Momentum shouldn’t be a problem for the UC Davis gymnastics program in 2012.
The Aggies are entering the season coming off of two consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation titles, and a successful 2012 season could result in their fourth championship in five years.
“We really hope to maintain our position in the conference and win the championship again,” Head Coach John Lavallee confirmed. “The team has done a great job through the preseason to prepare.”
The biggest challenge facing Lavallee could be the youth of his squad. Of the team’s 15 athletes, only four competed for the Aggies in the 2010 season and freshmen make up one third of the roster.
However, the young squad has already drawn comparisons to UC Davis’ 2008 team that won the program’s first MPSF title with a roster containing just two upperclassmen. The young Aggies hope to duplicate this success in 2012.
“Every year is a challenge,” Lavallee said . “It’s just a different set of variables to deal with.”
Though the squad is young overall, Lavallee has a solid group of veterans that are ready to lead the team. Senior co-captain Erica Van Dyke is expected to overcome an ankle injury sustained in December to finish a successful four-year career with the Aggies. Last season she earned All-MPSF honors on balance beam, posting a conference-best 9.735 regional qualifying score.
Junior Michelle Ho was also All-MPSF on both bars (9.685) and floor (9.825) in 2011 and led the conference on floor. Junior Katie Yamamura was the MPSF Champion on vault. Her score tied the school record of 9.900.
The team opened its season on Friday in Tempe, Ariz. against Arizona State. The Aggies came out strong against the Pacific-12 team, but were narrowly defeated 190.500 to 190.850.
Yamamura was the stand-out performer for the Aggies, scoring a 9.800 on both uneven bars and balance beam, taking first in beam and all-around. The scores were career highs for the junior.
Junior Taryn West placed second in floor with a score of 9.650 and sophomore Anna Shumaker and Yamamura both earned 9.625 on the vault to tie for third.
“It was a tremendous day for us,” Lavallee said . “For us to go into their gym … [and stay] close the whole way … it’s a good sign.”
The match was the first of a season that will be marked by the frequent presence of Pac-12 conference schools in addition to conference rivals Air Force, Alaska Anchorage and Seattle Pacific.
The Aggies will return to action Sunday at Stanford.
KAITLYN ZUFALL can be reached at email@example.com.