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Gymnastics takes down Washington

LOOK OUT BELOW: ASU junior Francesca Mercurio competes on the uneven bars in the home meet against UA last month. The Sun Devils defeated No. 24 Washington in Seattle on Saturday, and Mercurio earned the win on the uneven bars. (Photo by Molly Smith)

ASU gymnastics coach John Spini wanted his team to prove it could be a back-to-back meet team.

He can check that goal off his list.

Coming off of its best performance of the year, the ASU women’s gymnastics team beat No. 24 Washington on Saturday afternoon, 195.650-195.425, in a Pac-10 dual meet.

In doing so, the No. 25 Sun Devils (2-6) upped their best away score by more than two full points, drastically improving their regional qualifying score.

“We’re capable of so much more,” Spini said. “Watching them, I’m thinking, we can develop into a team that can challenge for one of those 12 spots at nationals.”

The win snapped ASU’s three-meet losing streak.

“We are moving forward every meet,” Spini said. “We are in a good spot mentally, which we haven’t been in a couple years.”

The No. 24 Huskies (2-6) were the fourth consecutive ranked team the Sun Devils had faced.

“We got to the meet and you could just see they were going to do their job and be aggressive,” Spini said. “It was pretty exciting.”

ASU started off shaky on the uneven bars, tallying below its season average with a 48.600. UW countered with its best performance of the year in any event, reaching the magic number 49.000 on vault for the first time all season.

That’s when the momentum shifted in the Sun Devils’ favor.

“We did very well on vault­ — our legs were very strong, the legs were fresh and [we] got some good landings,” Spini said. “[ASU junior] Carly McMahon did a great job with a 9.825 and that was her first time doing that vault. We averaged over a 9.8 on vault — that was a huge thing for us.”

With help from the Huskies’ struggles on beam, ASU took the lead heading into the final rotation by four tenths of a point with a season-high 49.100 on floor.

“We had to hit beam if we were going to keep the lead and win,” Spini said. “We went out there, and [ASU senior] Kaitlynn [Bormann] hit with a 9.800. Then [ASU junior Francesca Mercurio] gets her first hit of the year, where she nails everything. The momentum just kept building.”

After the next two Sun Devils landed their performances, a fall by ASU sophomore Kahoku Palafox left the meet hanging on final routine.

“Now it’s up to [ASU junior] Mary [Atkinson] to win the meet,” Spini said. “Under pressure, Mary comes up with a huge beam routine for us.”

That’s why she anchors every event.

Atkinson’s 9.775 put the nail in the coffin to secure the Sun Devils’ fourth consecutive win over the Huskies.

The junior also took home her first outright all-around title with a 39.175 total.

Individual event winners were Atkinson on vault, Mercurio on bars and Atkinson and ASU freshman Nicole Johnson on floor.

“We didn’t get to stay for the awards — we were rushing to catch our flight,” Spini said. “So as soon as the meet was over, we were hustling out the door.”

Get in and get out with a victory.

Simple enough.

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