UCLA wins Athens Regional
Defending national champions top Georgia as both advance
ATHENS, Ga. -- Defending NCAA Champion UCLA won the NCAA Athens Regional on Saturday afternoon, advancing to the NCAA Championships in Cleveland Apr. 15-17. The Bruins dominated the competition, winning with a score of 197.425 and scoring 49.4 or better on three events. Host team Georgia also qualified for NCAAs with a second-place score of 196.75.
Bruin freshman Olivia Courtney won the all-around with a career-high 39.5. Junior Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs was a close second, scoring 39.475. Junior Tauny Frattone won vault with a 9.925, Hopfner-Hibbs won beam with a 9.875, and senior Brittani McCullough won floor with a 9.925.
UCLA got off to a tremendous start on floor exercise in rotation one, scoring 49.4, just .025 off its season best. Frattone got things started with a 9.85 leadoff routine. Niki Tom went out of bounds on her opening pass and scored 9.6, but her score was dropped after her remaining teammates all scored 9.85 or better. Sydney Sawa earned a 9.85. Courtney scored 9.875, Hopfner-Hibbs earned a 9.9, and McCullough tied her season-high with a 9.925.
The Bruins matched their first rotation score in the second rotation, recording a 49.4 on vault. Vaulting for the first time since Feb. 11, Monique De La Torre led off with a 9.8. Samantha Peszek tied her career-best with a 9.875. After Hopfner-Hibbs earned a 9.8, the final three competitors all went 9.9 or higher. McCullough tied her season-best with a 9.9. Frattone stuck her vault for a 9.925, and Courtney scored 9.9.
UCLA entered the fourth rotation armed with a two-event score of 98.8, 0.8 ahead of second-place Georgia (98.0) and over a point ahead of third-place LSU (97.725). McCullough's 9.875 leadoff score set the tone for a season-high uneven bars total of 49.425. Like McCullough, Courtney stuck her dismount, scoring 9.9. Aisha Gerber had a beautiful routine going and took a small hop on her dismount, scoring 9.85. De La Torre and Hopfner-Hibbs had back-to-back sticks on their double layout dismounts and each scored 9.9 to give UCLA its season-best total and a nine-tenths of a point lead over its closest competitor, Georgia.
With a big lead, the Bruins just needed to get through balance beam without major errors to punch a ticket to Cleveland for the NCAA Championships. Five 9.8+ scores later, the Bruins not only clinched a Championships berth but clinched first place at the Regional with a final team score of 197.425. Gerber led off with a 9.85, followed by a meet-winning 9.875 from Hopfner-Hibbs. Tom scored 9.8. Frattone showed great fight to stay on the beam and scored 9.625. Peszek's 9.85 and Courtney's 9.825 sealed the deal for the Bruins, who scored 49.2 on beam.
Qualifying for NCAAs as all-around competitors are LSU's Kaleigh Diskson and NC State's Stephanie Ouellette.