Although Cal earned a commanding victory over Air Force last weekend, its performance was not quite perfect. Ahead of their second dual meet, the Bears needed to clean up the little details to defeat the Wildcats.
On Saturday, they stepped up to the task and delivered. Succinctly put, they were “much improved,” said co-head coach Justin Howell. Cal bagged a tremendous win over Arizona, toppling the Wildcats with a score of 196.075 to 194.875.
During their first meet at Berkeley, the blue and gold sharpened their weak points: beam and floor. Although their beam performance was not enough to eclipse the Wildcats, who are ranked 11th in the country on this event, the Bears still showed marginal improvement.
But it was Cal’s floor routine that showed the most potential. The team elevated its event score from 48.85 to 49.15. Correspondingly, the blue and gold jumped from No. 31 to No. 21 in the Road to Nationals rankings in the event.
Given the Bears’ practice strategy, their progress on floor seems almost predictable.
“The load that we put on them in practice tends to be heavier than competition,” Howell said. “That’s where our focus has been for the past several weeks — on floor.”
Indeed, the blue and gold made it look easy. All six gymnasts scored above a 9.75 on floor, including junior Maya Bordas, who appeared for the first time on floor this season and earned a 9.85. Senior Kyana George floated through a new opening pass, en route to a 9.9 and the event title.
In addition to overall event improvements, sophomore Nevaeh DeSouza earned the spotlight at the McKale Center. Although DeSouza led the all-around with a commanding score of 39.3, her performance on vault was the true highlight of the meet. The sophomore tied her career high with a stuck Yurchenko 1.5, a difficult vault that earned her a 9.925 and the highest score of the competition.
Newcomer Andi Li also proved she deserved a lineup spot as a freshman. After struggling in her debut, Li competed in three events, earning a 9.825 on bars. She also secured the event title on beam with a 9.875 and tied DeSouza and Bordas on bars. Additionally, she posted a solid vault after being catapulted into the lineup at the last minute as a substitute for Bordas.
“(Li) just started training vault again this last week, and they’ve actually looked really good in practice,” Howell said. “It was great to have a freshman debut on that event and get her vault legs under her.”
Despite its improvements, the team still believes it has room to grow, especially on landings.
“Going back and looking at the video, we gave away a lot in little half-tenth and even tenth deductions on landings,” Howell said. “If you add back in those landings, we’re almost a point better than we scored at Arizona. That’s something that’s easily fixable.”
The Bears will need every point they can get when they take on Arizona State. ASU narrowly lost to Utah, the best team in the Pac-12. Fans can catch the Bears in action on the Cal Live Stream at 2 p.m. this Saturday.
Aiko Sudijono covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at email@example.com.