Cougars Show Promise in Season Debut
PROVO -- The BYU Cougars women’s gymnastics team started off their 2011 campaign with a promising second place finish in Denver on Saturday. Finishing behind No. 7 Georgia but besting host No. 16 Denver with a score of 193.225, the Cougars had a strong showing in their first meet of the season in front of a crowd of 3,462 fans.
“I’m sure the girls feel good about beating two teams,” BYU head coach Brad Cattermole said. “But we’re probably more happy with the way we competed. Beating Denver just means that we made a few less mistakes than they did. We didn’t do as well as we could have but we’ll be better in weeks to come. This is probably one of our best opening meets in a long time.”
Starting the meet off on beam, team captain Jessica Villegas was the first up for the Cougars posting a 9.35. Freshman Megan Bain posted an impressive 9.525 debut. The BYU high score on the event was recorded by Jennifer Lezeu, an event veteran having competed on beam last season. Lezeu scored a 9.65. The Cougars found themselves in third place after the first rotation.
Next up for the Cougars was the floor exercise where BYU showed potential posting four scores of 9.7 or higher. The Cougars’ best score coming from sophomore Haylee Rollins with a 9.775. Jessica Villegas recorded a 9.75 while Megan Bain and Jennifer Lezeu both scored a 9.7. At the conclusion of two rotations, BYU still trailed Georgia and Denver recording a 95.925 in its first two events. Georgia led with a score of 97.675 followed closely by Denver who posted a 97.175 in the first two events.
On vault the Cougars received their highest score coming from veteran captain Natalie Eyre who was awarded a 9.8 for her performance on the event. Rollins and Krysten Koval followed closely behind with scores of 9.75 and 9.7 respectively.
Denver struggled on the beam in the third rotation. After three rotations BYU had pulled within four tenths of the Pioneers as the Cougars held a 144.475 and Denver combined the first three rotations to record 144.800. Meanwhile, the Georgia Gym Dogs proved why they are one of the strongest gymnastics programs in the country with a score of 146.600. Air Force trailed with a score of 139.800.
On their final event of the night, the Cougars did not have to count a fall as BYU posted five solid scores after an initial disappointing routine. Experienced bar competitors, Sarah Yandow, Lezeu, Rollins and Madeleine Johnson all posted scored of 9.7 or higher. Once again though it was Eyre who led the way for the Cougars posting a 9.85.
“I’m really proud of the team tonight,” Eyre said following the meet. “We made a few mistakes but overall I think it was a great starting point for the season. We are going to take the confidence from this meet and hopefully carry it on throughout the rest of the year.”
BYU will travel to Logan to take on in-state rival, Utah State, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 14.
BYU Gymnastics Begins Season in Denver
PROVO -- The BYU women’s gymnastics team will kick off their 2011 season with a challenge taking on two top 25 opponents, No. 7 Georgia and No. 16 Denver, as well as Air Force. The team will travel to Denver for the meet, which will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday. The meet will be held in Magness Arena.
“I’ve been really impressed with this group,” BYU head coach Brad Cattermole said. “This year when they’re standing around the chalk bucket they’re talking about little ways to improve their routines. I’m looking forward to the first meet. Workouts have been going well so we will see how it carries over into the meet.”
The meet will feature two of BYU’s nine ranked preseason opponents.
“I think it’s great that the girls will get to see this kind of competition early and often,” Cattermole said. “The more our team gets to see the best out there, the more they realize that they’re human too and the more you compete against them the better you do. Sometimes they start looking around and become more awestruck. But they realize that these opponents are not doing stuff out of this world and that we can compete with them.”
The Cougars will be led by junior captain Natalie Eyre and has an all-around impressive group with experience competing against fierce competition. BYU will also get their first look at their four promising freshmen.
Olympian Alicia Sacramone will be in attendance signing autographs at a meet and greet prior to the meet and handing out awards at the conclusion of the meet.
Georgia, a school widely acknowledged as one of the nation’s elite teams, will look to rebound from a disappointing season as they narrowly missed the NCAA Championships. The team finished their season ranked in the top-10 of all four events and a perfect 6-0 home record. They also defeated the eventual NCAA champion, the UCLA Bruins, during the regular season. The Gym Dogs’ head coach Jay Clark enters just his second season at the helm of the program after spending 17 years as an assistant/associate head coach under Suzanne Yoculan.
Denver is coming off a third place finish at the Salt Lake Regional last season, finishing behind Florida and Utah, with a score of 196.175. They are led by junior Brianna Springer, who qualified individually for the NCAA Championships all-around competition. The home team will look to start the season off strong.
Air Force features a group of five upperclassmen and nine newcomers. Four Falcons competed in NCAA Regionals individually at the conclusion of last season. Sophomore Jenna Dudley finished 16th in the individual all-around competition. The team travelled to Denton, Texas following Regionals to compete at the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships where they finished fourth in the USAG National Qualifier.