The UCLA Bruins’ women’s gymnastics team, ranked number one in the preseason, will kick off their 2012 season this Sunday afternoon at the John Wooden Center on campus, hosting the preseason #5 team, perennial power, and longtime rival – who is now in the Pac-12 – Utah Utes.
Coached by Valorie Kondos-Field, who’s entering her 22nd year in Westwood, these Bruins are loaded and barring any unforseen setbacks, are among the favorites to win their 7th national championship and 6th since 2000 after getting beaten by Alabama for the national championship last season by the narrowest of margins.
Despite All-American Sydney Sawa having shoulder surgery and being rendered out for the bulk of the year, UCLA returns seven other All-Americans, including 2010 NCAA vault champion Vanessa Zamarripa, who sat out 2011 with a torn Achilles tendon and is chomping at the bit to compete again.
Samantha Paszek is another key Bruin coming back as the sophomore is the reigning NCAA beam champion, as is Olivia Courtney, the 2011 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, 10-time All-American Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, two-time All-American Aisha Gerber, Monique DelaTorre, and Tauny Frattone.
Mattie Larson, the 2010 U.S. floor exercise champion and World Championships silver medalist, and Cassie Whitcomb head a great freshman class who will, as is Kondos-Field’s – also known as Miss Val’s – practice, see plenty of action.
Listing all of these great gymnasts should prove that this team is loaded.
Utah, who is ranked second in the preseason coaches poll with UCLA being ranked first, has more or less owned the Bruins over the years as the Utes have lost to UCLA only three out of 27 times in the regular season, the last being in 2010. However, the Bruins have beaten Utah in four of the last five postsason meets, when it really counts, so it balances out.
The meet starts at 2:00 p.m. and as the John Wooden Center has a capacity of a little over 2,000 – the home meets are being held there due to Pauley Pavilion getting renovated – it is advised to get there early.
And please note that this site, Go Joe Bruin.com, will be the only news source to cover the women’s gymnastics season on a regular basis outside of uclabruins.com and the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper, so be sure to go to Go Joe Bruin for recaps, previews, and video clips of these Bruin gymnasts.