Cardinal falls short of Super Six at NCAA Championships

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For the sixth time in seven years, and the 13th time overall, Stanford women’s gymnastics earned a spot in the NCAA Championship weekend. But the Cardinal couldn’t live up to its expectations, nor to last year’s fourth-place performance, as it finished sixth place out of six teams in its semifinal round on Friday afternoon.

The weekend was split up into two semifinal rounds with six teams in each round; the top three teams in each group advanced to the Super Six competition on Saturday. No. 9 Stanford was matched up with No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 LSU, No. 8 Minnesota and Illinois. Stanford needed a much higher team score than its 194.700, as Florida, LSU, and Georgia advanced to the Super Six with scores of 197.775, 197.325, and 197.150, respectively.

Senior Nicole Dayton (above)
Senior Nicole Dayton (above) led Stanford with a 9.900 on vault, but the Cardinal failed to reach the Super Six. (ROB ERICSON/Stanford Athletics)

Stanford began the meet on floor, scoring a team score of 49.025. Stanford was led by freshman Taylor Rice, whose 9.875 in her NCAA Championships debut tied her season high. Senior Ashley Morgan, who earned second-team All-American honors on floor this season, finished second for the Cardinal with a score of 9.825.  Stanford’s 49.025 was good for third place, as the Cardinal remained in contention after the first round.

The team next performed on vault, where it began to face major problems. The team scored a 48.950, its only vault score of the season below 49.000. Senior Nicole Dayton was the lone bright spot for the Cardinal, scoring a 9.900 to tie for third overall. Dayton, by finishing in the top three, earned a chance to compete on Sunday in the individual events, where she finished 14th overall with a score of 9.8583.

However, two of Stanford’s most consistent gymnasts, Morgan and sophomore Ivana Hong, each finished with a score of 9.675, which were Morgan’s second-worst vault score of the season and Hong’s worst. Even worse for the Cardinal, Hong, who had been slated to be one of Stanford’s all-around performers, injured herself on her routine and had to sit out the next two rounds. Stanford was still alive heading into the third rotation, but would need a strong performance to get back into the meet.

That strong performance was not in the cards, as things continued to go downhill on bars, where Stanford’s 48.200 score was the team’s worst event score of the season. Stanford suffered two falls to begin the event, both earning sub-9.000 scores. Sophomore Becky Wing, who has only competed in two meets all season and is coming off an ACL tear, did her best to help Stanford get back on track, filling in for Hong with a score of 9.700.

After a pair of 9.850’s by sophomores Samantha Shapiro and Kritina Vaculik, sophomore Alex Archer unleashed a career-best 9.875 to lead Stanford.

“I can’t say it was my score that made that routine my career best,” Archer said, “because it was the moment that I will remember forever. Being able to do that at a NCAA Championships meant more to me than any score the judges could’ve given me.”

Despite Archer’s performance, Stanford knew its deficit was too large heading into the final rotation. It had a team score of 146.175, but would need a score in the 197-point range to earn a top-three finish. However, the Cardinal continued to compete, earning a score of 48.525 on the beam. Rice and Junior Shona Morgan each put up a 9.850 for their last events of the season.

With the season now over, Stanford loses seniors Ashley Morgan and Dayton, two of the team’s strongest competitors for years on end.

Contact Connor Scherer at cscherer “at” stanford.edu.

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