Los Angeles, Calif. – Behind strong balance beam and floor exercise sets, No. 6 UCLA came from behind to defeat No. 3 Alabama, 196.550-196.300, in front of 5,463 fans in Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins scored 49.4 on beam in the third rotation and finished with a 49.475 on floor to claim victory. The meet came down to the very last routine, and Sadiqua Bynum's 9.95 clinched the win for UCLA.
After scoring sub-49 scores on vault (48.9) and bars (48.775), the Bruins found themselves trailing Alabama at the halfway mark, 97.825-97.675. Angi Cipra led the way on vault with a 9.85, and JaNay Honest added a 9.8. On bars, Danusia Francis' 9.825 was the team's best score, followed by Honest's 9.775. Alabama scored 49.125 on bars in its first rotation and 48.7 on vault in the second and had 9.9 scores from Kiana Winston and Katie Bailey on bars and Mackenzie Brannan on vault.
UCLA began to make its move in rotation three with six stellar balance beam routines. Mikaela Gerber led off with a strong 9.775, and Sonya Meraz followed with a career-high-tying 9.85. Freshman Katelyn Ohashi's difficult routine included a double pike dismount and scored 9.8, and Sophina DeJesus stepped up with a 9.85, marking her 11th consecutive beam routine of 9.8 or better. UCLA closed the set with the dynamic duo of Christine Peng-Peng Lee and Francis, who each scored 9.95. Lee nailed every element of her hands-free "Bluetooth" routine, and Francis stuck her famous sideways side aerial to layout full dismount that had the arena shouting for a 10.
Even with a 49.4 on beam, the Bruins still trailed Alabama by .050 going into the final rotation after the Crimson Tide scored 49.3 on floor thanks to 9.9s from Bailey and Carley Sims. Napualani Hall got UCLA started with a strong leadoff routine that scored 9.8. Keely McNeer countered for Alabama with a 9.825 leadoff that increased the Tide lead by a quarter of a tenth. Ohashi answered back with a 9.85, while Brannan scored 9.775 on beam. Francis suffered an out of bounds deduction on her floor routine, scoring just 9.575, but Hallie Mossett snatched away Alabama's momentum with a career-high 9.95 that saw one judge award a 10.0. Cipra kept turning the tide UCLA's way with a crowd-pleasing performance that scored 9.925, and Bynum sealed the win with her 9.95 to close the meet.
"That beam performance – all six of them - that was like a national championship beam rotation," said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field. "If we can do that at nationals, I would be thrilled. They were just dialed in. And the same thing on floor. This team is extremely coachable. They're really tight, and they're such a fun team to coach."
Brannan won the all-around, scoring 39.35. Ohashi placed second with a 38.625 in her collegiate debut. Event winners were Brannan on vault (9.9), Bailey and Winston on bars (9.9), Lee and Francis on beam (9.95) and Mossett and Bynum on floor (9.95).
UCLA (1-0) will take on another SEC powerhouse next week with a trip to three-time defending NCAA champion Florida on Friday, Jan. 15 at 7pm ET.
1) UCLA 196.550
2) Alabama 196.300
1) Mackenzie Brannan (ALA) 9.900
2) Angi Cipra (UCLA) 9.850
3) Kiana Winston (ALA) 9.800, JaNay Honest (UCLA) 9.800
1) Katie Bailey (ALA) 9.900, Kiana Winston (ALA) 9.900
3) Mackenzie Brannan (ALA) 9.825, Keely McNeer (ALA) 9.825, Danusia Francis (UCLA) 9.825
1) Danusia Francis (UCLA) 9.950, Peng-Peng Lee (UCLA) 9.950
3) Lauren Beers (ALA) 9.850, Keely McNeer (ALA) 9.850, Sophina DeJesus (UCLA) 9.850, Sonya Meraz (UCLA) 9.850
1) Sadiqua Bynum (UCLA) 9.950, Hallie Mossett (UCLA) 9.950
3) Angi Cipra (UCLA) 9.925
1) Mackenzie Brannan (ALA) 39.350
2) Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA) 38.625