Our next potential lineup analysis brings us to our first Pac-12 team of the season with the Washington Huskies. The Huskies lose a major class after their stellar season in 2017, including bars star Kaitlyn Duranczyk and floor powerhouse Alex Yacalis. With four new freshmen coming in and a few veterans returning from injury, will the Huskies be able to improve on their breakout season with the coming year?
Vault has never been a strong suit for the Huskies, who competed a lineup of almost all Yurchenko fulls most of last season. This trend will likely continue with the incoming freshmen, all of whom compete fulls. The strongest of these is Geneva Thompson, whose full gets so much height and power that it’s definitely upgradeable in the future. Jennifer Oh has also competed a strong full in the past, but due to a shoulder injury during her 2017 season, she likely won’t be in any lineups that require that kind of impact.
Like many teams we’ve already discussed, Washington will likely fill its lineups mostly with veterans. Hailey Burleson and Joslyn Goings will be the team’s senior leadership this year, both vaulting clean fulls with good dynamics. Now-sophomore Madison Copiak performed a full last year but had a powerful one and a half when she competed elite for Canada. Rumor has it that she might be back to her more difficult vault in 2018 after taking a year to adjust to NCAA competition. In addition, the Huskies expect to regain Kristyn Hoffa after spending part of last season injured, and it’s reported she’s working on a one and a half as well. The only 10.0 start value of last year’s lineup belongs to Haley Roy, who has a Tsukahara layout half. She was a bit inconsistent, with scores ranging from 9.65 to a 9.9 throughout the season, but with some more polish, she could definitely turn into a force to be reckoned with. Monica Riley vaults a half while Emily Liddle has vaulted a handspring front pike on occasion. Without the half twist added, this vault is only worth a 9.9, and Liddle’s execution is neither the cleanest nor the most consistent. Though it’s nice to see a wider variety of vaults, it likely wouldn’t be very rewarding in scores in this particular case.
In addition to all these lineup veterans from last season, Zoey Schaefer also vaulted in 2015 with a typically clean Yurchenko layout half. Word on the street is that she’s looking to break back into other lineups besides beam and floor and maybe even compete in the all around. Making the top six on vault could be a key piece of this endeavor, especially if she can improve her landings. We’re also interested to see what Evanni Roberson may be capable of. After being one of the top recruits in last year’s class, it was a major letdown to see her get injured early in the season and unable to compete at all. In her J.O. days, she had a pretty dynamic full that could definitely be an asset to Washington. Hopefully she’ll get a chance to show that off in the coming year.
With all this under consideration, here’s how we’d set up the Huskies’ vault squad.
The biggest loss to Washington’s bars will be Duranczyk, who regularly scored 9.85 or higher, though fellow graduate Janae Janik also occasionally contributed on the event. Bars is also one of the team’s weaker events, so losing one of its top scorers is going to hurt that much more, especially without a foreseeable replacement. Freshman Oh was supposed to be that filler, but her unfortunately timed injury will likely preclude her from competing bars this season. Classmate Rachel Kaplan will likely help some with her dynamic releases and huge dismount, though her handstands are occasionally a bit lacking. Thompson and Hannah Willmarth also both have workable sets, though each may have some cleaning up to do before they’re ready for the competition floor.
With the returners, Goings and Burleson will still likely be in leadership roles, but not necessarily in an anchor or lead-off position. Goings is certainly consistent enough for the lead, but it would benefit her overall AA score more for her to go later, since she’s capable of bigger scores. Copiak, Michaela Nelson and Maya Washington were all regular contributors last season, and now with a year of experience under their belts, they should be more consistent, less nervous and able to slide into some of those key lineup positions. Riley also competed bars a few times last year, with varying levels of success. If she can calm the nerves and find some consistency, she might make a good alternate for the bars squad. Here’s how we think the lineup order for the event will play out.
Beam was Washington’s strongest event last season, so it’ll be quite difficult for any of the newcomers to crack the top six. If she can put together a solid Bluetooth routine, Oh is actually the best newcomer of the group. She’s already been seen training a new routine with no hands so that her shoulder injury isn’t a total season-ender, but she’ll have to prove that she can land everything consistently and solidly. Kaplan is another possible choice, with clean lines and an air of confidence radiating from each step of her choreography. Her splits can be a little short though, and her front toss lands a bit low, though NCAA routine requirements may allow her to exchange that for another element that might be easier for her.
The beam lineup should remain largely filled with veterans though, with Schaefer and Goings as the standouts. Burleson has also been excellent on beam, but the recent announcements to the changes in the NCAA code, particularly in the way they evaluate beam series, puts her at risk for devaluation if her routine stays as is. Malory Rose may also be at risk for devaluation, but she already has some more difficult elements in her routine that may make up for the lower-valued series, unlike Burleson. She’s also more of a natural beam worker, so if she does need to add or change elements, it will likely come easier to her than it might for some of her teammates. Also expect Washington and Nelson to be strongly in the mix. Both scored steadily in the 9.8s last year with clean and steady routines that will provide Washington with good foundation scores to build on for their late-lineup stars. Another to keep in mind is Roberson. Her beam work in J.O. was dynamic and unique, and she always fought to stay on the event even if she was off on a landing. She could be a great fill-in for anyone who gets injured or needs to be rested. Here’s how we’d lay out the beam lineup for the Huskies.
Floor has been a bit of a work in progress for Washington, with a lot of ups and downs in floor scoring and performance last season. Losing multiple key gymnasts to injury is not the way to start a season, but both Roberson and Hoffa were out within the first month of competition. Now the Huskies lose one of their biggest scorers on floor in Yacalis, but luckily, some extra depth comes to the rescue this year in the form of freshman Thompson. Her full-in is even bigger than Yacalis’, and her floor presence and long lines definitely give head coach Elise Ray something she can work with. Kaplan and Willmarth also are both pretty clean floor workers, though neither has the huge tumbling to compete with Thompson.
As with beam, expect floor to still be mostly veterans. Rumor has it that Schaefer is training a full-in and that it’s coming along nicely. Hoffa should also be back from her injury and ready to compete. Even without an E pass, her routine scored 9.9 before she was hurt last year, so if she can get back to that kind of competitive level, she should be a shoo in for even late lineup positions. Goings and Burleson will again be staples, likely bookending the lineup with their strong and steady tumbling work and workable choreography. Also watch out for Washington—she’s a dynamic performer, and if she can maintain her trajectory from the end of last season, she’s certain to score well in 2018. The cherry on top for the Huskies would be to have Roberson back in full form, as her full-in could potentially mean three E passes for the team. Taking these developments into account, here’s what we propose for the Huskies’ floor squad.
In the all around, this setup guarantees Goings and Burleson spots in every event. Burleson finished 2017 ranked No. 16 in the all around, and although Goings did not have enough AA meets in the regular season to have an RQS and thus a national ranking, she’s been one of the most consistent, level-headed performers for Washington during her time in Seattle. Over the last two years, she’s only had two falls across all four events, a feat very few gymnasts can say they’ve accomplished. Schaefer, as we mentioned above, is also working toward the all around, though she’ll have to break back into both vault and bars to do so. Throughout her career, she has competed all four events but never all in one meet.
Overall, the Huskies seem to be in for another good season. Keeping everyone healthy will likely be their biggest key to success, though with more people returning from injury and all the new freshmen, they’ll already have more depth than was available in 2017. If they can keep everyone in one piece and keep pushing the envelope, they might even make a return trip to the national championships.
Check back soon for our analysis of the Nebraska Cornhuskers! And to see all the posts in the potential lineups series, click here.
Article by Caroline Medley, graphics by Emily Howell-Forbes