Stanford rallies past top-10 teams
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Stanford broke a school record for its best start by rallying in the final rotation to beat No. 8 Michigan and No. 10 Nebraska in a triangular meet before 3,219 at Crisler Arena on Sunday and improved to 13-0.
Stanford closed out the meet with consecutive scores of 9.90 on the uneven bars by Allyse Ishino, Alyssa Brown and Nicole Pechanec to make up a deficit and give the Cardinal 196.800 points, to Michigan's 196.500 and Nebraska's 195.400.
Stanford had trailed Michigan 147.600-147.475 after three rotations and suffered a fall on a dismount early in the final event. But Stanford responded strongly to record its highest bars score of the season (49.325) and win for the third time in five meets when tied or trailing going into the final event.
"The team again showed their toughness," Stanford coach Kristen Smyth said. "They are incredibly strong and talented, and covered for each other when they needed to be covered."
In the process, Stanford exceeded its previous best start of 12-0, from 2009.
The meet was the second in a three-day stretch for Stanford, which began Friday with victories against No. 6 Oregon State and No. 10 UCLA at the IGI Chicago Style Invitational at Chicago's Navy Pier. The weekend helped approximate the NCAA Championships, which also take place in the Midwest (Cleveland) and includes two team performances in as many days during the April 14-16 event.
After taking the next two days off, the Cardinal will have one day of practice at home this week before embarking for Tucson, Ariz., for a Friday dual against up-and-coming Pac-10 competitor Arizona.
"This is a rough patch of the schedule for us," Smyth said. "But the team has really improved and handled itself well against one of the hardest schedules in the country. To do as well as we're doing is exciting to see."
Stanford struggled a bit on vault to open the meet, but finished off with its strongest performances, on vault and bars, to record five of its seven 9.90 scores during the second half of the meet.
Brown and Shelley Alexander each recorded a pair of 9.9's - Brown on vault and bars, and Alexander on vault (tying her collegiate best) and beam, the latter a winning effort. Ashley Morgan earned her fifth consecutive victory in floor exercise, scoring 9.90 to continue her streak of reaching at least that mark in every meet.
In all, Stanford gymnasts tied or exceeded seven season bests and four collegiate career bests. Sophomore Nicole Dayton scored a career vault of 9.85 and freshman Kristina Vaculik did the same with a 9.85 on bars. In addition, the junior Brown's bars score tied her career best and freshman Shona Morgan tied her best beam of 9.85.
Among the Cardinal highlights were three stuck landings on vault, season-best team scores in two events, and the ability to adapt to different environments and strong opponents on little rest.
"This gives us confidence that can help us in the postseason," Smyth said.