The members of the Washington women’s gymnastics team knew they would need senior Lauren Rogers healthy for the UW to be successful this season. Friday night she proved why.
Rogers won the all-around title with a score of 39.025 in her first meet at full capacity after undergoing ankle surgery during the summer, leading the Huskies to a team victory over No. 17 California, UC Davis, and Illinois-Chicago in their home opener. She had previously been unable to compete on floor due to the injury.
“It just felt really good to get back out there on floor after the injury,” Rogers said. “What we all did in practice really showed in this meet.”
The Huskies were solid across the board, posting a team score of 194.800 — more than a full point higher than their season-opening loss at Minnesota. The UW did not count a fall throughout the meet, jumping out to an early lead over Cal in the first rotation that they never relinquished. The Golden Bears finished second with a score of 194.125, UC Davis in third with a 193.625, and Illinois-Chicago in fourth with a 191.350.
“I was more surprised with the way we came out last week than the way we came out strong tonight,” head coach Joanne Bowers said. “We went really hard in practice this week and knew we could come out this way.”
The UW saw the most improvement on bars, scoring 48.850 after a 48.100 last meet. The Huskies didn’t have to count a score lower than 9.725 in the rotation, with Rogers and sophomore Jackie McCartin posting a pair of 9.8s.
“No matter what happens before, you still need to go out and hit your rotation,” Rogers said. “But it was definitely nice to keep feeding off each other’s energy during the rotation.”
Sophomore McKenzie Fechter suffered a fall on her bars routine, which her team didn’t have to count, but bounced back immediately to lead off the UW’s turn on balance beam with a 9.750. Fechter’s routine was the first of a solid Husky beam rotation for the second straight week.
McCartin won the event, scoring a 9.775.
“I hit my beam rotation in practice every day,” Fechter said. “I know my team had my back on bars, and I wanted to show that I had their back during beam.”
The UW closed out the meet with a few mistakes during its floor routine, including an uncharacteristic fall from junior Aliza Vaccher. The team score of 48.275 was the lowest of any rotation on the night, but senior Paige Bixler ended any chance of Cal overtaking the UW by posting a 9.825 to win the event.
Despite the huge improvement in the week after their first meet, Bowers and the Huskies are looking for more improvement heading into the huge Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, next Saturday.
The meet features three teams currently ranked in the top 10 nationally. The UW knows a score of at least 195.000 will be necessary even to be competitive with the likes of Oklahoma, LSU, and Georgia.
“With the mistakes we made tonight, we know with more improvement we can be right in the thick of it next week,” Bowers said. “I view this as a great opportunity to go on the road with adversity and show what we can do.”
Reach reporter Nathaniel Reeves at email@example.com Twitter:@njr3701
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