Co-captain Moneymaker's solid scores in tough rotations help Bruins.
On Super Sunday, it wasn't a running back, receiver or quarterback that deserved the MVP title.
That honor goes to Heidi Moneymaker.
In a John Wooden Center quad meet that included No. 15 University of Washington, No. 22 University of Maryland and UC Santa Barbara, co-captain Moneymaker led the UCLA women's gymnastics team (6-2) to an inspirational victory, winning the all-around title.
"Right now, she's holding the team together," said head coach Valorie Kondos.
It would seem that way, as the three-time All-American was the only constant in a Bruin team that, at times, seemed to be coming apart at the seams.
The Bruins racked up 192.350 points to UW's 191.475, capping a gutty comeback after trailing when headed into the third rotation, 144.000-143.625.
What was billed as a quadruple meet among the four schools may as well have been a simple tussle for Pac-10 dominance, with The Terrapins and Gauchos turning into also-rans behind the Huskies and Bruins, who fought it out in a seesaw battle for the top spot.
The meet got off to a good start for the Bruins, who hit difficult vaults to get the crowd into the meet early. All six Bruins hit vaults, with Moneymaker and teammate Lena Degteva doing so to the tune of thunderous applause from the crowd. With her 9.85, Moneymaker would run away with the event title.
In the second rotation came the first of the two killer B's of gymnastics - the bars and beam.
Oddly, it was the freshman who seemed to perform on the bars with the most aplomb, while the veterans were plagued with lapses in concentration. Following freshman Valerie Velasco's clean routine, senior Susie Erickson failed to grip the bar after a release move, landing on her stomach. Then junior Lena Degteva suffered the same mistake and result.
But then came Moneymaker. With a Tkatchev that flew several feet above the high bar and a picture perfect landing, the NCAA 1998 bars champion righted the shaky Bruin ship, again earning top event honors with a 9.875.
The third rotation was the most dramatic, however. Senior and fan favorite Kiralee Hayashi, suffering from the flu, fell during a double back handspring and then bobbled a simpler move. Both times, she continued, until she attempted a back tuck straddle down. Hayashi landed off center, hitting her stomach on the beam and then rolling off. Kondos made it clear to the judges that Hayashi would not continue, and led her off the floor, where she vomited.
Moneymaker got the Bruins back on track with a gorgeous beam routine that would give her one more event title, but the damage to UCLA's score was done. The Bruins trailed by three hundreths of a point entering the final rotation.
Then, something happened - UCLA got mad.
"They got mad that they didn't do well on the beam," said Kondos. "When they get mad, no one can stop them."
In an amazing display of heart and determination, the Bruins owned the floor routine. A highlight came when freshman Kaitie Dyson, who had never before performed a full floor set, had to take Hayashi's spot. She went out and performed brilliantly.
The only one who could stop Moneymaker from sweeping the event titles was teammate Allison Stoner, who took home the floor title.