Cougars Show Promise in Season Debut

Haylee Rollins and the rest of the BYU Cougars gymnastics team posted an impressive debut performance on Saturday in Denver. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- The BYU Cougars women’s gymnastics team started off their 2011 campaign with a promising second place finish in Denver on Saturday. Finishing behind No. 7 Georgia but besting host No. 16 Denver with a score of 193.225, the Cougars had a strong showing in their first meet of the season in front of a crowd of 3,462 fans.

“I’m sure the girls feel good about beating two teams,” BYU head coach Brad Cattermole said. “But we’re probably more happy with the way we competed. Beating Denver just means that we made a few less mistakes than they did. We didn’t do as well as we could have but we’ll be better in weeks to come. This is probably one of our best opening meets in a long time.”

Starting the meet off on beam, team captain Jessica Villegas was the first up for the Cougars posting a 9.35. Freshman Megan Bain posted an impressive 9.525 debut. The BYU high score on the event was recorded by Jennifer Lezeu, an event veteran having competed on beam last season. Lezeu scored a 9.65. The Cougars found themselves in third place after the first rotation.

Next up for the Cougars was the floor exercise where BYU showed potential posting four scores of 9.7 or higher. The Cougars’ best score coming from sophomore Haylee Rollins with a 9.775. Jessica Villegas recorded a 9.75 while Megan Bain and Jennifer Lezeu both scored a 9.7. At the conclusion of two rotations, BYU still trailed Georgia and Denver recording a 95.925 in its first two events. Georgia led with a score of 97.675 followed closely by Denver who posted a 97.175 in the first two events.

On vault the Cougars received their highest score coming from veteran captain Natalie Eyre who was awarded a 9.8 for her performance on the event. Rollins and Krysten Koval followed closely behind with scores of 9.75 and 9.7 respectively.

Denver struggled on the beam in the third rotation. After three rotations BYU had pulled within four tenths of the Pioneers as the Cougars held a 144.475 and Denver combined the first three rotations to record 144.800. Meanwhile, the Georgia Gym Dogs proved why they are one of the strongest gymnastics programs in the country with a score of 146.600. Air Force trailed with a score of 139.800.

On their final event of the night, the Cougars did not have to count a fall as BYU posted five solid scores after an initial disappointing routine. Experienced bar competitors, Sarah Yandow, Lezeu, Rollins and Madeleine Johnson all posted scored of 9.7 or higher. Once again though it was Eyre who led the way for the Cougars posting a 9.85.

“I’m really proud of the team tonight,” Eyre said following the meet. “We made a few mistakes but overall I think it was a great starting point for the season. We are going to take the confidence from this meet and hopefully carry it on throughout the rest of the year.”

BYU will travel to Logan to take on in-state rival, Utah State, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 14.

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