Cal Records Program-Best Pac-12 Championship Score
WEST VALLEY CITY, UTAH – The California women's gymnastics team posted the program's top score at the Pac-12 Championship and claimed the Bears' best-ever conference championship finish as they took second place with a 197.375 score on Saturday evening at the Maverik Center.
Cal's score of 197.375 bettered the previous best mark of 196.950, which the Bears recorded at both the 2018 and 2019 Pac-12 Championships. That continues Cal's upward trajectory after the 2020 Pac-12 Championship was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Utah won the Pac-12 title with a score of 197.725, but Cal pulled past UCLA on the final rotation to take second place. UCLA had a 148.300-147.850 lead over Cal after three rotations, but the Bears superb floor exercise score of 49.525 allowed Cal to overtake UCLA and claim the best-ever finish for the program at the Pac-12 Championship.
"I think the crazy thing about tonight is that they had an amazing night and we had the highest score we've ever scored at the Pac-12 Championship, but we still feel we left a lot out on the mat that we can improve," co-head coach Justin Howell said. "That raises our confidence and gives us a clear direction for the postseason and we know we're capable of competing with the best teams in the country. The format of the Pac-12 championships tests every team's preparation and their nerves. It is the most difficult meet format that we compete in. If you can do some of your best work in these circumstances then you prepare yourself for the rest of the postseason."
As the top seed in the conference entering the Pac-12 Championship, the Bears elected to start the championship on vault. The Bears posted a 49.175 score and were in third place after one rotation. Nevaeh DeSouza took third place with a 9.90 score, her fifth 9.90+ score of the season on vault. Kyana George collected a 9.850 while Nina Schank posted a 9.825.
The Bears entered the championship as the top bars team in the country and they didn't disappoint as they posted a 49.475, tying for the fifth-best score in program history. The Bears posted the top bars score of the evening on the second rotation. This was the fourth time in 2021 that Cal has hit a 49.475 score or higher. DeSouza, Schank, Andi Li and Emi Watterson all posted identical 9.90 scores and Maya Bordas tallied a 9.875 score to round out the lineup. DeSouza, Schank and Li all tallied a 9.90+ score for the fifth time this year, while Watterson hit that mark for the third time.
The Bears collected a 49.200 score on the beam, the second-best of any program at the Pac-12 championship. Li posted a 9.90 score, tying a career-high, to lead the Bears. DeSouza posted a 9.875 as she has hit 9.85 or above in five consecutive meets.
Cal posted the third-best floor score in school history as the team tallied a 49.525 mark. George was part of a six-way tie for first place at 9.95 on the floor, her fourth 9.95+ score of the season on floor. Grace Quinn started the Bears off fantastically as she tied her career high with a 9.90 score. Clausi's beautiful routine earned her a season-high score of 9.925. Bordas and DeSouza both tallied 9.875 marks.
"I was really proud of the way they finished the meet," Howell said. "There were definitely areas where we left things on the floor, but we finished the meet with a lot of energy. We talked about going to floor and having a party and letting their passion and excitement be conveyed by their performances. We had some ups and downs with our energy levels throughout the meet, but to finish as high as we did and nail a great floor rotation was a good opportunity to be reminded of the lessons we learned throughout the meet of what we can do when we have our energy in the right place."
DeSouza took third place in the all-around competition as she collected a 39.550 score. She scored a 9.875 or above on all four events in her first postseason appearance for the Bears. Bordas took fifth in the all-around with a 39.350 score. Li was in line to finish amongst the top-five in the all-around after three events, but she stepped out of bounds on a massive tumbling pass on her floor routine. She finished with a 39.125 score and took eighth in the all-around.
"Nevaeh is an incredible leader, beyond the gymnastics just the gymnastics that she is doing; that speaks for itself," co-head coach Liz Crandall-Howell said. "She keeps everyone on our team motivated. She's very efficient and dedicated in the gym. She's someone who is consistent in her training; one of her biggest attributes is that her teammates know she's going to do her job and compete strongly."
The NCAA Regionals selection show is scheduled for Monday, March 22nd at 2 p.m. PT. The Bears will find out which of the four regionals they will begin their national championship push at: Salt Lake City (Utah), Columbia (Missouri), Durham (New Hampshire) or Morgantown (West Virginia). The Regionals will take place on the weekend of April 1-3. The National Championship is slated for April 16-17 in Fort Worth, Texas.
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