The UCLA Bruins won their first meet of the year against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Sunday afternoon.
UCLA started strong on vault with junior Olivia Courtney scoring a team high of 9.875. They moved to uneven bars in the second rotation and were just as strong. Senior Lichelle Wong and freshman Sophina DeJesus both scored 9.900. However, balance beam brought issues for the Bruins during the third rotation. Wong sat down on her dismount, scoring 9.275, which had to count towards the team total. Mattie Larson also fell and had her score of 9.175 dropped. They got back on track with amazing floor exercise routines. The highlight came from fifth-year senior Vanessa Zamarripa who scored a career high of 9.975.
Southern Utah started the competition on uneven bars with sophomore Rochelle Bernier and senior Michaela Chernoch scoring 9.775. Senior Alyssa Click scored to team high of 9.850. The Thunderbirds had strong routines on balance beam with Click once again scoring the team high of 9.875. Sophomore Jamie Armijo was the only gymnast to struggle and scored a 9.175, which was dropped. The team was strong on floor exercise with freshman Arlyn Amor scoring the team high with a 9.800. They were strong on vault as well with Chernoch scoring the team high of 9.775.
“I feel like we’re very young,” said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. “We’re counting on a lot of routines from our freshmen, and they’re responding beautifully. Even though we have quite a few veterans out there, I still feel like we’re competing a lot of freshmen routines.”
The Bruins have also had several injuries to deal with.
“We have a lot of girls coming back from surgeries,” said Field. “This is their first time back in quite a while. I think it was great for them to get out their nerves, and I’m thrilled that we got through healthy.”
“It was a great start for the team,” said Zamarripa of UCLA, who also won the all-around. “We had a couple of little mishaps and mistakes but that’s expected in the first meet of the year. All we can do is put forth out best effort and that’s what we did.”
Southern Utah was also happy with their performance.
"We came into this meet wanting to hit and did just that for the first 23 routines," said Southern Utah head coach Scott Bauman. "We scored really well and to do that on the road against a team that is anticipated to contend for the national title shows just how good our team can be. The girls handled all of that pressure remarkably well and did a great job.”
Southern Utah’s next meet will be on Sunday, January 19 against Utah, West Virginia and Oregon State.
UCLA will compete next on Saturday, January 12 against Utah.