Feb. 17, 2007
Stanford, CA - The third-ranked Stanford women's gymnastics team (SWG) kept their undefeated streak in the Pac-10 alive tonight with a solid win on the road at the University of Arizona's McKale Center. The Card again put together four solid events for a team score of 196.4 that should be enough to secure their top three ranking for another week. Freshman Carly Janiga added another All Around victory to her rapidly growing list of accomplishments, with a 39.425 in front of a large crowd of friends, family, and former coaches sporting "I know Carly Janiga" T-shirts. Janiga showed few signs of nerves. "I was actually really excited and not nervous at all...I was just going to do what I do in practice every day." Arizona turned in one of their best meets of the season, but suffered several falls on the balance beam that led to a 195.375 loss for the Wildcats.
The visiting team always starts on uneven bars in a dual meet and Stanford went to bars with a great deal of confidence, but also another test of the team's depth with junior bar leaders Tabitha Yim and Liz Tricase still sitting out and classmate Lauren Elmore resting a sore shoulder. Sophomore Kelly Fee led off with what is becoming a critical component of the team's success--a solid hit with big difficulty in the first lineup position. Classmate Heather Purnell followed Fee's 9.825 with a 9.8 (nice full-twisting giant to Geinger) and the third member of the sophomore trio, Nicole Ourada, pitched in a 9.85 with a stuck double layout dismount. Junior Alex Pintchouk did a big Pak salto from high bar to low bar but had a major form break in her switch glide out of it and could only earn a 9.6 in spite of her lawn dart landing on a double layout. Janiga came back with a flawless set for a 9.9 and freshman Blair Ryland stepped up with the start of a career-night thanks to a 9.7 on a very clean routine. Head Coach Kristen Smyth was pleased with the freshman's effort. "Blair entered the lineup on three events and did a great job with seasons bests when we really needed that kind of performance." The Card's team total of 49.075 gave them a very narrow one-tenth margin over an Arizona squad that seemed fired up by the challenge of facing their most highly-ranked opponent of the season.
Stanford moved to vault in the second rotation and had a scare when Purnell hobbled off the mat after sticking a huge round-off entry (Yurchenko) layout with a full twist. Injuries can always have a significant impact on a tightly knit team and this is a team that is already beginning to push the limits of their depth. The Card came back with impressive toughness, however, and racked up four more vaults of 9.8 or better, including career-bests from junior Stephanie Gentry (9.85) and Ourada (9.875). Freshman Stephanie Carter, who entered the competitive lineup for the first time ever last week at home, proved that she can be just as tough on the road with a big Yurchenko full for a 9.8 and Ryland finished off the rotation with the same vault and another career-best 9.75. The Wildcats hit one of their best bar sets of the season to keep the pressure on and Stanford had the slimmest of leads at the half way point, 98.15 to 98.0.
With Purnell sitting for the night, it was time for some more lineup juggling for Smyth as the team headed to floor. Pintchouk has been the reliable lead off all year but has been sick all week and it did not look like she was going to be ready to go. Fee got moved up the first lineup slot and delivered with one of her best routines of the year, including stuck landings on her double pike mount and double tuck dismount. Gentry added a beautiful performance and finished with her best double pike of the season for a career-best tying 9.85. Ourada bounced out of her full-twisting double pike landing on her first pass but the rest of her routine was solid for a 9.825. Janiga won the event with a 9.9 and some of the most impressive tumbling in the country (Arabian double front mount, double tuck second pass, and whip to 2 1/2 twisting layout dismount) and Ryland stepped up again with the first 10.0 start value routine she has completed in competition this season for a 9.75. Pintchouk rallied in the last spot and gave the team a very solid 9.85 that capped a 49.2 on the event. Arizona, meanwhile, was forced to count an 8.6 that dropped them more than a point behind the Card as the teams moved to the final rotation of the evening.
The Card are ranked in the top three in the country on balance beam thanks to a series of consistent performances and routines that sport impressive difficulty. They were not quite as polished tonight as they have been, but all six routines hit solidly for a very strong finish to a challenging evening. Elmore led off and rocked her series and just about everything else in her routine but had a big wobble on her full-twisting tuck jump that dropped her to a 9.725. The next four Stanford routines all hit for 9.8s or better, however, and the victory was in the bag. The team total of 49.05 was a few wobbles and wiggles short of last week's effort, but finishing with that kind of performance on this night was another big step forward for the team and the final team score of 196.4 was a much-needed road score as the national rankings switch to the Regional Qualifying Score formula this week (teams will be ranked for the rest of the season based on an average of their best six scores, no more than three of which can be at home, and the highest of which gets thrown out).
Smyth was very pleased with the character that the meet revealed in her squad. "There were definitely a few bumps along the road tonight but the team really stepped up and showed some character. In spite of some last minute changes in the lineup, the kids really did a great job. We've been dealt adversity at difference times this year, especially losing Tab and Liz for part of the season, but this meet in particular really saw them rise up after Heather scared us on vault. We showed a lot of character and a lot of heart with our finish," reflected the head coach.
Stanford hits the road again next weekend when they head to Lincoln, Nebraska, to take on the sixth-ranked Huskers, no. 12 LSU, and no. 29 NC State in the Master's Classic at 2 pm on Sunday.