Pac-12 Chalk Chatter: Breaking down UCLA gymnastics’ victory over BYU

No. 10 UCLA vs No. 11 BYU

Rotation One

UCLA – The Bruins got the midweek matinee started on vault, opening with a solid Yurchenko full with a slight hop from senior Pauline Tratz for a 9.775. Senior Kendal Poston followed with an explosive front handspring front pike half for a 9.825, before Yurchenko layout full in the middle of the lineup from junior Margzetta Frazier for a 9.800. Junior Sekai Wright competed a Yurchenko one and a half, but had a deep squat in the landing and a step back for only a 9.725. 

Senior Nia Dennis got the bruins back on track with an enormous Yurchenko full for a 9.85 before freshman Chae Campbell had another high-flying Yurchenko full for the same score. 

Vault total: UCLA drops Wright’s 9.725 for a 49.100

BYU – Senior Angel Zhong posted a 9.8 of her own to open up the meet for the Cougars. Sophomore Lindsey Hunter ran into some troubles when she hit her foot on her Tkatchev, but was able to recover and finish the routine for a 9.500. Senior Helody Cyrenne got BYU back on track with a 9.775, with junior Abby Beeston following suit to post the same score. Sophomore Anyssa Alvarado built off the steady climb in energy, posting a 9.825 for the Cougars, leaving senior Abby Stainton in the anchor role. With a beautiful blind change into a piked Jaeger directly into a bail shoot over, finishing the routine off with a full in for a 9.825. 

Bars total: BYU drops Hunter’s 9.5 for a 49.000

Rotation Two

BYU – Senior Angel Zhong got her only glimpse at the action of the day on vault, leading off the lineup with a Yurchenko full for a 9.775. Sophomore Lexi Griffith had a stick-straight Yurchenko layout half, but took a step on the landing for a 9.725. Junior Rachel Bain (Also known as Rachel Heaton) put up a 9.675 on a Yurchenko full after a big hop back, increasing the pressure for those above her to hit so BYU could drop her score. 

Rounding out the second half of the rotation were freshman Allix Mason and seniors Avery Bennett and Abbey Minor Alder. Mason stuck her Yurchenko full for a 9.8, followed with a Yurchenko full-on tuck off for a 9.775. Minor Alder finished the rotation out with a huge Yurchenko full and a small hop back for a 9.85. 

Vault total: BYU drops Bain’s 9.675 for a 48.925

Total after two rotations: 97.925

UCLA – After closing out the first rotation for UCLA, Campbell opened up the second event for the Bruins with a beautiful blind change to a stuck double front dismount for a career-high 9.85. Senior Savannah Kooyman followed, but she had some form breaks in her routine, posting a 9.725 for the Bruins. Freshman Sara Ulias made her NCAA career debut on bars, with a 9.725, while Dennis made her season-debut on the event with a 9.800. Freshman Frida Esparza showed why she’s so valuable this year with a solid 9.900 for the bruins on bars, before Frazier closed out the rotation with a beautiful routine minus a small hop back on the landing for a 9.85. 

Bars Total: UCLA drops one of the 9.725s for a total of 49.125

Total after two rotations: 98.225

Rotation Three

UCLA – Finding herself in the same situation as Campbell, Frazier opened the beam rotation up for the Bruins after anchoring the bar lineup. With a couple bobbles, Frazier stayed on the beam to put up a 9.725 to open things up. Poston fought to stay on the beam on her triple-series, posting a 9.800. Esparza followed with a solid routine, but had some problems getting a clean landing on her side aerial layout full dismount for a 9.75. 

Dennis had the strongest performance of the rotation, with beautifully full splits on her leaps and jumps and a bit of her own sass to really execute her dance for a season-best 9.900. Campbell followed Dennis, but struggled to match her rock solid performance, nearly falling off on her back handspring layout stepout for a 9.775. Junior Samantha Satki made her lone appearance of the night as the anchor in the beam lineup, where she had an unfortunate fall on her layout stepout to layout stepout series, posting only a 9.125 for the Bruins to close out the rotation. 

