OSU's homecoming a success, knock off No. 4 UCLA
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 01:02
As Melanie Jones finished her floor routine by throwing her hand in front of her face, Gill Coliseum roaring with applause, it was clear what the Oregon State gymnastics team had just done.
The No. 13 Beavers clinched a victory over No. 4 UCLA — 196.725-196.075 — for the first time in a dual meet since 2007. And it gave the Bruins their first loss of the 2013 season.
“For the past four years I’ve been here, it’s always been such a tough competition to go against UCLA,” Jones, a senior, said. “We’ve always been close, we’ve always done well, they always put up a good fight. So it’s a really good feeling to kick butt.”
Five of OSU’s first six meets this season have been away from home, including a month-long stretch of four road meets leading up to Saturday’s matchup with UCLA.
Head coach Tanya Chaplin was pleased with the gymnasts’ confidence and ability to stay concentrated in their “Beaver bubble,” as the team calls it.
“It’s always good to have that under your belt,” Chaplin said. “They didn’t just get caught up in what UCLA’s doing, and that’s easy to do sometimes when you’re alternating. I was really proud of the focus that this team had.”
Jones scored a 9.900 to lock up the win for the Beavers in the second-to-last routine of the night. The follow-up to Jones was the cherry on top of the meet for Oregon State. Senior Makayla Stambaugh closed out the night with a 9.950 on floor.
“She kind of set me up, so I’ve got to give props to Mel,” Stambaugh said. “Mel went up there, killed the routine and I heard the fans get really into it so that kind of pumped me up even more.”
Stambaugh had one of her best individual performances of her career on Saturday, finishing with an all-around score of 39.550 — a career-best.
Even more impressive was Stambaugh finishing in first place in the all-around, topping UCLA’s Vanessa Zamarripa. It was the first time someone scored better than Zamarippa all season. Zamarippa is in first place in the nation in all-around and has been named Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week four times already in 2013.
The team total score was Oregon State’s second highest of the season. Jones attributes the success to returning home for the first time since Jan. 11.
“Obviously we’ve been away for so long, away from our crowd, away from Beaver Nation, so being back here definitely boosts confidence,” Jones said.
With gymnastics scores coming from subjective judges, there will always be inconsistencies. UCLA had its lowest team total of the year, and there were times when the Beavers were disappointed by the scores they were receiving — particularly sophomore Cerise Witherby’s 9.700 on floor.
“It’s frustrating because the scores are out of our control, but we only focus on what we can control and that’s our gymnastics,” Stambaugh said. “But overall, I’m really satisfied with the team’s performance and my performance, as well.”
Oregon State will likely enter the national top 10 in the rankings for the first time since being ranked No. 9 in the preseason poll. Saturday’s score of 196.725 is a full point higher than the Beavers’ average for the season.
The Beavers had a lot of catching up to do after scoring a 193.600 in the season-opener in Cancun on Jan. 4. The initial score put them at No. 23 in the nation, and they’ve since moved up 10 spots, and likely a few higher after Saturday’s impressive showing.
Oregon State isn’t satisfied yet, either.
“Our best is still out there,” Jones said.
Warner Strausbaugh, sports editor