On Friday, the Ducks will start the 2019 season with a No. 2 NCATA preseason ranking and with a meet against a team that holds close ties to the Oregon program.
After a coaching transition and having 19 freshmen on the team last year, Oregon feels more connected and better prepared for the upcoming season.
“I think because we know each other better now. We kinda know what our team dynamic needs and that we thrive off energy,” senior Hannah Blair said. “I think we are at a really good spot for the start of the season and I’m excited because I think we have a lot of potential to grow.”
Here is a breakdown of what to expect this season:
Another second-place preseason ranking, continued Baylor rivalry
For the fourth straight season, the Ducks will open the season ranked No. 2 in the National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association. This year also marks the fourth consecutive season the team has been ranked behind four-time defending NCATA champion, No. 1 Baylor.
Just like the previous five years, the two will face each other twice this regular season. Once in Eugene, on March 3, and once in Waco, Texas, on April 7. The Ducks will be looking for their first win against the Bears since February 2017, especially since Baylor ended Oregon’s championship run in the semifinals last year and has beaten the Ducks in the finals three times.
All but one of Oregon’s opponents in the 2019 season are ranked in the preseason top-10. Outside of Baylor, the Ducks will face No. 3 Quinnipiac and No. 4 Azusa Pacific. Oregon will open the season against No. 7 Hawaii Pacific.
Last year, Oregon ended the season 5-4 and missed the NCATA Championship Finals for the first time in program history.
Oregon hasn’t won the championship title since 2014, which at the time marked the team’s fourth straight year doing so. Since 2011, Oregon has won four of the seven NCATA National Championships.
Facing a familiar foe
For two teams that are separated by over 2,000 miles, a deep tie of connections lay in the roots of both programs.
The 2019 season will mark the second year at the helm for Oregon head coach Keenyn Won. Won joined Oregon’s first acrobatics & tumbling team in 2010 as a sophomore.
Two years after graduating, in 2014, Won helped launch Hawaii Pacific’s program in Honolulu. Won spent three years coaching the Sharks, earning an overall 17-14 record and reaching the NCATA Championships semifinals twice.
After Won left the program to join Oregon for the 2018 season, HPU hired Oregon alum Haley Garelick. This will be Garelick’s second season as head coach.
Garelick had spent the previous year as an assistant volunteer coach with the Ducks. Starting in 2015, she competed on the Oregon team for two years, helping the Ducks reach second place in the NCATA Championships both years.
Additionally, Annelyse Robinson, who competed for the Ducks from 2015 to 2018, is an assistant coach for the Sharks this season as well.
Oregon swept the Sharks last season and hasn’t lost to them since 2015. HPU ended last season 2-6 overall, for its worst season since its inception in 2014 (when the team went 1-6).
“It definitely always brings back feelings because a lot of the girls that I was fortunate to coach there are still there and it’s really cool to see them now as juniors and seniors,” Won said. “I think that’s going to be the craziest part, to see [Robinson] across the mat and see her coaching. At the end of the day, we are opponents across the mat, but I’m really excited to see the girls and see them excelling in the sport.”
The Ducks will host Hawaii Pacific on Friday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter: @maggie_vanoni