UCLA didn't make Super Six last year for the first time since 2009, and it's not going to be any easier this year after the losses of Olivia Courtney and Syd Sawa. Courtney and Sawa accounted for 7 routines from last year's postseason lineup, and while that's not all that many compared to some other teams, these were mostly significant routines. Besides Danusia Francis's beam and Sam Peszek's everything, Courtney and Sawa accounted for the rest of the realistic 9.9s in 2014, so the Bruins will need to find new 9.9s (particularly floor and vault 9.9s) from somewhere.
The 9.9 scenario is the main question I have about this freshman class. It's a class of possibilities and yet-to-be-honed raw potential, and I expect to hear a lot this season about how rewarding this class has been to coach. As part of that potential, I see a TON of 9.800s floating around (if UCLA is putting up consistent 9.7s in lineups again this year, they will have only themselves to blame—or not training on podium, or whatever), but are there enough 9.9s?
That's why Peng Peng Lee's comeback is more than essential for UCLA. She is a glorious ray of hope made out of dreams and wishes and 9.9s, and at her best, is capable of partnering with Peszek to lift this team to national competitiveness. Even if they're taking it easy with Peng now that her knee is made out of scalpels (I don't know how surgery works), she can still be a huge boost to bars and beam, which will limit the expectations placed on the freshmen. I suppose Peng sort of counts as a freshman because she has never done a routine for UCLA, but at this point she's one of the oldest members of the team. I'm not profiling her as one of the freshmen, especially because I did last year and then UCLA announced she was out for the year again the very next day. I'm a jinx. Let's stop talking about it and move on to the real freshmen.
Pua Hall is the most recognizable name in the group, having competed as a junior elite in 2009 and 2010. While I do wonder how many big-impact routines there will be in this class, one of those big routines should be Hall's vault, especially for a team that put up way too many 9.725s in the first three spots last season. (In case you're wondering, the correct number of 9.725s is zero.)
She has been competing that 1.5 for approximately forever, and it's quite good. She won vault in her division at JO Nationals in 2013 and brings the power, distance, and form for a usable score here depending on which vault is selected for her. (I would think full, but this team needs someone doing more difficulty than a yfull. They haven't had that since Zam's occasional Lopez and McCullough's 1.5. It's time for another 1.5). Hall will need to be hanging out with Peszek at the back of that lineup.
Floor is probably the other likely area for Hall to compete for a spot. She shows a double arabian as part of a solid-enough repertoire of tumbling, and now that she's in Val Land, her general foundation of style and presence should be sufficiently UCLA-ified into a true floor performance. As a quick mention, bars has been Hall's weak event in her career, but in kind of a McKayla Maroney way, she has a randomly huge gienger nestled in there. I'm vaguely hoping they can work some magic on that routine so we get to see the gienger.