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Red Rocks renew rivalry with UCLA in Sunday matchup

Red Rocks renew rivalry with UCLA in Sunday matchup

(Spenser Heaps, KSL)



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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah-UCLA gymnastics rivalry will be renewed once again Sunday at Pauley Pavilion in Pasadena, California, where the two powerhouse teams battle for supremacy.

When asked about the Red Rocks thoughts heading into UCLA, Alexia Burch said, "We’re not going to treat UCLA any different than any other meet. We want to get a big score, and if it comes with a win, great. We especially need big scores on the road."

History

Valorie Kondos-Field and Megan Marsden are two hall-of-fame coaches who led the two squads over the last 37 seasons before both retiring in 2019; however, Utah's Tom Farden and UCLA's Chris Waller were associate head coaches last season and have the know-how to maintain the success for their respective teams.

Last year, two of Utah’s pre-NCAA Tournament losses came against the Bruins, with the first being at the Jon M. Huntsman Center by a score of 198.025-197.625, and the second at the Maverick Center during the Pac-12 Championship by a score of 198.400-198.025.

Both Utah and UCLA will come into the meet ranked No. 3 in the nation with an average score of 197.01. The ESPN2 telecast meet will feature two former Olympians in Kyla Ross (UCLA) and Madison Kocian (UCLA) and will also feature two of the most sought after recruits in the nation in Maile O’Keefe (Utah) and Abby Paulson (Utah).

Since Utah’s entered into the Pac-12, both teams have won three Pac-12 Championships each, with UCLA winning a national championship in 2018 — Utah finished in second place in 2015.

Throughout history, Utah leads the series 54-36-1 against UCLA; Utah's last victory over the Bruins came in 2018 at Pauley Pavilion.

Gymnasts to watch for:

Kim Tessen (Utah): Tessen has been one of Utah’s best performers throughout the 2020 season. She's had seven personal event victories so far this year and was most recently named Most Valuable Performer against Oregon State Saturday. She has been one of the more consistent gymnasts in the conference, scoring a 9.90 in at least one event in each meet this season. Tessen won the Pac-12 Specialist of the Week award in January.

"We’ve seen how much we can improve on vault which got a fire under us going," Tessen said. "We’re going to be extremely determined this week, and I know we’ll be excited for the weekend."

Kyla Ross (UCLA): Ross currently sits at No.1 nationally in bars, while coming in at No.2 in the all-around, No.4 on beam, No.6 on floor, and No. 8 on vault. Ross is the first female gymnast to ever win championships at the Olympics, Worlds and NCAA. She was the 2019 West Region and Pac-12 Gymnast of the year, and scored 14 perfect 10’s last season.

Sydney Soloski (Utah): Soloski scored a 9.825 on vault and a 9.90 on floor to help lead the Red Rocks to victory over the Oregon State Beavers last week. Both of Soloski’s season high’s came against Arizona on Feb. 1 where she scored a 9.87 on vault and a 9.95 on floor. She was a 2018 NCAA All-American on floor.

"We’ve got some work to do, but it’s nothing that we can’t handle," Soloski said. "Tom said in our meeting, ‘If we can hit 24/24 we are a very dangerous team, and our goal is to show that against UCLA."

Gracie Kramer (UCLA): Kramer has come along as a leader on UCLA’s squad during the 2020 season. The highlight of her year so far is scoring a perfect 10 during a floor routine against Washington in January. She has scored a 9.90 or better on floor in all but one meet this season. Kramer will also compete in vault where she consistently scores a 9.825.

How to watch:

Utah and UCLA’s meet takes place Sunday, Feb. 23 at 4 p.m. on ESPN2. These two teams will face off for the first time since the NCAA semifinals in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 2019. Both squads are come into the meet ranked No. 3 in the nation. Utah enters undefeated, while UCLA comes in with one loss on the year.

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