Oregon acrobatics and tumbling prepares to tune out "Zu" crowd in first meet
Oregon senior Tara Lubert remembers the night her team’s 25-meet winning-streak snapped – April 7, 2014. She recalls the date off the top of her head.
That night, the Ducks fell to Azusa Pacific by less than a point, 283.40-282.48.
Lubert and the majority of her teammates also remember the atmosphere. Raucous, crazy and intense were some of the words associated with the “Zu” – the all-black wearing student section at Azusa Pacific.
“Everyone wanted to see the David against Goliath matchup,” said Jon Root, the leader of the Zu, “and they got excited for it.”
Eventually, Oregon traveled back to the Felix Event Center at Azusa Pacific for the National Championship and a rematch with the Cougars. The Ducks returned home with their fourth-consectuve National Championship.
The major difference, Lubert says, was the fire instilled in them by the loss.
“We trained harder than we’ve ever trained,” she said. “I think we actually imitated them a little bit by not letting the last loss effect us.”
This year, under new coach Chelsea Shaw, the preparation for the team’s opening meet against Asuza incorporates standard training with a mix of mental toughness. Shaw said that she likes to use “meet-day situations” in practice to ready her team for everything they’ll face in an actual meet. That includes the expected intensity and pressure Oregon will face from the Zu.
During practice, Oregon athletes who are not practicing on the mat will yell and heckle their teammates.
“You should hear some of the things our girls say to the rest of the team,” Shaw says with a laugh. “It’s kind of funny to watch.”
Practicing for all aspects of a meet requires the perfectionist mentality needed to do well in acrobatics and tumbling. Synchronizing moves and perfecting pinpoint catches goes hand-in-hand with tuning out an opposing crowd.
“We do a good job of practicing every little thing and nit picking,” senior base Erika Schaefer said. “We’re all down to the details here at Oregon.”
Root said that the Zu plans on holding a rally prior to the meet – one example of the school’s increased hype regarding the matchup against Oregon. The Zu’s Facebook page’s first post is encouraging followers to attend the meet, saying “come watch APU Acro destroy Oregon’s Acro team like Ohio State did to their football team in the National Championship!”
Lubert expects to hear the date, April 7, chanted a lot throughout the meet on Wednesday. As for specifics, Root declined to say what the Ducks team should expect from the Zu this time around.
“I wish I could disclose that information,” he said, “but I think it would be better for Oregon to find out when they get here.”
Oregon and Azusa Pacific will face-off on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. (PT).
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @JoeJHoyt
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