Heading into last Friday’s meet against then-No. 25 Arizona State, the No. 10 Stanford women’s gymnastics team was the favorite to come out with the victory. The Cardinal did indeed leave with a win in the matchup, but few could have predicted how strong of a performance it would put together to earn its first home victory of the season.
Stanford won the meet 197.275-195.250 to improve to 8-2 on the season, while Arizona State fell to 2-5. The Cardinal won each of the four events, and its 197.275 score was a season-best for the team, which hadn’t posted a score in the 197-point range until Friday.
Stanford senior Ashley Morgan stole the show, scoring at least a 9.825 in all four events to come away with a career-best all-around score of 39.550 in front of a crowd of over 1,400 in Maples Pavilion. Her teammates were nearly as impressive in a true team victory, as there was a different individual winner from Stanford for each of the four events.
“Throughout the year there have been standout routines and highlights from individuals,” Morgan said, “but this past weekend we showed how strong a team we are.”
The night got started on vault, where Stanford took an early lead in the meet with a 49.225-48.800 win. Any worries about being rusty following a two-week break were quickly dispelled, as Stanford came out strong in the event. Coming off a career-best performance at UCLA, sophomore Ivana Hong led the way with her second consecutive 9.900 in the event to earn the individual victory. Senior Nicole Dayton finished second with a score of 9.875 and Morgan finished third in the team with 9.825, her lowest score all evening.
Stanford kept the ball rolling with a season-best of 49.375 on bars. Each Stanford competitor scored above a 9.800. No Sun Devil could match that score, so the Cardinal earned an easy victory in the event. Sophomore Kristina Vaculik tied her career-best score of 9.925 to win the individual title, while All-Americans sophomore Samantha Shapiro and Ashley Morgan earned second and third place with scores of 9.900 and 9.875, respectively.
The Cardinal’s first real challenge of the night came on balance beam, as it found itself needing three straight strong performances to keep up with the Sun Devils. Though junior Shona Morgan and Ashley Morgan got Stanford started with scores of 9.825 and 9.900, the team found itself in a small hole after a rare miss by Hong. Under pressure, junior Amanda Spinner gave the Cardinal exactly what it needed, tying her career-best in the event with 9.925 to win the individual title. Vaculik and sophomore Pauline Hanset followed with scores of 9.825 and 9.800, respectively, to round out the team score of 49.275 for another team victory.
Stanford, and Ashley Morgan in particular, saved its best for last on floor exercise, as Morgan’s 9.950 — which tied her career-best in the event — helped set up the team’s score of 49.400 to seal the victory. The Cardinal again found itself needing to pick up a teammate following Dayton’s unusual slip-up, and it did just that. All five performers scored above 9.775, with Shona Morgan earning second with 9.925 and Shapiro and freshman Taylor Rice tying for third with 9.875.
The Cardinal put together a season-best performance on Friday night, but the team will need more of the same on Saturday as it faces No. 7 Utah. Stanford hopes to avenge a close 0.200-point loss to Utah in the regular season last year, while the Utes may be motivated to win after the Cardinal finished just ahead of them in the NCAA Championships last year to earn fourth place.
“I think our team is extremely confident and should be confident,” Ashley Morgan said. “Our team chemistry and gymnastics is there, so we really just need to be ourselves and do what we do every day inside the gym, which is competing with our hearts.”
Contact Connor Scherer at csherer “at” stanford.edu.