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W. Gymnastics: Bulldogs narrowly outlast Cardinal

After two consecutive quad-meet victories and despite some impressive individual performances, the No. 10 women’s gymnastics team could not quite ride its momentum against a No. 9 Georgia team on Monday, losing 195.400-197.000. Georgia has given the Cardinal nothing but trouble over the years: Stanford hasn’t beaten the Gym Dogs since 2004, and in 20 all-time meetings between the two teams, Georgia has taken 18 of them. Their last meeting came in 2010, when the top-ranked, defending national champion Gym Dogs outlasted the Cardinal by just one-tenth of a point in Stanford’s opening contest of the season.

Senior Stanford co-captain gymnast Ashley Morgan helped her team to a win in beam, but Georgia outlasted the Cardinal to win the meet.

Senior Stanford co-captain gymnast Ashley Morgan helped her team to a win in beam, but Georgia outlasted the Cardinal to win the meet.

Before the meet even got started, the Cardinal was hit with an early setback: head coach Kristen Smyth gave sophomore Ivana Hong the meet off after noticing an issue in one of her routines. Hong was originally slated to compete in the all-around competition, leaving four slots to be filled by her teammates. Co-captain Ashley Morgan, one of just two seniors on the team this year, was impressed with her team’s ability to cope with the challenge and credited the team’s strong individual relationships.

“Throughout the meet, everyone could feel our connectivity,” Morgan said, “especially as we dealt with adversity that was thrown our way.”

Georgia got off to an early lead, putting up a 49.400 on vault compared to Stanford’s 48.850 on bars. The Bulldogs’ 49.400 would ultimately be tied for the highest team score in an event that afternoon, earning Georgia a boost that it would not relinquish. Stanford was led by a pair of 9.850 scores by Morgan and sophomore Samantha Shapiro.

While Stanford put up a strong 49.125 on vault to try to reduce the gap, the Gym Dogs put up another 49.400 on bars, increasing their lead. Senior co-captain Nicole Dayton led on the bars for the Cardinal once again with a score of 9.925, a score good enough to earn her a third individual vault title in many meets; she has established herself as one of the stronger vault competitors out there. However, her team still trailed 97.795-98.800 going into the third round.

Despite sophomore Pauline Hanset’s 9.875 and Morgan’s 9.850 on floor exercise, Stanford tallied a team score of 48.375, its lowest team score for the competition. Hanset’s score tied her career high, while freshman Melissa Chuang also put up a career high with a score of 9.825. Chuang has been one of the more consistent Cardinal competitors this season, as she scored a 9.825 on vault as well, an event she has competed in every meet so far this season.

Trailing 146.350-147.625 going into the final round, Stanford knew it would need some of its strongest performances if it were to pull off the miraculous. Junior co-captain Amanda Spinner did as much as she could, posting a 9.925 on balance beam, a career-best score and the highest beam score the Cardinal has seen all season. Morgan and sophomore Kristina Vaculik both scored 9.800, helping Stanford score a 49.050 in the event and giving it the victory in beam over Georgia 49.050-48.825. However, the Bulldogs’ 49.375 on the floor exercise would seal its 1.6-point victory over the Cardinal.

Morgan was the only competitor in the meet to compete in all four events, and she came away with a 39.925 all-around score. She noted that the team members are particularly intent on holding each other to a high standard, trying to squeeze out every tenth of a point:

“Our team already has beautiful and dynamic gymnastics,” Morgan said, “so now we will focus on just letting our hard work shine through … This truly is such a special team.”

Morgan and the Cardinal will next take on No. 21 California in Berkeley on Saturday, Jan. 26.