When the 2015 Oregon acrobatics and tumbling schedule came out, there was no circle around March 12. That date, Thursday, is when former Oregon coach Felecia Mulkey – who left the Ducks for Baylor this past summer – returns to Matthew Knight Arena.
Instead, the Ducks are preparing for their match with Baylor like they would against any other team. Coach Chelsea Shaw said, in preparing for Baylor, the team took time out to “respect their opponent,” a process the team has done before each meet this season.
“We do it no matter if it’s coach Felecia standing across the mat or any other coach,” Shaw said.
For the team, going up against a former coach is meaningful, but not during the meet.
“It’ll be different, but they aren’t our coaches anymore,” said sophomore and reigning National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association (NCATA) player of the week Krista Phillips. “We can’t think about it. We can think about our feelings after the meet.”
Aside from the obvious narrative of coach Mulkey’s first trip back to Oregon, the meet itself pits the top two ranked teams in the NCATA against each other. Baylor is undefeated at 4-0 after beating Azusa Pacific on Monday. Oregon is undefeated at 3-0, as well. The Bears were the only other team to receive first place votes in this year’s preseason poll. “It’s going to be neck and neck the entire time,” junior Shelby Armstrong said.
“That’s why we do this sport: it’s competitive,” Shaw said. “It’s no fun when it’s not close.”
With Oregon winning the past four NCATA National Championships, their recent domination of the sport has been apparent. Thursday’s meet between Baylor and Oregon is something Shaw called good for the entire sport.
“This sport needed another good program in it,” Shaw said. “Now, it has it and now it has that friendly camaraderie and rivalry.”
Despite the undefeated record, Shaw told GoDucks.com after last week’s win over Quinnipiac that her team would “hit the ground running” to clean up and “fine tune” some things before meeting up against Baylor. The main element of her team’s performance she wished to clean up was the consistency of “hitting it,” or perfecting a routine.
“You have to be consistent or it is just kind of luck if you hit it on the mat,” Shaw said. “I don’t like going into a meet worrying about if something is going to hit or not.”
Thursday’s meet will be the team’s “Pink Meet.” The meet will be competed in support of Play 4Kay Foundation for Breast Cancer Awareness. The Oregon athletic department is encouraging fans to wear pink for the meet. 100 pink rubber duckies will be given away to fans at the meet.
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @JoeJHoyt