Sunday’s meet against the No. 7 UCLA Bruins was full of highs and lows for the Stanford women’s gymnastics team. Despite putting up a season-high score of 196.450, the Cardinal suffered its second straight loss as UCLA put up 197.250.
Stanford and UCLA have long been rivals in gymnastics, as they have combined for 14 of the last 15 conference championships. Last year, Stanford controlled the season series, beating UCLA three of the four times they met (though the one loss came in the Pac-10 Championships). The Cardinal looked to get an early lead on the season series against the Bruins on Sunday, but was unable to do so.
Stanford started on bars, posting a team score of 49.125 and led by senior Nicole Pechanec, who tied her season-high score of 9.900. Sophomore Shona Morgan and freshman Samantha Shapiro also had impressive contributions in the event, as they both posted career-high scores of 9.875. However, UCLA’s 49.475 on vault gave the Bruins an early lead that they would hold for the rest of the meet.
The Cardinal would then go on to put up a season-high score of 49.300 on bars, the first time the team has eclipsed the 49-point mark in this event all season. This strong performance was thanks in large part to junior Nicole Dayton, who scored a 9.900 for the second-straight week after missing a meet against Washington due to injury. Dayton was matched by freshman Ivana Hong, whose 9.900 was the best score of her young collegiate career. Stanford managed to narrow its deficit to 98.650-98.425 with its impressive vault performance, but still had work to do going into the last two rounds.
On the floor exercise, Pechanec scored a season-best 9.900, her second of the day, and freshman Pauline Hanset matched her career best on the floor with a 9.850. They helped contribute to the Cardinal’s 49.000 in the event, its season best on floor. However, despite such a strong performance in the event, UCLA extended its lead to 0.475 going into the final round.
Having had its fair share of problems on the beam last week against Oregon State (posting a season-low score of just 47.750 due to three falls), the Cardinal hoped to have a better performance than last week despite a similar pressure scenario—as was the case in last week’s meet, the team was on the road and needed a strong beam performance to narrow its deficit.
Unlike last week, however, the Cardinal had an impressive outing on the beam, posting a score of 49.025, its second best of the season. Shona Morgan put up her second 9.875 on the day, and junior Ashley Morgan also scored a 9.875 to improve her score by 0.650 points from last week. Unfortunately, the 49.025, despite being the Cardinal’s second-best beam score on the season, was not enough to catch the Bruins, whose 49.350 sealed the victory 197.250-196.450.
Impressive individual performances highlighted the day for the Cardinal, as two Stanford gymnasts posted very strong scores in Sunday’s loss. Pechanec’s two 9.900 scores helped her put up a career-best 39.325 in the all-around competition, while Ashley Morgan also posted a career-high 39.300 on the day. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, UCLA sophomore Samantha Peszek also posted the best all-around score of her career with a 39.550.
Stanford drops to 4-2 on the season (1-2 in the Pac-12) with the loss, while UCLA improves to 4-1 (2-1 in the Pac-12). The Cardinal next meets the Bruins at the Pac-12 Championships on March 24, where the team will look to even the season series and take the more important matchup between the two. Next up for Stanford is the team’s first meeting with archrival Cal in Berkeley, where Stanford continues its five-game road swing on Sunday.