by Brady Johnson
Athletic Communications Assistant
EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon, Azusa Pacific and Quinnipiac made up three of the four original members of acrobatics and tumbling when the sport switched to the NCATA National Championship format prior to the 2011 season.
At that time, head coaches from either team wouldn’t shy away from sharing tips and ideas in the better interests of the sport. The times have changes since then, the playing field has leveled off and all three have established their programs.
A tri-meet on Monday night at Matt Knight Arena will bring all three teams together for the first time this season. All three are undefeated and all three are looking to kick start their march to a title with this massive meet.
“We’ve all helped each other out to grow as programs, but the playing field has leveled since then,” said UO head coach Felicia Mulkey. “This tri-meet will feature three teams that have done a really good job building their programs. We know we will be competing against two teams that are as good as us, and we’re excited to see that level of competition early in the season.”
Oregon (1-0), Azusa Pacific (1-0) and Quinnipiac (2-0) will compete at 7 p.m. (PST) in Eugene on Monday. While the playing field has evened out in the sport’s landscape, the Ducks have laid claim to superiority with three straight NCATA National Championships and a win streak of 22 matches.
The Ducks are undefeated against the Cougars and Bobcats, sporting a combined 11-0 record between the two schools. The storyline from Monday’s tri-meet will either be about Azusa Pacific and Quinnipiac’s coup d'état of UO’s established power, or Oregon continuing its reign of dominance.
“Both Quinnipiac and Azusa Pacific are very good, but we’re still the hunted team,” said Mulkey. “Everybody wants to beat Oregon, and both of those two would definitely like to be the first to beat us.”
While each team is an original member of the sport, all three have unique styles. Quinnipiac, who fell to UO in the NCATA National Championship last season, is known for their intricate pyramid heats. Boasting a smaller lineup, Azusa Pacific is known for their creativeness in acro.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are renowned for talent and innovation across the board – which has led to three straight titles. While Monday’s tri-meet will be a clash of styles, it’s sure to be a battle of the most proven teams in the nation.
“I have a lot of respect for both of them,” said Mulkey, referring to the Cougars and Bobcats. “They’ve really built their programs well and are more than capable of giving us a run for our money. I think all of our players and coaches are excited for that type of challenge.”
The Ducks looked impressive in their season-opener, overcoming a few injuries and lineup changes in a victory over Baylor. Oregon topped the Bears, 280.200-274.380, and remained unbeaten in season-opening meets.
UO took away many positives from the win, but that was nearly a month ago (Feb. 13). With Quinnipiac and Azusa Pacific both competing well after UO’s season-opener, the Ducks need to quickly shake off any rust from the break.
Mulkey doesn’t expect that to be a problem. Her roster this season has been a focused one, boasting veteran leadership.
“It’s tough to have that great feeling after a season-opening win and then sit on it for a month before competing again,” said Mulkey. “The team has kept pushing themselves at every practice and I think you’ll see a better team this time out. I’m excited to see a sense of urgency from them.”
Mulkey and the Ducks are also excited to compete in front of another home crowd. UO opens the season with three straight home meets before closing on the road – making each meet at Matthew Knight Arena a valuable one.
Monday’s tri-meet will be a Yell-O-Out, with fans receiving $2 admission for wearing yellow. The meet will also be held on Family Night as groups of four receive $12 admission overall.
After a month-long break from action, the Ducks are in for a quick turnaround after returning to action. UO will host another tri-meet six days later, entertaining Alderson-Broaddus and Hawaii Pacific on March 16 at 2 p.m. (PST).