After heartbreak in the NCATA National Championship, Oregon acrobatics and tumbling can look back on the 2017 season with a feeling of success.
The Ducks went 8-2 — their only losses coming against the Baylor Bears, who won the national championship against Oregon on Saturday in southern California. It was the third consecutive year that the Ducks have come second to the Bears. Head coach Chelsea Shaw, however, believes that even with the loss, the team has a lot of momentum moving forward.
“Huge things for the program — it’s definitely looking up,” Shaw said in Saturday’s post-meet press conference. “This year was a fantastic year for us, and although it hurts right now and the loss is hard, it was a great year.”
Oregon had many dominant performances from the start of the season and never seemed to let off the gas pedal for the entire year.
“These kids came in with a mindset that you couldn’t stop, and again as a coach, you want nothing more than for your kids to want it and for your kids to succeed,” Shaw said. “From the first meeting, they wanted it. They had a fire. They’ve trained harder than they’ve ever trained.”
Though the Ducks did not come home with the team national title, Oregon won four individual national titles, including in the salto toss, quad tumbling pass, six-element tumbling pass and the open tumbling pass.
“Just coming in this year we really had that great fire,” junior Taylor Galvin said. “After tonight, we don’t want to go into next season feeling this way again, so I think coming in with the right mindset.”
Galvin and Krista Phillips both made the 2017 NCATA All-American team. A senior, Phillips took home a national team title in 2014 with Oregon but said she felt closer to this year’s team.
“Since the start, it’s been a journey for sure,” Phillips said. “I think that the team has made it special every year. I think this year, I’ve never felt something so special.”
The team’s togetherness became a cornerstone of 2017. It’s evident when the Ducks pump up one another before their heats, or when the entire team embraces following the team event. The Ducks didn’t let the loss to Baylor crush them, though.
“I think throughout the season they kept getting better in everything,” Shaw said. “There wasn’t maybe one area that they just kept improving on. They wanted it. Every time something went wrong they wanted to go back and fix it. They wanted to tweak it. They wanted to make it right.”
As time goes on and the sport becomes more competitive, more teams will have coaches like Shaw who have performed on the mat as an athlete and now coach at the same level.
“The university has really changed my life being a student-athlete so I feel incredibly blessed to now coach and give that opportunity back,” Shaw said. “Our plan is to just keep getting better, keep training hard and keep pushing the sport forward.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow