The season is right around the corner, and with the new year, we have a new set of capsule Season Previews of the Top 25 teams, as ranked by the Coaches' Preseason Poll.  In each Preview, we've summarized the team's returning routines, their missing routines, their returning starters and the rest of their roster, with a special focus on their newcomers.  We'll also give a brief overview preview of their prospects and challenges.

Published in General News
Sunday, 02 December 2018 18:01

2019 Capsule Previews: Teams #1 to #12

Here's the first 12 teams in our Capsule Previews of our Top 25, based on the 2019 Preseason Coaches' Poll. 

 

 1.  UCLA Bruins

Official Web SiteLink      Schedule     Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 20/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 2 UB, 1 BB, 0 FX
Head Coach: Valerie Kondos Field
Associate Head Coach:  Chris Waller
Assistant: Randy Lane
Returning Starters (10):  Nia Dennis (So), Anna Glenn (Jr), Grace Glenn (Jr), Felicia Hano (Jr), Madison Kocian (Jr), Gracie Kramer (Jr), Brielle Nguyen (Sr), Kateyln Ohashi (Sr), Kyla Ross (Jr), Pauline Tratz (So)
Other/Injured Returners (6):  Savannah Kooyman (So), Giuliano Pino (Jr), Kendal Poston (So), Mercedes Sanchez (Jr), Stella Savvidou (Sr/I), Macy Toronjo (Sr/I)
Graduated (5):  Rechelle Dennis, Napualani Hall, Janay Honest, Christine "Peng Peng" Lee, Sonya Meraz
Other Losses (3):  Sofia Gonazalez (So/?), Rebecca Karlous (So/?), Lilia Waller (So/?)
Newcomers (4):  Norah Flatley (Fr), Margzetta Frazier (Fr), Sara Taubman (Fr), Sekai Wright (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Defending National Champion UCLA returns 20 of 24 routines from 2018, as they are the Coaches' Preseason Poll favorites to repeat as National Champions.  They lose a total of 8 athletes from 2017-2018, most important of all being Christine "Peng Peng" Lee, whose two scores of perfect 10 on UB and BB propelled the Bruins to a victory last April.  Replacing this type of scoring ability at the end of the lineup is no easy task.  The Bruins also lose both Janay Honest and Sonya Meraz, who despite the fact they only contributed one routine in the Super Six final lineups (Honest on UB), were key members of the Bruin rotation over their four years at Inglewood.  UCLA will also miss a 10.0 start value (SV) vault from Pua Hall. 

The 2019 Bruins will be led by superstars Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian and Katelyn Ohashi.  Ross was the 2017 NCAA UB and BB champ and the 2018 Pac 12 AA and UB champion, and is an 11-time AA American (and Olympic and World champion, of course).  Ohashi was the NCAA and FX co-champ on FX and is a six time All American.  Although she has had to work around injuries, Kocian is a four-time All American and former World and Olympic Gold Medalist who, like Ross and Ohashi, brings the potential for 10.0.  She's swinging UB but an injury will likely delay her full impact until later in the season.  It is that potential for 10s that helps separate out the Bruins from the rest of the title contenders.

The Bruins will also get key routines from a number of returning specialists, including BB All American Grace Glenn and her sister Anna Glenn, three-time All American Felicia Hano and Regional VT champ Pauline Tratz.  Sophomore Nia Dennis looks set to make a bigger impact in 2019, after a strong preseason period including an upgraded Yurchenko 1 1/2 vault for this season.  Junior Grace Kramer is also looking strong on FX and on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2).  Likewise, Kendal Poston also looked promising at the recent "Meet the Bruins", showing a strong pike front 1/2 vault.  The Bruins could have easily constructed a title contender from the returning squad, making choosing lineups very difficult for the staff.

The standout Bruin frosh class is led by a pair of elites, Norah Flatley and Margzetta Frazier.  Flatley is a former junior National Team member and elite standout known for her stellar BB work who has battled through injuries to return to form. She's been looking strong on all four events during the preseason.  Frazier is a Senior National Team member from Parkettes who has big tricks and a big personality that should translate well into NCAA competition.  The Bruins also welcome Sekai Wright and Sara Taubman.  Wright is a L10 standout known for her power on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (double layout), but has been recently slowed by an ankle injury.  She is due back this season. 

Both Wright and Frazier are training 10.0 Start Value vaults, which along with upgrades (Ross, Poston, Dennis) and improvements from the returnees (Hano, Kramer), should make UCLA a powerhouse on this event, with a full slate of 10.0 Start Value Vaults.  Last season, you could easily point to VT as the Bruin's weak event.  They simply overcame their deficit in Start Values by doing their 9.95s SVs vaults as perfectly as possible and by hitting 9.95+ on UB and BB.  With the scoring deficit on VT potentially erased, the only thing stopping the Bruins could be themselves.  Coach Valorie Kondos Fields' last season should be an interesting one to watch unfold, with a squad that should be motivated to deliver her the ultimate retirement gift.     

 

 2.  Oklahoma Sooners

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 19/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 2 BB, 1 FX
Head Coach: KJ Kindler
Assistants: Lou Ball, Tom Haley
Returning Starters (7):  Jade Degouveia (Jr), Brenna Dowell (Sr), Nicole Lehrmann (Sr), Maggie Nichols (Jr), Evy Schoepfer (So), Brehanna Showers (Jr), Anastasia Webb (So)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Jordan Draper (So), Ashley Hiller (Sr), Alex Marks (Sr), Carly Woodard (So)
Graduated (4):  Natalie Brown, Stefani Catour, Samantha Craus, AJ Jackson
Other Losses (1):  Abigail Matthews (?)
Newcomers (4):  Emily LaPinta (Fr), Allie Stern (Fr), Kerrie Thomas (So, transfer from Maryland), Olivia Trautman (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  The OU Sooners were voted the Preseason #2 pick by the Coaches, but actually received more first place votes than the Bruins.  This is likely a reflection of the strength of the Sooner's regular season performance and the fact that they finished 2nd in the Super Six Final by just 0.0375 points.  Yes, literally they finished less than a hop behind.  They return 19 of 24 routines from their Super Six lineups, with key losses from Natalie Brown, Stefani Catour and AJ Jackson.  Six-time All American Jackson's dependable 10.0 start value Yurchenko 1 1/2 was clean and consistent, and her FX could always could be counted on for a good 9.9+ score.  Brown was an All-American on BB while Catour was an All American on UB (x2) and BB.  These are five big scores and depth that will need to be replaced.

Of course, leading the way back for the Sooners is the NCAA Champion in the AA and co-champion on the UB and FX, Maggie Nichols.  The 8-time All American has been unflappable and brave, setting an example for women across the country as she continues to excel in the gym and in the classroom.  She'll be joined in the chase for the National team title by Seniors Brenna Dowell and Nicole Lehrmann, juniors Jade Degouveia and Brehanna Showers and sophomore Anastasia Webb.  2018 National VT co-champ Dowell will seek to break into the BB lineup to join Nichols as an AAer, while 2017 UB co-champ Lehrmann has been showing an upgraded vault.  Both Showers and Webb could also assume AA roles, with Showers looking especially strong in the preseason and Webb showing strong work across the events, but especially on VT. 

OU welcomes four newcomers, with frosh Emily LaPinta, Allie Stern, and Olivia Trautman joined by Maryland transfer Kerrie Thomas.   Trautman is an elite gymnast who trained with Nichols at Twin City Twisters.  In 2016, she placed 8th on FX and 17th AA at the 2016 P&G Championships.    Dropping back to L10 this past spring, she placed 3rd AA, 1st on FX, 2nd(t) on VT and 5th(t) on UB at the Level 10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She is known for some big skills on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2 and double) and FX (double layout) and could address the loss of Jackson on these events.  Another power gymnast, Stern, was the 2017 L10 JO National co-champ on VT in her age division with her Yurchenko 1 1/2.  She's continued to look strong on that vault during the preseason training. Thomas excels on the UB, and it is that even where she can provide some much-needed depth for OU. 

For OU, closing the gap on UCLA will require improvements from the lower half of the lineup, and the elimination of the small mistakes that caused OU to fall short of UCLA last season.  In fact, OU lost ground to UCLA in the Super Six Final specifically on UB and BB, with their largest advantage coming on VT.  With UCLA working to improve their vaults, the Sooners will need to close the gaps on the other events.  While both teams have 9.95+ capable gymnasts in the lower half of the lineups, it is the depth players in positions 4 to 6 that will make the difference.  One area of concern this season for the Sooners may be on UB, where their depth possibly is not as great as in year's past.  And, they'll need to find BB routines that not only replace, but exceed, the routines they lost as that is the event where the Bruin advantage was the largest.


 3.  Florida

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 16/24
Routines Gone: 3 VT, 2 UB, 1 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach: Jenny Rowland
Assistants: Adrian Burde, Owen Field
Returning Starters (6):  Alyssa Baumann (So), Alicia Boren (Sr), Jazmyn Foberg (So/I), Rachel Gowey (Jr), Amelia Hundley (Jr), Megan Skaggs (So)
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Sierra Alexander (Jr/I), Maegan Chant (Jr), Amanda Cheney (Sr/I)
Graduated (4):  Kennedy Baker, Grace McLaughlin, Alex McMurtry, Rachel Slocum
Other Losses (2):  Francesca Lawal (So/?), Nicole Webb (So/TR)
Newcomers (6):  Leah Clapper (Fr), Sydney Johnson-Scharpf (Fr), Nya Reed (Fr), Savannah Schoenherr (Fr), Halley Taylor (Fr), Trinity Thomas (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Florida returns 18 of 24 routines from a squad that finished just 0.225 behind NCAA Champion UCLA in the Super Six Final.  The Gators achieved this remarkable finish despite the loss of superstar Kennedy Baker to an Achilles' tear during their meet vs. Arkansas.  The six-time All American was a big loss early on.  Now, the Gators face the 2019 season missing not only Baker, but all-everything star Alex McMurtry, the former 2017 NCAA AA champ, 2017 UB co-champion and 2018 vault co-champion.  The 14-time All American was the 2017 Honda Award winner for gymnastics and the NCAA Elite 90 award winner.  Also departed is spark plug Rachel Slocum, a former two-time All-American who provided key scores on VT and FX.  It's also been reported by GatorChomp.com that sophomore Jazmyn Foberg has had elbow surgery this fall and will likely miss the season. 

These are some major loses for a team that returns just six starters.  However a talented set of 10 returners and 6 newcomers will quickly compensate for the loss of those 8 routines.  Leading the way will be senior Alicia Boren and sophomore Alyssa Baumann.  Boren is a six-time All American and 2018 SEC FX champ who is coming off one of her strongest seasons.  Bauman was an All American last season on FX (double layout) and seems ready to contribute at a higher level this season.  Amelia Hundley is another potential AA contributor, and is a two-time All American, as is her classmate, Rachel Gowey.  Either athlete could be a star AAer on another squad, but here they may get limited in the post-season, due to the strength and depth of the incoming class.  The same fate holds true for sophomore Megan Skaggs, a SEC All-Freshman team member last season who came on strong during the post-season.  The Gators will also gain back the services of VT/FX specialist Sierra Alexander and Canadian Maegan Chant, who was slowed by injury last season.   

Despite the loss of the superstars, there is real excitement around this Gator squad as it reloads for 2019.  Headlining the newcomers is current Senior National Team member Trinity Thomas.  It's been a while since we've had a gymnast still actively training on a US team, and Thomas' visit to the November US Women's Training camp showed that she's competing at the highest of levels. She's proven her ability to handle many tasks at once, and even had a successful high school diving season earlier in the year.  She's got power, amplitude, execution and consistency on all four events.  She's capably backed by former elite Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, elite/L10 Leah Clapper, and L10s Nya Reed, Savannah Schoenherr and Halley Taylor.  Johnson-Scharpf was 6th AA as a junior elite at the 2015 P&G Championships and 4th(t) on FX as a senior at the 2017 P&G Championships.  She's a powerful tumbler and vaulter but is strong on UB and BB as well.  Clapper tied for 8th on FX and 9th AA at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals but also competed as a sr. international elite at the 2017 P&G ChampionshipsReed did not complete the meet at the 2018 JO Nationals but tied for 4th on FX and VT.  She was also 8th AA in 2017.  With a Yurchenko 1 1/2 and double layout on FX, she brings some big skills to the leg events.  Schoenherr was the UB co-champion and AA runnerup at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  With clean lines and strong execution, she also tied for 4th on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and 6th on BBTaylor, an in-state product, placed 8th AA at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals. 

With five returning starters and a super strong frosh led by future superstar Trinity Thomas, the Gators look to again challenge for a National team title.  For that to happen, we'll need to see the rest of the lineups fill out and increased depth in the five-six spots, especially on VT and BB.  We may actually see the lineups evolve over the year, as the frosh adapt and break into more events. 

 

 4.  LSU

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 19/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 2 BB, 1 FX
Head Coach: D-D Breaux
Associate Head Coach:  Jay Clark
Assistant: Bob Moore
Returning Starters (10):  Reagan Campbell (So), Julianna Cannamela (Sr), Christina Desiderio (So), Sami Durante (So), Kennedi Edney (Jr), Sarah Edwards (So), Sarah Finnegan (Sr), Ruby Harrold (Jr), Ashlyn Kirby (Jr), Lexie Priessman (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (3):   Bridget Dean (So), Olivia Gunter (So/I), McKenna Kelley (Jr/I)
Graduated (4):   Myia Hambrick, Lauren Li, Erin Macadaeg, Kylie Moran  
Other Losses (1):  Gracen Standley (So/R)
Newcomers (2):  Rebecca D'Antonio (Fr), Bailey Ferrer (Fr)

Quick Assessment:   LSU finished fourth last season, part of a quartet of teams that finished just 0.2375 points apart from each other at the top of the Super Six.  Thus, it's easy to look at a fourth place finish and forget just how close the Tigers came to winning it all for the first time last season.  LSU loses just five routines from that final lineup, but they are important ones.  AA superstar Myia Hambrick was a nine-time All-American and one of the finest AA gymnasts in the country.  Classmate Erin Macadaeg was a specialist and BB All-American who led off the Tigers her entire career.  Both gymnasts were 9.95+ threats on any event they competed.  That type of consistency and high scoring ability is the toughest kind to replace.  And with a small incoming class, the Tigers will need to look to the returners to stepup and shoulder a big load this season.

Leading the way will be senior Sarah Finnegan and junior Kennedi Edney.  Seven-time All American Finnegan emerged as a big AA threat last season, with super clean execution across all four events.  While other gymnasts may compete more difficulty, few approach her execution.  Five-time All American Edney is more of a power gymnast, with big skills that can bring in big scores, like a huge Yurchenko 1 1/2, an event where she won a National title in 2017.  UB All American (3x) Lexie Priessman could also make a big impact, as long as injuries don't hold her back.  She's capable of a strong FX and VT scores, but her past injuries were primarily to the lower body.  Likewise Ruby Harrold could see an expanded role, after winning All American honors on UB last season.  She's also a force on VT and FX.  Senior Julianna Cannamela, who won All-American honors on VT last season, could also see more time lineup time as well, including on BB where she competed as a frosh.  The sophomore class made a big impact last season, and after another year of adapting to NCAA competition, could take another step forward.  In particular, Christina Desiderio and Sami Durante could take on larger roles.  Desiderio may leadoff on BB while Durante will also join the event, helping backstop two key gaps for the Tigers.  Sophomore Sarah Edwards also returns, with her VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) being a key part of the Tigers' plans.   

Two other gymnasts who were not part of the Super Six lineups could also make a big impact.  McKenna Kelley looks to be back at 100% from her Achilles' tear and is already tumbling a big double layout on FX.  Bridget Dean showed strong routines on UB and BB, and could break into the lineups there.

The Tigers welcome two frosh, Rebecca D'Antonio and Bailey Ferrer.  Ferrer is a former junior international elite gymnast who will graduate early and join the Tigers for January.  As a L10 in 2017, she placed 3rd in the AA and on VT at the L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She also tied for 6th on FX and 7th on UB.  She's a powerful gymnast, throwing a double Arabian on FX and a Pike Omelianchik on VT in 2017.  D'Antonio is a L10 from Cypress Point who qualified to JO Nationals in 2018.         

So will LSU be able to compensate for the loss of their two stars and close the gap on the leaders?  With a depth of talent and some key pieces returning, LSU seems to be on a path to do just that.  The big challenge is that the leaders are a moving target, and are taking their own leaps forward.  Coach D-D Breaux has been seeking her first ever National title, and her squad keeps inching closer and closer to that final milestone. 

 

 5.  Utah Utes

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule     Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 20/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 1 BB, 1 FX
Head Coaches: Tom Farden and Megan Marsden
Assistant: Robert Ladanyi
Returning Starters (6):  Kari Lee (Sr), MaKenna Merrell-Giles (Sr), Missy Reinstadler (Jr), MyKayla Skinner (Jr), Sydney Soloski (So), Kim Tessen (Jr/I)  
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Alexia Burch (So), Shannon McNatt (Sr), Macey Roberts (Sr), Lauren Wong (So)
Graduated (3):  Tiffani Lewis, Erika Muhaw, Maddy Stover
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (4):  Hunter Dula (Fr), Cammy Hall (Fr/I), Cristal Isa (Fr), Adrienne Randall (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Utah returns 20 of 24 routines from their 5th place squad last season.  It's been some time since the Utes have won a National team title, and they have considerable ground to close on the lead pack of four teams.  In fact, under the new four team final format, without some big gains or some help from the leaders, they may struggle to make the new final this spring.  Gone from last year's squad are Tiffani Lewis, Erika Muhaw, and Maddie Stover.  Lewis is the biggest loss from that squad, as she was a former All American on VT and a former Pac 12 champion on UB and VT.  Stover's impact had been muted by injury and illness, but she was a key member of the BB lineup.

Leading the way back for the Utes will be Mykayla Skinner and MaKenna Merrell-Giles.  Skinner is a nine-time All-American, a two-time NCAA champion (floor 2017, vault in 2018) and a two-time NCAA all-around runnerup.  Besides a team title, it's clear that Skinner has an AA title in her sights.  Throwing the most difficult sets in the NCAA on VT and FX, Skinner has revamped her UB construction in 2018, adding a Ray and eliminating a source of deductions in the process (on her Maloney).  It's a key move that will enable her to strengthen her bid for the title in 2019.  Merrell-Giles had a breakthrough season last year and looks to continue that momentum in 2019.  The three time All-American has shown an upgraded dismount on UB (full-in) that will also lift her scores there.  Another Ute, Kari Lee, is back for a fifth year and will provide depth on up to four events.  The two-time All American had a strong fall as well.  Junior Missy Reinstadler was an All American in the AA and a Regional BB champion in 2018.  She's the fourth potential AAer for a veteran Ute squad.  Utah will also look to get expanded contributions from sophomore Alexia Burch and senior Macey Roberts, who both looked strong in the Red Rocks Preview.

To this veteran core, the Utes add four talented frosh.   Leading the way are Cristal Isa and Adrienne Randall.  Isa won UB and placed 4th (t) AA at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She also tied for 6th on BB.  In 2017, she also the UB champion and tied for 2nd on BB en route to a 3rd place AA finish.   Randall is also a JO National Team member after her 4th(t) place AA finish at the 2018 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She also tied for 2nd on BB (Rulfova), 5th on UB and 6th on FX (full-in) at the meet.  She was also 6th AA and 1st on BB at the 2017 L10 JO Nationals.  Classmate Hunter Dula was reportedly slowed during the fall by illness but is working her way back.  She was 9th AA and 4th(t) on UB, 8th(t) on VT (piked Luconi) and 8th(t) on FX (full-in) at the 2018 Level 10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  Unfortunately one of the frosh, Cammy Hall, tore her Achilles during the fall.  She was expected to contribute some big skills on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (double Arabian).

The Utes have a strong veteran core with superstars capable of pulling down some big scores.  Utah ran into some consistency issues on VT at the last Super Six and in general did not have the same depth as some of the top squads.  To join that top rank, they'll need some stepup contributions from the other returners and/or some quick progress by their frosh class. 

 

 6.  Alabama Crimson Tide

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 3 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach:  Dana Duckworth
Assistants:  Bill Lorenz, Ryan Roberts
Returning Starters (7):
  Abby Armbrecht (Sr), Wynter Childers (Jr), Madison Desch (Jr), Kylie Dickson (So), Lexi Graber (So), Ari Guerra (Sr), Shea Mahoney (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Angelina Giancroce (Sr), Alonza Klopfer (So), Baillie Key (So/I)
Graduated (4):   Mackenzie Brannan, Nickie Guerrero, Jennie Loeb, Kiana Winston
Other Losses (1):  Peyton Ermst (Jr/R)
Newcomers (6):  Asia Dewalt, Emily Gaskins, Jensie Givens, Griffin James, Tira Kiaku (So/TR from Ball State), Shallon Olsen

Quick Assessment:  Alabama faces some steep graduation losses, with four departed senior athletes, including stars Mackenzie Brannan, Nickie Guerrero and Kiana Winston.  However, since they had already lost four-time All American Brannan during the season, the Tide must realistically only replace seven routines from last year's semifinals squad.  However, these scores were among the highest in the Bama lineup, with a 9.9+ potential in each routine.  Five-time All American Winston competed AA at times but was a key fixture on UB, BB and FX.  Guerrero was an anchor and All-American on BB and a key 10.0 Start Value in the Tide VT lineup (Yurchenko 1 1/2).  Peyton Ernst, who battled injuries to compete on BB last season, is also no longer on the roster and former clubmate Key underwent surgery in December.

Leading the way for Alabama in 2019 will be seniors Abby Armbrecht and Ari Geurra and sophomore Lexi Graber. Graber emerged late in the season as a leading AAer, winning the Tuscaloosa Regional AA and VT titles.  After a slow start due to some minor injuries, she used her big skills on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (full-in) to boost the Tide's effort.  Seniors Abby Armbrecht and Ari Guerra both stepped up last season to take on major roles for the Tide.  Armbrecht was a consistent force on three events, while likewise Guerra won the SEC title on FX and adds a key 10.0 SV vault to the Bama lineup.  The junior class also brings both key contributions and the high potential to do more:  Wynter Childers, Madison Desch, and Shea Mahoney.  They each could compete in three to four events each but have been battling various injuries.  All three are looking solid in preseason training and that continued progress could result in some new high scores and newly expanded contributions.  

The Crimson Tide also welcome a large and talented class of six newcomers, led by elites Emily Gaskins and Shallon Olsen.  Gaskins has been slowed in her elite career by injury but has been looking solid in her preseason training.  Her strong execution and big skills (double layout on FX) could give Bama an edge to break into the 9.9+ range in the post season.  In contrast, Olsen, the newly minted world Silver medalist on VT, appears to be in top form.  She's been known as somewhat of a trickster in her (ongoing) elite career, but with her routines (somewhat) scaled back to NCAA requirements, she has the potential to excel.  With a double twisting Yurchenko on VT and many E skills to choose from on FX, she too has the potential to challenge for some titles.  Griffin James is a L10 from Gymstrada who finished 4th on VT, 8th(t) on FX and 21st(t) AA at the 2017 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  Asia Dewalt, a L10 from AIM Athletics, tied for 5th on VT and 9th on UB and placed 33rd AA at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  Finally, Bama also adds L10 Jensie Givens and Ball State transfer Tia Kiaku.  Kiaku was an individual qualifier to Regionals in 2018 while Givens shows great lines and potential on UB and BB.  

There is plenty of depth and talent on the Bama roster to form a Championship-challenging team once again.  But, after last year's disappointing finish in the NCAA Semifinals, the squad will need to work hard to bring more 9.9+ scores into the mix.  In particular, BB is missing thee routines from last season and finding the right lineup mix can be challenging.  In their last meet, the highest Bama individual score was just a 9.8625.  With a talented frosh class and some big names and big skills on the squad, we'll see if the 2019 squad has the drive to push for a spot in the final round. 

 

 7.  UGA Gym Dogs

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/23
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 1 BB, 3 FX
Head Coach: Courtney Kupets Carter
Assistants: Josh Overton, Jason Vonk
Returning Starters (5):  Rachel Dickson (Jr), Marissa Oakley (So), Emily Schild (So), Sydney Snead (Sr), Sabrina Vega (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (0):  N/A 
Graduated (6):  Jasmine Arnold, Viviana Babalis, Lauren Johnson, Gigi Marino, Hayley Sanders, Natalie Vaculik
Other Losses (4):  Gracie Cherrey (Sr/R), Ashley Foss (So/R), Madison McPherson (So/I/R), Jordyn Pedersen (Jr/R/team manager)
Newcomers (9):  Alexa Al-Hameed (Fr), Sterlyn Austin (Fr/I), Rachel Baumann (Fr), Sami Davis (Fr), Rachael Lukacs (Fr), Mikayla Magee (Fr), Alyssa Perez-Lugones (Fr), Megan Roberts (Fr), Abbey Ward (Fr)

Quick Assessment:   Georgia overcame depth issues all season last year to put together a terrific semifinals appearance, finishing in 7th in a tightly grouped field.  They accomplished that great result despite only competing five on UB.  Gone from that squad are six seniors and four other athletes.  Normally the loss of that many athletes would be a huge issue, but the Gym Dogs had unfortunately already lost the services of most of that group to injuries, with only four of them appearing in the final lineups.  Jasmine Arnold put together a fantastic final season to contribute VT/FX to the effort, while Vivi Babalis did BB and FX.  After a slow start, Natalie Vaculik came back to contribute UB to the final effort.  Jordyn Pederson, another contributor last season, retired in the pre-season.   

The 2019 GymDogs will be led by a strong and talented core of five athletes.  Leading the way will senior Sydney Snead and juniors Rachel Dickson and Sabrina Vega.   Snead has worked around a back injury to star as an AAer the last three years.  She'll be a key to the GymDogs rise this season.  Juniors Dickson (4x All-American) and Vega (2018 FX All-American) also look strong in the preseason.  Dickson has a new Omelianchik VT and a double Arabian on FX.  Vega is looking strong and fit, with a pike full-in on FX.  They'll be joined by Marissa Oakley, an All-American on BB, and Emily Schild.  Both former elites have a ton of potential but had to work around injury issues last year to excel down the stretch.  

To this strong core UGA adds in no less than 9 frosh, led by Rachel Baumann, Rachael Lukacs and Mikayla Magee.  Baumann is a former jr. international elite and WOGA-trained L10 who won BB and was runnerup in the AA at the 2017 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She was also the AA co-champ at the 2016 JO Nationals.  Lukacs has been a fixture of the L10 scene for a number of years, and is known for her near-perfect double-twisting Yurchenko.  She's a four time JO National champ on VT, 3 time AA champ, and two-time FX champ.  Magee is a L10 from Pearland Elite with big skills on VT and FX (pike full-in).  She tied for 10th AA, 3rd on BB and 8th on VT and FX at the 2017 Junior Olympic Nationals.  Former Canadian National Team member and Olympic alternate Megan Roberts was looking strong during the preseason but suffered an ankle injury that will delay her impact until the 2nd half of the season.  She has some big tumbling (Dos Santos) but can also contribute a strong UB routine (toe full to Maloney to overshoot) and potential 10.0 SV vault (Yurchenko 1 1/2). 

Former elite Sami Davis has been bothered by a bad back and although she is training, she has been limited by the injury.  Dropping down to L10 in 2017, she placed 4th AA, 4th(t) on BB, 5th on VT and 6th(t) on UB at the L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  Late addition Alexa Al-Hameed was 5th on BB and 14th AA at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals, after coming back from injury.  She's a strong swinger on UB where she shows a huge Tkachev, and has also been making a strong impression during preseason training.  Another frosh, Abbey Ward, has a 10.0 start value layout Kasamatsu

For UGA, keeping the squad healthy and paced to the post season will be key.  They are expected to build as the season progresses and the super strong frosh class gains more experience.  With so many frosh and only five returners, they'll need some key performances from the frosh from the start.  One particular area of concern will be depth on UB, the event where they only have four returning routines and a dearth of backups in 2018. 

 

 8.  Cal Bears

Official Web Site:   Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coach:  Justin Howell
Associate Head Coach:  Elizabeth Crandall
Assistant Coach:  Janelle McDonald
Starting Routines Returning: 18/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 1 UB, 1 BB, 2 FX
Returning Starters (8):  Kyana George (So), Cassidy Keelen (Jr), Chelsea Shu (Sr), Sofie Seilnacht (Sr), Sylvie Seilnacht (Sr), Nina Schank (So), Emi Watterson (So), Toni-Ann Williams (RS Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Alma Kuc (So), Racheal Mastrangelo (Jr), Maleah Pearson (So), Victoria Salem (So/I)
Graduated (3):  Alicia Gallarzo, Ariana Robinson, Yuleen Sternberg
Other Losses (0):  N/A 
Newcomers (5):  Maya Bordas (Fr), Milan Clausi (Fr), Talitha Jones (Fr), Grace Quinn (Fr), Abi Solari (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Cal graduates just three gymnasts from a squad that put together a 9th place finish last season.  The biggest loss will be Ariana Robinson, a VT and FX specialist with the potential to put up 9.9+ with her unusual vault (pike Ilg) and big tumbling (double Arabian).  Alicia Gallarzo was sometime All Arounder who had a strong final senior campaign and a key BB set (triple series).  Yuleen Sternberg was a key fixture of the Bear UB (Ray) lineup.  In total, Cal will look to replace six routines from last season.  However, all in all, Cal gains five strong frosh and retains most of their key returners.  As a result, the Coaches' have elevated the Bears by one place in the Preseason Poll.

Leading the way for Cal in 2019 will be redshirt senior Toni Ann Williams and sophomore Kyana George.  Williams, a 2018 NCAA AA All-American (2nd team) has been slowed by injury in the preseason.  However, when healthy she'll contribute big scores at the end of the Bear lineups, particularly on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (double layout).  George emerged last season as one of Cal's key performers, competing AA 14 times during the season.  Her BB set includes a smooth double turn in wolf, and she has competed the rare triple wolf in the past.  Strongly supporting this duo are the Seilnacht twins, Sofie and Sylvie.  Now seniors, they've been rocks in the lineups the last three years, competing two to three events each.  Another senior, Chelsea Shu, contributes up to three events but was a key BB team member last season.  Junior Cassidy Keelen has battled injury during her Bear career, and has the potential to go AA when fully healthy. 

Sophomore Nina Schank was a standout on UB last season, but could challenge on other events.  Classmate Emi Watterson and Alma Kuc could also make a larger impact this season.  Kuc is known for her excellent form and smooth invert work on UB.  Junior Racheal Mastrangelo is looking strong in the preseason and appears ready to rejoin the lineups as well, in particular on VT. 

The big news with Cal this season is the strong frosh class, led by former JO National Champs Milan Clausi (2017, tie and 2nd in 2018) and Maya Bordas (2017, tie).  Clausi has some big skills in her repetoire, including a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT and full-in on FXBordas has clean lines and strong technique that should translate well to NCAA competition.  British Elite Abi Solari also brings a high level of difficulty, with unique skills front a tuck front full on VT, strong tumbling (full-in) and smooth swing on UB.  Former jr. international elite Grace Quinn has been out of competition for quite a while, but has been showing strong form and execution on BB in preseason.  Another frosh, Talitha Jones, brings a big 10.0 start value VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) that will further strengthen one of Cal's historic best events.

Cal has a large and deep squad, and has the ingredients in place to make a run at the Nationals finals.  Developing consistency will be key, especially with all of the new frosh in the mix.  The health of Toni Ann Williams could be a big difference maker, especially for her big scores on VT and on FX, where past injuries have limited some of Cal's scoring potential (relative to the other top teams). 

 

 9.  Michigan

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 11/24
Routines Gone: 3 VT, 3 UB, 4 BB, 3 FX
Head Coach: Bev Plocki
Assistant: Scott Sherman
Returning Starters (4):  Lauren Farley (So), Lexi Funk (Jr), Emma McLean (Sr), Sydney Townsend (So)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Sam Javanbakht (So), Olivia Karas (Sr/I), Maggie O'Hara (Jr), Maddie Osman (Jr)
Graduated (3):  Brianna Brown, Lauren Marinez, Paige Zaziski
Other Losses (2):  Sam Roy (Jr/R/Student Coach), Polina Shchennikova (Jr/R/Student Coach)
Newcomers (6):  Abby Brenner, Anna Dayton, Abby Heiskell, Maddie Mariani, Anne Maxim (So/TR from MSU), Natalie Wojcik

Quick Assessment:  Michigan graduated just three athletes but those losses, when combined with the retirement of Polina Shchennikova (now a student coach), mean that the Wolverines lose 13 routines from their 2018 squad.  That squad placed 13th in the final standings following a 4th place at Regionals, just 0.15 behind UGA.  In addition, Michigan lost assistant coach Scott Vetere following his arrest during the preseason.  The three Michigan graduates were Brianna Brown, Lauren Marinez, and Paige Zaziski.  Both Brown and Zaziski were key All Arounders for the Wolverines.  Brown, a three-time All-American, was a Regional champion on UB last season while Zaziski was the Northeast Regional Gymnast of the Year.  Along with BB/FX ace Lauren Marinez, their efforts will be missed in 2019.

Michigan returns potentially as few as three starters and 8 routines from 2018.  Junior Lexi Funk and senior Emma McLean lead the way.  Funk was a member of the All-Big Ten First Team and emerged as a consistent AAer last year.  McLean was a standout on VT, winning the Regional and Big 10 title with her Yurchenko 1 1/2.  She's also the anchor on FX, and looks to add more events this season.  Sophomore Lauren Farley also looks set to make a bigger impact this season, after competing primarily on UB and BB.  The Wolverines also welcome back superstar Olivia Karas, who is working her way back from an Achilles' tear.  When healthy, she's a force in the AA but shines on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (double Arabian).  Also looking to make a bigger impact this year, based on preseason training, are juniors Maggie O'Hara and Maddie Osman.  O'Hara competed UB strongly during the preseason quad meet while Osman showed routines on three events.

The Coaches' have installed Michigan as the Preseason #9, likely on the basis of the return of Karas and a super strong frosh class.  The class is headlined by Natalie Wojcik, a Level 10 standout who is destined to become Michigan's next superstar.  She competes with a high level of difficulty but also has superb amplitude and clean lines.  The 2018 L10 Junior Olympic AA champion in Senior F, she also placed 2nd on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2), 2nd(t) on UB (pike Jaeger, double layout), 4th(t) on FX and 5th on BB.  She'll be complemented nicely by Abby Brenner, who also competed AA in their preseason quad meet.  She won the Level 10 Junior Olympic AA title in 2017 (Senior D), winning the UB and FX in the process (and coming 2nd on VT).  She was 4th AA and tied for 4th on VT and UB at the 2018 Nationals.  She's a five time JO National team member who especially excels on FX, where she tumbles a pike full-in.  She also vaults another big Yurchenko 1 1/2.  The third gymnast in this triumvirate of JO National champions is Abby Heiskill.  She tied for the JO National AA title in 2016 but unfortunately for the Wolverines, is coming back from injury.  She shows strong technique and clean execution, especially on UB (Tkachev, Pak, double front).  Also coming back from injury is Madison Mariani, a member of the Junior Olympic National team in 2017.  She especially stands out on UB, where she finished 5th(t) at the 2017 JO Nationals and was 2nd(t) in 2016.

Michigan certainly has the talent on the roster to make a run at the final 8 at Nationals this season.  What they lack in NCAA competitive experience they make up for in big skills and high scoring potential.  You can expect them to build as the season goes on, as the frosh adapt and as Karas works herself back into top form on all four events.  Consistency for two nights in a row will be key for the Wolverines.

 

 10.  Kentucky Wildcats

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coach:  Tim Garrison
Assistants: Chuck Dickerson, Rachel Garrison
Starting Routines Returning: 21/24
Routines Gone:  0 VT, 1 UB, 1 BB, 1 FX
Returning Starters (9):  Katrina Coca (Sr), Danaea Davis (Sr), Sidney Dukes (Sr), Alex Hyland (Sr), Mollie Korth (Jr), Alaina Kwan (Jr), Hailey Poland (Jr), Aubree Rosa (Sr), Katie Stuart (Sr), Ella Warren (So)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Madison Averett (So), Mackenzie Harman (So), Katherine Marianos (So), Megan Monfredi (So), Allison Snyder (So)
Graduated (2):   Katie Carlisle, Cori Rechenmacher
Other Losses (1):  Erynne Allen (Jr/TR to PSU)
Newcomers (4):  Josie Angeny (Fr), Anna Haigis (Fr), Cally Nixon (Fr), Arianna Patterson (Fr/I)

Quick Assessment:   Kentucky finally returned to Nationals last season, after a couple of very strong seasons that ended up just a bit short.  They did count a fall last season on UB, so without that major mistake would have finished higher than 12th.  What's even better, they return 21 of 24 routines from that squad.  They lost Katie Carlisle and Cori Rechenmacher to graduation.  Both provided some key routines but neither were in the critical, end of the lineup slots occupied by their key stars. 

The senior class has made a strong impact on the Wildcats since their freshman campaigns.  In particular, Sidney Dukes, Alex Hyland, and Katie Stuart, along with junior Mollie Korth, have traded AA duties over the last several seasons.  Dukes is a former BB All-American (triple series) while Hyland was the 2017 SEC co-champ on the event.  While Dukes was out of the final UB lineup, she's looking strong for an AA return this season.  Hyland has been a strong and consistent force, and her leadership will be counted upon.  Korth made All-American in two events last season, and brings a big and consistent Yurchenko 1 1/2 to the anchor spot for UK.  Stuart winnowed down to two events last season, but exceled in the important lead-off spot on BB.  She's been spotted training a Yurchenko 1 1/2, a big upgrade that UK might need this season.  Kentucky also welcomes back Hailey Poland, a key BB/FX performer with a triple series and front double full on FX, and sophomore Ella Warren, who joined mid-season to bring her clean lines to the Wildcat lineups, and who performs a front double full on FX of her own.  Danaea Davis and Aubree Rosas bring some strong Yurchenko Fulls to the VT lineup, while Alaina Kwan has potential to break through on multiple events.  Consistency and injury, however, have held her back in the past.        

Kentucky also welcomes four frosh for this season, including Josie Angeny, Anna Haigis, Cally Nixon and Arianna Patterson.  Angeny was 12th AA and tied for 7th on BB (bhs-layout-layout series) at the 2017 Level 10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She also was 3rd on UB (Jaeger, double layout) and 8th AA at the 2018 Region VII L10 Regionals.  Haigis qualified to JO Nationals in 2018, after placing 5th at the 2018 Region V L10 Regionals.  Her best events are BB and FX.  Unfortunately, Patterson, a strong potential lineup contributor in the leg events (layout Kasamatsu, full-out on FX), is reportedly out for the season.   Another powerful gymnast, Nixon placed 5th on VT and 9th on FX at the 2016 JO Nationals but did not compete in the post-season last year. 

Kentucky will look to return to Nationals this season by leveraging their biggest strength, consistency, to knock teams off during this rigorous new format.   While they may lack, outside of Korth, some of the big skills and 10.0 SV vaults of the top teams, they'll depend on a veteran crew that focuses on clean, consistent execution to succeed.  That should be enough to carry them deep into the April postseason, with that final Regional matchup to get to the National finals the only obstacle remaining. 

 

 11.  Nebraska

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning:  11/24
Routines Gone:  3 VT, 3 UB, 4 BB, 3 FX 
Head Coach:  Heather Bring
Assistant:  Mike Heredia
Returning Starters (6):  Sienna Crouse (Sr), Sierra Hassel (Jr), Taylor Houchin (Jr), Catelyn Orel (Jr), Kynsee Roby (Jr/I), Megan Schweihofer (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Kelli Chung (Jr), Makayla Curtis (So), Anika Dujakovich (So/I), Rachel Thompson (So), Megan Verceles Carr (So)
Graduated (3):  Danielle Breen, Abbie Epperson, Grace Williams 
Other Losses (2):  Karley Hutchinson (So/?), Torri Hutchinson (So/?) 
Newcomers (5):  Adnerys De Jesus (Fr), Sarah Hargrove (Fr), Abby Johnston (Fr), Kaylee Quinn (Fr), Megan Thompson (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Nebraska is coming a Super Six finish last season, after a strong season that built momentum through the season.  The Coaches have placed the Huskers in 11th, likely reflecting a tendency to underestimate this squad and to also acknowledge the large losses NU faced in the offseason.  The Husker need to replace 13 routines from last seasons, including three top graduates in Dani Breen, Abbie Epperson and Grace Williams.  The Huskers also lost longtime Head Coach Dan Kendig, who abruptly resigned this past fall, as NCAA compliance issues were raised in an investigation.  On top of that, NU reportedly lost the services of AAer Kynsee Roby, for the season.  That's at least half of each lineup and four routines on BB, the event where experience often counts the most. 

Fortunately for the Huskers, they still have a strong core of returners, led by seniors Sienna Crouse and Megan Schweihofer, and junior Taylor Houchin.  All three can go AA and are capable of posting big, end of the lineup scores.  Crouse has developed into a force, particularly on VT, where she made All-American with her Yurchenko 1 1/2.  2018 Big 10 AA champ Schweihofer also returns after a stellar year.  She earned 2018 All-America honors on FX (full-in) and the AA.  The AA trio is completed with Houchin, who returned from an injury-related slow start to earn All-American honors last season on V and UB.  She also won regional titles on UB and VT (tie).  She's been looking strong in preseason training, adding a Yurchenko double twist and a pike full-in on FX.  The Huskers also welcome back junior Catelyn Orel, who contributed last season on UB and FX (but has reportedly been slowed by injury), as well as junior Sierra Hassel. 

To this strong core, Nebraska adds what is perhaps their strongest overall frosh class in years.  The class includes Adnerys De Jesus, Sarah Hargove, Abby Johnston, Kaylee Quinn and Megan Thompson.  Johnston was the AA runnerup at the 2018 Level 10 Junior Olympics (Senior F).  She was also the BB champion and tied for 2nd on FX (full-in mount) while placing 6th on UB and 7th(t) on VT.  Hargrove is another L10 standout.  She placed 7th AA and 3rd(t) on UB at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She was also 3rd AA, 3rd(t) on BB and 4th(t) on FX in 2017.  Quinn is another accomplished L10, and was runnerup on FX and 11th AA at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals (Senior E).  She was the FX (pike full-in) champ in 2017, where she also placed 4th on VT and tied for 10th AA.  She was the L10 National Champ on BB in 2016 as well.  Two more L10s complete the class:  Thompson qualified to L10 Nationals in 2018 and tumbles a tight triple twist on FX and a bhs-layout-layout series on BB.  De Jesus is a two-time JO National qualifier, and has looked strong in training with a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT and triple twist on FX.  

