UCLA Gymnastics Begins the Season Against #15 Arizona State
The Bruins host the Sun Devils this afternoon at Pauley Pavilion.
The last time we saw the UCLA gymnastics team, they were ranked third in the nation and they were led by Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Felicia Hano, and Gracie Kramer.
Then, COVID-19 hit and wiped out the Bruins’ meet against Bridgeport as well as the Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA Championships. Sadly, it also meant that the collegiate careers of those fabulous five athletes ended prematurely.
It also means that the team’s first season under head coach Chris Waller also ended prematurely. There was no joy to be had in April. There was no opportunity for Kyla Ross to win the 2020 NCAA Individual All-Around title or any 2020 NCAA title — and the NCAA didn’t allow those seniors to comeback for a redo of their final season.
Today, the Bruins begin the process of moving on to the next great group of gymnasts when they face the #15 Arizona State Sun Devils. They will also be without the services of Chloe Lashbrooke who tore her achilles tendon earlier this month, but they will have Nicole Shapiro back because she had only competed in two seasons since her arrival in 2016.
In addition to Ross, Kocian, Hano and Kramer, four other Bruins graduated. That would be Macy Toronjo, Anna and Grace Glenn, and Mercedez Sanchez. Clearly, Coach Waller has lost a lot of talent due to graduation but, thankfully, the program lost no other team members as all of the younger team members have returned this season.
Well, if the team lost no one but last year’s class of seniors, then everyone else is back. This includes Nia Dennis, Pauline Tratz, Savannah Kooyman, Norah Flatley, and Marghzetta Frazier.
There’s one more gymnast who’s back after a two-year absence due to injury and that’s Lilia Waller who is the daughter of the head coach.
When you lose one of the best senior classes in UCLA history, you need to replenish the talent pipeline quickly. Coach Waller has brought in a freshman class of four for this season.
Chae Campbell was the 2016 US junior vault champion and she won the Texas State Championships on the vault in 2015, 2018 and 2019. She should help sure up the Bruins at what has been one of their weaker rotations.
Frida Esparza finished fifth on the bars and ninth in the all-around at the 2018 Pan Am Games. Canadian Brooklyn Moors won the gold medal on the floor at the 2019 Pan Am Games. Sara Ulias from Thousand Oaks has placed in the Top 3 on uneven bars in the last two Level 10 Region 1 Championships.
There’s also a new member of the coaching staff this year. Head Coach Chris Waller has added an undergraduate assistant coach that most of you should be familiar with. Waller may be the team’s head coach, but the new undergrad assistant is The Boss. Yup, Kyla Ross will be serving as an undergraduate assistant coach this season.
The Bruins are not currently ranked because they are starting their season later than some other schools, but today’s meet should rectify that as UCLA was ranked 7th nationally in the Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association Coaches Poll, just one point behind #6 Alabama. Of course, that’s out the window now because unlike other sports, gymnastics uses a ranking system based on performances.
Here’s how to watch today’s meet.
UCLA Gymnastics (0-0)
Opponent: #15 Arizona State Sun Devils (1-1)
When: 2:00 pm PT, Saturday, January 23. 2021
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Pac-12 Networks National, Los Angeles, and Arizona with Brian Webber and JaNay Honest
Live Stream: Pac-12.com and the Pac-12 Now app
Live Stats: uclabruins.com