Thursday, February 24, 2011
Bruins Rounding Into Form
This has not been an easy season for the UCLA Bruins. While the Bruins were overscored at their last home meet, they displayed a stronger performance than they have. For once, they looked like a Super Six team.
If Val can pull off an unthinkable NCAA Title this year, her merits as a coach will be unquestionable. Stranger things have happened. No one thought Georgia could win in 2005. This batch of Bruins has yet to find their spark, but it creeping in ever-so-slightly. Val compares this season to last, but there was certainly more spark last year. They needed to find their lineups. This year's evolution appears different in terms of performance level, regardless of whatever PR line is being given.
Elyse Hopfner Hibbs looked like the star she is capable of being on beam and floor. Her bar dismount is still inconsistent.
No matter what, every bar routine done by MDLT is a 9.85-9.875. She is an out-of-control hot mess, but somehow it all comes together in competition.
Aisha Gerber is a brilliant veteran for this team and one of the keys for UCLA as they hope for another Pac 10 title in a few weeks. If she can get her legs together on her pak salto, her score potential will greatly improve on bars.
Sydney Sawa is lauded by Val often, but her gymnastics is just not in the 'great' category. One area where she was far too pleased with mediocrity was her beam routine. Mediocrity is an overstatement. Sydney had numerous two-tenth bobbles on beam and shouldn't have been credited for her leap series, which is another two-tenth deduction for missing a requirement. Thus, her 9.75 was an impossible score. Somehow, the overscores at UCLA don't create the same level of consternation among gym fanatics. We are all under Miss Val's spell.
As Suzanne Yoculan put it during the recent UGA-UF broadcast, "there is nothing worse than flexed feet on beam." There lies my issue with Brittani McCullough's 9.95 on beam. McCullough has not performed like an NCAA Champion on floor. The potential is there. If she can get it together for the post season, it will be a much-needed boost for the team. They need her to be the star she is capable of being if they hope to achieve post season success. Her vault and bars scores are typically generous. If the judging gets strict, we could see some icy stares from Miss Val at the judges that haven't been witnessed since 2002 NCAAs.
Olivia Courtney is McCullough without the performance ability, but she has been consistent for UCLA. The scores may never be 9.9+ when it counts due to built-in form issues, but she is someone we'll see a lot of if healthy because she has proven her ability to compete.
Tauny Frattone finally rocked a vault. UCLA is lacking a true exclamation point for their vault rotation. A year ago, Tauny set up Zam's huge scores. If they're going to be a contender, Tauny needs to maintain consistency on beam and rock that damn vault. Val gave her a number of chances to learn how to compete on beam and it appears to be working, as she did hit the past two meets. Tauny remains one of those gymnasts who you could see falling during the Super Six Finals.
Sam Peszek is back on bars. If she hits, her name could give her a 9.9. If she is scored correctly, she is more of a 9.825-9.85 on bars. She is someone who Val would likely give an opportunity to compete at Regionals on Vault and Beam if she is ready. It could be a while before she is ready on Vault and Beam, but the UCLA coaches know she will certainly have a good chance of hitting when given the opportunity. Expect one of their 'B' gymnasts to be dropped at the last moment to give Peszek a chance during the post season (if she isn't ready before that.) The lineup decision will be harsh, but correct.
Niki Tom remains the last kitten in the litter, but she's hitting.
Lichelle Wong has not turned into the bars diva the coaches hoped for, but she is making a case for herself on multiple events.