GymDawgs Upset Bid Falls Just Short At Regionals
April 2, 2011
NORMAN, Okla. - When a program has come as far as Washington has in five years under Head Coach Joanne Bowers, and suddenly finds itself face to face with what it has been working towards, sometimes the desire can overwhelm. That seemed to be the case today at NCAA Gymnastics Regionals, as the Huskies were one event away from a stunning upset of 7th-ranked Utah and a coveted trip to the NCAA Championships. But the balance beam tripped up the Dawgs on their final rotation and UW would finish in third-place, missing the NCAA trip by one spot.
Host school and fifth-ranked Oklahoma won with a 197.350, followed by Utah which scored 196.475. Washington was third with 195.300, followed by North Carolina (195.225), New Hampshire (194.500), and Missouri (194.175). The third-place Regional finish was the best for UW since 2005, and the team score was UW's best at Regionals since 2003.
Despite the heartbreaking ending in Oklahoma, Coach Bowers could not have been more proud with the effort put out today and all season by her team, ranked 17th entering the meet. There was a lot to celebrate today, as freshman Aliza Vaccher had a big personal-best in the all-around and placed second overall to earn an individual trip to the NCAA Championships.
Junior Ruby Engreitz had a career-best 9.925 on the bars to earn runner-up honors in that event, with seniors Kristen Linton and Samantha Walior tying for third on bars as well. Linton also tied for sixth on floor, and Vaccher and Amanda Cline tied for fifth on vault, and Engreitz was sixth in the all-around.
"I have never been more proud of a group of young women that I've worked with," said Bowers. "For an entire year of hard work and all the preparation that they've done to make the goals that we set for ourselves in September. We wanted to be in the conversation to go to nationals, and up until our last event, we were kicking and screaming and we were right there. We probably wanted it a little too bad, and beam's a tough event to end on when your nerves are going. But I think we did so much this year for University of Washington gymnastics, and I'm just very proud of the whole team. Disapointing on the ending today, but the first three events were just fantastic."
Washington's valiant effort did its three seniors proud, as Haley Bogart, Kristen Linton, and Samantha Walior competed in their final meets as Huskies. Part of the first recruiting class for head coach Joanne Bowers and her staff, the three have been cornerstones as UW has built year by year.
"I'm only sad for our seniors, because they did so much to help elevate this program, and I wanted them so desperately to get the taste of the team to go," said Bowers.
Washington followed its same rotation as the Pac-10 Championships two weeks back, where they had a great showing to place third and upset third-ranked Stanford. UW would start on floor, then head to vault, bars, and beam.
At Pac-10s, the opening floor routine was the only event UW struggled with. That would not be the case today, as the Huskies posted a 49.000 overall on floor. Aliza Vacchar matched her career-high to start with a 9.800, and Lauren Rogers matched that. Samantha Walior also hit for a 9.800, and Kristen Linton led the way with a 9.850. Ruby Engreitz finished up with a 9.750.
Washington then moved on to vault. Engreitz opened with a 9.775, followed by a career-high matching 9.850 from Vaccher. Haley Bogart netted a 9.775 as well, then sophomore Lauren Rogers stepped up with a 9.825, and junior Amanda Cline matched Vaccher with a 9.850 to bring the Husky total to 49.075, their fourth meet in a row over 49-points on vault. That gave the Huskies a tenth of a point lead over Utah after both teams were through two rotations.
After a great first bars routine from Vaccher earned a 9.825, Cline struggled to a 9.475. That put the pressure on Rogers to deliver, and she came through with a 9.800.
Kristen Linton then set the Dawgs on fire on the uneven bars with a 9.900. Engreitz fed off that energy and posted a 9.925, a new career-best that wound up being the second-best score posted all day. The Huskies continued to roll, as senior Sam Walior delivered another 9.900 to give the Dawgs a season-best 49.375 on bars.
UW went into the final rotation with a 0.250 lead over Utah for the second and final qualifying spot. But it's always tough to finish on the balance beam, where nerves come so much into play. At Pac-10s, the Huskies were brilliant on bars at the end of the meet, but unfortunately today their hopes for moving on unraveled quickly on the beam, as Bixler and Meg Whitney both suffered falls in UW's first three routines. It was the first time UW had to count a fall this year. Vaccher was strong again on beam with a 9.775 to lead UW and Walior closed out her fantastic career with a 9.725 on beam, but UW scored just a 47.850.
"Even the girls that struggled on beam I wouldn't trade them for anybody," said Bowers. "They've been doing a great job for us all year and they got us here."
Vaccher's 39.250 in the all-around was a full two-tenths above her previous season-best, which came just two weeks back at Pac-10s. She will be UW's first NCAA individual all-around competitor since Bogart qualified as a freshman in 2008.
NCAA Women's Gymnastics Regional Championships
Final Standings (Top-2 advance to NCAAs)