Jan. 23, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The second-ranked University of Oklahoma women's gymnastics squad improved to 3-0 on the year with a 196.650-194.425 win at No. 25 Illinois (3-3) on Saturday in Champaign, Ill.
OU won team titles in its final three events, including a season-high 49.500 on beam en route to its best team score since Feb. 27, 2009. The Sooners sealed the win with a pair of 9.95s on the apparatus from Hollie Vise and Kristin Smith in Oklahoma's final two routines of the evening.
"Instead of thinking about how they can stay on the equipment, I think we have adjusted the mindset to thinking about how confident they are and how they can nail their routine," said fourth-year head coach K.J. Kindler on OU's beam squad. "I was really encouraged by their mental strength on beam. Natalie (Ratcliff) is a phenomenal beam worker, but she missed tonight. The rest of the lineup rallied and wasn't going to give it away, which is very encouraging."
Oklahoma improved to 7-0 all-time against the Fighting Illini, while tonight's +2.225 margin of victory was the second largest in the series.
Freshman Kayla Nowak finished second in the all-around with a 39.050 in her first collegiate all-around performance, marking the first time this season the Sooners have had a gymnast compete all four events.
OU opened the dual meet with a team tally of 49.000 on the uneven bars in the event win. Ranked first in the nation on the apparatus entering the weekend, the Sooners hit six-of-six routines, paced by 9.85s from event winners Natasha Kelley and Vise. Oklahoma submitted three inquiries following the event after Kelley, Vise and Megan Ferguson (9.75) either tied or recorded season lows despite solid routines, but scores remained unchanged for all three.
Jackie Flanery and Brie Olson both scored 9.775s on the apparatus for a share of third place.
OU trailed after a rotation for the first time this season as Illinois scored a 49.100 on vault.
The Sooners posted four scores of 9.8 or higher on vault for a 49.050 team tally. Brie Olson led the way with a career-high 9.85 and a share of second in the individual standings. Jackie Flanery and Mary Mantle each scored a 9.825, while Sara Stone posted a 9.8.
Oklahoma overtook the Fighting Illini 98.050-97.025 at the midway point after the home squad was forced to count a fall on bars.
Flanery (9.9), Smith (9.85) Vise (9.825) and Mary Mantle (9.775) all posted season bests on floor en route to a team score of 49.100 on the apparatus. Flanery won her third-straight event title on the apparatus this season, while Smith and Vise finished third and fifth, respectively.
The Sooners posted their highest beam score in 14 meets (49.500) after reeling off five straight 9.85s or better after a fall from the first position. Vise and Smith shared event honors with 9.95s, while Ferguson (9.9), Kelley (9.85) and Nowak (9.85) completed a sweep of the individual event standings on the apparatus.
"I thought we came out a bit lethargic and really didn't stick any landings on vault or bars, where we entered the meet with a goal of hitting at least 50-percent of those routines," said Kindler. "We finally started gaining some momentum on floor, where I felt that Mary (Mantle), Hollie (Vise), Kristin (Smith) and Jackie (Flanery) all performed their best routines of the season."
Oklahoma's beam tally was its second highest event total under Kindler, just behind OU's 49.525 on beam at TWU on Jan. 17, 2009.
The Sooners improved to 44-6 in the regular season under Kindler and have collected 20 of a possible 24 combined individual and team event titles in 2010.
OU closes its current three-meet road stand at the Metroplex Challenge in Dallas, Texas, on Jan. 30. The quad meet features Alaska-Anchorage, N.C. State and TWU alongside Oklahoma and begins at 7 p.m. (CT) inside the Dallas Convention Center.