Beam total: UCLA drops Satki’s 9.125 for a total of 48.950

Total after three rotations: 147.175

BYU – Bain opened the floor rotation up with a clean yet energetic routine for a 9.825 to set the tone for the Cougs in the second part of the meet. Bennett went second on floor, but with some struggles to control the landings of her tumbling passes, posted a 9.75. Senior Jordan Matthews made her only appearance of the day next, busting out her funky dance moves and powerful tumbling for a 9.800. 

Stainton followed on floor with another hit routine for a 9.775 for the Cougars, setting up junior Brittney Vitkauskas, who scored a 9.85 with her powerful tumbling. Miner Alder came out and absolutely rocked Pauley Pavilion to close out the rotation on floor with an outstanding performance for a 9.925. 

Floor total: BYU drops Bennett’s 9.75 for a total of 49.175

Total after three rotations: 147.100

Rotation 4

BYU – As the Cougars made a push to close in on UCLA’s lead, sophomore Lexi Mather had a solid performance to open the final rotation up for the Cougars, posting a 9.875. Cyrenne followed with a 9.775, before Miner Alder delivered a solid routine for a 9.825. Unfortunately, freshman Sophia McClelland put up only a 9.6, meaning the Cougars not only had to count Cyrenne’s 9.775, but also that the final two gymnasts had to hit. 

In her lone appearance of the night, sophomore Elease Rollins put up a 9.85 before Stainton’s beautiful routine for a 9.900 to close out the meet.

Beam total: BYU drops the 9.600 for a total of a 49.225

Event total: 196.325

UCLA – In such a close meet after the first three events, UCLA had the advantage of ending on its strongest event, being the home team. The Bruins put up two 9.775’s to start off the rotation after sophomore Emma Anders, who made her only appearance of the night, and Wright struggled to control their landings on their tumbling passes. Tratz stepped it up and brought a huge lift of energy that the Bruins needed in the final rotation, with a huge 9.9. Frazier followed up with an outstanding performance of her own, debuting her new Janet Jackson routine with sky-high tumbling and exquisite dance for a 9.925.

Campbell followed up with another explosive routine for a 9.900, before Dennis rocked it with her “Black Girl Magic” routine that just went viral a few weeks ago to close out the meet with a 9.925. 

Floor total: UCLA drops one of the 9.775’s for a total of 49.425

Event total: 196.600

Recap and takeaways

Expectations are a bit lower for UCLA this year, given the injuries to its lineup and the loss of last year’s incredibly strong senior class. Nonetheless, this was still a great showing for the Bruins with a lot of opportunity for improvements from week to week on small corrections. On vault, getting the clean landings is the key. 

On bars, the Bruins struggled on some of the little things, such as form breaks and not sticking their landings. They also didn’t hit all of their handstands, leaving judges room to take more away. They also struggled with a lot of bobbles on beam, something that sometimes just depends on the day, but something that’s easily correctable with more reps. 

Again, these are all little things that should continue to improve throughout the season as some of these greener gymnasts get more experience in the NCAA. 

Finally on floor, UCLA’s strongest event can still get better if some of the girls earlier in the rotation can clean up the landings on their tumbling. 

Meanwhile for BYU, it’s right on pace with what they’ve been doing each week. The Cougars, too, have room for improvement, it’s just a matter of putting it all together on the same night. If the Cougars can dial in their landings on vault, that will provide an immediate boost to their total for the event, and the same thing goes for bars. The Cougars also can work on tightening up their form and hitting all of their handstands, too. 

On beam, the Cougars can improve their scores by making sure they really get to a full split on all of their leaps and jumps and working on either a clean finish for their skills or moving immediately into the dance. 

As was the story on vault, with so much power, some of the girls at BYU are still working to control their landings on floor. Some routines also could use a little more attention to execution of the dance to help boost the overall event total. 

What’s next for each team:

UCLA – The Bruins are on the road against Washington on Sunday. The meet will air on Pac-12 Networks at 1 p.m. (PT)
BYU – The Cougars went on to compete against Southern Utah University on Friday, where they reached a season high 197.075 in the win.

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