Nebraska will face a challenge of not only missing their long-time coach but in losing no less than 13 routines from 2018.  With a large and talented frosh class, the Huskers will likely build momentum as the season progresses.  Injuries have paid a role in the past, and they'll have to keep the starts healthy while bringing along the talented newcomers.      

 12.  Arkansas Razorbacks

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 2 UB, 1 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach: Mark Cook
Assistants: Jaime (Pisani) Arnbrust, Garrett Griffeth
Returning Starters (6):  Michaela Burton (Jr), Sophia Carter (So), Hailey Garner (Jr), Sydney Laird (So), Sarah Shaffer (So), Jessica Yamzon (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Makenzie Anderson (Sr), Kailey Gillings (So), Sydney McGlone (Sr/I)
Graduated (3):  Mia Bargiacchi, Braie Speed, Amanda Wellick
Other Losses (3): Kirby Rathjen (Jr/?), Lakin Legereit (So), Ellie Wylie (So)
Newcomers (5): Katarina Derrick (Fr), Amanda Elswick (Fr), Kennedy Hambrick (Fr), Bailey Lovett (Fr), Savannah Pennese (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Arkansas returned to Nationals in 2018, placing 10th.  They lose 6 gymnasts from that squad, including graduates Mia Bargiacchi, Braie Speed and Amanda Wellick.  Wellick came back last season as a fifth year season to lead the squad as an all-arounder.  The "end of the lineup" scores from this three-time All-American are going to be missed.  Speed was also a key contributor on three events, and was an All-American on VT last season.  In total, the GymBacks will look to replace 7 routines and a bunch of leadership from last year's squad.

They'll be lead in 2019 by junior Jessica Yamzon and sophomore Sarah Shaffer, along with BB All-American Hailey Garner.  Yamzon was a steady and consistent AAer for Arkansas last season, excelling on UB (full twisting double layout) and BB.  Shaffer rebounded from an injury her frosh season to become a key three event contributor (and going all around at times).  Garner also competed on three events last season, but like Shaffer can go AA if needed.  Junior Michaela Burton was also a key member of the FX and BB lineups, but has competed on all four events. 

Sophia Carter and Sydney Laird both had strong frosh debuts but look to make even a greater impact this season.  The GymBacks could use Carter, as needed, in the AA, while Laird returns primarily as a UB/BB specialist.  The GymBacks also welcome back Sydney McGlone, who missed the balance of 2018 with an elbow injury.  She's a powerful gymnast with a double layout on FX and career highs of 9.9s on VT, BB and FX.  She could immediately step into the footsteps of one of the departed stars.  

The GymBacks welcome no less than five frosh, led by Amanda Elswick, Bailey Lovett and Kennedy Hambrick.  Elswick placed 29th AA, 3rd on VT and 4th(t) on BB at the 2017 Level 10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She vaults a Yurchenko 1 1/2 (and trains a double) and has a double Arabian on FXLovett missed the post season last year but finished 6th AA, 2nd(t) on BB and 3rd on FX (double layout) at the 2017 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She was also 6th AA in 2016.  Hambrick is coming off a strong club season where she tied for 14th AA, 4th on UB and 9th on VT and FX at the 2018 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She also tied for 7th on VT and placed 44th AA at the 2017 JO Nationals. Katarina Derrick is a L10 from Pearland Elite who was 12th AA at the 2016 Region III L10 Regionals.  The final frosh, Savannah Pennese, was 11th AA and 3rd on VT at the 2018 Region III L10 Regionals.  Both gymnasts provide Yurchenko Full options on an event where the GymBacks have struggled with depth, fielding only five gymnasts at times. 

Arkansas looks to build on last year's season and challenge once again for a spot at Nationals.  They have some challenges ahead with the loss of the 9.9+ potential of their stars.  But a strong frosh class and the return of McGlone give the GymBacks some potentially increased depth, as long as they can avoid additional injuries to their key gymnasts and the frosh can recover from preseason issues. 

 

Teams #13 to #25

Intro

 

Key to the Tables:

 

Ranking: By 2019 Preseason Coaches' Poll

Coaches: Only regular, paid coaches are listed.

Starting Routines: Defined by starting lineup in last meet of the post season.
Returning Starters:
Defined by starting lineup in last competition
Year in School:
(Is listed as reported on the school's roster)

Fr = Freshman
So = Sophomore
Jr = Junior
Sr = Senior

Status Codes for Returners:

I = major season ending injury in 2018 or preseason 2018-2019
R = retirement/not competing (for any other reason than transfer or injury)
TR = Transfer
RS = Redshirt (note:  not all eligible gymnasts will employ or are awarded a redshirt year)
?=unconfirmed/unknown information

Published in Capsule Previews
Saturday, 14 October 2017 16:36

2018 Capsule Previews: Teams #1 to #12

Here's the first 12 teams in our Capsule Previews of our Top 25, based on the 2018 Preseason Coaches' Poll. 

 

 1.  Oklahoma Sooners

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 2 UB, 2 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach: KJ Kindler
Assistants: Lou Ball, Tom Haley
Returning Starters (8):  Natalie Brown (Sr), Stefani Catour (Sr), Jade Degouveia (So), Brenna Dowell (Sr), AJ Jackson (Sr), Nicole Lehrmann (Jr), Alex Marks (Jr), Maggie Nichols (So)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Samantha Craus (Sr), Brehanna Showers (So)
Graduated (6):  Chayse Capps, Reagan Hemry, Charity Jones, Kara Lovan, Nicole Turner, McKenzie Wofford
Other Losses (1):  Megan Thompson (Jr/?)
Newcomers (5):  Jordan Draper (Fr), Ashley Hiller (Jr/Transfer from Florida), Abigail Matthews (Fr), Evy Schoepfer (Fr), Anastasia Webb (Fr), Carly Woodard (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  The defending National Champion Sooners seek a three-peat in 2018, and hold the top spot in the Coaches' Preseason rankings.  They lose seven routines from last year's Super Six finals, with most coming from graduated superstar Chayse Capps.  However, the Sooners return most of their Championship lineup, headlined by superstar Maggie Nichols.  Nichols had a superb season last year, just missing the 40.0 mark in the AA.  She's had a slower start in the preseason due to an offseason knee recovery but looks strong.  She'll be capably supported by senior All-Americans Natalie Brown, Brenna Dowell, and AJ Jackson.  Dowell is another powerful AAer, while Jackson is looking strong on VT and FX, but continues to push the lineup on the other events.  Junior All-Americans Stefani Catour and Nicole Lehrmann, the co-National Champion on UB, will be both key parts of the UB lineup.  Sophomore Brehanna Showers looks to have rebounded strongly from her injuries and is also ready to challenge for lineups.

To this strong core, OU adds a strong frosh class that bolster the Sooners in key ways.  Leading the way are Evy Schoepfer and Anastasia Webb.  Both can perform 10.0 start value vaults, an event where OU can put forth a full lineup of top value vaults this season.  This effectively neutralizes Florida's challenge on this event.  They are also strong AA gymnasts, with NCAA E skills on FX and solid execution.  L10 and former jr. international elite Abigail Matthews excels on UB, an event where two lineup spots are up for grabs. 

While the Sooners are missing a few pieces from last year's Championship squad, they have earned their top preseason rank through their high level of execution and consistency.  With the newcomers adding some firepower in key areas, the Sooners are set up well to hold off the Florida Gators and earn a three-peat this season.  


 2.  Florida

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 24/24
Routines Gone:  0 VT, 0 UB, 0 BB, 0 FX
Head Coach: Jenny Rowland
Assistants: Adrian Burde, Owen Field
Returning Starters (9):  Sierra Alexander (So), Kennedy Baker (Sr), Alicia Boren (Jr), Maegan Chant (So), Rachel Gowey (So), Amelia Hundley (So), Grace McLaughlin (Sr), Alex McMurtry (Sr), Rachel Slocum (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (1):  Amanda Cheney (Jr)
Graduated (1):  Claire Boyce
Other Losses (3):  Vanasia Bradley (Fr/I/R/Student Coach), Lacy Dagen (Jr/TR to Oregon State), Ashley Hiller (Jr/Transfer to OU)
Newcomers (4):  Alyssa Baumann (Fr), Jazmyn Foberg (Fr), Megan Skaggs (Fr), Nicole Webb (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Florida returns 24 of 24 routines and boasts a powerful incoming class.  It's no wonder than many observers as dubbed them the preseason favorite or co-favorite.  The Gators will be powered by NCAA champion Alex McMurtry, a senior, who will be capably supported by classmate Kennedy Baker and junior Alicia Boren.  All three are capable of 39.6+ AA scores, but we may see them in fewer events in order to earn them some rest or because UF is simply "that deep".  Other key returners include VT/FX specialist Rachel Slocum and sophomore Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley.  In almost any other team, the two sophomores would be key AAers.

To that talented and superstar core the Gators add what we regard as the best overall recruiting class.  They are headlined by a trio of elites with true superstar potential in the NCAA.  Former World Championship team member Alyssa Baumann leads the way.  Even after taking a gap year to rehab an injury, she looks strong and ready to post huge scores.  Classmate Jazymn Foberg is a former junior elite AA champion, and has a superb range of skills.  She's showing a strong double layout on FX and has a wide arsenal of skills on UB.  Megan Skaggs as a Gold Medalist on the 2015 Pan Am Games teams and excels on BB, but has shown a strong Yurchenko 1 1/2 in preseason.  She appears to be in peak condition and ready to make an immediate impact.  

With some of the NCAA's leading superstars and some fantastic frosh talent, all eyes will be on the Gators this season.  With 6 10.0 Start Value vaults and huge difficulty on every other event, the Gators simply need to master consistency under pressure to battle OU for the title.   

 

 3.  LSU Tigers

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 16/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 1 UB, 2 BB, 3 FX
Head Coach: D-D Breaux
Associate Head Coach:  Jay Clark
Assistant: Bob Moore
Returning Starters (7):  Kennedi Edney (So), Sarah Finnegan (Jr), Myia Hambrick (Sr), Ruby Harrold (So), McKenna Kelley (Jr/I), Erin Macadaeg (Sr), Lexie Priessman (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Julianna Cannamela (Jr), Ashlyn Kirby (So), Lauren Li (Sr), Kylie Moran (Sr)
Graduated (3):   Sydney Ewing, Ashleigh Gnat, Shae Zamardi
Other Losses (1):  Kaitlyn Szanfranki (Jr/TR to ASU)
Newcomers (7):  Reagan Campbell (Fr), Bridget Dean (Fr), Christina Desiderio (Fr), Sami Durante (Fr), Sarah Edwards (Fr), Olivia Gunter (Fr), Gracen Standley (Fr)

Quick Assessment:   LSU seeks to replace 8 routines lost from 2017's squad, including standout routines from Sydney Ewing, Ashleigh Gnat and Shae Zamardi.  This does not include the loss of routines from McKenna Kelley, who tore her Achilles' during the preseason.  The 2018 Tigers will be led by seniors Myia Hambrick and Erin Macadaeg, junior Sarah Finnegan and sophomores Kennedi Edney and Ruby Harrold.  Edney, Finnegan and Hambrick are three superb AAers with 9.9+ potential on every event.  Macadaeg looks to step up in more events this season, as does British elite Harrold.  Sophomore Ashlyn Kirby looks strong during the preseason training, but junior Lexie Priessman may have a slow start due to ongoing knee issues.

This smaller but highly talented core will be supplemented with a large and strong frosh class.  They've seen their share of injury issues as well, but in sheer numbers they'll serve to bolster the lineups.  The key gymnast is Christina Desiderio, a sr. international elite and 2016 Olympic Trials qualifier.  She has the big skills and amplitude, when she's healthy and ready, to fill the spots vacated by Gnat.  Bridget Dean, a L10 and former jr. international elite, has shown strong progress back from injury while Sami Durante, daughter of former UGA coach Danna Durante, looks to be a top candidate for an UB slot.  Former jr. international elite and L10 dropdown Reagan Campbell is an ace on the BB, while L10 frosh Sarah Edwards is training a Yurchenko 1 1/2.

LSU will look to build through the season, as gymnasts work back from injury and the newcomers get a chance to adapt to college competition.  Expect early on to have the veterans carry the bulk of the workload, of which they are quite capable.  We'll know by midseason just how competitive for the top spot this team can become.     

 

 4.  Alabama Crimson Tide

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 14/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 3 UB, 2 BB, 3 FX
Head Coach:  Dana Duckworth
Associate Head Coach:  Brian Raschilla
Assistant:  Bill Lorenz
Returning Starters (8):
  Abby Ambrecht (Jr), Mackenzie Brannan (Sr), Wynter Childers (So), Madison Desch (So), Ari Guerra (Jr), Nickie Guerrero (Sr), Shea Mahoney (So), Kiana Winston (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Angelina Giancroce (Jr), Jennie Loeb (Sr) 
Graduated (6):   Katie Bailey, Amanda Jetter, Keely McNeer, Mary Lillian Sanders, Aja Monet-Sims, Mackenzie Valentin
Other Losses (1):   Jenna Bresette (Jr/?)
Newcomers (5): 
Kylie Dickson, Peyton Ernst (So/TR/Florida), Lexi Graber (Fr), Bailie Key (Fr), Alonza Klopfer (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Alabama graduated six gymnasts from 2017's Super Six squad, including stars Katie Bailey, Amanda Jetter, Keely McNeer and Aja Monet-Sims.  All told, the Crimson Tide will need to replace 10 routines in 2018, including half of the lineups on UB and FX.  Leading the charge will be seniors Mackenzie Brannan, Nickie Guerrero and Kiana Winston.  All-American Brannan worked through an injury to keep contributing to the Tide last season.  Bama will look to regain her full services this season.  Fellow All-American Kiana Winston has 10 potential on any event, and has a 39.7 AA best.  The Tide will also look to the sophomore class, especially Wynter Childers, Madison Desch and Shea Mahoney.  Mahoney looks to be stronger this season after her struggles with injuries, and ready to resume a greater role.  Former World Championships Gold Medalist Desch just began to show her full potential last season, and the Tide faithful are hoping for even more in the future.  Likewise, junior Abby Armbrecht looked strong at the preseason exhibition meet and looks ready for an expanded impact.   

To this strong and talented core, Bama brings a tremendous quartet of frosh plus Florida transfer Peyton Ernst.  Bailie Key headlines the class.  The former National Team member placed 4th AA at the 2015 P&G Championships and 1st AA, BB and FX at the 2013 P&G Championships (junior).  Unfortunately, a back injury caused Key to retire from elite in 2016, and her back has hampered her since.  She's been showing BB and UB routines during the Fall intrasquads and appears to be making steady progress.  Kylie Dickson is another gymnast with elite credentials.  A 2016 Olympian for Belarus, she trained at All Olympia and made elite in the US ranks.  Earlier in the year, she showed top skills like a Yurchenko double twist on VT although she only did UB (with no dismount) at the exhibition meet.  Lexi Graber is a L10 from Coast Elite at a three-time JO National Team member.  In 2017, she posted a 10 on VT to win the L10 JO National title on the event (Yurchenko 1 1/2).  The fourth frosh is Alonza Klopfer, a L10 from North Stars.  A 2017 JO National Team member, she won the L10 JO National BB title in 2016.  The fifth newcomer, former elite Peyton Ernst, was primarily a BB specialist at Florida and looked strong in the preseason on that event.  

Despite some heavy losses to graduation, Bama has simply reloaded for 2018.  With more experience to their underclassman, Bama could close the gap on the top two teams.  The new frosh bring some high level skills, including one key 10.0 VT, an event where the Tide lag the top teams.  How quickly the newcomers adapt to competition, in particular Key, could make the difference in how competitive Bama can become.       

 

 5.  Utah Utes

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule     Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 20/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 1 BB, 1 FX
Head Coaches: Tom Farden and Megan Marsden
Assistant: Robert Ladanyi
Returning Starters (9):  Kari Lee (Sr), Tiffani Lewis (Sr), Shannon McNatt (Jr), MaKenna Merrell-Giles (Jr), Erika Muhaw (Jr), Missy Reinstadler (So), Macey Roberts (Jr), MyKayla Skinner (So), Maddy Stover (Sr)  
Other/Injured Returners (1):  Kim Tessen (So/I)
Graduated (1):  Baely Rowe
Other Losses (1):  Sabrina Schwab (Jr/I/R)
Newcomers (3):  Alexia Burch (Fr), Sydney Soloski (Fr), Lauren Wong (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Utah returns 20 of 24 routines from last year's Super Six squad, with All-American Baely Rowe graduating.  However, they also unfortunately lost Sabrina Schwab to a medical retirement, a blow to their efforts to close the gap on the top teams in the country.  In 2018, as in 2017, they'll be led by superstar MyKayla Skinner.  Her high level of difficulty and consistency will continue to pull in huge scores for the Utes.  The Utes also will get key routines from seniors Kari Lee and Tiffani Lewis, junior MaKenna Merell-Giles, and sophomore Missy Reinstandler.  Giles and Reinstadler have looked especially strong in preseason training, and could make an even bigger impact in 2018.  The Utes also look forward to the return from injury by Kim Tessen, who has a big VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and a double layout on FX in her arsenal. 

Utah welcomes three frosh in 2018:  Alexia Burch, Sydney Soloski and Lauren Wong.  Burch is a former L10 JO National Champ (2015) from Flips USA who placed 10th AA at the 2017 JO Nationals.  She also placed 7th AA in 2016, including a 2nd on FX.  Soloski is a former National Team member from Canada's Calgary Gym Centre.  She's a powerful athlete with a double layout on FX.  At the recent Utah public preview, she showed she is ready to compete for lineup spots on multiple events.  Wong is a local L10 who will graduate early to help bolster the Utes in 2018.

Utah has an experienced and talented core set of gymnasts, led by superstar Skinner.  To return to the Super Six and close the gap on the top teams, they'll need to focus on the details and boost their difficulty in order to push for more post-season scores of 9.9+.  Utah will also need to avoid injury, as this squad has less depth than some past Utah teams, with several gymnasts not training all the events.

 

 6.  UCLA Bruins

Official Web SiteLink      Schedule     Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 18/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 0 UB, 2 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach: Valerie Kondos Field
Associate Head Coach:  Chris Waller
Assistant: Randy Lane
Returning Starters (10):  Napualani Hall (Sr), Felicia Hano (So), Janay Honest (Sr), Madison Kocian (So/I), Christine "Peng Peng" Lee (R-Sr), Sonya Meraz (Sr), Kateyln Ohashi (Jr), Kyla Ross (So), Stella Savvidou (Jr), Macy Toronjo (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (6): Rechelle Dennis (Sr), Anna Glenn (So), Grace Glenn (So), Gracie Kramer (So), Giuliano Pino (So), Mercedes Sanchez (So)
Graduated (3):  Angi Cipra, Michaela Gerber, Hallie Mossett
Other Losses (2):   Madison Preston (Jr/R), Maria Caire (So/R)
Newcomers (8):  Nia Dennis (Fr), Sofia Gonazalez (Fr), Rebecca Karlous (Fr), Savannah Kooyman (Fr), Brielle Ngueyn (Jr/TR from Illinois), Kendal Poston (Fr), Pauline Tratz (Fr), Lilia Waller (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  UCLA returns 18 routines from last year's Super Six final lineups.  They lose three seniors, including Angi Cipra, Michaela Gerber and Hallie Mossett, plus VT/FX specialist Madison Preston (injury retirement).  These losses include some of their top scores on FX and VT, events where the Bruins were challenged for depth at times last season.  In addition, Olympian Madison Kocian, the hero AAer for the Bruins in 2017, had shoulder surgery this fall.  Recovery from this type of surgery is hard to predict, and she could even miss the season or be limited to BB.  This is not factored into the 6 lost routines.  Fortunately, Christine "Peng Peng" Lee was granted a rare sixth year by the NCAA, and she'll be around to contribute top scores on UB and BB.

Leading the way for the Bruins will be Olympian and two-time NCAA champion Kyla Ross.  The five-time All American, who is off to a much stronger start in the preseason, will be counted upon to lead the Bruin squad back into the Super Six.  Supporting her will be a number of athletes, led by junior Katelyn Ohashi.  Ohashi has trained strongly during the off-season, showing off a number of upgrades including an high double layout on FX.  She's targeting an AA role.  The Bruins also have veteran seniors Janay Honest and Sonya Meraz, in addition to sophomore Felicia Hano, as potential AA threats.  Overall the Bruins that competed in the December preview event showed a higher level of fitness at this point in the season, a reflection of a change in strategy. 

To this strong core, UCLA brings in seven frosh, highlighted by Nia Dennis and Pauline Tratz.  Dennis a former senior international elite who dropped down to L10 last season while training at Legacy Elite.  A former National Team member, she finished 9th on UB at the 2016 P&G Championships, and 8th AA at the 2015 P&G Championships.  Tratz actively competed as an elite in 2017, representing Germany at the World University Games.  In 2016, she competed at the Olympic Test Event and helped her country earn a spot at the Rio Games.  Dennis will likely be a top AAer for the Bruins in 2018.

UCLA returns a large and talented squad, and will look to work past their injuries to return to the Super Six.  They are looking to upgrade their VTs and their tumbling on FX, two areas where they lag the top teams in the country.  Their UB and BB lineups are already among the best in the country, so therefore, the leg events will tell the tale.              

