No. 6 Cal Sends Seniors Off In Style
BERKELEY – The California women's gymnastics team posted the third-best score in school history and set a program record as they defeated Washington, 197.600-196.025, in their final home meet of 2021 on Sunday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.
The Bears sent their seniors off in style with the 197.600 score, which raised their NQS above Utah and makes Cal the top seed in the conference heading into the Pac-12 Championship next weekend.
Cal set a program record on floor with a 49.575 score. The previous school record was 49.550, which has been the school record since 2015 when Cal defeated UC Davis in a dual meet. The 2021 edition was led by senior Kyana George who posted a career high 9.975 score. George had posted two 9.95 scores this year, but finally cracked the barrier and became just the fifth 9.975 score that any Bear has recorded on floor. Andi Li took second place with a career high 9.95 score. Maya Bordas (9.90), Nina Schank (9.875) and Nevaeh DeSouza (9.875) rounded out the Cal scoring lineup.
"We rested Grace (Quinn) on floor, so Maya Bordas stepped into the leadoff spot," co-head coach Justin Howell said. "She started us off with a 9.90, which is what you hope for in the leadoff; a great routine that sets up the rest of the lineup. We also added a jump in Nevaeh's last pass, so it was nice to see her hit that confidently. It was great to see Kyana get some recognition from routines we see from her all the time. We put Nina in the lineup and she delivered a great routine on her senior night in her final performance in Haas. The artistry and performance quality is amazing, but they're still doing great gymnastics elements. They are beautiful floor routines that Liz (Crandall-Howell) has choreographed."
The Bears tied for the fifth-best vault score in school history as they opened the meet by posting a 49.350. Four Bears tallied 9.875 scores as Schank led off with that tally, the final three of Li, George and DeSouza all posted identical 9.875 marks to finish in a tie for second place and help the Bears tie a season-high mark that they set at Oregon State.
The Bears followed that by tying for the second-best bars score in school history with a 49.575. That mark was only bettered by the Bears' NCAA record tying performance in their win over UCLA last weekend. The Bears set the mark as four Bears bettered the 9.90 mark led by Schank's 9.950 mark in her final appearance at Haas Pavilion. Schank won the competition, while Emi Watterson and DeSouza took second place with 9.925 scores. Li finished in fourth with a 9.90.
The Bears managed the third-best score in program history despite posting a 49.100 on beam. George won the event with a 9.90 score to claim the 13th win of the season and 39th of her standout career in blue and gold.
"I feel like we have told our team this after every meet; what's exciting is that we weren't perfect," Howell said. "We left some things out there that we can improve on heading into the Pac-12 championships. They were tight; a little tentative with their execution, that translated to small wobbles on beam. However, they didn't give up and it didn't affect the next person's performance. We have a beautiful beam team and that gives us something to work on this week."
Li, a freshman, won the all-around competition with a career-high 39.575. Li claimed two second-place finishes (floor, vault) and two fourth-place finishes (bars, beam). DeSouza took second place in the all-around with a 39.525 score.
"Andi is a phenomenal competitor," Howell said. "What's really been fun these last few weekends is to see her find that confidence competing in college and you're seeing that reflected in her scores."
After the meet the Bears honored their senior class consisting of Kyana George, Alma Kuc, Victoria Salem, Nina Schank, Emi Watterson and student manager/social media intern Maleah Pearson. The group of seniors has helped the Cal women's gymnastics program rise into a national powerhouse, climbing the rankings to a program-high sixth in the national rankings entering the weekend. The team received flowers from the coaching staff and video messages from their parents who were not able to be in attendance due to local health ordinances.
"Being the number one seed going into the Pac-12 Championship is huge for our confidence," Howell said. "It's representative of the team we see every day in the gym. I hope that we carry ourselves with a championship mindset. We're not going to prepare differently. I told them let's acknowledge we had a great night and let's acknowledge that we are the one-seed. Then we have to file that away and focus on the things we can control heading into next weekend."
The Bears will return to action on Saturday as they compete in the Pac-12 Championship at West Valley City in Utah. The Bears will enter the Pac-12 championship as the top-ranked program in the conference, narrowly edging out Utah. The Bears will be part of the evening session which will start at 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Network.
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