March 10, 2007
Stanford, CA - The Stanford women's gymnastics team (SWG) returned to Burnham Pavilion after two weeks off and rebounded solidly from a disappointing loss at Nebraska by defeating No. 8 Oklahoma, 196.475 to 196.175. It was a very closely contested meet and the outcome was in doubt until the very end, thanks to a really strong performance by a gritty Oklahoma team that seemed primed for an upset. "Oklahoma is a great team and they're very well coached. This was a tight meet all night and we did fight enough to win, but we did not have our best work," said Head Coach Kristen Smyth.
The Cardinal were led by a 39.325 All Around effort by freshman Carly Janiga as well as an inspirational return to multiple lineups by junior All American Tabitha Yim. Yim has been out with a couple of nagging injuries for over a month and did a nice job at Nebraska on bars two weeks ago, but it was her additional efforts on vault and beam that really helped tonight. "It was great to have Tab back in the lineup and we're hoping to get her back on floor soon," said Smyth. "She always adds a spark and she was as solid as ever, not missing a beat and turning in 9.9s on three events."
Stanford started the evening on vault and the team vaulted very well overall, though scoring on the event did not seem to reflect the effort. The 1-2 Stephanie lead off punch (junior Gentry and freshman Carter) did big Yurchenko layouts with full twists for 9.775 each with a little bobble on their landings. Janiga began her night with one of her best vaults of the season that was good enough for a 9.95 from one judge but a 9.875 average score. Sophomore Nicole Ourada completely stuck her landing on an equally gorgeous vault and Yim followed with a Yurchenko full that dropped from the sky and did not move on impact for a 9.9. Junior Alex Pintchouk over rotated a big Yurchenko layout with a half twist for the rotation's low score that was dropped, but the team total of 49.175 was enough to give SWG a slim .025 lead over the Sooners after the first rotation.
The Card swingers took over next as the team moved to the uneven bars, the event that has been the team's hole card all season long. Sophomore Kelly Fee led off with a gorgeous set that finished with a stuck Arabian double front for a 9.85. Junior Lauren Elmore added a 9.8 with a big routine and an ever-improving double layout dismount. Ourada came back with her best combination work of the season (a Pak salto from the high bar to low bar into an immediate and very difficult Stalder circle with a 1/2 pirouette) but piked down and over rotated her double layout badly enough to drop her score to a 9.7. Pintchouk's struggles on the evening continued with a very uncharacteristic fall on her mount (jump over the low bar), giving the team an unheard of fall in the rotation. The pressure was on Janiga to pick up the swing and the freshman did not disappoint, turning in a 9.875 to set up Yim. Coach Smyth was pleased with the youngster's developing toughness. "It was big for Carly to step up on bars after Alex fell". Yim showed no signs of stress and finished another All American caliber set with a tremendous full twisting double tuck dismount that lawn darted on landing and gave the Card a solid 49.15, matching Oklahoma's vault score and keeping the team totals nearly identical at the half way point.
Stanford's beam performance in their last meet at Nebraska left a very disappointing taste in everyone's mouths and the team has worked especially hard the last two weeks to erase that memory. Elmore led off the third rotation with a solid and difficulty-packed set (punch front on the beam, round off back handspring layout, stuck double full) that only garnered a 9.775 from the judges. Pintchouk got herself back on track with just a few minor balance checks for an unremarkable 9.75, but Yim returned to the lineup next. The junior co-captain lends much more than just a great score to the lineup and she performed with grace and confidence for a much-needed 9.9. Junior Aimee Precourt closed out the run of four `08s with an improved 9.725 that showed some of the confidence that has characterized her work for most of the season. Fee looked significantly stronger than she did in her last beam outing and had a terrific routine marred only by a very large step on her round off double back dismount for a 9.825. Janiga closed out the rotation and was also far better than she did versus the Huskers with a solid 9.775 that also included a major balance check on her dismount landing. The 49.025 was not nearly what the Card are capable of, but Oklahoma ended up having to count a miss on floor exercise in the third rotation and Stanford opened up their lead by a couple of tenths.
Floor exercise is an event packed with potential for the young Stanford team thanks to world-class choreography, but the event has been a bit inconsistent and SWG was hoping to take a major step forward. Pintchouk led off with a very strong 9.825 and freshman Blair Ryland stepped in with what is becoming a very dependable 9.8. Gentry matched Ryland's effort after being out of the floor lineup for several weeks and dismounted with a very clean double pike and one of her best routines. Fee competed in the fourth spot and started strong but ran out of gas at the end of her routine and had to fight from a very deep squatted landing on her double tuck dismount for a 9.75. Janiga once again had to follow a missed routine but it did not phase her and the freshman performed very well, with just a little under rotation on her Arabian double front mount for a 9.8. Ourada closed out the evening with the second best set of her career, highlighted by a huge full twisting double back pike mount and an absolutely drilled double pike dismount. The team score of 49.125 is still far short of what the team and the coaching staff expected on the event, but it was enough to hold onto the Cardinal lead in spite of a strong 49.1 from the Sooners on beam.
While the win and the fight were positive signs for the team, the evening also revealed that challenges still lie ahead. "Tonight revealed that we have a lot to do," commented Smyth. "We had a lot of little mistakes and we need to do a lot of fine tuning before our final regular season meet." The Cardinal return to Burnham for that competition in two weeks when they face arch rival No. 5 UCLA on Sunday, March 25 at 2:00 pm in a showdown for regular season Pac-10 honors.