  

 7.  Michigan

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Routines Gone: 2 VT, 1 UB, 2 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach: Bev Plocki
Assistants: Scott Sherman, Scott Vetere
Returning Starters (8):  Brianna Brown (Sr), Lexi Funk (So), Olivia Karas (Jr), Lauren Marinez (Sr), Emma McLean (Jr), Maddie Osman (So), Polina Shchennikova (So), Paige Zaziski (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Maggie O'Hara (So), Sam Roy (So)
Graduated (2):  Nicole Artz, Talia Chiarelli
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (3):  Lauren Farley (Fr), Sam Javanbakht (Fr), Sydney Townsend (Fr)

Quick Assessment:   Michigan loses just two gymnasts and seven routines from last year's 10th place squad, but these losses are bigger than they might appear on paper.  All Americans Nicole Artz and Talia Chiarelli were genuine threats to post 9.9+ scores each time they mounted an apparatus.  Replacing these type of scores is not an easy task.  Leading the way in 2018 for the Wolverines will be junior Olivia Karas and Emma McLean, senior Brianna Brown and Paige Zaziski, and sophomores Lexi Funk and Polina Shchennikova.  Karas was Big Ten Frosh of the Year in 2016 and can post 9.9+ scores on every event.  Zaziski is another potential AAer and a 2017 NCAA Regional Champion on VT, UB and the AA.  They'll form a strong 1-2 punch.  Brown was slowed by an injury last year and has competed AA in the past, but likely we'll see her in up to three events.  McLean emerged last season with a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT and won the Regional Title.  She also had one of the top Wolverine FX routines.  She and the other sophomores like Funk, Osman and Shchennikova will be looked upon to take bigger roles in 2018, after a year of training and adjustment. 

Joining a strong core of returning gymnasts are a trio of frosh.  Lauren Farley leads the way.  The WOGA-trained L10 placed 9th AA and 2nd on BB and 8th(t) on FX at the 2017 L10 JO Nationals. She also made the JO National team in 2015, placing 2nd AA at the L10 JO Nationals.  Classmate Sydney Townsend is a former World Championships team member for Canada.  She's strongest on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (double Arabian).  These two have the potential to further elevate and deepen the Wolverine lineups, especially on VT and FX. 

For Michigan to improve on last year's finish, they'll need some step-up performances from their sophomore class or their frosh to help bridge the gaps left by the departed superstars.  The Wolverines look capable of fielding a stronger VT lineup, but they may have to rely instead on improved depth to continue their success from last season. 

 

 8.  Denver Pioneers

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coach: Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart
Assistants: Linas Gaveika, Robert Ladany
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 2 UB, 2 BB, 1 FX
Returning Starters (8):  Nikole Addison (Sr), Diana Chesnok (Jr), Claire Hammen (Sr), Maddie Karr (So), Claire Kern (Jr), Leah Lomonte (RS Sr), Courtney Loper (So), Kaitlyn Schou (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (1):  Grace Broadhurst (So)
Graduated (2):  Julia Ross, Rachel Fielitz
Other Losses (1):  Sam Ogden (So/?)
Newcomers (3):  Lynnzee Brown (Fr), Emily Glynn (Fr), Mia Sundstrom (Fr)

Quick Assessment:
  Denver overachieved last season, competing five gymnast on VT and FX for much of the season while producing one of their best seasons on record.  They return 17 of 24 routines from that squad, but are losing key 2nd half of the lineup routines from AAer Julia Ross and UB/BB specialist Sam Ogden.  They'll be led once again in 2018 by superstar soph Maddie Karr.  A three-time AA as a frosh, Karr helped propel DU to a 9th place finish at Nationals.  The Pioneers also return key seniors Nikole Addison and Claire Hammen, and juniors Diana Chesnok and Kaitlyn Schou.  Sophomore Courtney Loper was also a key part of the BB and FX lineups.  Addison is a potential AAer, but shines on FX with a double layout.  Chesnok overcame a preseason injury to impact on multiple events, while Schou posted top scores on VT, BB and FX.

To this experienced core, DU adds three newcomers, led by future superstar Lynzee Brown.  Brown, a L10 from GAGE, placed 2nd AA, 2nd(t) UB, 2nd(t) FX and 3rd(t) VT at the 2017 L10 Nationals.  She a three-time JO National Team member with big skills, including a huge Yurchenko 1 1/2 and a double layout on FX.  She'll form a 1-2 punch with Karr on most events (BB is her weaker event).  Emily Glynn and Mia Sundstrom are in-state L10s from Airborne.  Glynn has a potential 10.0 Start Value vault and a full-in on FX, while Sundstrom provides clean execution and depth across all four events.

For DU, depth continues to be the watch word, with a relatively small squad and some event limitations to work around.  Injuries will thus be key, with VT, FX and even UB potentially being an issue.  DU is showing some big upgrades on VT and FX in preseason training, and if these make it into competition, they'll be able to more effectively challenge the top seven teams, and more easily hold their own in the Top 10.     


 

 

 9.  Nebraska

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning:  17/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 2 UB, 1 BB, 2 FX 
Head Coach: Dan Kendig
Associate Head Coach:  Heather Brink
Assistant:  Chris Brooks
Returning Starters (7):  Danielle Breen (Sr), Sienna Crouse (Jr), Abbie Epperson (Sr), Sierra Hassel (So), Taylor Houchin (So/I), Megan Schweihofer (Jr), Grace Williams (Sr) 
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Kelli Chung (Jr), Catelyn Orel (RS So/I)
Graduated (2):  Jennie Laeng, Ashley Lambert
Other Losses (4):  Alexa Clark (So/?), Megan Kuo (Jr/?), Laura Oh (So/?), Kami Shows (Jr/?)
Newcomers (7):  Makayla Curtis (Fr), Anika Dujakovich (Fr),  Karley Hutchinson (Fr), Torri Hutchinson (Fr), Kynsee Roby (Fr), Rachel Thompson (Fr), Megan Verceles Carr (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Nebraska placed 7th last year, just missing the Super Six.  They return 17 of 24 routines from last year's Semi Final appearance, and welcome seven newcomers.  The Huskers lost six athletes, however, including top graduated athletes Jennie Laeng and Ashley Lambert.  These two All Big Ten performers produced end of the lineup type of routines on several events.  The returning Huskers will be lead by junior Sienna Crouse and sophomore Taylor Houchin, both AAers.  Crouse made All American on VT last season, upgrading to a Yurchenko 1 1/2 while Houchin was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.  Seniors Dani Breen and Grace Williams along with junior Megan Schweihofer are also key contributors, giving NU a solid core of five gymnasts.  Unfortunately, Houchin has reportedly been sidelined with a knee injury, leaving her status up in the air.  Nebraska will also welcome the return of Catelyn Orel, a standout as a frosh who was injured last season.  

The seven Husker frosh are led by Kynsee Roby, a former jr. international elite and a 2015 JO National BB champion.  Unfortunately, she's also on the road back from an injury.  Instead, early on the Huskers will look to Makayla Curtis, Anika Dujakovich, Karley and Torri Hutchinson, Megan Verceles Carr and Rachel Thompson for immediate impact.  Verceles Carr, a L10 from West Valley, is coming off a big JO season where she tied for 3rd on BB and placed 8th in the AA at the 2017 L10 Nationals.  Head Coach Dan Kendig has a long history of producing top athletes from his recruits, and we'll see which of these seven emerges are future impact athletes.  

Nebraska's coaching staff has excelled in getting the most out of their lineups.  This year, they now have a veteran crew that can complete most of the lineups.  Keeping the key gymnasts healthy will be a key, while getting breakthrough performances from the frosh will come as an upside.  The team lost a little star power in their departed seniors, but there now is an opportunity for others to step forward.    

 

 10.  Kentucky Wildcats

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coach:  Tim Garrison
Assistants: Chuck Dickerson, Rachel Garrison
Starting Routines Returning: 24/24
Routines Gone:  0 VT, 0 UB, 0 BB, 0 FX
Returning Starters (10): Katie Carlisle (Sr), Danaea Davis (Jr), Katrina Coca (Jr), Sidney Dukes (Jr), Alex Hyland (Jr), Mollie Korth (So), Hailey Poland (So), Aubree Rosa (Sr), Cori Rechenmacher (Sr), Katie Stuart (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Erynne Allen (So/I), Alaina Kwan (So)
Graduated (0):   N/A
Other Losses (4):  Tatiana Bunch (So/?), Bailey Stehler (So/?), Marisa Varrone (So/?), Sydney Waltz (Sr/I/R)
Newcomers (6):  Madison Averett (So), Mackenzie Harman (Fr), Katherine Marianos (Fr), Megan Monfredi (Fr), Allison Snyder (Fr), Ella Warren (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  A few years ago UK was an inexperienced squad that overachieved with clean and consistent gymnastics.  Now they are a veteran crew looking to upgrade their lineups in order to burst through to Nationals.  They missed out last season, edged out by host Washington, but they clearly have Nationals in their sights this season.  They return 24 of 24 routines, with most of their squad intact, except for the injury retirement of former star Sydney Waltz.  Super soph Mollie Korth, an All American and the 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year, returns to lead the Wildcats.  With a solid pike full-in on FX and Yurchenko 1 1/2, she can bring in the big 9.9+ scores that can give a team an edge over others.  Supporting her once again will be junior AAers Sidney Dukes and Alex Hyland, both former All-Americans.  Capably supporting this trio of AA standouts is a bevy of talented specialists, plus AAer Katie Stuart.  UK will also look to get expanded contributions from their other sophomores, including the powerful Erynne Allen and former elite Alaina Kwan.  These two could make a critical difference, if they can return strongly. 

The Wildcats also welcome six frosh newcomers, who look to add depth and bolster the UK lineups.  Kentucky also just added Ella Warren to the squad, an early high school graduate (like Korth was last season).  Warren, a L10 from Florida Elite, is coming off a 12th(t) AA finish at the 2017 L10 Junior Olympic Nationals.  She also placed 3rd on BB (side aerial to bhs series) and tied for 8th on VT (Yurchenko Full).  She has beautiful lines and clean execution, and will bolster an already strong UK beam lineup.       

Kentucky just missed a spot at Nationals after a tremendous and historic regular season.  This season they'll look to continue their momentum and break through to Nationals.  To make that task easier, they'll need to continue to work their details on UB and to increase their difficulty on FX, in order to close the gap on the Top 10 teams.

 

 11.  Cal Bears

Official Web Site:   Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coach:  Justin Howell
Associate Head Coach:  Elizabeth Crandall
Starting Routines Returning: 11/24
Routines Gone:  4 VT, 2 UB, 3 BB, 4 FX
Returning Starters (5):  Allicia Gallarzo (Sr), Ariana Robinson (Sr), Chelsea Shu (Jr), Sofie Seilnacht (Jr), Yuleen Sternberg (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Cassidy Keelen (So/I), Racheal Mastrangelo (So), Sylvie Seilnacht (Jr/I), Toni-Ann Williams (Sr/I)
Graduated (8):  Isabelle Castillo, Zoe Draghi, Dana Ho, Jessica Howe, Charlie Owens, Desiree Palomores, Emily Richardson, Amber Takara
Other Losses (3):  Alexandra Dudschus (So/R/Manager), Emily Howe (So/R/Manager), Mariah Peterson (So/?)
Newcomers (5):  Kyana George (Fr), Alma Kuc (Fr), Maleah Pearson (Fr), Victoria Salem (Fr/I), Nina Schank (Fr), Emi Watterson

Quick Assessment:  Cal returns in 2018 missing a remarkable 11 gymnasts from their 2017 squad.  They return just 11 starting routines from last year's injury-plagued squad, including eight graduated gymnasts.  The return of star Toni-Ann Williams, a 2016 Olympian and top sophomore Cassidy Keelen looms large in the Bear's fortunes in 2018.  Williams is returning from an Achilles' tear but is already tumbling a double layout and showing upgrades on UB.  Besides that talented pair, Cal will look to senior Ariana Robinson and juniors Sofie and Sylvie Seilnacht to post key scores in their events.  Robinson's pike Ilg on vault is always a highlight and her FX (double Arabian) will pull down solid scores on what was Cal's weakest event.  Senior Yuleen Sternberg is also looking strong in training, showing top difficulty on UB, and junior Chelsea Shu looks to be a lineup fixture on UB and BB.

For Cal, however, 2018 is already all about the frosh.  Their transition and ability to adapt to NCAA competition will tell how far Cal is able to rise.  Leading the way is Kyana George, a L10 from Metroplex who is a three-time JO National Team member.  She is already showing AA potential in the preseason.  Alma Kuc competed as an elite for Poland, but trained at All Olympia in Southern California  She has a great selection of skills on UB and beautiful lines and toepoint.  Nina Schank is a local L10 from the Head over Heels club and another UB ace.  She won the 2017 L10 JO National UB title, but also placed 9th AA.  Joining the Bears in January will be Australian elite Emi Watterson.  She has clean lines and beautiful form and another gymnast who excels on UB.  Unfortunately, L10 Victoria Salem, a 2016 JO National champ on BB, is still recovering from an injury.

Cal's depth and lack of experience are the biggest question marks entering the season.  The nine returning athletes do cover most of the events, but not optimally, so it will take some immediate impact from the frosh in order to elevate Cal back into contention for a spot at Nationals.  Injuries and injury management will be key, especially on FX.      

 

 12.  Oregon State Beavers

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 9/24
Routines Gone:  3 VT, 3 UB, 4 BB, 5 FX
Head Coach: Tanya Chaplin
Associate Head Coach:  Mike Chaplin
Assistant:  Brian Amato
Returning Starters (6):  Marianna Colussi-Pelaez (Jr), Dani Dessaints (Sr), Sabrina Gill (So), Mary Jacobsen (Jr), Isis Lowery (So), McKenna Singley (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (7):  Halli Briscoe (So), Destinee Davis (So), Lena Greene (So), Shireen Khamedoost (Sr), Jaime Law (So), Maela Lazaro (So), Alyssa Minyard (So)
Graduated (6):   Erika Aufiero, Silvia Colussi-Pelaez, Maddie Gardiner, Megan Jimenez, Kaytianna McMillan, Taylor Ricci
Other Losses (1):  Kaitlin Campbell (So/?)
Newcomers (6):  Lacy Dagen (Jr/TR/Florida), Savanna Force (Fr), Lexie Gonzales (Fr), Niya Mack (Fr), Colette Yamaoka (Fr), Kaitlyn Yanish (Fr) 


Quick Assessment:   Oregon State loses 15 routines (5 on FX alone!) from 6 different gymnasts from last year's squad, including iconic Beaver AAers and All-Americans Maddie Gardiner and Kaytianna McMillan, plus All-Americans Silvia Colussi-Pelaez and Erika Aufiero.  The Beavers return just nine competing routines, led by senior Dani Dessaint, a former Pac 12 co-champ on VT and junior Mary Jacobsen, an All Pac-12 2nd Team member on Vault.  They'll form the core of the Oregon State squad for 2018, giving key potential 10.0 Start Value (SV) vaults and leadership and consistency throughout.  Coach Chaplin will also look to have step up performances from their sophomores, especially Sabrina Gill and Isis Lowery. Gill has competed in all four events (but showed only three at the recent exhibition meet) and Lowery could contribute in two to three.  Juniors McKenna Singley could also be a key, as she was limited by a preseason injury in 2017.  The Beavers will also need to have more contributions from their sophomores, with Destinee Davis and Maela Lazaro looking strongest in the preseason exhibition.  All told, 13 of 16 roster members competed at the preseason exhibition, a promising start as the Beavers refine their lineups.    

Oregon State welcomes six frosh, and they'll be depended upon from the start.  Heading the way will be Kaitlyn Yanish, a L10 from Arizona Dynamics and a two-time JO National Team member.  With a double layout on FX and an upgraded Yurchenko 1 1/2 in the works, she'll be a major force on three events (her UB is not yet "up to the level" for NCAA).  Also looking strong in preseason training is Savanna Force, with a full-in on FX.  L10s Lexie Gonazales and Niya Mack will also look to lend depth on key events as specialists.  Florida transfer Lacy Dagen is recovering from an injury and did not compete at the recent Orange and Black meet, and is targeted UB/BB upon her return.   

To return to Nationals, the Beavers will need step-up performances from their non-competing returnees and for their frosh to quickly adapt to NCAA competition.  Injuries and the resulting depth will be key.  The Beavers have a combination of top level skills and talent, with some big routines on every event.  However, they also have some gaps in depth that will be challenging to bridge without some step up performances from the rest of the squad. 

 

Teams #13 to #25

Intro

 

Key to the Tables:

 

Ranking: By 2018 Preseason Coaches' Poll

Coaches: Only regular, paid coaches are listed.

Starting Routines: Defined by starting lineup in last meet of the post season.
Returning Starters:
Defined by starting lineup in last competition
Year in School:
(Is listed as reported on the school's roster)

Fr = Freshman
So = Sophomore
Jr = Junior
Sr = Senior

Status Codes for Returners:

I = major season ending injury in 2017 or preseason 2017-2018
R = retirement/not competing (for any other reason than transfer or injury)
TR = Transfer
RS = Redshirt (note:  not all eligible gymnasts will employ or are awarded a redshirt year)
?=unconfirmed/unknown information

Published in Capsule Previews
Saturday, 14 October 2017 16:31

2018 Top 25 Capsule Previews

The season is right around the corner, and with the new year, a new set of capsule Season Previews of the Top 25, as ranked by the Coaches' Preseason Poll.  In each Preview, we've summarized the team's returning routines, their missing routines, the returning starters and the rest of their roster, including their newcomers.  We'll also give a brief overview preview of each squad.  

Published in General News
Sunday, 11 December 2016 21:23

2017 Top 25 Capsule Previews

The 2-17 Capsule Previews for the Top 25 Women's Teams, as determined by the Preseason Coaches' Poll, are now available.  In each case, we have summarized the rosters and list of newcomers, and quickly summarized their prospects and challenges.  We're unveiling the first 12 today, and will follow up with teams ranked #13 to #25 shortly. 

Published in General News
Sunday, 11 December 2016 15:55

2017 Capsule Previews: Teams #1 to #12

Here's the first 12 teams in our Capsule Previews of our Top 25, based on the 2017 Preseason Coaches' Poll. 

 

 1.  Oklahoma Sooners

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 16/24
Routines Gone:  3 VT, 2 UB, 1 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach: KJ Kindler
Assistants: Lou Ball, Tom Haley
Returning Starters (7):  Natalie Brown (Jr), Chayse Capps (Sr), Stefani Catour (Jr), Ali Jackson (Jr), Charity Jones (Sr), Nicole Lehrmann (So), McKenzie Wofford (Sr) 
Other/Injured Returners (7):  Samantha Craus (Jr), Brenna Dowell (Jr), Reagan Hemry (Sr), Kara Lovan (Sr/I), Alex Marks (So), Megan Thompson (So), Nicole Turner (SR)
Graduated (3):  Keeley Kmiciak, Hunter Price, Haley Scaman
Other Losses (1):  Maile'ana Kanewa (I/R/Student Coach)
Newcomers (3):  Jade Degouveia (Fr), Maggie Nichols (Fr), Brehanna Showers (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  The defending National Champion Sooners lose three key members from their 2016 squad:  Keeley Kmieciak, Hunter Price, and Haley Scaman.  In particular, Kmieciak and Scaman were fixtures of the Sooner lineup.  Kmiciak was a first team All American in 2016 on the VT, FX, and AA, where she tied for 7th.  Scaman was the anchor (or #5) on VT and FX, a six-time All-American who was runner-up on FX in 2014.  Along with 2016 VT All-American Price, these three athletes comprised half the VT lineup and key routines on UB and FX.  In addition, VT/FX All-American Maile'ana Kanewa chose not to utilize her fifth redshirt season and is now a student coach.  The Sooners have not been known for their power vaulting and tumbling, and these losses hit in the wrong areas.   

Don't worry about the Preseason #1 Sooners.  All is not lost, however, as the Sooners welcome back a strong core led by Chayse Capps, a five-time 2016 All-American.  She was the National Runner-up in the AA in 2016 and is one of the early favorites for the AA title in 2017.  She's capably supported by 2016 All-Americans Natalie Brown (BB), AJ Jackson (VT, UB), Nicole Lehrmann (UB) and McKenzie Wofford (UB).  What's more, the Sooners are thrilled to welcome back Brenna Dowell, who took the year off to train for the World Championships and a shot at the Olympics.   Dowell is an instant boost to any lineup, but in particular on VT, UB, and FX.  

The Sooners further reload with a sensational frosh class, led by World Team Gold medalist Maggie Nichols.  WIth great lines and tremendous difficulty, she'll be battling for end of the lineup slots on every event.  Already in presason training she's showing that her beautiful execution and high skill level will translate beautifully to the NCAA, with a Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT, pike-full in on FX and Van Leeuwen on UB.  Not to be overlooked are Jade DeGouveia and Brehanna Showers.  DeGouveia is a 2015 JO National Team member and 2016 JO National qualifier.  She tested elite in 2015 and throws some big skills, including a double Arabian on FX.  Showers was a standout in the L10 ranks but was slowed down by injuries the last two years.  She was the L10 VT co-champ and JO National Team member back in 2013.  With great toepoint and excellent form, she's a L10 in the same vein as some of the past Sooner greats. 

