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No. 21 Wildcats Set for Baton Rouge Regional
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 04/04/2014
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2014 Pac-12 Vault Co-Champion Shelby Edwards
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics

No. 21 Arizona vs. No. 3 LSU, No. 10 Stanford, No. 13 Auburn, Kent State, Iowa State

Saturday, April 5 // 4 p.m. CT

Baton Rouge, LA

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TUCSON, Ariz. – The No. 21 Arizona women’s gymnastics team will compete in the Baton Rouge Regional on Saturday, April 5 at 4 p.m. CT inside the Maravich Center. The fourth-seeded Wildcats will compete against nationally ranked LSU, Stanford and Auburn alongside Kent State and Iowa State.

“We know what we are up against,” head coach Bill Ryden said. “Stanford just took second place in our Pac-12 Championships. That is a quality team. Any SEC team is a great team. But we also know that we are not the same team. We are competing, right now, on the road better than we have all year. Every meet we get healthier and have more confidence. All we can do is go to Baton Rouge and put forth that same effort.”

Arizona is coming off a second place finish in the second session of the Pac-12 Championships. Overall, the Wildcats earned a sixth place finish in the conference. Arizona finishes the regular season with a 10-13 record.

“Our thing at this point is no what ifs and no regrets,” Ryden said. “We are going to use our last meet as a spring board and just continue on from there. We know what we can do and what we need to improve on. It was a very frank discussion with the bar team about how things need to pick up. We’ve been working a lot on details. It’ll be fun. We are looking forward to it. We know it will be a well run meet. It’ll be exciting.”

The last time the Wildcats qualified for NCAA Championships was in 2002 where they finished in 11th place. Last season, Aubree Cristello was the lone individual qualifier for the Wildcats. There, she earned a 12th place finish in the all-around.

This season, Arizona has accomplished numerous records including the earning of the No. 3 program meet score total and a top-10 vault score. Allie Flores and Shelby Edwards also made history with their Pac-12 Vault Co-Champion titles. Arizona had not earned a conference title since 2002 when assistant coach Randi Acosta, then Liljenquist, won the floor title.

Adding to the regular season accomplishments were conference accolades for Flores in the all-around (first-team) and Edwards and Kristin Klarenbach on floor (second team). Klarenbach also earned second-team All-American honors for floor. She is the first Wildcat to earn such honors since Katie Matusik in 2012.

Scouting the Opposition:

No. 3 LSU - For the season, LSU earned a third place finish in the SEC. Five LSU gymnasts were recently named All-Americans which ties the national lead. Seniors Kaleigh Dickson (AA) and Sarie Morrison (Bars, Vault) and juniors Jessie Jordan (BB), Rheagan Courville (AA) and Lloimincia Hall (AA, FX) were selected as All-Americans. LSU is coached by D-D Breaux who is in her 36th year as head coach. During her tenure, Breaux has won the NCAA Central Region Coach of the Year honors six times and SEC Coach of the Year six times. She has brought the team to the NCAA tournament nine times in the past ten years, and this is the second year in a row Breaux has had five or more gymnasts receive All-American awards. The last meeting between the Wildcats and Tigers was earlier this year on Feb. 15 during the Metroplex Challenge. In that meet, LSU set their school record score of 197.875 to come in second over Arizona who scored 195.625 to come in third.

No. 10 Stanford - The Cardinals is 7-4 recently finished third in the Pac-12. Stanford has four gymnasts who received Pac-12 honors this season, including first team awards to junior Kristina Vaculik and freshmen Nicolette McNair. Stanford is coached by Kristen Smyth who is entering her 12th year with the team, and has made the NCAA Super Six six times. Smyth has coached 75 All- Americans, and eight of Stanford’s nine NCAA Top ten finishes have come during her tenure. The last meet between Stanford and Arizona came on Jan. 19 when Stanford narrowly beat Arizona, 195.925-195.850.

No. 13 Auburn - The Auburn Tigers are coached by Jeff Graba who is in his fourth season as head coach, and coming off a 2013 season that saw the Tigers set a record score of 197.175 vs. LSU. The 2014 roster for Auburn features one senior, and two all Americans. Freshmen MJ Rott was named an All-American for her work on vault, and sophomore Caitlin Atkinson was named All-American for the second year in a row after being ranked 10th nationally in all-around. The last meeting between Arizona and Auburn was a quad meet on Jan. 6, 2013. During that meet, the Wildcats (194.825) defeated Auburn (194.625).

Kent State - Kent State is coming off of a second place finish in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) after scoring a 195.125. They have six freshmen and three seniors on their 20-person roster including senior Marie Case who was recently named 2nd team All-American in the all-around competition. The Golden Flashes are coached by Brice Biggin who has been head coach for 23 out of his 34 years with the program, and this year marks his 18th NCAA regional appearance. Biggins was named the National Association of College Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGCW) coach of the year in 2011, and this year marks the 9th time he has won the MAC coach of the year award. 

Iowa State - Iowa State has an overall record of 5-11, and they are headed to Baton Rouge after setting a season high score of 196.650 to come in second to Oklahoma (198.00) in the Big-12 conference championships. The Cyclones consist of three freshmen and six seniors including senior Camille Santerre-Gervais who was recently named First Team All- American on bars. Iowa State is coached by Jay Ronayne who has led the Cyclones to regionals all eight of his years as coach. The Cyclones finished second in the Big-12 last year and took third in the Tuscaloosa Regional. 

Look Out for New GymCats:

The Wildcats added a number of new faces this season, including two Arizona natives, Krysten Howard out of Phoenix and Selynna Felix-Terrazas from Tucson. Gabby Laub hails from Owasso, Okla., while Mackenzie Valentin comes from Mustang Okla. Also added to the roster is former gymnastics manager and Plano, Texas, native Shay Fox. All of these gymnasts were top J.O. competitors and should make an immediate impact in the lineups this season.

Pre-season Rankings:

The Arizona gymnastics team heads into the season ranked No. 17 in the 2014 Women’s Pre-Season Coaches poll. The Wildcats are one of eight Pac-12 schools to place within the top 25, including No. 4 UCLA, No. 6 Utah, No. 9 Stanford, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 20 Washington, No. 22 California and No. 25 Arizona State.

Stacked to the Max:

The Arizona gymnastics team is going to compete against one of the toughest schedules in the nation. According to RoadtoNationals.com, Arizona’s strength of schedule is ranked No. 8. Of the 12 regular season meets and 16 regular season opponents, the Cats will face eight ranked teams. Those opponents include No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 UCLA, No. 5 LSU, No. 6 Utah, No. 9 Stanford, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 20 Washington, No. 21 Kentucky and No. 25 ASU.

Ryden’s Record:

Head coach Bill Ryden finished out the 2013 season with an overall even record of 220-198-3.

What’s Coming Up:

The NCAA National Championships will be held in Birmingham, Ala. from April 18-20. The top two teams at each regional are qualified for nationals.   

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