March 19, 2011
LOS ANGELES - Stanford sophomore Ashley Morgan scored a 9.90 to tie for first on the floor exercise and earn her first Pacific-10 Conference individual championship, but Stanford as a team finished fourth at the conference women's gymnastics finals at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on Saturday.
Stanford (20-4) struggled on the uneven bars and balance beam to open the meet and never was able to climb back into contention. The Cardinal scored 195.975 to finish behind first-place Oregon State (197.200), runner-up UCLA (196.750) and third-place Washington (196.025).
The Cardinal entered the meet with a No. 3 national ranking.
"We just weren't ourselves today," Stanford coach Kristen Smyth said. "We weren't handling our bar warmups very well and that seemed to create some questions marks. That was a little uncharacteristic for our team. There was definitely something missing: a spark, a fire."
Stanford began with the bars, but the landings were not crisp and the Cardinal lost potential points, and the team's total of 48.700 was its lowest of the season in the event. Stanford did better on the balance beam, scoring 49.125, but its floor score of 49.000 - even with Morgan's performance - was its' second-lowest of the season and Stanford's title chances were essentially over.
Stanford did its best on its final event, the vault, scoring 49.150 with all six scores in the 9.8's.
Morgan tied UCLA's Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs for the floor title, extended Morgan's streak of victories to nine consecutive meets. She was Stanford's only individual champion and became the school's third-ever Pac-10 floor champion - all in the past three years -- following Carly Janiga (2010) and Nicole Ourada (2009).
But Smyth said the victory was of small consolation for Morgan, who finished as Stanford's top all-arounder, placing fifth with a 39.275.
"She's incredible," Smyth said. "But it's tough when your team ends up fourth. It's a team sport. And although she deserves to get recognized, I'm sure she would've have given that up for a conference team title."
Stanford welcomed the return of fifth-year all-arounder Allyse Ishino, who competed on the bars and beam in her first meet since injuring her ankle a month ago. Another highlight was the performance of junior captain Alyssa Brown, who had Stanford's highest scoring average for the meet (9.85), while competing in three events.
Stanford will find out Monday where it will compete at the NCAA regionals on April 2. In all, 36 teams will compete in six-team groups around the country with the top two advancing on to the NCAA Championships April 15-17 in Cleveland. Stanford will advance to the regionals for the 28th consecutive season.
As Stanford heads into spring break, the week away from school is a perfect time to for the team to re-focus as it heads into NCAA competition.
"We need to take the time to address the areas where we can get better, and one of those is landings," Smyth said. "This is an opportunity for us to take a good look and see what we need to be.
"They're got a great team, and they have so much in them. Now, it's time to show the work that they've done in the gym."
Winners and Stanford
Vault: 1, Olivia Courtney (UCLA) 9.950. Stanford: Nicole Pechanec 9.850, Ashley Morgan 9.850, Alyssa Brown 9.850, Danielle Ikoma 9.800, Nicole Dayton 9.800, Shelley Alexander 9.800.
Uneven Bars: 1 (tie), Makayla Stambaugh (Oregon State), Leslie Mak (Oregon State), Olivia Vivian (Oregon State), Olivia Courtney (UCLA), Aisha Gerber (UCLA), Samantha Walior (Washington), each 9.900. Stanford: Alyssa Brown 9.850, Allyse Ishino 9.775, Nicole Pechanec 9.750, Shelley Alexander 9.725, Ashley Morgan 9.700, Danielle Ikoma 9.575.
Balance Beam: 1, Leslie Mak (Oregon State) 9.950. Stanford: Alyssa Brown 9.850, Shona Morgan 9.850, Danielle Ikoma 9.850, Ashley Morgan 9.825, Allyse Ishino 9.750, Shelley Alexander 9.750.
Floor Exercise: 1 (tie), Ashley Morgan (Stanford), Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (UCLA), each 9.900. Other Stanford: Nicole Pechanec 9.850, Shelley Alexander 9.800, Nicole Dayton 9.750, Danielle Ikoma 9.700, Kristina Vaculik 9.575.
All-Around: 1, Leslie Mak (Oregon State) 39.525. Stanford: Ashley Morgan 39.275, Shelley Alexander 39.075, Danielle Ikoma 38.925.
Gymnast of the Year: Leslie Mak (Oregon State)
Freshman of the Year: Olivia Courtney (UCLA)
Toyo Tires Student-Athlete of the Year: Mary Atkinson (Arizona State)
Coach of the Year: Tanya Chaplin (Oregon State)