OU will definitely be among the favorites to win yet another National title, and they'll do it with their trademark clean gymnastics, consistency under pressure, great lines and creative choreography.  With Chayse Capps, Breanna Dowell and Maggie Nichols to lead the way, few teams will be able to keeps pace with the series of 9.9+ scores that will come.  They'll potentially sacrifice a tenth or 0.15 in start value on VT, but will look to make it up elsewhere with superior execution and an unflappable BB rotation.    

 

 2.  LSU Tigers

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 20/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 2 FX
Head Coach: D-D Breaux
Assistants: Jay Clark, Bob Moore
Returning Starters (9):  Julianna Cannamela (So), Sydney Ewing (Sr), Sarah Finnegan (So), Ashleigh Gnat (Sr), Myia Hambrick (Jr), McKenna Kelley (So), Erin Macadaeg (Jr), Lexie Priessman (So), Shae Zamardi (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (3): Lauren Li (Jr), Kylie Moran (Jr) , Kaitlyn Szafranski (So)
Graduated (3):   Michelle Gauthier, Jessica Savona, Randii Wyrick
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (3):  Kennedi Edney (Fr), Ruby Harrold (Fr), Ashlyn Kirby (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  LSU finished just 0.2225 behind OU for last year's National title, edging SEC rivals Bama and UF.  They lose just four routines from that squad, including Jessica Savona and Randii Wyrick.  Savona was a key member of the FX lineup and was a first team All-American on the event in 2016 and 2014.  Wyrick was better known for her UB, where she was a first team All-American in 2013 and 2015, but she contributed key scores as part of the Tiger FX lineup in 2016.  

A strong LSU core should be able to absorb those losses and more.  They'll be led in 2016 by Ashley Gnat and Myia Hambrick, both potential AAers.  Gnat was a first team AA on VT and BB in 2016, and 2nd team on FX and the AA.  Hambrick showed marked improvement in 2016, earning 1st team All-American honors on FX and the AA, and 2nd team honors on VT and UB.  The third place finisher in the AA in 2016, she'll be among the favorites on the event in 2017, especially after upgrading her VT to a Yurchenko 1 1/2.  This (potential) AA pair will be capably challenged by a number of athletes.  Sophomores Sarah Finnegan, a 1st team AA on UB, and Lexie Priessman (2nd Team All-American on the UB) are both capable of contributing more in 2017, while seniors Sydney Ewing and Shae Zamardi, junior Erin Macadaeg and sophomores McKenna Kelley and Julianna Cannamela will all be returning starters.

With returnees like that, you might not need a strong incoming class, but fear not, the Tigers are loaded.  Olympian Ruby Harrold (UK) heads the class, with an incredible skill set to draw from, including a double-twisting Yurchenko on VT and unusual skills and incredible combinations on UB (Van Leeuwen to Zuchold release).  Classmate Kennedi Edney is a former elite and a 2014/2015 JO National AA champion from Southern California.  She made the JO National Team from 2013-2016, a remarkable string of consistency.  She has big E skills (plural) on FX and a flighty Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT.  The third member of the class, Ashlyn Kirby, is L10 from NC who tied for 10th AA at the 2015 JO Nationals.  She also tied for 12th AA in 2014. 

LSU has been building up to this moment this last several years and is ready to challenge for the title in 2017.  They have the experience, 5+ 10.0 Start Value (SV) vaults, big routines on UB, and tremendous tumbling.  If they do win, it will be through a high level of difficulty on VT and FX, and by staying clean and consistent on UB and BB.  Championships are often decided on BB, and this will be the key to the Tigers title hopes in 2017.  

 

 3.  Alabama Crimson Tide

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 20/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 2 FX
Head Coach:  Dana Duckworth
Associate Head Coach:  Brian Raschilla
Assistant:  Bill Lorenz
Returning Starters (9):
  Katie Bailey (Sr), Mackenzie Brannan (Jr), Jenna Bresette (So), Nickie Guerrero (Jr), Amanda Jetter (Sr), Keely McNeer (Sr), Mary Lillian Sanders (Sr), Aja Monet-Sims (Sr), Kiana Winston (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Abby Armbrecht (So), Angelina Giancroce (So), Ari Guerra (So), Jennie Loeb (Jr),  Mackenzie Valentin (Sr)  
Graduated (2):   Lauren Beers, Carley Sims
Other Losses (2):  Amanda Huang (TR/Ohio State), Avery Rickett (So)
Newcomers (5): 
Wynter Childers (Fr), Caitlin Cole (Fr), Madison Desch (Fr), Peyton Ernst (So/TR/Florida), Shea Mahoney (Fr)

Quick Assessment: 
Alabama finished just 0.0125 behind LSU for 3rd place at last year's National meet.  They return 20 out of 24 routines, and look set to challenge for the title once again in 2017.  Gone from that squad are two strong leaders:  Lauren Beers and Carley Sims.   Beers was a seven time All-American for the Tide, including 2nd team honors on VT in 2016.  Sims was a second team All-American on VT and FX in 2015, and was a key member of the Tide's FX lineup.  Both tumbled big double layouts, and leave an "E" sized hole in the floor ex lineups.

The Tide will be led in 2017 by juniors Mackenzie Brannan and Kiana Winston, and senior Katie Bailey, the 2016 NCAA VT champion.  Brannan is coming off a standout year that saw her earn All-American honors in the AA, VT and UB (2nd Team).  She has been slowed a bit in the preseason by injury.  Classmate Winston also earned All-American honors on FX and BB (2nd team) in 2016, fighting off injuries that have held back her considerable talent.   Bailey is a standout AAer who won 1st team All-American honor on VT and UB in 2016, and UB in 2015.  A large and deep squad will help the Tide easily absorb any losses from 2016.  In particular, seniors Amanda Jetter, Keely McNeer and Aja Monet-Sims looks set for standout final campaigns.  Bama also returns its entire BB lineup, which is a key advantage on an event where experience and consistency counts.  

To this strong returning lineup, the Tide depth further expands with five newcomers:  frosh Wynter Childers, Caitlin Cole, Madison Desch, and Shea Mahoney, plus transfer Peyton Ernst.  Desch is a former elite and US National Team member who was a part of the 2014 Gold Medal World Championships squad.  She also earned a silver medal in the AA at the Pan Am Games in 2015.  However, early in 2016 she retired from elite competition due to injuries.  Childers is a former elite qualifier and L10 standout.  In 2016, she won FX, tied for the BB title, and tied for sixth on VT at the Level 10 JO Nationals.  However, she did not finish the competition due to injury.  In 2015, she was the JO National champ in the AA and on VT and BB.  Mahoney is another former Level 10 standout, who missed part of last season with injury.  She was 7th AA at the 2015 JO Nationals, including a tie for 2nd on VT and 3rd on FX.  She was 3rd on BB and FX in 2014.  This frosh class offers plenty of potential, although a few question marks remain on their recovery from various injuries.  Childers and Desch have been shown training strongly during the preseason, with Mahoney still working her way back.  The same can be said of January transfer Peyton Ernst.  Ernst successfully competed BB for Florida last season, but was limited by injury.  She's add offseason surgery and it's not clear she'll be ready for the season.   

Bama has a strong and experienced core of gymnasts that will enable them to keep in the running for the National title in 2017.  To that, they add some potential frosh standouts.  Perhaps of all the contending teams, Bama has fewer choices for 10.0 start value vaults, even as they work to upgrade their vaults (the past potential is there, but injuries have played a factor).  Like OU, they'll rely on clean and consistent sets on BB and UB to stay in contention.         

 

 4. UCLA Bruins

Official Web SiteLink      Schedule     Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 15/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 2 UB, 3 BB, 3 FX
Head Coach: Valerie Kondos Field
Associate Head Coach:  Chris Waller
Assistant: Randy Lane
Returning Starters (9):  Angi Cipra (Sr), Michaela Gerber (Sr), Napualani Hall (Jr), Janay Honest (Jr), Kateyln Ohashi (So), Madison Preston (So), Christine "Peng Peng" Lee (Sr), Sonya Meraz (Jr), Hallie Mossett (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (3): Rechelle Dennis (Jr), Stella Savvidou (So), Macy Toronjo (So/I)
Graduated (3):  Sadiqua Bynum, Sophina DeJesus, Danusia Francis
Other Losses (3):   Matteah Brow (So/?), Melissa Metcalf (Jr/?), Nicki Shapiro (So/?)
Newcomers (9):  Maria Caire (Fr), Anna Glenn (Fr/I), Grace Glenn (Fr), Felicia Hano (Fr), Madison Kocian (Fr), Gracie Kramer (Fr), Giulianna Pino (Fr), Kyla Ross (Fr), Mercedez Sanchez (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  UCLA finished the season in fifth place last season, a strong finish to the season.  They lose 9 routines and six gymnasts from that squad, including key end-of-the lineup routines from Sadiqua Bynum, Sophina DeJesus and 2016 NCAA BB Co-Champion Danusia Francis.  Francis had a terrific final year, starting off with strong performance at the World Championships and ending with All-American honors on the BB.  Bynum was a second-team All American on FX in 2016 while DeJesus was a two-time 2nd team All American on UB.  The Bruins will also miss the services of beamer Nicki Shapiro.

The 2017 Bruins will be led by Christine "Peng-Peng" Lee and Katelyn Ohashi, plus a large crew of experienced returnees.  Ohashi capped off a strong debut campaign which saw her earn four Pac 12 Freshman of the Week honors.  The oft-injured Lee, a two-time 2nd team All-American, came back at the end of last season to give the Bruins a post-season boost.  The Bruins also return All Pac 12 FX team member Angi Cipra, NCAA Regional vault co-champ Madison Preston (slowed by a wrist injury), Pac 12 UB co-champ Janae Honest, and 2016 point leader Sonja Meraz.  Former elite Macy Toronjo, who sat out last season after shoulder surgery, could also provide a boost, but her recovery this fall has been slow. 

There are high expectations for the Bruins, both among their fans and the competing coaches, based on the Bruin's fantastic frosh class.  UCLA welcomes nine newcomers, headlined by Olympic Gold Medalists Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross.  Rarely does an NCAA squad gain a Gold Medalist, let alone two.  The Bruin faithful have high expectations for the pair, and both have looked strong in preseason training.  Ross has worked new sets, including a pike Omelianchik on VT, while Kocian is still in top form after her two medals at the Rio Olympics and the subsequent tour and press junkets.  Both are potential AA threats, although Coach Kondos has indicated that Kocian will likely sit out the vault due to her history of injuries.  UCLA also adds senior international elite Felicia Hano, who is looking strong in the preseason training and is slated for an AA slot.  She's a former L10 JO National Champion and US National Team member who competed at the 2014 Pan Am Games.  Adding to the depth are former jr. international elites and current L10s Anna and Grace Glenn.  Grace Glenn was a L10 JO National AA champ in 2014 who missed 2015 with an injury.  She returned in 2016, qualifying to Nationals and winning the Region 8 Regional AA title.  Her twin Anna missed 2016 with an injury but placed 6th AA and 2nd(t) on VT at the 2015 JO Nationals.  UCLA also welcomes Grace Kramer, a L10 with a Yurchenko 1 1/2 plus Maria Caire, Giulianna Pino and Mercedes Sanchez.

There are high expectations for the Bruins in 2016, with a sensational frosh class that provides both high scoring potential and plenty of depth.  However, the transition to college gymnastics is not always easy and many fine elite athletes have struggled with the transition.  This shouldn't be the case, and if the Bruins aren't in the running for a National title this year, they certainly will be in the mix for next season. 

         

 5.  Florida

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 13/24
Routines Gone:  3 VT, 3 UB, 3 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach: Jenny Rowland
Assistants: Adrian Burde, Owen Field
Returning Starters (4):  Kennedy Baker (Jr), Alicia Boren (So), Grace McLaughlin (Jr), Alex McMurtry (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Claire Boyce (Sr/I), Amanda Cheney (So), Lacy Dagen (So/I), Ashley Hiller (So)
Graduated (4):  Bridgette Caquatto, Morgan Frazier, Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto, Bridget Sloan
Other Losses (2):  Peyton Ernst (So/TR/Bama), Ericha Fassbender (Jr/?)
Newcomers (5):  Sierra Alexander (Fr), Maegan Chant (Fr), Rachel Gowey (Fr), Amelia Hundley (Fr), Rachel Slocum (Jr/TR/EMU)

Quick Assessment:  The loss of a gymnast the caliber of Bridget Sloan, a two-time NCAA AA Champion and nine-time NCAA Champion (3 teams), would be devasting to just about any team.  The Gators also graduated four-time All-American Bridgette Caquatto and All-SEC team member Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto.  Compounding the problems was the unexpected loss of key depth AAer Ericha Fassbender, who is no longer on the roster. But Florida is not just any team, and they've reloaded with one of the top incoming classes in the country.  The Gators will lose 11 routines in total from the 2016 squad, including three spots on the VT, UB and BB and return just four starters from their 2016 squad.   Unexpected off-season losses have decimated the corps of veterans, meaning they'll need step up performances from the newcomers and other returnees.

The 2017 Florida squad will be led by juniors Kennedy Baker and Alex McMurtry, along with sophomore Alicia Boren.  All three are potential AAers, altough the talent on the Gator squad may limit their events.  Baker is a five time All-American who was a 2nd team All American in the AA last year.  Classmate McMurtry has been looking strong in preseason training, popping a huge double twisting Yurchenko in her limited VT traiing.  She's a five time All-American as well, earning 2nd team honors in the AA last season.  Boren is another potentially AAer and an All-American on BB last season.  But, she's even better known for her explosive power on VT and FX.  The Gators will also look for increased contributions from the rest of the returnees, especially All American Claire Boyce, who missed last season due to a hip injury and former elite Lacy Dagen, who tore her ACL. The Gators should also see a boost from EMU transfer Rachel Slocum, who vaults a 10.0 SV pike front 1/2.

If the returnees are not ready to step up, the frosh certainly will be there to push the vets for lineup spots.  A trio of elites headline the class:  Maegan Chant, Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley.  While none of the three quite have the Gold Medal credentials of former World Champion Bridget Sloan, they should prove to quite the force in the NCAA.  Hundley is coming off a sensational year that saw her finish 9th at the Olympic trials.  With big skills (double layout on FX, double twisting Yurchenko) on all four events, she's a legitimate AA threat.  Classmate Gowey came back from injury in 2015 to excel in 2016.  She placed 11th in the Olympic Trials, and she excels on the UB and BB.  She's also quite capable on the FX and VT, and is another AA threat.  Not to be overlooked is Canadian Chant, who has a consistent 10.0 VT (Tsukahara layout full) and big E skills on FX (double layout).  

Once (and if) the newcomers adapt to collegiate competition, they'll make for a Gator squad that is potentially deeper and stronger than the 2016 edition.  While they don't have a Bridget Sloan, they have a number of athletes that are potential superstars in their own right.  Although the season opens with a few questions regarding depth on UB, the Gators have looked strong in training.  And, with increased difficulty on VT (6+ 10.0 SV vaults) and FX, this squad looks to be increasingly like the Florida teams of old -- which means, a National Title contender.    

 

 6.  Utah Utes

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule     Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 11/24
Routines Gone:  4 VT, 3 UB, 4 BB, 2 FX
Head Coaches: Tom Farden and Megan Marsden
Assistant: Meredith Paulicivic
Returning Starters (5):  Tiffani Lewis (Jr), MaKenna Merrell (So), Baely Rowe (Sr), Sabrina Schwab (So), Maddy Stover (Jr)  
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Kari Lee (Jr/I), Shannon McNatt (So), Erika Muhaw (So)
Graduated (3):  Kailah Delaney, Breanna Hughes, Kassandra Lopez
Other Losses (1):  Samantha Partyka (Jr/R)
Newcomers (4):  Missy Reinstadtler (Fr), Macey Roberts (So/TR/Maryland), Mykayla Skinner (Fr), Kim Tessen (Fr)

Quick Assessment: The Utes suffered some of the biggest offseason losses of the returning Top 12 teams, losing three athletes to graduation and another to an early retirement.  Kailah Delaney, Breanna Hughes, Kassandra Lopez and Samantha Partyka accounted for 13 of the Utes routines at the NCAA finals.  Hughes saved her best year for last, winning the Pac 12 AA title and the Regional AA title.  Lopez was a two-time All-American who earned first team honors on UB in 2016.  Delanay, like Lopez hampered at times by injury, was a three-time All Pac 12 team member on VT and an All-American.  And Partyka, a second team All-American on VT, was expected to be an All-Around force for the Utes in 2016.  These four also accounted for four of six VT scores and four of six BB scores.

Leading a pack of just five returning starters is two-time 2nd Team All-American Baely Rowe.  Rowe emerged as a key AAer for the Utes last season, and will be a key gymnast on UB and BB.  The Utes also return second team All American Sabrina Schwab, who quickly became a fan favorite for her beautiful long lines and elegant dance on FX.  She's training a tuck 1 1/2 twist on VT, which could improve her status as an All-Arounder.  After being slowed by injury, Maddy Stover looks to take a larger role in 2016, as will classmate Tiffani Lewis.  Both Lewis and sophomore MaKenna Merrell are looking strong in fall training, with Merrell showing strong upgrades on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (pike full-in).  In fact, several Utes like Rowe, Schwab, and Merrell are showing upgraded vaults in training.  The Utes also hope to have two-time All-American Kari Lee back at full strength.  She's already looking in fine form on UB and BB, and vaulting a Yurchenko Layout Full.  Two more sophomores, Shannon McNatt and Erika Muhaw will have the opportunity to step up this season, and break into the lineups, with Muhaw tumbling a double layout.  

Despite the huge losses the Utes have suffered, there is not a bit of despair among the Red Rocks.  Utah welcomes one of their strongest classes in some period of time, headlined by World Championship Gold Medalist and Olympic alternate Mykayla Skinner.  Skinner is known for her high level of difficulty on all four events, and throws some of the toughest tricks on the planet.  With the right skill selection and the reduced demands of the NCAA code, she should be able to adapt and deliver the types of scores the Ute faithful are hoping for.  At the recent Red Rock Preview, she showed that she plans on keeping many of her tough skills, including a clean double twisting Yurchenko on VT and a double twisting double back on FX (and full-in dismount), which would be an NCAA first.  She's also joined by two standout L10s, local Kim Tessen and former jr. international elite Missy Reinstadler.  Tessen tied for 2nd AA, 1st on UB, and 5th on VT at the 2016 JO L10 Nationals.  She also tied for 9th AA in 2015.  She's capable of terrific UB set and can tumble a double layout on FX and Yurchenko 1 1/2 on VT.  Reinstadler tied for 1st on UB, 3rd on BB, 5th on VT and 7th in the AA at the 2016 L10 JO Nationals.  She also tied for 9th AA in 2015.  She's been slowed durng the Fall, however, by a stress fracture (a lingering injury from last spring).  Utah also adds Maryland transfer Macey Roberts, who posted a season high of 9.9 on FX last season.  

Utah will be looking for some immediate impact from their standout frosh class, to complement the strong core of returnees led by Baely Rowe and Sabrina Schwab.  MyKayla Skinner has the potential to be the next Ute superstar, as do the other two frosh recruits.  Adjustment to college and college competition can be challenging for any athlete, so we'll have to see how these three adapt.  That will be a key, along with finding six consistent routines on BB.  The Utes missed the Super Six last season after a terrible BB rotation.  Most of that lineup is gone, and the replacements are not yet battle tested.   

 

 7.  Michigan

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Routines Gone: 1 VT, 3 UB, 1 BB, 2 FX
Head Coach: Bev Plocki
Assistants: Dave Kuzara, Scott Sherman
Returning Starters (6):  Nicole Artz (Sr), Brianna Brown (Jr), Talia Chiarelli (Sr), Olivia Karas (So), Lauren Marinez (Jr), Emma McLean (So)
Other/Injured Returners (0):  N/A
Graduated (3):  Briley Casanova, Austin Sheppard, Lindsay Williams
Other Losses (3):  Nichelle Christopherson (Jr/TR/ASU), Ilana Gordon (Jr/?), India McPeak (Jr/TR/BGSU)
Newcomers (6):  Lexi Funk (Fr), Maggie O'Hara (Fr), Maddy Osman (Fr), Sam Roy (Fr), Polina Shchennikova (Fr), Paige Zaziski (Jr/TR/Arkansas)

Quick Assessment:   Michigan loses three seniors from a squad that at one point early last season, was ranked #1.  Despite that fast start and a Regional hosting slot, the Wolverines fell short of a spot at Nationals.  They were edged by Auburn and Stanford, who tied for 1st, just 0.05 points ahead of Michigan.  Early problems on BB at Regionals and general issues with depth held back the squad last season.  They enter the season missing seven routines from last year's Regional meet, including Austin Sheppard, Lindsay Williams and Nichelle Christopherson, who transferred to ASU.  Sheppard was a two-time All-Big Ten first team member and a standout on VT and UB.  Williams had a stellar senior season, making the All-Big Ten first team as well.

The Wolverines return six gymnasts that will form the core of their 2017 lineups, led by Nicole Artz, Brianna Brown, Talia Chiarelli and Olivia Karas.  Artz, a six-time All-American, emerged an a top AAer for the Wolverines.  She combined with sophomore Karas for a potent one-two AA punch.  Karas had a stellar frosh campaign, earning Big 10 Freshman of the Year honors.  A wrist injury impacted her in the post season, and the lingering effects are still being felt during the preseason.  Senior Talia Chiarelli is a two-time All-American who excels on VT, BB and FX, and is showing strong skills in the preseason training (Yurchenko 1 1/2).  Junior Brianna Brown is a two-time second team All-American who excels on UB with her long lines.  These four athletes represent 15 of the 17 returning routines.  Michigan also looks to get more output from Lauren Marinez, who looks fully recovered from past injuries and is showing strong skills during preseason training.  Sophomore Emma McClean is also ready to step-up, as needed, with a potential upgrade to a l 1 1/2 twisting Yurchenko on VT and the potential, according to Coach Plocki, to go AA this season.

