This time of the year there is always talk about bubble teams, those living on the edge between making the postseason and hitting the golf course early. The UCSB men’s gymnastics team can be added to the list of teams hoping its bubble doesn’t burst.
The Gauchos strengthened their postseason hopes this past weekend in Tempe, Arizona, where they set a team record score of 208.400 in the Southwest Cup. In what was essentially a dual meet (two non-collegiate teams competed), UCSB jousted with the 3rd ranked Nittany Lions of Penn State, which accumulated a score of 215.950.
This meet was especially important for the Gauchos who are ranked 13th nationally, and need to move up one spot to be in the national championships later this month at the University of Oklahoma.
“Our team spirit is higher than ever before,” UCSB Head Coach Mircea Badulescu said. “If the spirit remains high, and our concentration continues to improve, then the sky is the limit for this team.”
The Gauchos record breaking meet was highlighted by sophomore Andre Badilla who set a record of his own on the still rings, with a score of 9.000. He also had the highest individual finish of the meet for Santa Barbara, placing second on the pommel horse with a score of 9.150.
“This was the first time all season we consistently hit on the pommel horse,” Badulescu said. “We beat the number three team in the country in the event, which was perhaps our biggest upset of the season.”
Badilla’s school record bested that of senior captain Michael Kelley, but the bad news didn’t ruin his weekend. Kelly went out and recorded a season-high score on the pommel horse (9.000), good enough for third in the event. Kelley, Santa Barbara’s most consistent performer, again led the team in the individual all around with a score of 51.550.
“We’ve always been solid on the pommel horse, it was just that this was the first time the majority of us have hit our routines,” Kelley said. “Our score would’ve been higher but freshmen Jay Yee was off, and he might be our strongest competitor.”
Despite its improved scores, time is running out for UCSB. With only two meets left, the Gauchos need to build on last weekends scores and set school records in the final two meets to achieve their goal of reaching the postseason.
“Last weekend was the first weekend we were all on the same wave length mentally and the results showed that,” Kelley said. “Now we know what it takes and were ready to prove our skill.”
The Gauchos host the most crucial meet of the season this Saturday night at 7:30 in the Thunderdome. UCSB plays host to Cal, Temple, Air Force and the University of Washington in what is a do or die situation for Santa Barbara.
“Our goal is to score higher as a team each week,” Badulescu said. “If we do that this week, we will square off with No. 12 Nebraska in the conference finals with the winner going to the nationals and the other staying home.”