ASU, UA gymnastics teams split Territorial Cup series

There were a couple of noticeable differences between the two women’s gymnastics meets that made up the Territorial Cup competition between Arizona and Arizona State this season.

First, only one team in the initial meeting at the end of January was nationally ranked.  Arizona went into that match with a No. 15 ranking – and lost to the unranked Sun Devils, 195.875 to 194.350, despite taking first place in all four events.

Then, following a win over Utah State less than a week later, the Sun Devils climbed into the rankings at No. 25.  The Gym Devils had opened the season with a 4-0 start, their best start since 1996.

The other difference in the meets was the outcome.

Home-court advantage shifted on Friday and the Wildcats, ranked No. 16, squeezed past their Pac-12 rivals in a meet that came down to the day’s final event, the floor exercises.  At that point, just .3 points separated the two teams.

But the Cats posted a floor total of 48.925 to win the event and wind up with a season-high total of 195.900.  ASU also scored well, recording its best score of the season on the road, 195.500.

But it wasn’t quite enough to pull off the sweep.

“I was very happy for the girls,” Arizona head coach, Bill Ryden, said after the meet.   “I feel like they’ve practiced hard, and they worked it tonight.  I think that we’re a really good team, and last time here we didn’t show it as much.

“This time, we showed our fans that we truly are a good gymnastics team.”

Even the individual all-around competition was close this time.  Arizona’s Aubree Cristello won the all-around with a score of 39.300, but ASU’s Beate Jones was right with her, finishing just .025 short of the gold.  Jones won the all-around in the earlier meeting with a score of 39.200.

In fact, these two teams have been close since the pre-season, when Arizona was picked to finish sixth in the Pac-12 and ASU was right behind in a tie for seventh with California.  There are only eight gymnastics teams in the conference, so that’s a good indicator of what the other Pac-12 coaches thought of their chances.

But halfway through the season they’re both ranked.  Arizona, which finished last season with a No. 20 national ranking, moved back up to No. 15 after Friday’s win.  ASU,  which ended 2011 ranked 29th, held on at No. 25, despite falling to No. 1 Utah on Sunday.

And the Territorial Cup results haven’t done much to separate the teams, either.  Each picked up a half point for their respective wins.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)