Saturday, January 8, 2011
The Florida Gators opened with a big win last night, scoring just under the 197 mark. The scoring was fairly normal. It is a bit of a mixed blessing for Florida to start out so strong. They have started out quite strongly in the past, only to burn out by the NCAA Championships. Another issue they have had as a program is having a bevy of level 10s who didn't really focus on form, amplitude and execution. As their recruits have improved over the last few years, this is becoming less of a problem. Florida is often a power team, but not a skill or finesse team. This year, the team is more balance.
Macko Caquatto hit her bar routine, but obviously needs to focus on hitting handstands, sticking her dismount with her chest up and not twisting her torso on her bail. One of the best factors UF has going is that Macko won't be in the AA until a month, which should keep their lineup from getting into a rhythm too soon and peaking too early. As a team, they really need to work on the refinement for the post season. Ashanee is a sticking machine, but she lands with her legs shoulder-width apart.
While bars cost them the NCAA Title last year, it looks like it could be a mighty strength in 2011. Alicia Goodwin, Alaina Johnson and Macko Caquatto post three strong routines to anchor the lineup and set one another up for big scores.
Marissa King's buoyant new floor routine is a treat. Her vault always takes a bit to get consistent, as does her jam-packed beam routine. It is a white-knuckler, but Marissa does seem to be regaining her form after imploding during the Super Six.
Brittney Noble saw competition action and looked great when she was on, but the mistakes crept in every time. Her mental state is something we'll need to watch. If they become overwhelmed by their first meet, how will they handle their first championship?
Alabama solidly defeated Penn State in a tightly-scored competition. Kayla Hoffman performed like a true senior anchor, while Sarah DeMeo rocked an impressive beam set. Kim Jacob's start was not as brilliant as hoped for or anticipated.
Given the cult following of Miss Val's choreography and UCLA in general, the UCLA-Utah meet has been the most watched and discussed among the rabid online contingent. When UCLA posted their lineup, I predicted that bars would be a flat rotation and that the team was risking quite a bit by not having their tip-top lineup in Osmond-Land. That proved prophetic, as the Bruins fell to a Utah team far less impressive than in seasons past.
Without their heralded stars (Zam and Peszek), the Bruins appeared flat, nervous and just a bit off. They watered down their tumbling passes, but still had trouble finding their landings. Elyse Hophner Hibbs was one of the most disappointing. As a veteran, her lack of focus was unnerving. Elyse didn't press her landings on floor and made an absolutely careless mistake on beam. Given the somewhat iffy scoring, the meet may have been over before she began her beam routine, but a stuck routine would've gone a long way.
Aisha Gerber delivered one of the best routines of the entire meet, but was only awarded a 9.875 for her beam effort. Both UCLA and Utah appeared consistent at times, but there needs to be a ton of sharpening, fitness work (for the Bruins), upgrades and overall 'getting their shit together.' It was embarrassing to see so many double tuck mounts from Super Six teams.
Past Bruins indicate that there will be at least four team meetings between the meet last night and Sunday's meet against Stanford (and the other teams whom they don't really care about.) Chris Waller will want to make a ton of changes immediately, while Val will be stern and stoic, but have more faith in staying the course. The Bruins have a TON of work to do, but they have a lot of athletes who will rejoin the lineup between now and April. They still have some catching-up to do. Aisha needs to be vaulting and in the floor lineup. There are Bruins who are not in the fitness level to hit a 9.85 or 9.9 routine consistently. There are others who are sorely lacking in difficulty. I am not harping on the Utes, because while they did their thing last night, their room for improvement isn't as great.