EUGENE, Ore. - From tumbling to the ground on the sidelines in sync, with their legs and arms up in the air, to later dropping down on their stomachs after a shout of "hit the deck" and rolling back and forth while laughing uncontrollably, the University of Oregon Acrobatics and Tumbling Team continued to surprise the audience.
Matthew Knight Arena, the stands full and colorful as always, hosted the Azusa Pacific Cougars from southern California as they faced off against the Ducks.
While the sideline antics were unexpected, a victory wasn’t: the Ducks finished with their fifth straight win, beating the Cougars 283.950 to 270.280.
Oregon remains the only undefeated team in the nation.
“Tonight was really exciting,” base position Lauren Loos said. “The team just had a really light atmosphere going on. We didn’t take anything too seriously, and we didn’t take it too lightly. People were on their A-game, prepared to focus when we needed to and just had fun when we had time.”
While Oregon seemed to be sillier than usual, head coach Felecia Mulkey explained the strategy behind the games.
“We’re doing really well skill-wise, and we have some room for improvement as always, but one of the things we’re working on moving forward is really being able to flip the switch and focus,” Mulkey said, “to have fun on the sidelines but focus when they go out there, no matter what environment.”
“We were making fun things on the side lines,” said Loos, a senior in her last season on the team. “‘Hit the deck,’ we all dropped on our stomach and rolled over. It was just really fun and everyone was embracing each other. There’s a really big bond with this team, everyone really gets along and you can see that on the sidelines.”
“We don’t want to go to the national championship and get caught up in the hype and not be able to perform when we need to,” Mulkey said. “That was part of what the sideline antics were tonight, we did a little bit of that at practice.”
The biggest difference in the event scoring was when Oregon beat out Azusa 102.20 to 95.58 in the team routine, exceeding their previous event score by at least 7 points.
Watch the Oregon team routine
>>> WATCH More Acrobatics and Tumbling Video | Photo Gallery
Overall, the Ducks remained at least one point ahead of the Cougars for each of the five categories of the meet, except for the pyramid event, where they scraped by with a score of 29.75 to 29.25.
“We changed a few personnel in five element acro and they didn’t do exactly what I wanted them to do,” Mulkey said, then added laughing, “but I think I’ll give them one more chance.”
The Ducks head to Texas for a rematch with the Baylor Bears on Saturday, April 6, and then to Connecticut on April 25 for the National Championship.