To this core of six athletes, Michigan has added five frosh and a key transfer, Paige Zaziski (Arkansas).  They will give the Wolverines the depth they lacked last season, plus the potential for some very high scoring routines.  Zaziski was a member of the All-SEC Team in 2015 and 2016 and has a career high of 39.45 in the AA.  She'll be in the running for the lineups on all four events and provides experience and consistency.  The frosh are led by standout L10s and former elite Polina Shchennikova.  Shchennikova has beautiful lines and terrific technique on UB, her best event.  After a series of injuries, she is also training the other events, and competed VT and BB at the preseason exhibition versus EMU.  The other frosh signees are outstanding L10s with some key accomplishments to their names.  Three have had consistent Top 10 placements for several years in a row at the JO Nationals, a good sign of consistency at the college level.  Maddy Osman placed 5th AA and 2nd (t) on FX at the 2016 L10 Nationals.  She also tied for 6th AA in 2015 and was 7th in 2014.  She opens floor with a clean full-in.  Hailing from Southeastern, Maggie O'Hara placed 16th AA, 2nd on UB and 8th(t) on BB at the 2016 L10 JO Nationals.  She finished 2nd on UB and 7th AA in 2015.  Lexi Funk, who trained at IGI, placed 21st AA and tied for 8th on BB and 9th on FX at the 2016 L10 JO Nationals.  She was 9th AA in 2015 and tied for 8th in 2014.  A solid and consistent gymnast, she (along with Osman) also made the lineups versus EMU.  Michigan does lose half of their UB routines and it's not the strongest event for several of the gymnasts, so the frosh will need to step up in this area.

Michigan will look to return to Nationals in 2017 by returning most of their top scores and supplementing them with a key transfer and a top notch incoming class.  The increased depth and diversity of talent will enable Michigan to not only challenge for a spot at Nationals, but perhaps even at the Super Six.  Health is an issue, and several key gymnasts need to be able to contribute on the UB (Karas, Shchennikova).  The Coaches' Preseason poll recognizes this potential, elevating the Wolverines from thier postseason #13 finish to a #7 Preseason rank. 

 

 8.  Auburn Tigers

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coach: Jeff Graba
Assistants: Kurt Hettinger, Mary McDaniel
Starting Routines Returning: 15/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 2 UB, 2 BB, 3 FX
Returning Starters (7):  Samantha Cerio (So), Sarah Gracia (Jr), Kullen Hlawek (Sr), Kelsey Kopec (Sr), Taylor Krippner (So), Abby Milliet (Jr), MJ Rott (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (7):  Telah Black (So), Emma Engler (So/I), Kennedy Finnister (Jr), A'Miracal Phillips (So/I), Lucia Scaglione (Sr), Emma Slappey (So/I), Cara Stricklin (Jr) 
Graduated (3):   Caitlin Atkinson, Lexus Demers, Kait Kluz
Other Losses (2):  Brooke Bray (So/TR/GWU), Blake Jones (Jr/?)
Newcomers (3):  Katie Becker (Fr), Gracie Day (Fr), Kendal Moss (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Auburn returned to Nationals in 2016, following up their Super Six appearnce in 2015.  They lose nine routines from last year's NCAA squad, including superstar and all-everything Caitlin Atkinson.  Atkinson was the 2016 SEC Gymnast of the Year, a three-time All-American and the school record holder in the AA.  The Tigers will also miss Lexus Demers and Kait Kluz, who finished their final years in stellar fashion.  Demers competed three events, with career bests of 9.925 or higher on each.  Kluz was another three-event standout for AU, hitting 9.875 or higher on each.  She was co-champ at the NCAA Regional on FX in 2016.  All three athletes opened FX with an E tumbling skill, a trademark of a difficulty-laden Tiger FX lineup.

AU returns a bevy of gymnasts, led by junior Abby Milliet, senior MJ Rott and sophomore Taylor Krippner.  Milliet was an All-SEC team member in 2015 and was a key scorer on three events for the Tigers.  Rott is the Auburn record holder on VT and was the Region co-champion on the event.  She's a potential AAer, but her upgraded vault (Yurchenko 1 1/2) and FX (double layout) are her best events.  Krippner also competed three events at Nationals, and was a steady force in her rookie campaign.  Kullen Hlawek, Kelsey Kopec, and Samantha Cerio all return and look to make key contributions in 2017.  The Tigers will also look to seven other returners to make an impact, especially sophomores Emma Engler, A'Miracal Phillips and Emma Slappey.  All three saw their seasons cut short by injury.

Auburn welcomes three newcomers for 2017:  Katie Becker, Gracie Day and Kendal Moss.  They, along with the sophomore class, will be looked upon to fill the gaps left by the departed stars.  Is there an Atkinson among them?  The likely candidate is either Day and/or Becker, or some combination of the two.  Day is a L10 standout with clean lines and plenty of amplitude.  She's a two-time L10 JO National champ on the FX ('14 and'15), and a 2015 JO National team member.  She also finished 2nd on VT and 4th on UB in 2015.  She competed just two events at States and Regionals in 2016, while working her way back from injury.  Becker had a standout year in 2016, placing 6th AA at the L10 JO Nationals.  She also placed 9th on VT and tied for 10th on UB and BB at the meet.  In 2015, at the JO Nationals, she finished 8th AA.  Clubmate Moss is an UB standout, but she also finished 14th AA at Regionals in 2016, with top 7 placements on UB, BB and FX.  

In their quest to return to Nationals, Auburn will tap their large roster of returning athletes to fill the spots of the departed stars.  Adding to that will be strong frosh Becker and Day, and increased contributions from their sophomore class.  This Tiger squad will rely less on the performance of a few stars but instead will have a more balanced contribution across the lineups.  There is certainly enough talent there to challenge once again, but the competition for these last spots at Nationals is only getting more intense. 

 

 9.  UGA Gym Dogs

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 14/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 2 UB, 3 BB, 3 FX
Head Coach: Danna Durante
Assistants: Jay Hogue, Philip Ogletree
Returning Starters (9):  Viviana Babalis (Jr), Ashlyn Broussard (Sr), Gracie Cherrey (So), Lauren Johnson (Sr), GiGi Marino (Jr), Morgan Reynolds (Sr), Rachel Schick (Sr), Sydney Snead (So), Natalie Vaculik (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Jasmine Arnold (Jr), Caroline Bradford (So), Beth Roberts (Sr), Hayley Sanders (Jr)
Graduated (3):  Mary Beth Box, Brandie Jay, Brittany Rogers
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (3):  Rachel Dickson (Fr), Jordyn Pedersen (Fr), Sabrina Vega (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  The Georgia Gym Dogs qualified to yet another Super Six final last season, getting the maximum from their squad and peaking at the right moment.  Gone from that squad are just three gymnasts -- but three key ones, as they accounted for 10 of the 24 routines in the finals.  The three departed stars, Mary Beth Box, Brandie Jay and Brittany Rogers, accounted for 16 All-American awards over their illustrious careers.  Two Gym Dogs took home National titles in 2016:  Jay on VT and Rogers on BB.  These three also accounted for key end of the lineup (or pressure leadoff) routines on all four events.  Replacing them will not be easy, a fact the Coaches' recognized when they dropped the squad from ther #6, their 2016 finish, to #9 in the Preseason.

The Gym Dogs enter 2017 with 9 returnees, led by seniors Ashlyn Broussard and Morgan Reynolds and sophomore Sydney Snead.  Broussard was the team MVP in her sophomore year while Reynolds was a NCAA Regional co-champ on BB.  Reynold was slowed last season by a bacterial infection in the preseason, but is a potential AAer for UGA.  Snead was the top frosh last year and made the All SEC Freshman Team.  She'll be looked up on for more contributions in 2016 and has looked quite strong in preseason training.  A potential sophomore year breakout for her could be in the works.  A host of other potential specialists could step up in any number of events, as the Gym Dogs seek to replace some pretty high caliber scores.  One gymnast who made a signifcant step forward last season, Rachel Schick, has been slowed by an elbow injury.   

Helping out in that task are a trio of frosh:  Rachel Dickson, Jordyn Pedersen and Sabrina Vega.  Vega is a former US National Team member and a member of the 2013 Gold Medal winning World Championship US team.  After a period of injury, she has returned strong and has shown solid work in preseason training, including a tuck full-in on FX.  Complementing Vega will be L10 standout Rachel Dickson, a two-time JO National Team member.  She tied for the L10 National UB title in 2016 and placed 3rd AA.  Canadian Pedersen is a former elite National Team member who was an alternate to the Canuck's 2014 World Championships squad.  Although she too has been slowed by injury, she'll look to adapt her sets to the less rigorous demands of NCAA competition.

The loss of the key superstars won't be easy for the Georgia coaching staff to replace.  Although they have three strong frosh, it will also likely take stepup performances from some of the returnees to close the gap on experience and execution.  The leadership and talent of champions like Jay and Rogers gave the UGA lineup some solid anchors and marquee names.  Vega looks like she is ready to take their place in at least a few events, but it will take others like Dickson, Reynolds and Snead to fill in the gaps on the other events.  

 

 10.  Cal Bears

Official Web Site:   Link      Schedule      Roster
Head Coach:  Justin Howell
Assistants:  Elizabeth Crandall, Jessa Hansen
Starting Routines Returning: 24/24
Routines Gone:  None
Returning Starters (11):  Zoe Draghi (Sr), Allicia Gallarzo (Jr), Jessica Howe (Sr), Charlie Owens (Sr), Desiree Palmores (Sr), Emily Richardson (Sr), Ariana Robinson (Jr), Sofie Seilnacht (So), Sylvie Seilnacht (So), Yuleen Sternberg (Jr), Amber Takara (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Isabelle Castillo (Sr), Dana Ho (Sr), Emily Howe (So), Chelsea Shu (So), Toni-Ann Williams (Jr)
Graduated (2):  Kristina Heymann, Serena Leong
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (4):  Alexandra Dudschus (Fr), Cassidy Keelen (Fr), Rachael Mastrangelo (Fr), Mariah Peterson (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Cal culminated its rapid rise from the near elimination of its program to a 7th place finish at Nationals.  They return all 24 of the 24 routines from last season, having said goodbye to the departed Kristina Heymann and Serena Leong.

The returning lineup is headlined by Toni-Ann Williams, who was not even able to participate in the NCAA Finals with the rest of her team.  Instead, she competed at the Olympic Test Event.  Williams is a potential AAer who stands out for her big skills (double layout and full-in on FX, Yurchenko 1 1/2 vault) and her power.  She's showing strong improvements in preseason, with a new release on UB.  However, Cal has a full and deep roster of gymnasts ready to step up at any moment, led by their Senior class.  It was the seniors (Zoe Draghi, Dana Ho, Jessica Howe, Charlie Owens, Desiree Palmores, Emily Richardson, Amber Takara) that formed the heart of last year's squad, supplemented by junior Ariana Robinson and sophomores Sophie and Sylvie Selnacht.  Last season, the Bears fielded one of highest team start values on vault in the country.  Even with some rule refinements, at least five of the returners are training 10.0 start value vaults. 

To this strong and experienced core, Cal adds some excellent frosh, led by L10 standout Cassidy Keelen.  Keelan has placed in the top five AA of the L10 Junior Olympic Nationals a remarkable four times.  With clean lines and top skills, she could become Cal's top AAer.  Mariah Peterson graduated early and joins Cal from the state of Utah.  A powerful gymnast, she tied for 20th AA, 4th on UB and 7th on VT at the 2016 L10 JO Nationals.  She was also 5th AA at Nationals in 2015 and 6th(t) AA in 2014.  Rachael Mastrangelo missed much of last season but tied for 15th AA at the 2015 L10 JO Nationals.  Local product Alexandra Dudschus placed 8th AA at the Region I L10 Regionals, and competes high level skills on all four events.  In fact, all four train or have thrown 10.0 SV vaults and E level tumbling skills.     

Cal returners a strong and experienced lineup -- all 24 routines plus superstar Toni-Ann Williams.  To that, they add an exceptional recruiting class capable of high level skills.  Cal will continue to excel on VT, with 8 or more gymnasts capable of 10.0 SV Vaults.  This will be a key advantage that the Bears, especially in Pac 12 competition.  The keys for the Bears remain the same from last season -- consistency and execution on UB and BB, two areas where they've had issues in the past year.  They finished last season ranked just 19th on UB and 13th on BB, and inconsistency cropped up in a number of meets.  To move up into Super Six contention, they'll need to continue to advance and improve and close the gap on these two events. 

 

 11.  Stanford Cardinal

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 14/24
Routines Gone:  2 VT, 2 UB, 3 BB, 3 FX
Head Coach: Kristen Smyth
Associate Head Coach:  Chris Swircek
Assistant: Neal Gallant
Returning Starters (6):  Rachel Daum (Sr), Dare Maxwell (So), Danielle McNair (Sr/I), Nicolette McNair (Sr), Elizabeth Price (Jr), Haley Spector (Sr)  
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Taryn Fitzgerald (So/I), Hailee Hoffman (So), Nicole Hoffman (So)
Graduated (4):  Ivana Hong, Melissa Chuang, Jenna Frowein, Taylor Rice
Other Losses (0):  NA
Newcomers (3):  Kaylee Cole (Fr), Ashley Tai (Fr), Aleeza Yu (Fr)

Quick Assessment:   Stanford finished a solid 10th at last year's National meet, and say goodbye to 10 routines from that lineup.  They lose four key seniors, including stars Ivana Hong and Taylor Rice.  Hong was a five-time All-American and a 2016 AAI Award Semifinalist.  Rice was a three-time All-American and regular in the AA, although she was limited by injury at Nationals.  Also gone is Melissa Chuang, who ended her career with First Team All-Pac-12 honors on the BB, and FX specialist Jenna Frowein.

Leading the Cardinal charge in 2017 is superstar junior Elizabeth Price.  She was, of course, the team leader in 2016 as well with difficulty and amplitude on all four events.  Her release sequence on UB (Maloney to uprise clear to handstand to Church to overshoot to handstand) is unmatched in the NCAA.  The six-time All-American finished fourth AA at the 2016 NCAAs.  She'll be capably supported by four seniors:  Rachel Daum, Danielle McNair, Nicolette McNair and Haley Spector.  Nicolette McNair is a former 2nd Team All-American on UB and has the potential, if healthy, to compete AA.  She reportedly had off-season surgery, as did Price.  Her twin Danielle has been a key member of the VT and UB lineups, but has also battled injuries in the past.  Daum missed the first part of last season but at full strength is a regular on three events (no UB).  Spector is a regular on FX, and can throw a double Arabian.  Last season, Dare Maxwell was the only newcomer to compete on a regular basis.  She was a key fixture on UB, but could figure on more events.  Her classmates had tougher rookie campaigns:  Taryn Fitzgerald's season ended in injury while by Hailee Hoffman and Nicole Hoffman (no relaton) sat out most of the season.  There will be an opportunity for increased contributions from the sophomore class this season.

Stanford welcomes three frosh, and they'll be looked upon to contribute big scores immediately.  Leading the charge is Kaylee Cole, a Texan who has competed as an elite for Bolivia, including the 2015 Pan Am Championships.  As a L10 in the US, she placed 8th AA at the 2015 Region 3 L10 Regionals, after winning the TX state AA title.  She was 11th AA at the 2014 L10 JO Nationals.  Another international gymnast, Aleeza Yu, was a Canadian National Team member who competed at the 2014 World Championships.  Injuries have slowed her down since then (ACL, ankle, foot), but she returned in 2016 to take 7th AA at Elite Canada before being sidelined.  The third member of the class, Ashley Tai, is an in-state L10.  She tied for 24th AA at the 2016 L10 JO Nationals.  She also won the JO NIT meet in 2014.  With depth an issue, she'll be looked to contribute immediately as well.   

Stanford's return to Nationals will depend on how many gymnasts step up to fill the void left by the departed seniors.  You can probably expect a slow start for the Cardinal, as they have frequently struggled early in the season with injury recovery and a lack of depth.  However, by the end of the season they've been able to pull it together to qualify for Nationals (and sometimes, the Super Six).  There is a strong core of athletes lined up behind Price, but there may be questions in spots five and six in every event.  Stanford will need to stay healthy and get stepup performances from their underclassmen to fill these spots.  Depth is a concern, in particular on UB and VT where injuries may impact the lineup options.   

 

 12.  Nebraska

Official Web Site:  Link      Schedule      Roster
Starting Routines Returning:  19/24
Routines Gone:  1 VT, 1 UB, 2 BB, 1 FX 
Head Coach: Dan Kendig
Assistants:  Heather Brink, Dan Miller
Returning Starters (6):  Danielle Breen (Jr), Sienna Crouse (So), Jennie Laeng (Sr), Catelyn Orel (So/I), Megan Schweihofer (So), Grace Williams (Jr) 
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Kelli Chung (So), Megan Kuo (So), Ashley Lambert (Sr), Kami Shows (So)
Graduated (2):  Hollie Blanske, Madison McConkey
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (6):  Alexa Clark (Fr), Abbie Epperson (Jr/TR/Maryland), Sierra Hassel (Fr), Taylor Houchin (Fr), Laura Oh (Fr)

Quick Assessment:  Nebraska placed 8th last season, with the coaching staff once again maximizing the output of the squad and getting the frosh to make an immediate impact.  The Huskers lose just five routines and two gymnasts from that squad, Hollie Blanske and Madison McConkey.  Blanske was a major force for the Huskers, a six-time All American and potent All-Around threat with a high level of difficulty on every event.  Her anchor scores will be difficult to replace.

The Huskers will try to build upon last season with a core of six gymnasts, led by senior Jennie Laeng and juniors Dani Breen and Grace Williams.  All three are potential AAers, if needed.    Laeng was the 2015 Big Ten co-champ on UB, while Williams was an All-Big Ten first team selection and Breen a second team All-Big Ten team selection.  Sophs Sienna Crouse and Megan Schweihofer also stepped up big time in their rookie campaigns, and will be looked upon to do the same in 2017.  Unfortunately, classmate Catelyn Orel may be out this season with an injury.  This especially hurts a team with so few returning starters.  NU also hoped to have Ashley Lambert back at full health for 2017, but the former 2nd team All-American (FX) has been set back by injury and two more surgeries in the month of November.     

With a relatively small set of experienced returnees, Nebraska's 2017 incoming class will be relied upon for immediate contributions.  It includes transfer Abbie Epperson and frosh Alexa Clark, Sierra Hassel, Taylor Houchin and Laura Oh.  They are led by Taylor Houchin, a 2016 L10 Junior Olympic AA champion.  She also tied for 2nd on VT (Yurchenko 1 1/2), 3rd on BB and 5th on UB at Nationals.  In 2015, she finished 24th(t) AA and 6th(t) on UB at the JO National meet.  She'll be a key force in 2017, along with talented transfer Epperson.  The daugher of two NU standouts, Epperson has posted highs of 9.85+ on all four events in college, but excels on VT and UB.  The Huskers also welcome a trio of L10s that will provide much-needed depth.  You can expect the coaching will be able to maximize their contributions, as they have with every Husker incoming class.  Clark placed 13th AA at the 2016 Region III L10 Regionals and 31st in 2015.  Hassel was a 2014 L10 National qualifier who missed much of 2015, but returned and qualified to Regionals in 2016.  Her highlights include a clean triple twist and front double twist on FX.  Oh qualified to the L10 JO Nationals in 2016, tying for 15th on FX.   

With a small returning core and some untimely injuries, the Huskers have some challenges ahead of them in their pursuit for a return to Nationals.  However, Head Coach Kendig and his staffs have proven time and time again to be able to maximize the output of a small roster.  This year should be no different.  With Breen, Crouse, Laeng, Schweihofer and Williams being supplemented by Epperson and Houchin, there is quite a formidible Husker lineup in play.  The avoidance of further injury and a few stepup performances from their depth chart may be the keys to success in 2017, however.

 

 

Teams #13 to #25

Intro

 

Key to the Tables:

 

Ranking: By 2017 Preseason Coaches' Poll

Coaches: Only regular, paid coaches are listed.

