The Arizona GymCats were coming off a high. The team had been improving their scores—as a team and as individuals—almost on a weekly basis. Elizabeth LaRusso and Malia Hargrove had both won weekly honors from the Pac-12 in recent weeks. Then came the match against the UCLA Bruins, a 197.900 to 195.325 loss with the team’s lowest home score of the season.
“Worst performance of the year,” said Arizona head coach John Court. “By far.”
The GymCats scored lower in their first meet of the season, a 194.950 that dropped them to third place in a quad meet at Ohio State. There were several differences that made this week’s performance (and score) against UCLA worse.
The biggest one was that the loss at the quad meet in Columbus came early. No one was rounding into form, especially the young freshmen.
This week is also more important because NQS just went into effect last week. These are the scores that will eventually determine who gets to go the postseason and where the teams compete. As teams around the country were improving or solidifying those scores, Arizona was unable to do either.
“This was actually the biggest week of gymnastics, when you go into March,” Court said.
There was an even bigger issue, though. At Ohio State, Arizona was felled by on difficulties on one event. The GymCats could not put together a strong performance on an event that has been solid, although not spectacular, for the past several years—the uneven parallel bars.
On Sunday afternoon, the Arizona gymnasts had falls, major breaks, or other mistakes everywhere. The team scored over 49 on just one event. It earned a 49.225 on balance beam. The only other score even close was the 48.900 on vault.
“Probably double-digit routines were not done correctly,” Court said.
As for why almost everyone would struggle on the same night, Court said he wasn’t sure what might have been a precursor to that.
“If I knew that, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said with a laugh. “All athletes have off nights. They’re not happy about it. I’m not happy about it. The coaching staff is not happy about it. So, you got to look at yourself in the mirror this time of year.”
There were still bright spots for the GymCats. One was the return of Elena Deets. The junior had not competed since the Arizona State meet on Jan. 28.
“We have to be conscious of some of our older athletes,” Court said. “Give them time off if they need it.”
The time off seemed to do Deets well. She earned a 9.850 on balance beam and a 9.725 on floor exercise.
The other was the development of other athletes. Jordan Schultz earned a 9.825 on floor exercise.
Court was especially disappointed that more athletes were unable to do what Deets did because the 2,742 members of the community turned out to support them in what was probably UCLA’s last performance in McKale Center before it leaves for the Big Ten.
“Tucson showed up tonight,” Court said. “They did an incredible job supporting our team, supporting both teams all night long. I think there was more than was actually announced. And I told them... before the second half of the meet...look at everyone and see. They’re here to see you. Embrace that. Perform for them. So, thank you for everyone who showed up. I certainly apologize for our performance tonight. We had a week to prepare, and it should have been better. As a coach, I take that.”