The 2011 BYU women’s gymnastics season began with high expectations and a great deal of early success as the team began the season with a 10-2-2 record, their best start since 2007. Although the season did not end as well as the Cougars would have liked, finishing with a regular season record of 12-6-2, the 2011 team will be remembered as one that demonstrated great promise and the hope of a bright future for BYU gymnastics.
“The season was a success in my mind,” BYU head coach Brad Cattermole said. “We’re moving back in the right direction. We started off really strong and in the end we just started trying so hard not to make mistakes instead of going out and doing what we do which hurt us. But I think that was because we knew we could compete with the best teams in the country and we wanted to make it to Nationals.”
There were only two seniors on the team, Madeleine Johnson and Jessica Villegas. Both gymnasts excelled in their respective events, each posting a new career-high on senior night against Utah, but neither competed in more than two events. Thus, BYU relied heavily on its juniors and underclassmen. These gymnasts who are all expected to return next season showed tremendous confidence and poise in the face of pressure to lead the Cougars throughout the season.
BYU’s most impressive wins came on the road as they defeated then No. 9 Kent State in Cleveland and then later in the season as they triumphed over then No. 12 ranked Arkansas in Fayetteville. Both of these teams would go on vie for a National Championship at the end of the season. Throughout the season, the Cougars had great success against nationally ranked opponents, beating or tying with five top-25 teams. BYU peaked in the national rankings the week of February 21st cracking the top-25 themselves with No. 25 ranking.
The Cougars season ended at the Denver NCAA Regional on April 2, where BYU finished in sixth with a team score of 194.650.
The Cougars were particularly strong on vault this season. Team captain Natalie Eyre consistently posted solid scores on the event to lead BYU, including nine meets with scores of 9.800 or higher. Eyre posted a personal-best on the event at Arizona where she received an impressive 9.925.
As a vault lineup, the best score came against Arizona at home in the Smith Fieldhouse against Arizona where the five top scores combined for a total 49.175. Haylee Rollins scored a 9.875 in that meet to lead the way for the Cougars. Rollins was the model of consistency on each of her three events this season and vault was no exception as the sophomore scored a 9.800 or higher seven times this season.
“Haylee had a great season,” Cattermole said. “She has really come into college and just relaxed. She just gets out there and does her routines and moves onto the next event. She works extremely hard in practice and then in the meets she just does her best.”
The vault lineup changed several times throughout the season as the coaches tried to find the most successful combination. The lineup featured three freshman who turned in solid performances throughout the season.
With the exception of a couple of meets, uneven bars proved to be the best event for BYU throughout the season. Once again, Rollins came up huge for the Cougars. Rollins scored a 9.725 or above in every meet this season, a 9.8 or above seven times and a 9.900 once against Utah.
Senior Madeleine Johnson also scored a career-high on senior night against Utah. Other strong contributions were made by Eyre and freshman Raquel Willman. Sarah Yandow provided a consistent performance on the event, never scoring below a 9.700, prior to a season-ending injury.
BYU’s highest score on any event this season came on the uneven bars against Utah in their final meet of the regular season as the Cougars scored a 49.275 behind impressive scores by Johnson, Rollins, Willman, Eyre and a new career-high 9.825 from freshman KayCee Gassaway.
The balance beam is widely known as the event that can cause the most problems for gymnastics teams. This season BYU turned in some very high scores on beam but also had other meets where the event became the Cougars’ Achilles heal as the team struggled to put together a flawless meet.
BYU turned in its highest score on beam against Utah with a 49.050, behind a career-high 9.900 from Krysten Koval. After struggling in the first few meets of the season, Eyre became a very reliable competitor for the Cougars on beam. Freshman Megan Bain also provided the Cougars with regularly solid performances and posted a career-best 9.825 against Auburn.
The floor lineup was the only BYU event lineup that kept the same competitors throughout the entire season. Floor was not the Cougars strongest event as it has been in years past, but BYU was still able to turn in many solid performances on the event.
Rollins gave the Cougars their highest score on floor with a 9.875 during the first home meet of the season. Lezeu helped attribute to BYU’s strong start with three scores of 9.800 or higher in the Cougar’s first seven meets. Meanwhile, Villegas helped BYU to an impressive team event score of 38.850 at NCAA regionals as the senior came on strong to close her career with five scores of 9.800 or higher in the Cougars’ last seven meets.
Willman, Bain and Mickell Merrell also provided BYU will strong scores throughout the season. The Cougars strongest floor performance of the season came against Arkansas on the road where near-perfect floor performances led BYU to victory.
Lezeu was added to the lineup late in the season giving the Cougars their first all-around competitor of the season. Lezeu won the all-around title in her first meet competing in all four events against Auburn with a 39.050.
BYU should have eleven returning lettermen on roster next season and the Cougars are poised to have another memorable season with the potential to be a truly special team.
“Next year we’ve got a group that is really focused and motivated,” Cattermole said. “They want to succeed. This team was strong and I’ll think we’ll be even stronger next season. Our returning gymnasts will be more seasoned and we have a couple of really talented kids coming in.”