It all comes down to this for the No. 14 Cal women’s gymnastics team. Only UC Davis and Sacramento State remain as regular season foes before the Pac-12 Championships. The Bears are traveling to Davis, California, on Friday with plenty of confidence, knowing that a strong showing this weekend could be a starting point for doing great things in the postseason.
“It’s definitely exciting but I think we’re prepared, we’re in a good place to be,” said junior Zoe Draghi. “We’ve been working a lot this year on the mental aspect of beam, which I think is definitely paying off for everybody.”
And Cal should be confident, considering that its current national rank is the highest it’s ever been at this point of a season. There will be several important factors to look out for in this upcoming meet, most notably the Bears’ performance on beam.
Cal’s weakness on beam last year was pretty clear, often preventing the team from racking up elite team scores. But plenty has changed since a season ago. The main change has been the addition of talented twins Sofie and Sylvie Seilnacht, which is a true testament to the recruiting of Cal head coach Justin Howell. Howell recruited them knowing they had a specialization on beam, understanding his team’s weakness in 2015 couldn’t continue this year. The Seilnacht twins have put new excitement into an event that rarely had it last season.
And it’s been this energy in practice that has allowed the entire roster to improve on this event as well. This is especially true when it comes to Draghi, who has improved on beam drastically as the season’s progressed. This all culminated into her new career-high beam score of 9.90 that came Feb. 27 against Utah, and which she tied last week.
Both UC Davis and Sacramento State have leaders who will look to lead their teams in upsets over the Bears. UC Davis senior Stephanie Stamates led her team to victory in the Aggies’ last match against San Jose State and Brown, when they hit a season-high 195.575, which could bode poorly for Cal. This included scores of 9.875 for Stamates on both beam and floor, which were both team highs. And when it comes to Sacramento State, the Hornets will be led by senior Kalliah McCartney, who finished with an all around team-high of 39.050 in last week’s win against Brown.
But these are nowhere near the scores they’ll both need if they’re looking to dethrone Cal. Cal is entering the country with three events nationally ranked in the top 25. The best event for Cal entering this meet is vault, where the Bears are ranked 11th with an average score of 49.140. The next best ranking is a close No. 12 on floor, where Cal averages 49.220, and closing out the top three is a No. 23 on bars with an average 49.005.
“We always talk about making deposits into the trust bank, and I think that we’re doing that in practice and we’re doing that in competition,” Howell said. “I think we have a lot of confidence going in. It’s gymnastics. Anything can happen, so we have to be prepared.”
Alex Quintana covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]