Jan. 8, 2010
ATHENS, Ga. -
Complete Release in PDF Format The No. 7 Stanford women's gymnastics team opens its season against No. 1 Georgia, the five-time defending NCAA champion. Stanford and Georgia have met 17 times in regular season and postseason competition going back to their first meeting, in 1986. Stanford returns 11 letterwinners, including six-time All-America Carly Janiga from a team that finished eighth in the nation a year ago. Georgia returns nine letterwinners, including six All-Americans.
Follow the Meet
Live stats and live video are available on georgiadogs.com. Both can be found on the tool bar under "Multimedia." The live stats are free, but the GXTRA webcast is not. The meet also will be televised on a tape-delayed basis (Jan. 12, 7 p.m. PT) by Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast.
What to Expect in 2010
Saturday's Opponent: Georgia
Stanford is ranked No. 7 in the GymInfo preseason coaches' poll. The Cardinal returns 11 letterwinners and eight starters from a team that went 17-4 and finished eighth in the nation. It was Stanford's eighth NCAA top-10 finish in 11 years. Though the Cardinal lost two All-Americans, Nicole Ourada and Kelly Fee, and co-captain Heather Purnell to graduation, it returns a strong veteran group that may include several breakthrough performers. Carly Janiga, a second-year team captain and six-time All-American, headlines the team. Janiga was the NCAA uneven bars runner-up last season and is expected to contend for the all-around title this year. In addition, the team returns 2009 NCAA South Central Regional bars champion Allyse Ishino and two-time All-Pac-10 selection Shelley Alexander.
Georgia provides the most demanding opener Stanford could ask for, as the Cardinal takes on the five-time defending NCAA champion on the road in a packed venue (Stegeman Coliseum, capacity 10,224). Georgia is unbeaten in its past 28 home dual meets, dating back to 2005. The Gym Dogs have a new look this year after the retirement of 26-year coach Suzanne Yoculan, who won 10 NCAA and 16 Southeastern Conference titles, and the graduation of three-time NCAA all-around champion Courtney Kupets, winner of a record nine NCAA individual titles. Jay Clark, Yoculan's longtime assistant, will make his Georgia head coaching debut.
The Georgia Series
The teams have met seven times in the past four years, including in last season's NCAA team preliminaries in Lincoln, Neb. Stanford's most recent victory over the Gym Dogs was in the 2004 NCAA team preliminaries at UCLA. This is Stanford's fourth season-opening meet with Georgia in five years, with earlier openers at Stanford in 2008, in Athens in 2007, and at the Cancun (Mexico) Classic in 2006. The Cardinal's most recent visit to Athens came in the 2008 NCAA Championships, when Stanford finished third at the Super Six team finals.
Georgia received 13 of 31 possible first-place votes in the GymInfo preseason coaches' poll. Three Pac-10 teams -- No. 5 UCLA, No. 7 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon State -- are in the top 10. Combined with No. 20 Arizona and No. 25 Washington, the Pac-10 has five of its seven teams in the Top 25.
Stanford coach Kristen Smyth envisioned a demanding schedule that would test the Cardinal in pressure-filled environments. Therefore, Stanford embarks on three road trips against top 10 teams -- at No. 1 Georgia (Jan. 9), No. 10 Oregon State (Jan. 29) and No. 5 UCLA (Feb. 14). Stanford faces Top 25 teams in its first six meets, including its home opener Jan. 17 against No. 20 Arizona, followed by UCLA on Jan. 24, both at Burnham Pavilion.
Stanford has traditionally scheduled tough season openers, taking on national champion Georgia three of the past four years. Last year, the Cardinal opened with victories over Oregon State (an NCAA Championships qualifier), Denver and BYU at the Cancun Classic in Mexico.
All-America Carly Janiga
Senior captain Carly Janiga enters the season with six All-America honors, including four first-team. Janiga was the 2009 NCAA uneven bars runner-up with a score of 9.9125. It gave Stanford its highest NCAA individual finish since 2001. She also earned second-team All-America honors in the all-around. In fact, Janiga won both the Pac-10 and NCAA South Central Regional all-around titles last season and is expected to be a contender for the 2010 NCAA crown. Janiga also is a three-time Scholastic All-American and is among nine gymnasts at Stanford since 2000 to double as an All-American athletically and academically.
Head Coach Kristen Smyth
Since Kristen Smyth, the reigning Pac-10 and Regional Coach of the Year, arrived as head coach in 2002, the Stanford women's gymnastics team has had unprecedented success. Numbers tell much of the story:
Of Stanford's 81 All-America honors, 60 have come in Smyth's tenure.
There have been 56 Scholastic All-American honors in that span.
Smyth has coached the Cardinal into the NCAA Super Six finals four times - Stanford had never advanced that far before - and finished among the top-three twice.
Of Stanford seven NCAA top-10 finishes, Smyth has coached the team to six of them.
The following is an event-by-event breakdown of Stanford's team:
All-Around: Stanford is in good hands with Carly Janiga, who captured both the conference and regional all-around titles last season. With the graduation of Georgia's Courtney Kupets, the battle for the NCAA all-around title should be wide open, and Janiga, with a best of 39.575, is expected to be among the contenders. Janiga became Stanford's fourth conference all-around champion in the past six years. Allyse Ishino and Shelley Alexander also have the potential to score high.
Vault: This event should be one of Stanford's strongest and deepest, with five returning starters, including four-year starter Blair Ryland, a 2007 All-American. Ryland has been a fixture in the leadoff spot and will continue in that role, providing the Cardinal with consistency and dependability in a key spot. Alexander, Janiga, Danielle Ikoma and Ishino will continue to be regulars, but sophomore Alyssa Brown, last year's strongest vaulter, will be brought along slowly after injuring her knee at Pac-10s.
Uneven Bars: The bars lineup does not have great depth, but does have great quality. This event has been a perennial strength for the Cardinal, with five individual regional titles in the past six years, not to mention a pair of 2009 All-American honors. Considered together, Janiga, Ishino, Brown and Nicole Pechanec "are a powerful force and could be some of the top bar performers in the country," Smyth said.
Balance Beam: The team's highest event score in 2009 (a 49.40 against Oregon State and UC Davis) came in this event, which has been a program strength. The beam team will rely heavily upon four returning starters - Alexander, Ikoma, Ishino and Janiga, the two-time defending Pac-10 beam champion. Pechanec, who scored a 9.9 in her only beam routine last season, and Ashley Morgan should step right in.
Floor Exercise: No other event speaks to Stanford's artistry and personality better than this one. Alexander is simply "a great performer," Smyth said. "You can't help but fall in love with her when she steps on the floor. Her smile is contagious." Pechanec is "outstanding in the way she can pull in the audience," Smyth said. "I think she could be one of our top artists of all time." Tenaya West offers incredible athleticism and sky high tumbling, and Ashley Morgan adds an explosive routine.