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UNIVERSITY BEAT

Bruin Gymnasts Aim for Title

April 17, 2002|ERIC STEPHENS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UCLA isn't shy about its role as favorite in the NCAA women's gymnastics national championship meet, which begins Thursday at Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"If every team goes out there and hits [their performances], we should win," sophomore Jamie Dantzscher said. "I'm not being arrogant, it's just that we've got so much depth and so many good gymnasts."

UCLA, the two-time defending champion, has won three titles since the NCAA began sponsoring the women's nationals in 1982. Utah, Georgia and Alabama are the only other teams that have won.

It was during a loss to Alabama last month in a meet at Tuscaloosa that UCLA probably best illustrated why it is favored to win its third consecutive team title. Competing without Dantzscher and Onnie Willis, their top gymnasts, the Bruins lost, 197.650 to 197.000.

"I think it was smart that we went out there," UCLA Coach Valorie Kondos Field said.

"We didn't compete a few of our top athletes, but I think we shocked a lot of people. A lot of our athletes got some great experience."

Willis and Dantzscher will compete in the nationals. Willis shared last year's NCAA all-around title with Michigan's Elise Ray. Dantzscher, a 2000 U.S. Olympian, had seven consecutive perfect 10 scores on the floor exercise this season and is expected to contend in the all-around.

Kondos Field, in her 12th year as UCLA's coach, is a former professional ballet dancer who never competed in gymnastics. She encourages her athletes to focus on their performances rather than on winning.

"When I performed, I didn't have someone telling me whether I won or lost," she said. "[Gymnastics] is a subjective sport. You can have the greatest performance of your life but your score may not reflect that because a judge may not give you a score you thought you would get. I would never determine our success on one event."

Dantzscher said she appreciates Kondos Field's approach.

"It's a good balance," she said. "We have Steve [Gerlach] and Milo [Johnson] who are phenomenal coaches technically.

"[Valorie] knows gymnastics because she's been here for a while. She knows what to say before we compete to make us feel confident when we go out there."

After winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball championship, top-ranked Pepperdine (25-4) earned the top seed in the conference tournament and will play host to No. 8 Cal State Northridge in a first-round match Saturday.

In other matches Saturday, No. 3 UCLA (25-6) will play host to No. 6 UC Santa Barbara (17-10), No. 7 Long Beach State (13-17) plays at No. 2 Hawaii (20-7) and No. 5 Stanford (16-9) is at No. 4 Brigham Young (22-6).

The highest remaining seed out of the first round will play host to the semifinals April 25 and the MPSF title match April 27.

Mary Ellen Murchison retired Monday as Cal State Fullerton women's volleyball coach after 10 seasons, a move prompted at least partially by her health.

She has survived two episodes of breast cancer since being diagnosed in 1993.

Carolyn Zimmerman, an assistant to Murchison the last seven years, has been appointed interim coach. Murchison's teams at Fullerton went 76-211 overall. The Titans were 8-18, and 4-14 in the Big West Conference last season.

USC (6-22) finished its men's volleyball season with a 30-27, 35-37, 30-28, 30-25 victory over Pacific. Senior Brook Billings had a season-high 36 kills to help the Trojans end a school-record 11-match losing streak....Golfer Mikaela Parmlid of USC won the Peg Bernard California Challenge at Stanford with a one-under-par 143 for 36 holes. The Trojans took third place behind Washington and Cal. UCLA was in a tie for eighth.... Kelley Carlson of Northridge shot 152 for 36 holes to win individual medalist honors in the Matador Spring Classic at Knollwood Country Club in Granada Hills.... UC Irvine's Walailak Satarak and Stella Lee each shot two-under 214 for 54 holes to tie for the individual title and help the Anteaters win the BYU Dixie Classic last week at St. George, Utah.

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