AZUSA, Calif. -- Maybe it was a case of nerves, or perhaps it was the pressure of closing out a perfect regular season. It certainly wasn’t a done deal, as the comfortable lead Oregon built up throughout Tuesday’s acrobatics & tumbling meet nearly came crashing down at the end for the Ducks with a shaky team routine.
A series of falls for Oregon in the final event left the door wide open for Azusa Pacific to pull off an unthinkable upset and ruin the Ducks’ perfect season. Even though the Cougars weren’t flawless in their own team routine, they still put together a solid performance that brought the boisterous home crowd to its feet. The combination of that reaction, along with the uncertainty of how severely Oregon would be docked for its team event miscues, kept the Felix Event Center crowd of 959 in suspense until the final scores were announced with Oregon escaping with a two-point win over Azusa Pacific.
“It’s definitely exciting to be able to compete in front of a big crowd like this,” Cougar head coach Colleen Kausrud said. “To have this kind of support and having people show their excitement about what we’re doing makes it really exciting for us.”
It was the Ducks’ narrowest victory of the season, edging the Cougars by a score of 277.560 to 275.525, and Oregon’s team event score of 94.86 was its second-lowest of the year. The deductions for the Ducks were severe, with three deductions for falls contributing to nearly 15 points’ worth of deductions. Meanwhile, Azusa Pacific registered a score of 96.91 in the team event, giving the Cougars wins in two of the meet’s six events.
“We don’t have as much running tumbling (in the team event) as Oregon does, so that affects our start value and makes it harder on us to start two points lower,” Kausrud said. “To be able to win that event by two points in spite of the difference in start value makes it even better. Hitting a good team routine is a big confidence builder, because it takes everybody on the team to accomplish it.”
Azusa Pacific claimed two of the three heats in the Acro event, edging Oregon by .39 points in the second event of the six-event meet. Each of the events won by the Ducks was by a margin of at least .70, and three of Oregon’s event wins were by margins of at least a full point. Oregon posted a pair of perfect 10s in the opening four-heat Compulsory event, tallying 39.20 points to Azusa Pacific’s 38.10.
After the Cougars closed the gap by winning Acro, Oregon extended its halftime lead to 1.41 points (97.00 to 95.59) by winning the Pyramid event by a score of 29.60 to 28.90.
In the first event after halftime, the Ducks padded their lead by another eight-tenths of a point in the Toss event, and after Oregon won or tied the first five heats of the six-heat Tumbling event, its lead was at a meet-high 4.14 points. In the sixth heat, however, Iliana Ibrahim scored a 9.925 in the open pass, shaving .05 points off Oregon’s lead heading into the team routine.
“It would have been nice if we could have done well in some of the areas we usually do well in,” Kausrud said. “We could have started out a lot better than we did, but I also felt that we came back well. Scoring higher than Oregon in the team routine is a huge deal, and that will give our team a lot of confidence heading into nationals.”
The loss drops Azusa Pacific to 3-4 heading into next week’s National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association National Championships, hosted by Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Oregon wraps up the regular season as the only unbeaten NCATA program as it prepares to defend its national title at next week’s championships.
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS (filmed & edited by Rob Small)