Washington hopes for an upset to advance to nationals
Huskies get the advantage of being on home floor
Special to The Seattle Times
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With one major upset in the books, could the Washington women's gymnastics team produce another at a critical time of the season?
The odds seem long, but UW coach Joanne Bowers says on any given night the Huskies have the talent to surprise high-level competition. That's exactly what Washington will face in abundance Saturday when it plays host to an NCAA regional at Edmundson Pavilion at 4 p.m.
"Because this meet starts fresh, with new life, anything can happen," said Bowers, whose squad upset then-No. 1 UCLA at home on Jan. 27. "We have the potential to do well and advance if we hit our routines."
Six teams will compete at UW's regional, including 2011 NCAA champion Alabama. The top two teams move on to the 12-team national meet April 20-22 in Duluth, Ga.
Washington last reached nationals as a team in 1998.
"Our goal this week is to go out there, aggressively attack our routines, work on landings and see how we end up," said Bowers, in her sixth year at UW. "We will be at nationals soon."
Bowers took over a slumping program in 2007, one year after UW failed to reach the postseason for the first time in decades. The Huskies improved steadily and finished third in their 2011 regional at Oklahoma.
This year, Washington, ranked 23rd, is the No. 4 team in its regional field, behind fourth-ranked Alabama, No. 9 Louisiana State and No. 16 Arizona. Also competing: Iowa (30th) and Central Michigan (36th).
After posting its two best scores of the year in the final two regular-season meets, UW faltered at the Pac-12s, finishing seventh.
"I was very disappointed in our performance at Pac-12s," said Bowers. "We had some great bar and floor routines but struggled a good bit on beam."
At the regional, Bowers will lean on key performers such as senior Ruby Engreitz, a senior from Kirkland and one of UW's steadiest gymnasts. The 5-foot-2 Inglemoor grad earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in floor exercise this season after making the second team on bars last year.
"Ruby has played a huge part in raising the level of difficulty in our program," Bowers said. "She has one of the most difficult bar routines in the country. She is a leader by example. She works hard in practice every day."
Engreitz has nine first-place finishes this season, including an all-around victory against UCLA (39.325) and high marks of 9.875 on both bars and floor.
She ends her bars routine with a demanding dismount, a double layout/full out (two flips and a twist) in a layout (straight body) position.
"It's fun to do," she said.
How has she grown at UW?
"In my mental game, mostly," said Engreitz. "I've learned to enjoy competing more. In club there was so much individual pressure. In college, it's more of a team sport, and I've really enjoyed the experience. I've made such good friends here."
|National gymnastics rankings|
|Washington holds an NCAA gymnastics regional Saturday at 4 p.m. Here's a look at the teams and their event rankings:|