By Cybele Zhang
Last night, No. 21 Stanford’s women’s gymnastics (0-2, 0-2 Pac 12) fell short to No. 2 UCLA (2-0, 2-0 Pac 12) 195.125-197.225 in the Cardinal’s home opener. An inconsistent balance beam performance by Stanford proved to be the deciding factor, but the exhilarating sold-out crowd foreshadowed a promising season to come.
For the first time in Stanford history, women’s gymnastics sold 6000 tickets — the entirety of Maples Pavilion — even though this is the first season since the program’s inception in 1978 where all events will be ticketed. Prior to this competition, the largest turnout for a Cardinal meet was 3,026 against Utah in 2014.
“It was amazing to get a sold-out crowd here in Maples for our first season being ticketed. This is exactly the type of environment we need to prepare our young team for the postseason,” Stanford’s head coach, Tabitha Yim, said. “I can’t tell you enough how much it meant for everyone to be out here [and] to have alumnae in attendance.”
The meet was themed to celebrate “Women in Sports” and “Alumni Day.” Between rotations, the Cardinal honored alumnae ranging from the Class of 1978 to 2016, who came out onto the court and each received flowers.
Although Stanford was unable to come away with the win, it put up impressive individual stats and certainly held its own against a Bruin powerhouse.
The crowd was electrifying and was certainly louder than the average basketball or volleyball game, which the venue also holds. The crowd was mostly filled with young children and their families, and many UCLA fans made the journey north to support their team.
With the crowd in their favor, the Bruins put on a show, outscoring the Cardinal in vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor routine. With this victory, UCLA furthered its winning streak. The Bruins have now won their fourth consecutive meet with a score over 197 for the first time in school history.
The top vault came from the Bruins’ Sekai Wright, who scored 9.875. The Cardinal’s best vault, the third highest vault overall, was a 9.825 from junior all-around athlete Aleeza Yu. The most shocking vault, however, came from 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross — who stumbled on her landing and fell backwards into the vault itself.
On the bars, UCLA’s Ross rebounded and had the highest score of 9.9 with a graceful, seemingly effortless performance and clean dismount. Stanford sophomore all-around athlete Kyla Bryant was a close second in the event with a 9.875.
On beam, UCLA totally dominated, claiming all five of the top scores.
“We’re a young team, and I think we did really well on three events, but we let it get away from us on that third event, balance beam. It’s where the nerves come in sometimes,” Yim said. “We’re very good on beam, so that performance is uncharacteristic of us.”
The Bruin’s Katelyn Ohashi put on a master class with her floor routine featuring a mash-up of classic 1980’s songs. Her score of 9.9750 was nearly perfect. The Cardinal’s top floor routine was Bryant’s uptempo, sassy routine, which earned a 9.85.
“They showed a lot of heart finishing strong on that last rotation,” Yim said.
The only all-around athletes of the competition were Bryant and Stanford sophomore Rachael Flam. They scored 39.32 and 38.25, respectively.
The Cardinal’s next competition is on Friday versus No. 11 Washington (1-2, 1-1 Pac 12). The first routine will begin at 7:00 p.m. PT at home.
“I think what you’ll see on Friday night is we’ll come back and work on our consistency and making sure that we finish all the way,” Yim said. “They’re a gritty group, and I think they’ll come back.”
Contact Cybele Zhang at cybelez ‘at’ stanford.edu.