No. 5 Cal Advances To NCAA Championship
MORGANTOWN, West Virginia – For the second straight day, no. 5 California women's gymnastics tallied the second-best team score in school history as they had a 197.750 on Saturday afternoon. The Bears finished in second place at the Morgantown Regional to book a spot at the NCAA Championship.
No. 4 Michigan won the meet with a 198.100 mark, while the Bears finished .350 behind the Wolverines. No. 13 UCLA tallied a 197.275 to take third while Ohio State finished in fourth with a 195.625 mark.
"We've been grateful every single day since we got back in October," co-head coach Justin Howell said. "We get to do what we love with the people we love doing it with. We told them, this one is special, just considering the difficulty of this last year with the global pandemic that we've all been navigating. This one means a lot and we're just incredibly proud of our team."
Nevaeh DeSouza continued her outstanding sophomore campaign as she tied her career high in the all-around with a 39.600 score, the third time she has hit that mark this year. That mark also ranks fifth all-time in school history. She scored a 9.90 on both the bars and vault, while setting a personal best on the balance beam of 9.925 and taking second place. She rounded out her second-place all-around score with a 9.875 mark on floor. Freshman Andi Li also tied her career high with a 39.575 score as she finished in third place in the all-around. Li posted a 9.90 on bars, a 9.85 on beam and a 9.925 on floor. She then closed the meet with a career-best 9.90 on vault which helped secure Cal's place at the NCAA Championship.
"We have a group of young women who are passionate and hard working," Howell said. "Cal is a challenging place all the way around. The grit of being a Cal student is a huge factor. We are a very gritty team, we're able to handle a lot of adversity. I think it's the people that we have in the building. The whole philosophy of being at Cal and thinking of new ways of trying to solve problems, you can't help but shift your mindset. We're privileged to work with those type of students. It helps us as coaches to stay in that mindset as well."
Cal opened the afternoon on bars, which has been their best event all year. Cal scored a 49.425, which is good for the seventh-best mark in school history. DeSouza and Li had 9.90 routines, which got the Bears started on the right foot. Emi Watterson anchored the lineup with a 9.95 score, a day after tallying a 9.975 score on bars. Watterson finished in second place, but the Bears were tied with UCLA at 49.425 after one rotation in second place.
Cal rotated to the beam, where they put down a 49.450 score, which is tied for the third-best in program history. Cal had three student-athletes cross the 9.90 threshold for the second consecutive event. DeSouza's career high of 9.925 matched Maya Bordas' mark as the duo tied for second place. Watterson again anchored the Cal lineup, posting a 9.90 score. Li and Milan Clausi both tallied 9.85 marks to round out the lineup.
The Bears posted the fourth-best floor score in school history, tied with Cal's dual meet with UCLA at the beginning of March. The 49.500 marker happened because of a lineup that built off itself. Grace Quinn led off with a 9.850 mark. After Bordas posted a 9.825, every score went up. DeSouza recorded a 9.875, then Clausi posted a 9.90. Li followed with a 9.925 mark, before Pac-12 Champion Kyana George finished with a 9.95 mark, which was good for first place on Saturday.
"Our freshman and sophomores are handling this pressure for the first time in this environment," co-head coach Crandall-Howell said. "It speaks volumes to how prepared they are and how much they trust each other. Because when you trust your teammates, it takes pressure off of you. The weight of the work for everyone is less when everyone is doing their job and I think that's true emotionally as well."
The Bears moved to their final event looking to book a place at the NCAA Championships, and they posted a season-high mark of 49.375 on vault. Again, Cal earned a spot on the program record book as it was the fourth-best vault score in school history. All six vaulters posted at least a 9.850, led by Li and DeSouza's 9.90 marks.
"We've gotten to a place the last several meets where they have ownership of what they're doing," Howell said. "They're just getting bigger, more powerful and dynamic vaults. We've been able to focus on landings, and that's what it boils down to; can you run fast, hit the vault, do a high-scoring vault and stick the landing, then you're going to get a good score. We've been getting better at that and they've been able to shift their mindset and they're so dialed in right now."
Cal will be one of eight teams headed to the NCAA Gymnastics Championship, which will be held on April 16-17 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. The Bears will be part of the first semifinal which will be at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET on Friday, April 16 and be broadcast on ESPN2. If the Bears can be one of the top two teams in the semifinal they will advance to the final four on the floor on Saturday, which will be at 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET on ABC. Tickets for the NCAA Championship are available here.
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