Cal Advances To NCAA Regional Final
NORMAN, OKLAHOMA – The ninth-ranked California women's gymnastics is advancing to the NCAA Regional Final as the Golden Bears took second place in a quad meet on Thursday at Lloyd Noble Center on Oklahoma's campus. The Bears had to mount a comeback, but ultimately recorded a 197.375 after three fantastic rotations to end the meet.
Minnesota finished in first with a score of 197.825, while Utah State scored 196.825 and Boise State scored 196.425. The top two teams advanced to the Regional Final on Saturday. It was the fourth-best NCAA Regionals score in school history and ensured Cal advanced to the Regional Final in every meet since the NCAA changed to this format in 2019.
The Bears opened the meet on vault and scored a 48.950 as a team, which put them in fourth place after one rotation, trailing second-place Boise State by .275. Nevaeh DeSouza led the way with a 9.825 score, while Nina Schank and Andi Li both recorded 9.80 scores.
"I was really pleased that they didn't let the vault scoring get them down," Howell said. "We didn't land as well as we can, but the judging was tight. This is why we don't pay attention to scores, they were dynamic and aggressive. We wanted to keep that energy and effort on bars; we know that's an event we can score exceptionally well and they landed exceptionally well on bars today."
The Bears surpassed Boise State and were tied with Utah State in second place after two rotations as Cal rebounded with their second-best bars rotation of the season. The Bears recorded a 49.500 as four Bears posted scores at 9.90 or above. Li and DeSouza both posted 9.925 marks and finished the meet tied for first. Schank and Maddie Williams both notched 9.90 scores as they finished in a fourth-place tie. Maya Bordas and Gabby Perea recorded 9.85 marks to round out the rotation. The 49.500 mark was the 11th-best bars score in school history and the third-best regionals bars score in school history.
"Andi and Nina both wanted to do everything, they were hungry to compete everything," Howell said. "I think it's a true testament to mindset. When you decide you want to do something and you have the talent they have you can go out and do it, and do it well. We talked about that after the Pac-12 Championship because they'd both been nursing injuries. Nina had already made up her mind that she's competing, training every single event, she did not want to go out that way her senior year. She told us what she was going to do, and that's the power of the positive mindset."
Cal recorded its 10th-best beam score in school history and tied for the second-best mark at NCAA Regionals as they notched a 49.400 mark. Bordas and Li led the way for the Bears as they both recorded 9.90 scores and tied for second place. Mya Lauzon and Milan Clausi both recorded 9.875 scores. Maddie Williams scored 9.850 and DeSouza notched a 9.825.
"I'm so proud of our freshman," Howell said. "All year long, they've been doing their job and doing it like veterans. Every time I watch, knowing what I know about what Mya has been through in the last six weeks, and having her come out and deliver performances like she has. I'm in awe and I'm excited about the future of our program."
The Bears were solidly in second place at the beginning of the fourth rotation, but after a step out of bounds on the leadoff, the rest of the rotation needed to step up and they did. The Bears scored a 49.525 on floor, the fourth-highest score in program history and the best that Cal's ever recorded at an NCAA Championship event.
Bordas scored a 9.875 from the second spot and the next four Bears all scored a 9.90 or higher. Clausi and Grace Quinn both scored 9.925 and tied for second place. Quinn performed from the anchor spot in the rotation with the Bears needing a hit, and she delivered a beautiful routine to record her seventh consecutive score a 9.925 or higher. Li and Lauzon both scored 9.90 to tie for sixth place.
"We made a swap in the lineup on floor at the top two spots," Howell said. "We made that decision because Bordas needed an extra warmup pass and she took a turn with 20 seconds left on the clock, so we switched her out so she could recover and I think that may have played into the leadoff mistake. You don't want to have a fall, but it's a good reminder, your task is still the same. If we remain task-oriented we're going to hit routines and be successful. Closing things out with Grace who has been so consistent in that spot was fun to see. We were definitely sweating out, Utah State was putting pressure on us the entire meet and we needed to hit five routines in a row on floor to make sure we're moving on and we did."
Li finished third in the all-around with a 39.525 score while Bordas recorded a 39.400 score and took fourth.
"There's so many pieces to the resilience of our team," Howell said. "There's the fact that we started off with a sub-49.000 on vault and had to work our way out of that hole. We went to the next three events and crushed it. We had three people back in the lineup who had just come back from injuries and three people that don't have a ton of competitions over the last four to six weeks. They scrapped and clawed and didn't give anything away after vault, which should give everyone a ton of confidence. Ever since the Ohio State meet, we've been talking about doing things full send, we've got It on a t-shirt now. We've been competing with no regrets, they did it today and they'll look to do it again on Saturday."
The Bears will be back in action on Saturday as they compete in the Regional Final alongside Minnesota and the top two teams from Thursday's other semifinal that features Oklahoma, Arizona State, Arkansas and Arizona. The Regional Final will start at 5 p.m. CT/3 p.m. PT and be broadcast on ESPN+.
For complete coverage of Cal women's gymnastics, please follow the Bears on Twitter (@CalWGym), Instagram (@CalWGym) and Facebook (/CalWGym/).