Next Stop... Fayetteville

After only three lineup appearances in her first three seasons, senior Regi Solvkjar emerged as a steady beam scorer in 2014. She earned All-MPSF honors with a 9.780 RQS in the event.
(Wayne Tilcock, Davis Enterprise)

March 31, 2014

Weekly Release - NCAA Regional Edition Get Acrobat Reader | NCAA Fayetteville Regional Meet Central

DAVIS, Calif. - As the crowning moment of its record-setting 2014 season, the UC Davis women's gymnastics makes its first team appearance at an NCAA region championship meet since 1998, and its first ever as a national top 36 qualifier. The 34th-ranked Aggies head to Fayetteville, Ark., competing in a tough field that includes No. 5 Utah, No. 8 UCLA, No. 17 host Arkansas, No. 24 Arizona State and No. 30 Utah State.

The meet, which begins at 2 p.m. PDT on Saturday, stands as the 13th date on a 2014 schedule that has seen seven of the top 10 team scores in program history, including the record 196.425 back on February 28.

For eighth-year head coach John Lavallee, it serves not only as a culminating moment for the season but for his UC Davis career. The Aggies have knocked on the NCAA postseason door on several occasions, including a No. 39 finish in 2010. Furthermore, nine of Lavallee's gymnasts had earned a total of 15 individual at-large appearances since his arrival in 2007, including three-person contingents in 2008, 2010 and 2013.

Thus, while the magnitude of this meet is not lost on the veteran coach, the manner in which his UC Davis team performs at Arkansas' Barnhill Arena shall be no different than the one showcased at the UC Davis' own ARC Pavilion, at Seattle Pacific's Royal Brougham Pavilion, at Cal's Haas Pavilion, at San Jose State's Event Center, or any other arena that has hosted the Aggies' high-level gymnastics this season.

"We certainly need to embrace the moment and take stock of what we've done and what we've been able to accomplish," said Lavallee. "But the bottom line is that we will put the same face on, and do the same Aggie gymnastics that has made us successful and that got us this opportunity. From that standpoint, nothing will change in terms of how we conduct ourselves."

That mentality dates back to Lavallee's multi-sport high school days, when he stepped in as the quarterback. His team ran a veer offense, which requires a minimal number of plays. "When we got down to the goal line, I asked our coach what to do," Lavallee recalls. "That's when my coach gave me the best piece of advice I ever got: whatever play got me to the goal line is the one that will get you in.

"From a coaching standpoint, I've always remembered that. Here we are, and we're at the goal line. It's not time to come up with something fancy. Whatever got us here is what will get us in. It's my philosophy for making the Big Dance."

UC Davis received its most recent taste of a high-energy championship environment at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships, where the Aggies placed second behind Sacramento State and ahead of No. 31 San Jose State. Junior Kala DeFrancesco emerged as the team's top performer that night, capturing the conference uneven bars title at 9.825 and tying for second on both vault (career-high 9.875) and floor (9.850). Sophomore Dani Judal also placed second in two events, scoring 9.800 on bars and 9.825 on beam.

The unsung heroes of the Aggies' runner-up finish, the program's highest during the six-team era of the MPSF, were those asked to fill in for injured senior Anna Shumaker. A co-captain and All-MPSF honoree in all four events plus the all-around, Shumaker was limited only to uneven bars due to an upper-leg strain. Sophomore Jamie Yamashita, a spot starter on floor throughout the year, took the sixth spot of the lineup and hit a 9.700. Freshman Yonni Michovska hit a career-high 9.775 on vault in the second rotation.

Then freshman Rachel Kreager, only one year removed from reconstructive knee surgery, made her lineup debut with a 9.800, good for a tie for fourth in the meet and enough to cushion the Aggies from San Jose State, which finished three tenths behind in third place. The Santa Rosa native had only appeared in meets as an exhibition performer, scoring as high as 9.625 in a home dual with Sacramento State.

