Saturday, 14 October 2017 16:36

2018 Capsule Previews: Teams #1 to #12

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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



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

Last modified on Tuesday, 02 January 2018 20:22