Caitlin Slater, guest writer
In a close and nail-biting meet, the Azusa Pacific acrobatics and tumbling team lost to Hawaii Pacific (HPU) on Monday, Feb. 13 in their opening meet of the season at home. The Cougars who scored 275.105 lost by 37-hundredths of a point to HPU, who won with 275.475.
The loss was the fourth-smallest margin of defeat APU has had in its seven years of competition as a founding program in the NCATA,
Yet the team is not going to let the loss foreshadow their season. They are more motivated than ever before.
“Mentally everyone has a fire lit under them and we are even more motivated to go out and get the next win,” senior and team captain Kalani Aguigui said.
Returning to the team is junior top and base athlete Noelle Miranda, who competed throughout the entire event. Miranda shared that she was a bit shocked at the loss, and felt that the team was more prepared for this meet compared to last year.
Last season, APU was edged by by Hawaii Pacific in the NCATA Quarterfinals. In the eight team championship bracket, APU finished fifth, Hawaii Pacific finished in fourth.
“We had a plan and knew we could execute things. We just had to hit in order to win and for the most part we did hit, we just had a couple issues,” Miranda said.
The team won two out of the six events, dominating in tumbling and compulsory, but falling behind in the team event and pyramid event. It was a consistent battle between the Sharks and the Cougars.
“We made some mistakes but we’ve got to learn from those and move forward,” head coach Coleen Kausrud said. “I told the team at the end if we don’t learn from our mistakes, then we lose.”
Looking at APU’s team this year, Aguigui described the the overall team dynamic this year as unified.
“We’ve stressed it from the beginning that we are always going to be there for one another, and we are always going to push each other to be the best, but also love each other no matter what,” Aguigui said. “I think in the past that’s been lacking and there’s been some separation in the class groups, but I’m just as close to some of the freshman as I am to the seniors, so I think our unity and confidence this year is a lot better than what we put out on the floor last year.”
Although there is an individual aspect to the sport of acrobatics and tumbling, Miranda says focusing on the team is what brings this group closer than ever.
After losing eleven athletes from last season, the team has been able to rally together and motivate each other.
Looking forward, some specific goals for the team as they prepare for their next meet is to clean up their team event. They would also like to increase their tumbling scores, making sure that all of their events are executed to the best of their ability.
In addition to improving skills, the team would also like to focus on controlling their nerves for the upcoming matches.
“We need to calm our nerves,” Miranda said. “We need to not get ahead of ourselves, especially in the team event. We think about one thing in the beginning of the routine and we don’t get to it until the end.”
Despite the loss, Kausrud expressed pride at how the freshman stepped up in this first meet as well as the veteran athletes.
“The veterans did really well in tumbling”, Kausrud said. As for the freshman in their first meet, Kausrud went on to say: “You kind of find out where your freshman are, how competitive they are and how much of a performer they are.”
Kausrud would like the team to focus on cleaning up the little details, and taking the extra steps necessary to improve their scores, along with avoiding deduction penalties.
The Cougars will have a chance at redemption next week, as they will fly out to Hawaii Pacific for a rematch against the Sharks on Friday, Feb. 24.