first meet of this season, our gymnasts know what will be expected of them. Our team has to be ready to bring it every meet. Injuries don't matter, sickness doesn't matter because every meet is reload and fire."
If Arizona makes it through the entire season injury free, it will greatly help the team's odds on obtaining its second winning number: 1- the program's first Pac-10 Conference Championship.
"We can certainly challenge for a Pac-10 title this year; we are definitely that good," Ryden said. "Pac-10 gymnastics is incredibly good. All seven teams in our conference finished in the top 25 last season. Every team is going to be good; we know that. But to win the Pac-10 Championship we will definitely have to bring our best because every other team will as well."
Since 1987, Arizona has finished a distant second four times to the conference's most coveted team accomplishment. The Wildcats, however, will have the opportunity to win their first conference title in front of their home crowd, as the McKale Center will be the site of the 2004 Pac-10 Championships.
An injury free season and a Pac-10 Conference crown will be great momentum for Arizona as they try to land their third winning number: 18- the program's number of consecutive Regional Championship appearances.
"Being good in March and at the end of April is a priority for our team," Ryden said. "To compete well at Regionals, we first need to learn how to compete well on the road. I have no doubts we will compete well at home. Our gymnasts love competing in front of their home crowd. We need to compete on the road so our RQS sets us up ranking wise so we end up in a good spot."
Consistency has been a trademark of success for the Arizona gymnastics program. Only the Arizona men's basketball team, with 19 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, has been able to compete with Arizona gymnastics' level of consistency of team success year in and year out.
Arizona also will have a chance to compete at home for Regionals, as Tucson will be home to the 2004 South Central Regional Championships.
Once Arizona reaches its 18th consecutive Regional appearance, it will be in line for its fourth winning number: 11- the program's 11th NCAA Championship appearance in 2004.
"Making it to Regionals and making it to Nationals are two different accomplishments," Ryden said. "Regionals is a reward for a successful season. Nationals is a reward for a successful Regional meet that is a one-meet season in itself and is much more difficult to achieve. Our juniors and seniors on this team know what it is like to make it to the NCAA Championships and are aware of what it takes. Making it to the NCAA Championships is definitely a goal our team has in mind."
If the Wildcats reach the NCAA Championships in 2004, it will make up for the team's one-year hiatus from the Championships last season and will mark the program's second NCAA Championship appearance in three seasons.
An NCAA Championship appearance will put Arizona on the verge of attaining its fifth and final winning number in 2004: 2- the program's second Super Six appearance in school history.
"For our team to reach the Super Six, our gymnasts need to stay consistent and live up to their abilities," Ryden said. "If every one of our gymnasts can perform at the level they are capable of, we can definitely be there in the end."
Reaching the Super Six will not be an easy task for Arizona, but the team is ready to compete and is ready to see its winning numbers picked in 2004.
The Senior Class
Arizona will look for leadership from its trio of seniors Amanda Goins, Andi McCabe and team captain Sheehan Lemley. As the three most experienced members of the squad, the senior class is willing to do everything it can to help the team succeed in its final year of collegiate gymnastics.
"The senior class has seen it all," Ryden said. "From the struggles of injuries to seeing the success of a healthy team, the seniors have been through all kinds of adversity. All three are pushing this team to be the best that they can be."
As juniors, McCabe and Lemley provided great contributions to the Arizona lineup in each event, while Goins added needed depth at both vault and beam. Although McCabe and Lemley dealt with their share of injuries last season, both were able to post career highs in two events.
"I believe that Andi McCabe can have the best year of her career," Ryden said. "Sheehan Lemley is also working hard to make her presence felt in each event and Amanda Goins provides our team with so much depth on vault."
The Junior Class
Arizona's junior class enjoyed another successful campaign as sophomores in 2003, as the members continued to etch their names in the Arizona history books. Monica Bisordi was Arizona's lone representative at the NCAA Championships in 2003, and is ready, along with her classmates, to return to NCAA Championships as a team like they did as freshmen.
"All of our juniors are hungry to get back to the NCAA Finals," Ryden said. "This season I think they are all ready to have a season like their freshman year and are ready to be major players. They all want to be better and are working hard to improve. Last year was a huge learning experience for them. Everyone of our juniors is better now than they have ever been, which will only make us better."
Last season, Monica Bisordi, Jamie Duce, Kristine Harper, Katie Johnson and Jamie Schell posted marks that now stand on Arizona's all-time-top-10 list, and Stevie Fanning was able to post a new career high on floor. Look for the juniors to continue to put up big numbers in 2004.
The Sophomore Class
Like the senior class, Arizona will return a trio of sophomores to the lineup in 2004, which is a group of gymnasts ready to build off their experiences as freshmen. Last season, Erin Muirhead, Abby Pearson and Jessamyn Salter each saw regular action in the Arizona lineup but are now ready to expand their roles in 2004.
"Our sophomore class will have an impact for our team this season," Ryden said. "If there was a single group of girls that went home with a mission this off-season, it was our sophomores. Each gymnast struggled through nagging injuries last year and are ready to compete to their full abilities. They are all so much better then last year, that they are not even the same gymnasts. Erin Muirhead, Abby Pearson and Jessamyn Salter are completely different athletes. They are so physically and mentally experienced from last year and are ready to make great contributions to this team."
Muirhead, Pearson and Salter were consistent names in the vault lineup for Arizona, with Pearson hitting the team's lone perfect-10 score of the 2003 season with a career-best 10.0 on vault. In 2004, the sophomore class will have its chance to vault into a great role and contribute greatly to the success of the team as a whole.
The Freshman Class
The Wildcats will welcome the addition of three talented gymnasts to the team in 2004. Freshmen Jamie Holton, Aubrey Taylor and Danyra Varela are all dynamic competitors who are ready to make an immediate impact and contribute to the team's success.
"All of our freshmen are capable of making major contributions this season," Ryden said. "They are all tremendous competitors who are all capable of performing all-around for this team. I can see each gymnast living up to her abilities to help make this team the best it can be."
What Bill Ryden Says About...
"Our team will be vastly improved on vault this year. We definitely improved our vaulting depth with our incoming freshmen. Our returning gymnasts have also improved their skills in the event to help our team compete at a high level." Uneven Bars
"We have some really good bar swingers and some improved depth in this event compared to years past. We have some high difficulty bar routines, and we definitely have experienced athletes who know how to hit their routines under pressure. We are capable of being a good team on bars."
"Beam is a strength of this team. Our beam difficulty is as high as any other team in the country. We are loaded with many gymnasts who are capable of competing in our beam lineup each night. I know our team performance on beam will help us succeed this season."
"We are going to be a lot better on floor this year than last year. Last year, we had Andi McCabe and Katie Johnson sitting on the sidelines. This year, the level of tumbling ability is huge. Every gymnast on our team trains on floor, and all of them are capable of putting up good points."
"Monica Bisordi's goal this season is to compete in each meet as an all-arounder like last season. Jamie Duce and Jamie Schell are capable of doing four events, as is Aubrey Taylor. Many of our gymnasts might get a chance to compete in four events this season. We can have from two to maybe even five gymnasts compete in the all-around. Our strongest team might actually consist of five all-arounders."