By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
The Baylor acrobatics and tumbling team achieved its first goal Sunday night — finish the regular season undefeated.
The Bears saved their best performance for last, tallying a season-high score to knock off the fourth-ranked Oregon Ducks 286.750-284.285 for a second time this season, this time at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.
Baylor head coach Felicia Mulkey said she was pleased with her team’s effort and their ability to deal with adversity.
“This was a hard-fought win for us and I’m very proud of how the girls stuck with it. It wasn’t our cleanest match but we kept executing,” Mulkey said.
The top-ranked Bears beat Oregon 284.725-280.830 at the Ferrell Center on Feb. 24, but on Sunday, Baylor was even better.
Baylor started strong by taking the compulsory event, posting a score of 38.85, with a score of 9.95 out of 10 in the toss heat. The Bears kept their momentum going by taking the acro event as well. Baylor was nearly perfect in all three of its elements, posting no lower than a score of 9.90 per heat for an event score of 29.80.
But Oregon wasn’t ranked fourth for nothing, and the Ducks began to battle back beginning with the pyramid event. The Ducks posted higher scores in the inversion and synchronized heats before delivering a perfect score of 10 in the open heat for a score of 29.80.
The Ducks kept it going by taking the toss event with a score of 29.70.
The tumbling event went back and forth as the Ducks took the duo pass, tied the Bears in the trio pass and then scored higher in the quad pass.
But then it was Baylor’s turn to regain the momentum. Despite dropping the tumbling total 56.475-56.350, the Bears claimed the aerial pass, the six element pass and the open pass before heading to the final team event.
With a start value of 109.01, a full point higher than the start value of Oregon’s routine, Baylor executed its final event with a score of 103.00, outscoring the Ducks, who fell twice, by nearly three points to claim the event and the meet.
Mulkey said the decision to increase the difficulty in the team event prior to the trip out west was crucial for the Bears to get the win.
“We raised the start value of our team event in practice prior to this meet and it paid off and we were able to get back in front at the end with a good team performance,” Mulkey said.
For the Ducks, who dropped to 4-3 on the season, it was a disappointing finish to Senior Night. Oregon head coach Keenyn Won told goducks.com, said that the Ducks executed in all but the final event and the ability to compete from start to finish will be the difference heading into the national championships.
“Tonight I feel like we really did execute on events one through five, and that’s something we’ve really been working on — to focus on the entire meet,” Won said. “We lost because we didn’t execute, so that will be our goal going into the national championships at the end of this month, is execute everything we put on the floor so we can truly see where those scores fall.”
Baylor (8-0) has now won 16 straight meets dating back to last season, including seven straight on the road. This is also the third time in four seasons that Baylor has finished the regular season undefeated.
Even with the continued regular season success, Mulkey said she still believes her team as room for improvement as it heads toward defending postseason play.
“This was a great way to end the regular season and now we have a couple weeks to get ready for nationals,” Mulkey said. “We can still be better, we will make adjustments to a few areas and raise start values and perfect our execution. That’s the goal for practice over the next couple weeks.”
No. 1 Baylor will compete in the quarterfinal meet of the NCATA National Championships in Erie, Penn. on April 26. The Bears’ opponent has yet to be determined.