NORMAN, Okla.The No. 9 Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team travels to Cedar City, Utah, for its final regular-season competition with Southern Utah Friday, March 18.
The Sooners (13-3) are looking to rebound from a disappointing loss to No. 1 LSU last week in Tulsa.
“Our athletes learned what it takes to compete against the best in the nation,” OU head coach Steve Nunno. “I hate to lose and learn, but it was a great wake-up call. We are a top 10 team, but we haven’t been performing like it.
“This week we have had great workouts. Monday we were sticking everything and Tuesday was even better. I’m pretty excited about our potential.”
Unfortunately, Oklahoma was dealt some bad news Tuesday as freshman Coral Borda suffered an ankle sprain during practice.
“It looks like Coral has a second-degree sprain,” Nunno said, “and she’ll be out at least two weeks. It’s a big loss considering she competed in three events for us last week and the all-around two meets ago. However, it will give some of our younger gymnasts an opportunity to prove themselves.”
One of the gymnasts that will replace Borda is sophomore Elizabeth Tandy. Tandy competed on vault and bars at the first three meets of the season, but broke a finger during a January practice and has been sidelined since.
OU faces Southern Utah at Centrum Arena in its last meet before the Big 12 Championships. The Thunderbirds fell out of the Top 25 this week to the 26th spot after losing to No. 16 Utah State last week.
“I think things our shaping up in our favor,” Nunno admitted. “We’re the defending Big 12 champs and we have the same rotation schedule that we had last year.”
The Big 12 Conference announced the results of blind draw Tuesday that determined the rotation order. Oklahoma will begin their Big 12 title defense on as they did in 2004on vault.
The University of Oklahoma hosts the Big 12 Championships Saturday, March 26, at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman.
Friday’s meet with Southern Utah begins at 8 p.m. CST (7 p.m. local).
GYMINFO TOP 25 RANKINGS
Week No. 10: March 15
1. LSU 196.99
2. Utah 196.96
3. Nebraska 196.75
4. Alabama 196.67
5. UCLA 196.61
6. Florida 196.605
7. Michigan 196.54
8. Georgia 196.52
9. Oklahoma 196.07
10. Iowa State 195.98
11. Penn State 195.495
12. Oregon State 195.48
13. Brigham Young 195.445
14. Arkansas 195.335
15. Central Michigan 195.265
16. Utah State 195.25
17. Denver 195.15
18. Washington 194.875
19. Minnesota 194.835
20. Arizona 194.8
21. Missouri 194.79
22. Kentucky 194.765
23. Auburn 194.73
24. Kent State 194.705
25. Stanford 194.66
LOUSIANA STATE MEET RECAP
TULSA, Okla. The No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners women’s gymnastics team (13-3) lost to No. 1 Louisiana State Friday, March 11, at the John Q. Hammons Arena, 197.850-195.750.
The Tigers swept the competition, winning all four events. Their overall score matched UCLA and Utah for the best in the nation this year.
LSU also scored a program-record 49.725 on beam and season-highs on vault (49.450) and bars (49.325).
“It wasn’t our best meet by any means,” OU head coach Steve Nunno said, “but we didn’t count any falls. There were a lot of mistakes and we can’t compete like that with a team like LSU. We need to come out with our big guns firing on all cylinders. The Tigers were polished and excited throughout the meet and we need to strive to be at that level.”
LSU’s April Brookholder scored two perfect 10s on vault and bars. The junior also added a 9.9 on bars and a 9.925 floor exercise score to clinch the all-around victory with a 39.825 total.
Oklahoma’s Erin LaBarr placed second in the all-around with a 39.450. The Bartlesville, Okla., native ended the night with a rousing 9.925 floor routine in front of the home crowd, tying for second on the apparatus.
“Erin LaBarr,” Nunno continued, “what a leader. We were down and out and she juiced up her floor routine and added some extra difficulty. She performed the routine of her life. It’s that type of leadership and spirit we will need out of our team at the Big 12 Championships.”
The Sooners’ other all-around competitors, Kristen Cox and Brittney Koncak, placed third and fourth, respectively.
Ashley Cooney competed for the first time since spraining an ankle at Iowa State. The sophomore competed on the uneven bars, scoring a 9.7.
“Ashley’s coming along,” Nunno said. “She did a mount for the first time since her injury. She had not performed one all week in practice.”
It was a rare road trip to Tulsa for the Sooners, whose three losses have come at the hands of higher-ranked opponents, but the crowd of 1,168 kept the energy level high.
Despite the loss, there were some bright spots for the Sooners.
Freshman Caitlin Hinkis set a new career high on bars, performing a routine that netted a 9.85 score and freshman Jessica Kinder matched her best score of the season on floor with her own 9.85.
A DARK HORSE SHINING
After becoming OU’s first All-American, along with senior Erin LaBarr, in 15 years, Tiffany Willin’s sophomore campaign started with the classic slump.
The Cape Coral, Fla., native, however, has emerged as a serious contender for the honor again.
Willin claimed victory on vault in the Sooners’ most recent matchup against Texas Woman’s University of March 5. The sophomore scored a career-high 9.925, besting her previous best 2005 score by 0.05 points.
Willin, known as someone who can step up with spectacular routine’s in the biggest meets, proved once again the depth of the Sooner squad as they competed without their best all-arounder, Ashley Cooney, and scored one of its highest team scores of the season with a 196.325.
As their first postseason competitions approach, OU’s freshmen are producing the results needed for the Sooners to defend their Big 12 Championship title.
Last week, Coral Borda performed her first all-around, placing second with a 39.200. The Brazilian scored three career highs a 9.825 on vault, 9.775 on bars and a 9.8 on floor en route to her first trip to the all-around podium. She also scored a 9.8 on beam and owns a career high of 9.875 on the apparatus.
Australia’s Stephanie LoPiccolo also tallied an extra tenth on her bars score against TWU, giving her a new career best of 9.775. The Melbourne native has also performed on beam at every meet this season and scores consistently in the 9.75-plus range.
When Ashley Cooney sprained her ankle against Iowa State, Caitlin Hinkis was thrown into the fire. The bars specialist was tabbed to replace Cooney on beam. She did not disappoint, scoring a 9.875 on her first competitive collegiate routine on the apparatus. Her performance placed her in a four-way tie for second place with LoPiccolo and two Cyclones.
Against LSU, Hinkis set a new career high on bars, scoring a 9.825, on a night that was rather unimpressive for most of the Sooners.
Jessica Kinder has seen spot action in vault and floor competitions throughout the season. The Kansas City, Mo., native has performed five vaults with a high of 9.75 and four floor routines with her best efforts coming March 5 against TWU and March 11 against LSU, scoring a 9.85. In fact, Kinder has not scored below 9.75 on any of her floor routines.
Norman’s own Jenny Baker performed her first collegiate routine in the Sooners’ last meet against TWU. The hometown girl’s performance on floor was rewarded with a 9.825 score.