The Baylor No. 1 acrobatic and tumbling claimed a spot in the NCATA championship after edging out No. 4 Hawaii Pacific Monday night at the Ferrell Center.
“I always expect [Hawaii Pacific] to be close in the first half. Their strength is really acro and pyramid,” said head coach Felecia Mulkey. “I never take them lightly. We didn’t come in to today saying, ‘Oh, this one is a gimme.’ We try and not do that with any meet, but definitely not with [Hawaii Pacific] because they can take you down pretty easily.
The Bears (9-0) defeated Hawaii Pacific (4-4) earlier this season but knew they were a very solid and clean team and were not going to let their guard down at all.
“HP was really good at the acro portion, the pyramid portion; they are really clean, they are really pristine,” said junior Kiara Nowlin. “We knew it would be tight, and we knew we would have to put up a fight especially in those heats, but we did well.”
The Bears, who continue to be undefeated this season, came out dominating from the start to take the compulsory event 38.85-38.60.
Not to anyone’s surprise, the Sharks kept things close and took the acro round 29.60-29.55, but the Bears remained on top overall, 68.400-68.200.
The Bears were able to regain some momentum going into the half, taking pyramid event 29.80-29.60.
With the crowd behind them and with a 98.200-97.800 lead, it was all downhill after taking the toss event 29.35-27.85 to extend their lead.
In typical Bear fashion, they dominated in the tumbling event, 56.850-53.800, and Nowlin earned a perfect 10 in her six element pass once again.
“That landing, I felt like, was better than yesterday’s landing, so I was really happy,” Nowlin said. “I have to do it again, one more time, but I was pretty happy with today’s pass.”
Heading into the final event with the lead, Baylor ended the team event on a high note, taking the event 100.40-98.86 and winning the meet 284.800-278.310 to secure a spot in the championship.
“I didn’t feel like it was our best team routine, but it wasn’t our worst,” Nowlin said. “We still have things to improve upon and coach calls it peaking, so hopefully we peak tomorrow, but I still feel like today’s team routine was solid.”
The Bears face No. 2 Oregon, whom they’ve beaten two times this season, but even Nowlin knows that they can’t let their guard down.
“We aren’t confortable at all, we can’t let our guard down. They are a very talented team, and it is one of those things where on any given day either team could win,” Nowlin said. “We know we have to bring our A-game as usual with them. We aren’t letting our guard down tomorrow with them at all.”
The Bears take on the Ducks at 7 p.m. today at the Ferrell Center.
“We are going to go in competing out of respect. That’s how we’ve done it every day,” Mulkey said. “Oregon is a really good team. They are better than what they were at the beginning of the year, but so are we. It should be a fight to the end.”