No. 1 Baylor acro & tumbling blows past No. 4 Oregon, advances to national championship

No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling secured 17 scores of 9.0 or higher, and the Bears only dropped one heat to No. 4 Oregon on Friday. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Zach Babajanof-Rustrian | Sports Writer

No. 1 Baylor acrobatics and tumbling defeated No. 4 Oregon in the semifinals of the NCATA National Championship by a score of 268.355 to 260.470 on Friday night at the Feaster Center in Fairmont, W.Va.

The Bears (10-0) advanced to the national championship round with the win, and they’ll face No. 3 Gannon at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the same venue. Baylor extended its win streak to 36 meets with Friday’s win over the Ducks (4-4), which marked the third meeting between the two programs this season.

In the first event of the meet, the Compulsory event, the Bears were able to put up a 9.650, 9.775, 9.800 and 8.900. The Ducks earned a 9.475, 9.650, 9.550 and 8.600 and were trailing Baylor 38.125 to 37.275 going into the second event.

In the Acro event, Baylor was able to earn a total score of 29.275 and Oregon earned 28.575. Baylor was up 1.85 points.

In heat one — inversion heat — the Bears put up their highest score of the meet. The Bears garnered a total of 29.45, elevating their total score to 96.85. The Ducks earned a total of 28.55 for the event and raised their total score to 94.10 going into halftime.

During the halftime intermission, head coach Felecia Mulkey told the ESPN+ broadcast that facing Oregon is always exciting and that she has a ton of respect for Oregon’s head coach Taylor Susnara and the program she has built.

“[Susnara] does a fantastic job and they’ve done so well this year,” Mulkey said. “And we played them at the beginning [of the season]. We always get to play them at the beginning of the season and the end.

“And it’s just always so much fun to compete against them, I feel like both sides really bring the best out of themselves. … We get excited every time.”

Mulkey also mentioned that Baylor was going to peak at the right time when it came to the second half, especially in the Toss event, as the Bears seem to struggle in that event.

After halftime came to an end, Baylor carried over its success from Thursday, as it earned a 9.825, 9.500 and 9.650. Baylor was up 125.825 to 121.300.

Mulkey said the team left some improvement to be desired in Toss but was happy with heat one and three in the event.

“I’m still overall impressed with them because we are not a great toss team,” Mulkey said in a post-meet press conference. “But we decided this week we’re going to be a toss team. I am impressed with that, we left a little bit of room for heat two.”

In the tumbling event, freshmen tumblers Payton Washington and Emily Bott both scored higher than 9.0 points. The Bears earned a total of 56.950 and the Ducks earned 55.150.

Even though Washington and Bott have stood out as impactful first-year athletes, Mulkey said she won’t be surprised when other members of the freshmen class start taking strides and showing what they have to offer to the team.

“I’m proud of all of them; Payton just continues to trend upward, she does whatever we ask,” Mulkey said. “Emily Bott [is] also an absolute rockstar athlete, you’re going to see a lot of them out of the next four years.

“And I think you’re going to see other names creeping up there from this class as well. So for me, when I see freshmen in those positions, I just say — ‘The future’s bright.’”

In the last event of the meet, Baylor scored a total of 85.580 and Oregon scored a total of 84.020. The Bears defeated the Ducks 268.355 to 260.470.

Even with the loss, Susnara said she aspires to do what Mulkey, a former Oregon head coach, has done and elevate thr Ducks’ program.

“I think sometimes it can be negative, but all in all — like our athletes said — I think it’s just something that there’s mutual respect there [between Baylor and Oregon],” Susnara told reporters after the match. “And just kind of amping up the overall skill sets that we’re doing, and you can see all the other schools are right up there and they’re coming in with really awesome skills.”

Since Baylor took down Oregon, it will head to the finals of the NCATA National Championship as the Bears will face No. 3 Gannon in a 2022 National Championship rematch. Mulkey said she was not surprised when she heard that Gannon defeated No. 2 Quinnipiac.

Baylor will take on Gannon in the finals for the NCATA National Championships at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the Feaster Center.