Cal Falls To UCLA, But Wins Pac-12 Title
LOS ANGELES - The eighth-ranked California women's gymnastics team lost a heartbreaker to No. 17 UCLA on Sunday afternoon in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA posted a season-high score and won 198.050-197.200.
Cal had a chance to claim the outright Pac-12 Regular Season Championship with a win. However, with the loss, Cal still earns a share of the title as they finished the regular season with a 5-2 record in Pac-12 competition. This is the first regular season or Pac-12 Championship title in program history. Cal finished the regular season tied with Utah, Arizona State and Oregon State who also all finished 5-2.
"We definitely feel like our team worked really hard to get to this place," Cal co-head coach Elisabeth Crandall-Howell said. "Not just this year, but for the last 10 years. To be able to step up and compete with programs that have had such a long legacy and be included in those names. It's wonderful for our team to see that we belong. In every competition we enter, we have the opportunity to win and compete with anyone."
Early on in the meet, it was fifth-year senior Nina Schank who stepped up for the Bears. She recorded a 9.90 on both the bars and vault, tying her career high on vault. She tied for second place on both events as she led the Bears on both events.
The Bears opened up on bars and recorded a 49.350 as a team. Neveah DeSouza and Andi Li both notched 9.875 scores to tie for fourth place. Gabby Perea and Maddie Williams both recorded 9.85 marks to tie for sixth as the Bears had five of the top seven scores on the event. Williams recorded a 9.85 or better on bars for the eighth consecutive meet to start her career.
The Bears recorded their third-best vault score of the season at 49.250. In addition to Schank's second place finish, DeSouza recorded a 9.875 and Milan Clausi notched a 9.85. The Bears were trailing after one event as the Bruins recorded a 49.475 on vault. However, Cal was able to cut into that lead on vault as they trailed 98.650-98.600 heading to the third rotation.
"I thought we did really well on the first two events," Crandall-Howell said. "The gymnastics on the equipment and the interior of the routine was fantastic. We have to lock in landings and not give away tenths, we're leaving those tenths on the table."
The Bears moved to floor and got a standout 9.90 performance from DeSouza in the second position in the lineup. However, teammate Grace Quinn stole the show with a career high 9.95 performance in the anchor spot. Quinn has recorded a 9.925 in three of her last four floor performances, but broke that barrier with a standout routine.
"Grace's floor routine was the best I've seen her do," Crandall-Howell said. "I just felt like she locked in every single detail in the floor routine and was super aggressive about the performance aspects of the floor routine. She had fun and was engaged in a complete performance. As a total floor performance, that's the best she's done at putting it all together."
Cal finished the meet on the beam and saw three girls post 9.90 scores. DeSouza and Clausi both recorded 9.90 spots in the first two positions in the lineup to start strongly. Li recorded the third 9.90 of the rotation for the Bears as they were able to post a 49.350 on beam. The Bears also had a new possibility on the beam lineup as Kyana George was in the exhibition spot for the first time this year. The fifth-year senior is recovering from injury and looking to make her mark on the team this postseason.
"Our beam team really performed well under incredible pressure," Crandall-Howell said. "UCLA was receiving high scores on floor and the crowd was erupting while our team was on the beam and they stayed locked in and performed. That response in this environment is going to prepare them for the postseason."
DeSouza finished fourth in the all-around with a 39.550 score, while Li recorded a 39.250 to take fifth.
The Bears will be back in action with two meets against Big 10 opposition next week. Cal travels to Columbus, Ohio for a dual meet on Friday at 4 p.m. Cal will then return home for a Sunday meet against Iowa. Cal will celebrate their eight-person senior class at the 2 p.m. meet on Sunday.
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