Feb. 2, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. -
The No. 11 Stanford women's gymnastics team fell to No. 4 UCLA in its home opener Saturday evening, 196.925-196.200, despite a strong team effort and a career-best performance by sophomore Ivana Hong.
Consistently one of the most competitive rivalries in the Pac-12, Stanford and UCLA did not disappoint. It was an electric atmosphere in Burnham Pavilion with a capacity crowd of just over 1,500, and Olympic and World Champion Andreea Raducan in attendance.
Hong led the way for the Cardinal, competing in the all-around and recording a career-best score of 39.550. She finished first on uneven bars (9.875) and second on vault (9.900), balance beam (9.900) and floor exercise (9.875).
After her final performance of the night on floor, she received an ovation from her teammates and a hug from head coach Kristen Smyth.
"I was so impressed and proud of Ivana," said Smyth. "She's such a competitor and such a beautiful athlete on all four events, so I was just thrilled for her to get that all-around meet under her belt."
Reining Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week, Ashley Morgan had a strong showing for Stanford in the all-around as well, tying Hong for second on floor (9.875) and beam (9.900), tying her career high on the event. Morgan also contributed 9.825's on vault and bars.
Morgan has been one of the Cardinal's most consistent performers this season and has either matched or increased her all-around total in four consecutive meets.
Smyth is happy with Morgan's performance and the leadership the senior has provided to a young Cardinal team.
"To see Ashley step out on the floor and lead by example on all four events, every single weekend instills confidence in the entire team," said Smyth. "For her to perform like that really sets the example for our younger gymnasts on how to be able to transfer what we do in the gym to what we do out on the floor in competition."
Stanford scored a team season-best on beam (49.325) with five of six gymnasts scoring at least a 9.825. In addition to Hong and Morgan's 9.900's, Amanda Spinner
contributed a 9.875, and Shona Morgan
and Kristina Vaculik
The Cardinal got off to a great start on vault with solid performances by Hong, Ashley Morgan, Nicole Dayton (9.825) and Pauline Hanset, who recorded a career-best 9.875, good for a third-place finish overall.
Stanford had a one-tenth of a point lead heading into its second rotation on uneven bars and got off to a great start with the first four gymnasts scoring 9.800 or higher. Sophomore Kristina Vaculik scored a 9.850 for second place in the meet, while Shona Morgan delivered a 9.800.
Unfortunately, the Cardinal suffered two falls by its final two gymnasts on the event. In addition, UCLA's Vanessa Zamarripa delivered a vault that scored a perfect 10 in between Stanford's missed routines.
It seemed to be a shift in momentum and one that could have derailed the Cardinal.
However, Stanford responded on the third rotation by posting its season-best performance on balance beam, outscoring the Bruins as a team 49.325-49.225.
"To come up after two falls on bars and perform on beam the way we did, showed a lot of strength and toughness," said Smyth.
Stanford finished its meet strong on floor with Hong, Hanset and Ashley Morgan each scoring 9.875 and earning second-place finishes.
After a hectic January spent completely on the road before returning home for its fifth meet in four weeks, the Cardinal will receive a two week break to prepare for its next meet against Arizona State.
Smyth says the team will use the time to continue to improve and sure up lineup positions.
"We will get back into the gym and continue to work hard and focus on fixing the things we had trouble with tonight," said Smyth. "When we put it all together, I know we can compete against any team in the country."
The meet against Arizona State will take place Friday, Feb. 15, in Maples Pavilion at 7 p.m. (PT).