Huskies Finish Third At Seattle Regional
April 7, 2012
SEATTLE - The 2012 NCAA Seattle Regional lived up to its lofty expectations. It was an exciting meet that featured four teams in the top 25, including defending national champion Alabama. The No. 23 Washington gymnastics team didn't let that intimidate them and came out firing on all cylinders, turning in a solid performance and finishing third behind No. 4 Alabama and No. 9 LSU. Sophomore Aliza Vaccher placed first in the vault and fourth overall in all-around, qualifying for Nationals for a second straight year.
Washington came into the meet seeded fourth, and for the second year in a row finished a spot higher than their original seed. For the first time this year, Washington knocked off No. 16 Arizona, who was seeded third coming into the regional. The Huskies scored a 195.825, just a quarter of a point behind second place LSU (196.075).
With a pro-Husky crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Dawgs put in one of their best efforts of the year and finished the season on a high-note. After faltering a bit at the Pac-12 championships, the Washington women bounced back and made the final outcome all but decided until the very end. All the hard work they put in this week on perfecting their routines and sticking their landings paid off, as the huskies rarely missed a landing.
Husky coach Joanne Bowers was proud of the performance of her team today. "I just want to say how thrilled I am and how proud of our team I am right now. We asked them to go out there and give back to the university that has done such a great job of putting on this event for us. We have so many people who are putting on this event and we asked 'What can we do as a team?' They said to put it all out on the floor, give the best show we can, and see where we end up and I honestly feel like our team did that tonight."
Washington started the day strong on vault, recording a season high with a score of 49.200, second best next to Alabama. Vaccher (Eugene, Ore.) led the Huskies with a 9.925, beating her previous career high of 9.85. Junior Lauren Rogers (Plains, Pa.) tied for fifth overall with a score of 9.850.
As they had hoped it would, the Huskies' momentum from their strong vault performance carried over to their second rotation on bars. Washington scored a 49.075, led by freshman McKenzie Fetcher (9.850) and senior Ruby Engreitz (9.850), who both tied for fourth place overall.
After two full rotations, Washington was in second place behind first place Alabama and in front of third place LSU. The Huskies third rotation was on beam, an event the Huskies struggled on in Pac-12s. Washington scored a 48.675, junior Paige Bixler (Rowlett, Texas) earning a fifth place finish overall.
Heading into the fourth and final rotation, Washington trailed LSU by .025. The Huskies finished the meet strong on the floor, scoring a 48.875. Leading the way for Washington was Rogers, scoring a 9.825 and placing sixth overall. For the seniors, it was important for them to finish on a good note in what was their last meet as University of Washington gymnasts--especially after an uncharacteristic performance at the Pac-12 championships. "I think we were really peaking towards the end of the season and Pac-12's was honestly just a fluke. I think by coming back and finishing strong this season, we showed that it wasn't just an accident that we were doing so well this season. That was a real confidence booster," said Engreitz (Kirkland, Wash.).
The Huskies kept the mood light made the meet about enjoying each other's company and cherishing the time they had together. Engreitz and her teammates were not focused on the scores and didn't even realize how close they were to LSU heading into the final rotation. "We were just having fun playing games on the byes and having a good time with each other."
Bowers appreciates all that her seniors have done for this program, particularly Engreitz. "She has helped our program in such an amazing way. When I look at her work ethic every single day in the gym, we always tease her that she's a quiet leader. She's not rah-rah and will not get on anybody. But she will come into the gym every single day and work her butt off in practice. She's a leader that way. The difficulty she has added to her routines since she started college, on every event, has been amazing and has raised the level of difficulty of our program. She's going to be very missed."
Vaccher will compete in the all-around competition at the NCAA Championships April 20-22nd in Duluth, Ga. Although excited about making it to nationals again, she wishes she was making the trip with her team, instead of alone. "It's mixed, because it's nice to do well, but you don't want to go without the team. So that's hard to do that two years in a row. But it's also nice to know that hard work pays off and that you can compete at a high level." Bowers wishes the team was going too, but is proud of Vaccher and happy that she will be representing University of Washington Athletics on a national stage. "It keeps our program in the national light while we are trying to get out team there."