Starting Routines: Defined by starting lineup in last meet of the post season.
Returning Starters:
Defined by starting lineup in last competition
Year in School:
(Is listed as reported on the school's roster)

Fr = Freshman
So = Sophomore
Jr = Junior
Sr = Senior

Status Codes for Returners:

I = major season ending injury in 2016 or preseason 2016-2017
R = retirement/not competing (for any other reason than transfer or injury)
TR = Transfer
RS = Redshirt (note:  not all eligible gymnasts will employ or are awarded a redshirt year)
?=unconfirmed/unknown information

Published in Capsule Previews
Tuesday, 29 December 2015 19:16

2016 Capsule Previews: Teams #1 to #12

 

1.  OU Sooners
  2.  Florida Gators
Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 16/24
Head Coach: KJ Kindler
Assistants: Lou Ball, Tom Haley
Returning Starters (8):  Natalie Brown (So), Chayse Capps (Jr), Ali Jackson (So), Charity Jones (Jr), Kara Lovan (Jr), Keeley Kmieciak (Sr), Haley Scaman (Sr), McKenzie Wofford (Jr) 
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Stefani Catour (So), Samantha Craus (So), Reagan Hemry (Jr), Maile'ana Kanewa (Sr/I), Hunter Price (Sr)
Graduated (3):  Erica Brewer, Rebecca Clark, Haley Sorenson 
Other Losses (1):  Brenna Dowell (training elite)
Newcomers (4):  Nicole Lehrmann, Alex Marks, Megan Thompson, Nicole Turner (SR TR/Oregon State)
Quick Assessment:  Last season, a few missteps on FX kept the normally solid Sooners from challenging UF and Utah for the title.  With another year of experience and some added depth, OU hopes to turn that around this season.  However, to do that, they'll need to replace 8 routines from last year, including "end of the lineup" quality routines from Dowell and Brewer.  Relying less on AAers, they'll be led once again by Haley Scaman, Chayse Capps, Keeley Kmieciak and Kara Lovan.  The Sooners will also welcome back senior Maile'ana Kanewa.  Her recovery from a knee injury could give the Sooners a boost on VT and FX.  Nicole Lehrmann and Alex Marks lead the newcomers, with Lehrmann a standout on UB and former elite Marks joining the team in December.  


Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Head Coach: Jenny Rowland
Assistants: Adrian Burde, Owen Field
Returning Starters (7):  Kennedy Baker (So), Claire Boyce (Jr), Bridgette Caquatto (Sr), Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto (Sr), Ericha Fassbender (So), Alex McMurtry (So), Bridget Sloan (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Morgan Frazier (Sr), Grace McLaughlin (So)
Graduated (4):  Kytra Hunter, Jamie Shisler, Rachel Spicer, Kiersten Wang 
Other Losses (0):  N/A 
Newcomers (5):  Alicia Boren, Amanda Cheney, Lacy Dagen (I), Peyton Ernst, Ashley Hiller
Quick Assessment:  The loss of a gymnast like NCAA AA co-champ Kytra Hunter would be disastrous for just about any team.  But the Gators are not just any team.  This powerhouse squad has enough returning talent in the wings to overcome these losses and to challenge for their fourth title.  It also doesn't hurt to have former NCAA champ Bridget Sloan leading the way.  Slowed last season by injury, she'll be key to the Gator's title run.  She'll be capably supported by super Sophs Kennedy Baker and Alex McMurtry, plus senior Bridgette Caquatto.  To this strong core, they add five frosh, led by L10 powerhouse Alicia Boren and former elite Peyton Ernst.  Coaching changes aside, these Gators have all the ingredients for another title run. 
 

 
3.  Alabama Crimson Tide


4.  Utah Utes
Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Head Coach:  Dana Duckworth
Associate Head Coach:  Brian Raschilla
Assistant:  Bill Lorenz
Returning Starters (8):
  Katie Bailey (Jr), Lauren Beers (Sr), Mackenzie Brannan (So), Nickie Guerrero (So),
  Amanda Jetter (Jr), Keely McNeer (Jr), Aja Monet-Sims (Jr), Carley Sims (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Jennie Loeb (So), Mary Lillian Sanders (Jr), Mackenzie Valentin (Jr), Kiana Winston (So)  
Graduated (4):   Kaitlyn Clark, Kayla Williams, Hunter Dennis, Lora Leigh Frost 
Other Losses (0):  Dominique Pegg (R)  
Newcomers (6): 
Abby Armbrecht, Jenna Bresette, Angelina Giancroce, Ari Guerra, Amanda Huang, Avery Rickett
Quick Assessment: 
Alabama holds down the number three spot in the preseason poll, despite the loss of key routines from Kaitlyn Clark and Kayla Williams.  However, the large and deep Bama squad has plenty of talent to tap into.  Leading the way in 2016 will be juniors Katie Bailey and Aja Monet-Sims, as well as senior Lauren Beers.  They also look forward to expanded contributions from Kiana Winston, who has looked strong in Fall training.  However, any number of the returners could step up and address the gaps created by the graduated seniors, including senior Carley Sims.  To this strong core, Bama adds six frosh, led by Jenna Bresette, Ariana Guerra and Amanda Huang. 


Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 15/24
Head Coaches: Tom Farden and Megan Marsden
Assistant: Meredith Paulicivic
Returning Starters (8):  Kailah Delaney (Sr), Breanna Hughes (Sr), Kari Lee (So), Tiffani Lewis (So), Kassandra Lopez (Sr), Samantha Partyka (So), Baely Rowe (Jr), Maddy Stover (So)  
Other/Injured Returners (0):  N/A 
Graduated (4):  Georgia Dabritz, Corrie Lothrop, Becky Tutka, Tori Wilson
Other Losses (1):  Haley Lange (I/?) 
Newcomers (4):  Shannon McNatt, MaKenna Merrell, Erika Muhaw, Sabrina Schwab
Quick Assessment: The Utes finished just short of giving former Head Coach Greg Marsden the ultimate retirement gift last season, yet another National Title.  They did this despite the loss of star Tory Wilson.  The 2016 Utes have quite a challenge on their hands, because they will also have to replace superstars Georgia Dabritz and Corrie Lothrop as well.  It's not easy to replace such "end of the lineup" scores.  Leading the way in 2016 will be seniors Kailah Delaney and Kassandra Lopez, as well as sophomore Kari Lee.  Senior Breanna Hughes and sophomores Samanta Partyka and Tiffani Lewis also look strong in preseason training.  Four frosh join the Utes and look healthy and ready to contribute, with expectations rising for local L10 star MaKenna Merrell and the long-lined Sabrina Schwab.       






5.  LSU Tigers


6.  UCLA Bruins
Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 14/24
Head Coach: D-D Breaux
Assistants: Jay Clark, Bob Moore
Returning Starters (7):  Syndey Ewing (Jr), Ashleigh Gnat (Jr), Myia Hambrick (So), Erin Macadaeg (So),  Jessica Savona (Sr), Randii Wyrick (Sr), Shae Zamardi (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Michelle Gauthier (Sr), Kylie Moran (So)  
Graduated (5):   Rheagan Courville, Lloimincia Hall, Jessie Jordan, Britney Ranzy, Scarlett Williams
Other Losses (1):  Shonacee Oliva (Jr/?) 
Newcomers (6):  Julianna Cannamela, Sarah Finnegan, McKenna Kelley, Lauren Li (So/TR PSU), Lexie Priessman (I), Kaitlyn Szafranski
Quick Assessment:  LSU had a disappointing finish to last season, failing to qualify for the Super Six finals (3 falls on BB) after a record-breaking regular season.  Gone from that squad are superstars Rheagan Courville, Lloimincia Hall and Jessie Jordan, each of whom were capability of going 9.95+ on each of their events.  Replacing such talent and experience is never easy.  Leading the way for the returnees is junior Ashleigh Gnat and senior Jessica Savona.  The Tigers will also look for continued improvement from sophs Myia Hambrick and Erin Macadaeg.  To a strong core, LSU adds a talented frosh class, led by former elites Sarah Finnegan and Lexie Priessman, plus L10 standout McKenna Kelley (Mary Lou Retton's daughter).  The key for this frosh class will be their health and readiness for competition.  Finnegan showed very well in the recent "Gymnastics 101" exhibition and looks to be an early standout.  Priessman is still building her way back from injury.


Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Head Coach: Valerie Kondos Field
Associate Head Coach:  Chris Waller
Assistant: Randy Lane
Returning Starters (8):  Sadiqua Bynum (Sr), Angi Cipra (Jr), Sophina DeJesus (Sr), Danusia Francis (Sr), Michaela Gerber (So), Napualani Hall (So), Christine "Peng Peng" Lee (Jr/I), Sonya Meraz (So), Hallie Mossett (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (3): Rechelle Dennis (So), Janay Honest (So), Melissa Metcalf (So) 
Graduated (3):  Ellette Craddock, Sam Peszek, Jordan Williams
Other Losses (5):  Karli Dugas (So), LaNiesha-Jopre Irvin (So/?), Jessy MacArthur (Jr/?), Jennifer Pinches (R), Alex Waller (Jr/?)
Newcomers (6):  Matteah Brow, Kateyln Ohashi, Madison Preston, Stella Savvidou, Nicki Shapiro, Macy Toronjo (I)
Quick Assessment:  UCLA finished sixth in their session at the NCAA finals, capping an up and down season.  They were led by NCAA co-champ Samantha Peszek, who had a stellar final campaign.  Leading the way for 2016 Bruins will be senior Danusia Francis and junior Peng-Peng Lee (limited by injury).  They'll also be looking for others step-up and fill the gaps, particularly on vault.  The sophomore class, hampered by injuries last season, could be keys to the Bruin campaign in 2016.  The newcomers are led by former elite Katelyn Ohashi, who looks to be recovered from injuries that derailed her promising career.  Unfortunately, another top AA candidate, Macy Toronjo, reportedly went through surgery during the year.  







7.  Michigan Wolverines


8.  Stanford Cardinal
Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 18/24
Head Coach: Bev Plocki
Assistants: Dave Kuzara, Scott Sherman
Returning Starters (6):  Nicole Artz (Jr), Brianna Brown (So), Briley Casanova (Sr), Talia Chiarelli (Jr), Austin Sheppard (Sr), Lindsay Williams (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Nichelle Christopherson (So), Ilana Gordon (So/I), Lauren Marinez (So/I), India McPeak (So) 
Graduated (3):  Annette Miele, Brooke Parker, Sachi Sugiyama
Other Losses (1):  Cailee Hills (R)
Newcomers (2):  Olivia Karas, Emma McLean
Quick Assessment:   Michigan just missed the Super Six last season, finishing just 0.15 points behind Stanford for a coveted spot in the finals.  Gone from that squad is star Sachi Sugiyama, an AAer with a high level of skill.  However, the Wolverines return the core of their squad, led by junior Nicole Artz and sophomore Brianna Brown, who both did AA last year.  Senior Briley Casanova looks strong in preseason training and looks capable of an AA spot as well, while junior Talia Chiarelli is a standout on three events.  To this strong core, they welcome frosh Oliva Karas and Emma McLean, super-strong L10s with elite skills who will be looked upon to bolster the squads depth overall.  Michigan could also use increased contributions from their sophomore class, especially Lauren Marinez, who was out with an injury last season.  Depth is a concern, with several gymnasts limited by injury.    


Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 16/24
Head Coach: Kristen Smyth
Associate Head Coach:  Chris Swircek
Assistant: Neal Gallant
Returning Starters (9):  Ivana Hong (Sr), Danielle McNair (Jr), Nicolette McNair (Jr), Elizabeth Price (So), Taylor Rice (Sr), Haley Spector (Jr)  
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Melissa Chuang (Sr/I), Rachel Daum (Jr), Jenna Frowein (Sr)
Graduated (4):  Pauline Hanset, Samantha Shapiro, Kristina Vaculik, Rebecca Wing
Other Losses (2):  Carinne Gale, Sophia Lee
Newcomers (4):  Taryn Fitzgerald, Hailee Hoffman, Nicole Hoffman, Dare Maxwell 
Quick Assessment:   Stanford finished fifth at the 2015 Super Six finals, surprising some observers with a consistent performances.  They were boosted the AA debut of Elizabeth Price, who posted a 39.675 in the finals.  However, gone from last year's squad are six athletes, including standouts Kristina Vaculik and Samantha Shapiro.  The 2016 Cardinal will be led by Price and senior Tayor Rice, who will form a solid 1-2 AA punch, and redshirt senior Ivana Hong, who competed three events last season (a history of leg injuries has kept her off the floor).  This trio plus the McNair twins will form a solid core for Stanford.  Stanford also adds four frosh, who will look to fill in the events as specialists and add depth on key events like vault and FX, where the Cardinal have been weaker. 






9.  Georgia Gym Dogs


10.  Auburn Tigers
Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 18/24
Head Coach: Danna Durante
Assistants: Jay Hogue, Philip Ogletree
Returning Starters (9):  Viviana Babalis (So), Mary Beth Box (Sr), Ashlynn Broussard (Jr), Brandie Jay (Sr), GiGi Marino (So), Morgan Reynolds (Jr/I), Brittany Rogers (Sr), Rachel Schick (Jr), Natalie Vaculik (So)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Jasmine Arnold (So/I), Lauren Johnson (Jr/I), Beth Roberts (Jr), Hayley Sanders (So)
Graduated (4):  Chelsea Davis, Demetria Hunte, Whitney Kirby, Sarah Persinger
Other Losses (1):  Kiera Brown (TR/PSU)
Newcomers (3):  Caroline Bradford, Gracie Cherrey, Sydney Snead
Quick Assessment:  The Georgia Gym Dogs find themselves in 9th in the preseason rankings, after missing the Super Six last season.  They'll miss some standouts, including Kiera Brown and UB ace Chelsea Davis.  However, a strong core returns, led by seniors Brandie Jay and Brittany Rogers.  These two, along with Mary Beth Box, form a solid and consistent core for the 2016 Gym Dogs.  Rogers took the summer and semester off from the squad to train elite, and she helped Canada earn a spot at the 2016 Olympics.  She's now in peak condition and training all four events.  UGA welcomes a trio of newcomers, including L10 superstar Sydney Snead.  She has the potential to become a major contributor for Georgia, if she can come all the way back to her peak form .  


Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Head Coach: Jeff Graba
Assistants: Kurt Hettinger, Mary McDaniel
Starting Routines Returning: 14/24
Returning Starters (7):  Caitlin Atkinson (Sr), Lexus Demers (Sr), Kullen Hlawek (Jr), Kait Kluz (Sr), Kelsey Kopec (Sr), Abby Milliet (So), MJ Rott (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (6):  Brooke Bray (So), Kennedy Finnister (So/I), Sarah Gracia (So), Blake Jones (So), Lucia Scaglione (So), Cara Stricklin (So) 
Graduated (5):   Brianna Guy, Caryn Kadous, Kelsey Thomasson, Megan Walker, Brittany Webster
Other Losses (1):  Meggie Lim (Jr/?) 
Newcomers (6):  Telah Black, Samantha Cerio, Emma Engler, Taylor Krippner, A'Miracal Phillips, Emma Slappey
Quick Assessment:  Auburn capped a tremendous 2015 breakthrough season with an appearance in the Super Six finals.  However, from that squad they lose five gymnasts, including standouts Brianna Guy and Megan Walker.  The rest of the roster will have to step up to close the gaps created by the departure of these leaders and standouts.  Leading the way will be Caitlin Atkinson, a top AAer who's health will be key to the Tigers fortunes.  They'll also look to expanded contributions from other key returnees, like Kait Kluz, MJ Rott and Abby Milliet.  To this core, AU adds six newcomers, including L10s signees Samantha Cerio, Emma Engler, Taylor Krippner and Emma Slappey.  Each has strengths that should complement a strong core, once they gain the necessary experience. 
 



11.  Nebraska Cornhuskers


12.  Oregon State Beavers
Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning:  14/24
Head Coach: Dan Kendig
Assistants:  Heather Brink, Dan Miller
Returning Starters (5):  Hollie Blanske (Sr), Danielle Breen (So), Jennie Laeng (Jr), Ashley Lambert (Jr), Grace Williams (So) 
Other/Injured Returners (1):  Madison McConkey (Jr)
Graduated (4):  Jessie DeZiel, Amanda Lauer, Jennifer Lauer, Desire Stephens
Other Losses (1):  Ariel Martin (?), Kamerin Moore (R/I)
Newcomers (6):  Kelli Chung, Sienna Crouse, Megan Kuo, Catelyn Orel, Megan Schweihofer, Kami Shows
Quick Assessment:  Nebraska placed fourth in the evening semifinal at the NCAAs last season, after a shaky start on the BB.  The 2016 Huskers will miss six gymnasts from that squad, led by AA standout Jessie DeZiel.  However, the NU coaching staff has built a reputation on getting the most from their athletes.  With a large class of newcomers, the Huskers will look to put themselves back in the mix once again.  They'll be led by senior Hollie Blanske, who had a standout season last year.  She'll be capably supported by juniors Ashley Lambert and Jennie Laeng and sophomores Dani Breen and Grace Williams.  These five will form the core of the NU lineup.  To that small core, Coach Kendig will need to add key performances from his six frosh, led by Sienna Crouse, Catelyn Orel and Megan Schweihofer.  As a result, experience could be an issue early on in the season.     


Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 15/24
Head Coach: Tanya Chaplin
Associate Head Coach:  Mike Chaplin
Assistant:  Brian Amato
Returning Starters (7):  Erika Aufiero (Sr), Dani Dessaints (So), Maddie Gardiner (Jr), Megan Jimenez (Jr),  Silvia Colussi-Pelaez (Jr), Risa Perez (Sr), Taylor Ricci (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Shireen Khamedoost (So), Kaytianna McMillan (I/Jr), Jamie Rademacher (Sr)
Graduated (5):  Taylor Keeker, Katelyn Ohlrich, Kailie Ponto, Chelsea Tang, Cerise Witherby
Other Losses (1):  Nicole Turner (TR/OU)
Newcomers (4):  Marianna Colussi-Pelaez, Mary Jacobsen, McKenna Singley, Elizabeth Yu
Quick Assessment:   The Beavers finished 12th at Nationals last season and find themselves again ranked 12th in the preseason poll.  They lose some key athletes from last year's squad, including AAer Chelsea Tang and key specialists Taylor Keeker and Cerise Witherby.  However, the 2016 Beavers will be led by senior Erika Aufiero and junior Maddie Gardiner.  They'll also look to a boost from spark plug Risa Perez, junior Silvia Colussi-Pelaez and sophomore Dani Dessaints.  Oregon State also looks forward to the healthy return of potential AAer Katyianna McMillan, who has battled injuries, the last being at Regionals.  Four frosh join the squad, led by Spanish/Canadian elite Marianna Colussi-Pelaez and L10 standouts Mary Jacobsen and McKenna Singley.     

Table:  Teams #1 to #12

Table:  Teams #13 to #25

Key to the Tables:

 

Ranking: By 2016 Preseason Coaches' Poll

Coaches: Only regular, paid coaches are listed.

Starting Routines: Defined by starting lineup in last meet of the post season.
Returning Starters:
Defined by starting lineup in last competition
Year in School:
(Is listed as reported on the school's roster)

Fr = Freshman
So = Sophomore
Jr = Junior
Sr = Senior

Status Codes for Returners:

I = major season ending injury in 2015 or preseason 2015-2016
R = retirement/not competing (for any other reason than transfer or injury)
TR = Transfer
RS = Redshirt (note:  not all eligible gymnasts will employ or are awarded a redshirt year)
?=unconfirmed/unknown information

Published in Capsule Previews
Tuesday, 22 December 2015 18:32

2016 Top 25 Capsule Previews

The Capsule Previews for the Top 25 Women's Teams, as determined by the Preseason Coaches' Poll, are now available.  In each case, we have summarized the rosters and list of newcomers, and quickly summarized their prospects and challenges.  But who will challenge?  And which 12 teams are in the best position to make Nationals this April?

Published in General News

The Capsule Previews for the Top 25 Women's Teams, as determined by the Preseason Coaches' Poll, are now available.  In each case, we have summarized the rosters and their list of newcomers, and quickly summarized their prospects and challenges.  Defending Co-Champion Florida and OU seek to retain their title.  But who will challenge?  And which 12 teams are in the best position to make Nationals this April?

Published in General News
Tuesday, 16 December 2014 00:00

2015 Capsule Previews: Teams #1 to #12

 

 1.  Florida Gators

 

2.  OU Sooners

Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Head Coach: Rhonda Faehn
Assistants: Adrian Burde, Robert Ladanyi
Returning Starters (6):  Claire Boyce (So), Bridgette Caquatto (Jr), Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto (Jr), Kytra Hunter (Sr), Bridget Sloan (Jr), Rachel Spicer (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Morgan Frazier (Jr), Jamie Shisler (Sr),  Kiersten Wang (Sr)
Graduated (3):  Mackenzie Caquatto, Alaina Johnson, Lauren Rose
Other Losses (1):  Sophia Colussi-Pelaez (TR/Oregon St)
Newcomers (4): 
Kennedy Baker, Ericha Fassbender, Grace McLaughlin, Alex McMurtry
Quick Assessment:  The Florida Gators topped the Preseason Coaches' Poll, despite the loss of standouts Alaina Johnson and Mackenzie Caquatto.  The pair accounted for 7 of the Gators 24 routines, most in the bottom half (higher scoring) of the lineup.  For many teams, this could be a rebuilding year.  The Gators lost four athletes from last year's squad, but gain five.  The strength of this powerful class has the potential to help propel the Gators to a tri-peat.  But the core of this squad is two former NCAA AA champions, Kytra Hunter and Bridget Sloan.  No team has quite the one-two punch this pairs affords.  They'll be capably supported by vets Bridgette Caquatto and Rachel Spicer, each three event gymnasts last season.  The frosh, though, bring firepower of their own.  Baker is a former Senior National Team member with huge skills, while McMurtry was a dominant force in the L10 ranks who had the skills to easily go elite.  Both also have tremendous power and high level skills on vault and floor, an area in which the Gators have fallen behind as of late.  Joining them are former Senior National Team member Grace McLaughlin and former elite Ericha Fassbender, with the latter coming off a strong season as a L10. 



Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 18/24
Head Coach: KJ Kindler
Assistants: Lou Ball, Tom Haley
Returning Starters (8):   Erica Brewer (Sr), Chayse Capps (So), Rebecca Clark (Sr), Maile'ana Kanewa (Jr), Kara Lovan (So), Keeley Kmieciak (Jr), Haley Scaman (Jr), McKenzie Woffard (So)
Other/Injured Returners (4):  Reagan Hemry (So), Charity Jones (So), Hunter Price (Jr), Haley Sorensen (Sr)
Graduated (5):  Lara Albright, Lauren Alexander, Madison Mooring, Taylor Spears, Hayden Ward
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (5):  Ali Jackson, Natalie Brown, Stefani Catour, Samantha Craus, Brenna Dowell
Quick Assessment: 
Last season, the OU Sooners completed their rise and claimed a share of the podium.  The Sooners did it by combining their well known high levels of execution on bars and beam with some newly recruited power in the leg events.  And this season, they'll be one of the top favorites to take the title once again.  The Sooners did experience the loss of five athletes, but these five only accounted for six routines in the Super Six Finals.  Their leadership, consistency and polish will be missed.  Leading the way for the Sooners will be a quartet of top returners:  the dynamic Erica Brewer, the stylish Chayse Capps, the consistent Kara Lovan, and the powerful Hayley Scaman.  But OU has more than just those four -- the rest of the returners could form a team that could challenge on its own.  To that core, Coach KJ Kindler adds five frosh, headlined by US National Team member Brenna Dowell, standout L10 Ali Jackson, and former elite Stefani Catour.  Those three add even more power, especially on FX and VT.  Some question marks had arisen regarding Dowell following her injury last season, but she seems to be ready to excel.       

 



 

3.  LSU Tigers



4.  Alabama Crimson Tide

Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 20/24
Head Coach: D-D Breaux
Assistants: Jay Clark, Bob Moore
Returning Starters (8):  Rheagan Courville (Sr), Syndey Ewing (So), Ashleigh Gnat (So), Lloimincia Hall (Sr), Jessie Jordan (Sr), Britney Ranzy (Sr), Jessica Savona (Jr), Randii Wyrick (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Michelle Gauthier (So), Shonacee Oliiva (So), Shae Zamardi (So)
Graduated (6):   Kaleigh Dickson, Casey Duvall, Laine Fleming, Mckenzie Fox, Maliah Mathis, Sarie Morrison
Other Losses (0):  N/A  
Newcomers (4):  Myia Hambrick, Erin Macadaeg, Kylie Moran,  Scarlett Williams (SR/TR/Arkansas)
Quick Assessment:  LSU's standout season last season culminated in a 3rd place trophy and even higher expectations for 2015.  A core set of upperclassman and some talented newcomers has the Tigers set to make a run at the title in 2015.  Leading the way are all-around standouts Rheagan Courville (a two-time champ on Vault) and Jessie Jordan, plus crowd favorite Lloimincia Hall.   The Tigers will undoubtably miss the leadership and depth provided by six departed seniors, especially occasional AAer Kaleigh Dickson and UB/VT ace Sarie Morrison.  The pair will be especially missed on UB, an event where the Tigers have given up precious tenths to the Gators and Sooners.  Coach D-D Breaux's squad has been working hard to improve on UB and BB, to close the gap on the co-champs.  Frosh Myia Hambrick and Erin Macadaeg will also look to make an impact, with Macadaeg shining on BB in the preseason exhibition.  All the ingredients seem to be falling into place, and expectations are high in Baton Rouge, and for good reason.  LSU still has the powerful vaulting and tumbling of past Tiger squads, and with improvements on UB and BB they will give the Gators and Sooners all they can handle.         



Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 13/24
Head Coach:  Dana Duckworth
Associate Head Coach:  Brian Raschilla
Assistant:  Bill Lorenz
Returning Starters (6):
  Katie Bailey (So), Lauren Beers (Jr), Kaitlyn Clark (Sr), Lora Leigh Frost (Sr), Amanda Jetter (So), Aja Monet-Sims
Other/Injured Returners (6):  Hunter Dennis (Sr), Keely McNeer (So), Dominique Pegg (So), Mary Lillian Sanders (So), Carley Sims (Jr), Kayla Williams (I/Sr)
Graduated (5):   Sarah DeMeo, Ria Dormier, Lindsey Fowler, Kim Jacob, Diandra Milliner
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (5): 
Mackenzie Brannan, Nickie Guerrero, Jennie Loeb, Mackenzie Valentin (So, TR/Arizona), Kiana Winston
Quick Assessment: 
Bama is facing some daunting losses headed into this season, not to mention the loss of their iconic Head Coach Sarah Patterson.  Former assistant and Bama star Data Duckworth is picking up the reigns of the tradition, but is doing so without three huge stars, including NCAA AA champ Kim Jacob.  Jacobs plus Sarah Demeo and Diandra Milliner combined for nearly half of Bama's routines in the Super Six last season, most in the latter half of the lineup.   The six core returnees are led by Katie Bailey, Lauren Beers, Kaitlyn Clark and Aja Monet-Sims.  In addition to that quartet, the Tide hope to get the services of former World Champion Kayla Wiliams and Canadian Olympian Dominique Pegg.  The Coaches' have placed Bama fourth in the Preseason poll, in recognition of all the elite level talent on the team.  These veterans will supplemented by a strong class, including former elite Mackenzie Brannan, L10 standout Nickie Guerrero and elite Kiana Winston, who is still coming back from injuries.  For Bama, how high they rise will depend on the overall health of their stars and how much the newcomers to the lineup can step up their contributions.  







5.  UCLA Bruins



6.  Utah Utes

Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 17/24
Head Coach: Valerie Kondos Field
Associate Head Coach:  Chris Waller
Assistant: Randy Lane
Returning Starters (7):  Sadiqua Bynum (Sr), Sophina DeJesus (Jr), Ellette Craddock (Jr), Danusia Francis (Jr), Hallie Mossett (So), Jennifer Pinches (So), Sam Peszek (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (5): Angi Cipra (I/So), Michaela Gerber (So), Christine "Peng Peng" Lee (I/So), Jessy MacArthur (So), Alex Waller (So)
Graduated (3):  Olivia Courtney, Dana McDonald, Syndey Sawa
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (8):  Rechelle Dennis, Karli Dugas, Napualani Hall, JaNay Honest, LaNiesha-Jopre Irvin, Sonya Meraz, Melissa Metcalf, Jordan Williams (GS/I, TR/Arizona)
Quick Assessment:  UCLA finished last season with a fifth place finish in the packed evening sesson of the NCAA semi-finals.  They finished just 0.125 out of a spot in the Super Six, despite a season marred with injuries and inconsistency.  The Bruins find themselves in fifth place in the Preseason Poll, elevated by the decision of Sam Peszek to return for a fifth season.  She'll be needed, as the Bruins will sorely miss the services of Oliva Courtney and Sydney Sawa.  Peszek's and Pinches' decision to return for this season is perhaps Coach Valerie Kondos-Field's biggest "recruiting" coup of the off-season.  The Bruins will also expect big scores from Brit Danusia Francis and increased contributions from sophomore Hallie Mossett, a former elite.  Also returning from an extended series of injuries is Christine Peng-Peng, a talented Canadian whose true potential has been limited by extensive injuries.  Headlining the large incoming are former elites Pua Hall and Melissa Metcalf, complete with big skills like Double Arabians and solid execution..  In addition, Rachelle Dennis, JaNay Honest and LaNiesha-Jopre Irvin are all coming off solid senior years as L10s and will provide much needed depth, especially on vault.   



Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 16/24
Head Coaches: Greg and Megan Marsden
Assistant: Tom Farden
Returning Starters (7):  Georgia Dabritz (Sr), Kailah Delaney (Jr), Breanna Hughes (Jr), Corrie Lothrop (Sr), Baely Rowe (So),  Becky Tutka (Sr), Tori Wilson (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Haley Lange (So), Kassandra Lopez (Jr)
Graduated (4): 
Nansy Damianova, Lia Del Priore, Hailey Hansen, Mary Beth Lofgren
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (4):  
Kari Lee, TIffani Lewis, Samantha Partyka, Maddy Stover
Quick Assessment: The Utes find themselves sixth in the Preseason Poll, despite the loss of eight routines and four graduated seniors.  And, the Pac 12 Coaches' have dubbed the Utes the Preseason favorite to win the Conference title, ahead of the Bruins.  The Utes, in fact, finished fourth in their session of the NCAA Semi-Finals, just behind NU.  This season, they'll look to not only make it back to the Super Six, but to close the gap on the top three.  This will be the season to do it.  They'll be lead by seniors Georgia Dabritz, Corrie Lothrop and Tori Wilson.  All three could be AAers, if they can make the lineup in each event.  These veterans will be joined by Kailah Delaney, a strong vaulter, and an improved Breanna Hughes and Baely Rowe.  Unfortunately, senior Becky Tutka has been slowed by injuries but junior Kassandra Lopez is on the way back from injury.  Pushing all this experience will be four standout frosh:  Kari Lee, Tiffani Lewis, Samantha Partyka and Maddy Stover.  They'll provide not only depth, but possibly could provide top level scores, especially on BB.  In particular, Lee and Stover have the execution, flexibility and grace that can produce the top level scores that the Utes will need to make it back to the Super Six.  The balance beam and maturation of the frosh will tell how far Utah might rise.    







7.  Georgia Gym Dogs



8.  Michigan Wolverines

Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 15/24
Head Coach: Danna Durante
Assistants: Jay Hogue, Philip Ogletree
Returning Starters (8):
  Mary Beth Box (Jr), Ashlynn Broussard (So), Kiera Brown (So), Chelsea Davis (Sr), Brandie Jay (Jr), Lauren Johnson (So/I), Morgan Reynolds (So), Brittany Rogers (Jr)
Other/Injured Returners (5):  Demetria Hunte (Sr), Whitney Kirby (Sr), Sarah Persinger (Sr), Beth Roberts (So), Rachel Schick (So)
Graduated (3):  Lindsey Cheek, Kaylan Earls, Cat Hires
Other Losses (1):  Anysia Unick (I/R)
Newcomers (5):  Jasmine Arnold, Viviana Babalis, GiGi Marino, Hayley Sanders, Natalie Vaculik
Quick Assessment:  The Georgia Gym Dogs overcame the loss of some key veterans and not only qualified for the Super Six, but finished fifth.  Once again, the Gym Dogs find themselves without some key departed veterans and are looking forward to the challenge of making it back to Super Six.  In particular, UGA's Lindsey Cheek and Kaylan Earls were key athletes that consistently delivered 9.9+ routines near the end of the UGA lineups.  Coach Danna Durante's Gym Dogs have previuosly defied expectations and overcome graduation losses to finish among the leaders  To stay at that level, they'll need some big scores from senior bar ace Chelsea Davis and juniors Brandie Jay and Brittany Rogers.  Rogers competed injured at the end of last season; they look to get her back in more events.  Also giving the squad a boost will be the return of Sarah Persinger.  The sophomores will also look to make a step forward and take on starring roles, especially Ashlyn Broussard, Kiera Brown and Morgan Reynolds.  UGA will also look to its large frosh class to step in immediately, as they'll provide both depth and some potentially high scoring routines.  In particular, Canadian Natalie Vaculik has elite level polish and some top level skills.  Similarly, Vivi Babalis shines on beam and floor, while GiGi Marino tumbles some top skills on Floor (double layout, pike full-in).



Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 13/24
Head Coach: Bev Plocki
Assistants: Dave Kuzara, Scott Sherman
Returning Starters (5):  Nicole Artz (So), Briley Casanova (Jr), Talia Chiarelli (So), Sachi Sugiyama (Sr), Lindsay Williams (So)
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Annette Miele (Sr), Brooke Parker (Sr), Austin Sheppard (I/Jr)
Graduated (5): Teresa Arthur, Natalie Beilstein, Shelby Gies, Joanna Sampson, Reema Zhakharia
Other Losses (0):  N/A
Newcomers (6):  Brianna Brown, Nichelle Christopherson, Ilana Gordon, Cailee Hills, Lauren Marinez (I), India McPeak
Quick Assessment:   Michigan starts the season having lost nearly half of their routines from last year's NCAA Semi-Finals appearance and return just five starters from that lineup.  What's more, these departed athletes, especially Natalie Beilstein and Joanna Sampson, consistently produced some of the top scores in the NCAA.  The loss of so much scoring potential, experience and leadership provides a big opportunity for the new team to step up.   Leading the way will be senior AAer Sachi Sugiyama and sophomore Nicole Artz.  They provide AA potential and important scores late in the lineup.  Also looking strong in the preseason is sophomore Talia Chiarelli and junior Briley Casanova.  However, a big variable for the Wolverines will be junior Austin Sheppard.  She broke her ankle prior to Regionals, and she can play an important role for this year's squad.  This year, the Wolverines will need to have even bigger contributions from their frosh.  Leading the way is Brianna Brown, a former elite who is coming off a strong year as a L10.  She'll be potential AAer in her first year.  However, another potential key gymnast, Lauren Marinez is injured while both Cailee Hills and India McPeak are working their way back from injury.  Injuries and depth are the key issues here and will tell the tale of how far Michigan can rise this year. 







9.  Nebraska Cornhuskers



10.  Stanford Cardinal

Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning:  18/24
Head Coach: Dan Kendig
Assistants:  Heather Brink, Dan Miller
Returning Starters (7):  Hollie Blanske (Jr), Jessie DeZiel (Sr), Amanda Lauer (Jr), Jennifer Lauer (Sr), Jennie Laeng (So), Ariel Martin (So), Desire Stephens (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (2):  Ashley Lambert (So), Madison McConkey (Jr)
Graduated (2):  Jamie Schleppenbach, Emily Wong
Other Losses (1):  Sean Tafuri (signee)
Newcomers (3):  Danielle Breen, Kamerin Moore, Grace Williams
Quick Assessment: 
Nebraska's season finished on a high note with a sixth place finish in the Super Six.  They overachieved once again, taking a small squad and working themselves into some of the best gymnastics of their careers.  Gone from that squad are just two gymnasts representing six routines, but Emily Wong was usually good for a 9.9+ on each event.  On a naturally less-deep squad, this would have a big impact.  But for the Huskers, things are looking bright.  Back to lead the team are potential AAers Hollie Blanske, Jessie DeZiel and Jennie Laeng.  They will be capably supported by a wide range of specialists, including Ariel Martin and Jennifer Lauer.  This forms a strong and experienced core.  Supplementing that core is perhaps Nebraska's finest recruiting class in years.  All three are coming off of strong Level 10 club seasons, and look set to contribute immediately.  Former elite Grace Williams leads the way, and she is a three time JO L10 National AA champ.  Clubmate Kamerin Moore is a former elite who won a National UB title at the JO level in 2014.  Breen is yet another potential AAer, and she made the Level 10 JO National team in 2014.  Given the NU's coaching staff's penchant for getting the most out of their athletes, starting with this much talent could lead to great things in the future.  These three, while not throwing some of the big skills of other former elites, excel with their grace and execution.   



Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 20/24
Head Coach: Kristen Smyth
Associate Head Coach:  Chris Swircek
Assistant:  Tabitha Yim
Returning Starters (9)Melissa Chuang (Jr), Rachel Daum (So), Jenna Frowein (Jr), Danielle McNair (So), Nicolette McNair (So), Taylor Rice (Jr), Samantha Shapiro (Sr), Kristina Vaculik (Sr), Rebecca Wing (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (5): Carinne Gale (So), Pauline Hanset (Jr/I), Ivana Hong (Sr/I), Sophia Lee (So/I), Haley Spector (So)
Graduated (3)Shona Morgan, Amanda Spinner, Lucy Meyer
Other Losses (1):  Alex Archer (I)
Newcomers (1):  Elizabeth Price
Quick Assessment:   Stanford finished 4th in their session of the NCAAs, 0.5 points out of a spot in the Super Six.  They lose just three gymnasts representing four routines from that starting lineup. However, two of those routines were the critical leadoff and anchor routines on beam.  The squad in 2014 depended quite a bit on an inexperienced Frosh class.  A year later, these gymnasts, now sophomores, could take an even bigger role on this squad.  The returning squad does boast plenty of upperclassman leadership and experience.  They are led by senior and Canadian Olympian Kristina Vaculik, one of the top returning AAers in the NCAA.  Joining her is junior Taylor Rice and senior specialist Samantha Shapiro.  They form a key core at the center of the team.  Three of the sophomores had big debut seasons:  Rachel Daum, Danielle McNair and Nicolette McNair.  Any of the three could step forward into a starring role this season. There is also a lot of potential in athletes that were injured in 2014, in particular former elites Ivana Hong and Sophia Lee.  And it goes without saying that the Cardinal will look immediately to US National Team member and Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price as an immediate AA force.  She'll be more than enough to replace the lost routines.  However, it will be the return of Hong and the further development of the sophomores that will tell the tale of how far this team can rise. 

 





11.  Oregon State Beavers



12.  Auburn Tigers

Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Starting Routines Returning: 19/24
Head Coach: Tanya Chaplin
Associate Head Coach:  Mike Chaplin
Assistant:  Brian Amato
Returning Starters (10):  Erika Aufiero (Jr), Maddie Gardiner (So), Megan Jimenez (So), Taylor Keeker (Sr), Kaytianna McMillan (So), Katelyn Ohlrich (Jr), Kailie Ponto (Sr), Chelsea Tang (Jr), Nicole Turner (Jr), Cerise Witherby (Jr),
Other/Injured Returners (1):  Taylor Ricci (So)
Graduated (3):  Kelsey Blalock, Hannah Casey, Brittany Harris
Other Losses (2):  Kana Kobayashi (R/I), Jaime Wright (R/I)
Newcomers (5):  Silvia Colussi-Pelaez (So, TR/Florida), Dani Dessaints, Shireen Khamedoost, Risa Perez (Jr, TR/ASU), Jamie Rademacher (Jr, TR/EMU)
Quick Assessment:   The Beavers finished third in their Regional, edged from a spot at Nationals by host PSU.  A few untimely injuries limited the Beavers from their full potential at the end of the season, in particular on vault.  Leading the way in 2015 are AAers Maddie Gardiner and Chelsea Tang, who both have NCAA experience.  Junior Erika Aufiero, the ace on UB, leads a wide range of specialists on this large squad.  Oregon State will also look for expanded contributions from Kaytianna McMillan, a potential AAer who was limited by injury last season.  They'll also welcome five newcomers, three of whom come with experience as transfers.  Silvia Colussi-Pelaez is an elite with World Championships experience who coould blossom in Corvallis.  Former ASU star Risa Perez is a standout on FX, where her personality and dance skills shine.  Vault was a weakness last year, and this is where having a healthy squad and some more dynamic vaulting will help.  Because of the depth of the NCAA and the parity enhanced by the code, the Beavers will be in the thick of a battle to earn one of the remaining spots at Nationals.   



Official Web Site: Link Schedule Roster
Head Coach: Jeff Graba
Assistants: Kurt Hettinger, Jenny Rowland
Starting Routines Returning: 24/24
Returning Starters (9):  Caitlin Atkinson (Jr), Lexus Demers (Jr), Kullen Hlawek (So), Caryn Kadous (Sr), Kait Kluz (Jr), Kelsey Kopec (Jr), MJ Rott (So), Megan Walker (Sr), Brittany Webster (Sr)
Other/Injured Returners (3):  Meggie Lim (So), Lucia Scaglione (So), Kelsey Thomasson (Sr)
Graduated (1):   Nicole Galluzo
Other Losses (2):  Kara Koster (Jr/?), Miranda Telmanik (So/?)
Newcomers (6):  Brooke Bray, Kennedy Finnister (I), Sarah Garcia, Blake Jones, Abby Milliet, Cara Stricklin
Quick Assessment:  Auburn had a strong 2014 campaign, marred at the end by an injury to star AAer Bri Guy (dual Achilles' tears, a very tough injury) and to the other star AAer, Caitlin Atkinson (could not compete FX at Regionals).  In part due to this, AU struggled at Regionals, placing fifth after a poor performance on the UB.  Hopes are high for the squad in 2015, with the Coaches' giving them the nod for 12th place in the Preseason rankings.  They'll be led again by Atkinson, fully recovered and once again a force.  She'll be capably supported by last year's top frosh, the powerful MJ Rott, and elegant senior Megan Walker, a key end of the lineup gymnast on UB and BB.  A wide range of specialists will provide depth and top level skills, particularly on FX, where gymnasts like Lexus Demers and Brittany Webster give the squad big E skills like pike full-ins.  The big question for the Tigers is how quickly can Guy come back from such a serious injury.  She's already tumbling and vaulting, albeit not yet at the level of her considerable talent.  Instead, the Tigers can look to a boost from a large frosh class, headlined by elite Abby Milliet.  Milliet could be a difference maker, if she is able to compete to the best of her abilities.  Getting to Nationals is becoming tougher and tougher, and AU is on the hot seat.   

 
Table:  Teams #1 to #12

Table:  Teams #13 to #25

Key to the Tables:

 

Ranking: By 2015 Preseason Coaches' Poll

Coaches: Only regular, paid coaches are listed.

Starting Routines: Defined by starting lineup in last meet of the post season.
Returning Starters:
Defined by starting lineup in last competition
Year in School:
(Is listed as reported on the school's roster)

Fr = Freshman
So = Sophomore
Jr = Junior
Sr = Senior

Status Codes for Returners:

I = major season ending injury in 2014 or preseason 2014-2015
R = retirement/not competing (for any other reason than transfer or injury)
TR = Transfer
RS = Redshirt (note:  not all eligible gymnasts will employ or are awarded a redshirt year)
?=unconfirmed/unknown information

 

Published in Capsule Previews
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