Jan. 21, 2001
On January 21, the Sooners faced off against California for the second time in as many days. Succumbing to the Bears the night before, the Sooners moved onto the Golden Bears' home turf with revenge on their minds. And they got it, besting their hosts, along with Utah State and Arizona to better their record to 6-1.
"We beat California at home, on their court, and that just doesn't happen," co-head coach Steve Nunno said proudly. "That felt really, really good." Led by all-around champ Leticia Ishii (sophomore), the Sooners amassed a new season-high total (195.3), edging their hosts by .125 and moving into the nation's top ten.
Individually, Ishii is also among the NCAA's best. Her 39.4 places her eighth among the nation's all-arounders. "She's pulling the team together." Nunno said of Ishii. "She's the best at the meet because she's the most consistent, even in practice. She's a player you can always depend on and everyone knows it. You can put her anywhere in the line-up. She's that solid."
"We were a little disappointed about losing to California in San Jose (two days before)" co-head coach Becky Switzer said of her team's attitude coming into the meet. "So it was our goal not only to hit, but to overcome California on their home floor. That was exciting."
As in San Jose, the Sooners started on beam and looked as if they may stall when the usually stalwart Patricia Aoki missed her mount and team captain Mariana Goncalves had two falls.
"Every event is hard, but beam is the hardest to start on," Switzer said. "It's just totally unlike Mariana to have a routine like that. I've never seen it. She was very upset."
But the rotation ended on a high note with outstanding performances from Ishii (9.85) and freshman Kasie Tamayo.
"I think Kasie had a 9.9-plus set going, until she had a little trouble on her dismount," Switzer said. "She didn't put it all together here but she's a force to be reckoned with on this event. I think you'll be seeing her in the national picture. She has great rhythm, great amplitude and she throws every trick in the book."
Although floor, an ever improving apparatus for the Sooners, was super, Switzer says the team is "still growing" on this event.
If that's true, how much better can they get? In Berkeley, the Sooner's Brazilian trio of Aoki, Ishii and Goncalves all earned spots in the top three, with Aoki (2-1/2, punch front, handspring, Rudi, double twist to Shushunova) tying Arizona's Randi Liljenquist for the top spot with a 9.9.
"The tumbling is good, but Patricia's dance is what really makes this routine," Switzer raved. "She's absolutely beautiful. She looks like she should be on Broadway."
Leah Mueller continued to pick up the pace on vault, where she took her third title in as many meets with a superb layout Phelps (9.85).
By bar, the Sooners were cruising, scoring a whooping 49.125 as a team to seal their victory. "The lowest score we had [on bars] was a 9.72," Switzer said proudly. "I was very pleased with the team and they were pleased with themselves. I think this gives us a great start. It's still early but I think this Sooner team belongs in the (nation's) top ten. We're contenders!
"Look at our football team. All year long people kept saying, 'They don't have the talent. How are they doing this?' I think we're kind of the same way. I think people are looking at us this season and saying, 'But it's Oklahoma. They're not supposed to be doing this well.' But we're not surprised at all. We go over these athletes every day with a fine tooth comb and get the best out of them. We can see everyone growing and maturing on a daily basis."
The Sooners next stop on the road to an NCAA championships berth is a repeat of their season-opener against Texas Woman's University in Denton. "We expect a strong showing against TWU this weekend," Nunno said. "We're hoping we can improve on our team score and even move up in the rankings."
The dual with TWU precedes a series of match-up with top teams, including Nebraska, Florida and Iowa State, before the Sooners make their home debut February 25th. "We've got a killer schedule coming up," Nunno acknowledged. "In the next few weeks we're going head-to-head with the best in the country, so we're going to have a real good idea of where we stand. I think we can challenge all of them."