No. 15 Cal women’s gymnastics puts up a fight against No. 4 Utah

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Rachael Garner/File

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For No. 15 Cal women’s gymnastics, an upset against ever-dominant No. 4 Utah would have been comparable to the Falcons upsetting the ever-dominant Patriots. Much like the Falcons, the Bears had a respectable showing, defying expectations at times, but they could not seal the deal in the second half.

In the world of college women’s gymnastics, comparing Utah to the Patriots is not much of a stretch. The Utes are second to only Georgia in NCAA Championship titles, with nine to the Bulldog’s 10. Following Sunday’s victory, the Patriots trail only the Steelers in Super Bowl wins, with five to the Iron Curtain’s six.

On Saturday, however, Cal better compared to a Falcons team missing MVP Matt Ryan, as junior standout Toni-Ann Williams was recently sidelined for the season with a torn achilles. Williams — who was recently named Pac-12 Specialist of the Week following three consecutive floor titles — not being able to compete is a huge blow to the Bears’ ability to produce wins.

And while 70,807 fans may have gathered at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, to watch the Super Bowl, 15,326 fans gathered at Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. For a college sport that is not suffixed with “ball,” that number is significant in and of itself.

In front of the rowdy crowd, the Bears had a decent showing on their first event: bars. Senior Emily Richardson earned the bars title, which was Cal’s only event title in the meet. Junior Alicia Gallarzo made her debut on the event, but two falls led to a catastrophic score of 8.10. Regardless, the Bears managed to amass a respectable event score of 48.875.

Vault was consistent yet again for Cal, with sophomore Sylvie Seilnacht leading the pack with a 9.825. Following the second rotation, the Bears and the Utes were tied at 97.700 points apiece.

The Bears continued their upswing on floor despite the absence of Williams. Freshman Mariah Peterson filled in and improved on her 9.675 debut, jumping to a 9.700. Seniors Zoe Draghi and Desiree Palomares each turned in a 9.825. It was a commendable showing for the Bears, but Utah freshman and 2016 Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner’s 9.95 on the event was more than a 10th higher than any score in the Cal lineup.

The Bears shined on beam as they have throughout the season, but putting up a 49.125 on the event, their best score of the day, was not enough. The Utes put up a score just more than a 10th greater than the Bears, denying Cal its glory. Sophomore anchor Sofie Seilnacht led the team with a 9.85. Just behind were three 9.825s, earned by Gallarzo, Palomares and Draghi.

Cal may have come away with its first loss of the season, but with a score of 195.725, it should not fall far in the rankings. The Bears’ No. 15 ranking is backed by an average score of 195.800, so this meet did not represent a deviation from their consistency.

Adriana Ghiozzi covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].