The MPSF Championships continued a streak of meets in which UC Davis has scored no lower than 194.225, resulting in a program-record 195.260 regional-qualifying score and the team berth in the NCAA regional. "These athletes have really pushed themselves and stretched themselves like never before, and they've been able to bring this program to the next level," said Lavallee.


REWRITING THE BOOK: UC Davis set or tied team event records on all four events plus the team score... The vault team went 49.050 in a home quad on Jan. 26... The uneven bars team broke the 49-point barrier three times, including a 49.225 on Feb. 28 that eclipsed a 15-year-old benchmark... The beam team also surpassed a 1999 record with a 48.925 on Jan. 26, then broke and rebroke its own mark with scores of 49.125 on Jan. 31 and 49.175 on Feb. 21... The floor team joined a three-way tie for No. 1 in Aggie annals with a 49.425 in that Feb. 28 SPU home dual.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: The 194.700 scored at the 2008 MPSF Championship stood as the school record for more than four full seasons, and entered 2014 as the No. 4 all-time score, but fell out of the school's top 10 this year... It clung to the last spot after the 194.950 at Cal on Mar. 15 but eventually was displaced from the record book after the Aggies went 194.875 at conference a week later.

ALL-MPSF: Eight Aggies earned a total of 16 All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation honors, based on season RQS entering the conference championship... Senior Anna Shumaker was one of two gymnasts (along with San Jose State's Cami Guyer) to garner nods in all four events plus the all-around... Kala DeFrancesco earned awards in three events (V, UB, FX), Dani Judal (UB, BB) and Stephanie Stamates (BB, FX) picked up two apiece... Redshirt freshman Katy Nogaki (V), junior Lisa Wiktorski (UB), senior Regi Solvkjar (BB) and junior Tiana Montell (BB) each appeared on once All-MPSF roll.

TAMARA'S TEAM: Sacramento State's Randy Solorio (a former Aggie gymnast) earned MPSF Assistant Coach of the Year, but a strong case was probably made for UC Davis' Tamara Ross, who oversees the beam squad... That group scored six of the program's top seven all-time scores in six consecutive meets from Jan. 26-Feb. 21... Sophomore Dani Judal entered the year with a career high of 9.700 but ranked 2nd in the MPSF with a 9.835 RQS in 2014... Senior Regi Solvkjar had appeared in the event just three times in her first three seasons but improved to a 9.780 RQS this year, good for her first all-conference award... Speaking of which, UC Davis took four of the six at-large spots for All-MPSF: Shumaker, Solvkjar, Stephanie Stamates and Tiana Montell.

HOW THE `SHU' FITS: Anna Shumaker arguably enjoyed the best overall season in school history... Her 39.175 all-around RQS broke the MPSF record previously held by Spartan Dani Albright, who posted a 39.130 in 2003... Shumaker also won the conference's Gymnast of the Week award four times, more than any other in that category (Greer took home Specialist of the Week honors five times)... Her 9.925 on floor on Feb. 26 is the highest by any Aggie on any apparatus since Tiffany Chan set a school record of 9.950 at the 2004 MPSF Championships... Shumaker broke the 39-point barrier six times this year, including five straight to close the regular season.

THE 9.9 CLUB: Five different Aggies broke the 9.9 barrier in an event in 2014, more than in any other season... Stephanie Stamates did it twice, hitting exactly that mark on floor on Feb. 28 and Mar. 15... Katy Nogaki (vault) and Dani Judal (beam) tied school records of 9.900 in their respective events on Jan. 26... Shumaker went 9.925 on floor on Feb. 28, edging Kala DeFrancesco's 9.900... The school record for total 9.900 scores is 11, done in both 2001 and 2002... However, those were spread among "only" three gymnasts each year -- Ericka Ruelas (5), Flora Bare (4) and Poppy Major (2) in 2001; Ruelas (5), Tiffany Chan (5) and Bare (1) in 2002.