No. 15 Cal women’s gymnastics looks to bounce back in Arizona

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Rachael Garner/File

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Heading into this weekend’s meet against Arizona, No. 15 Cal women’s gymnastics will have to do something it hasn’t yet done this season: rebound. It took five meets against 10 different opponents, but the Bears were bested for the first time last weekend by No. 4 Utah. The road to redemption for that loss will lead the Bears to Tucson this weekend, where they’ll meet the Wildcats.

While unranked Arizona may seem like no formidable threat to the almost-perfect Bears, a number of unforeseen obstacles stand in the way. Cal is coming off a shorter week of practice, having been in Utah last Saturday, only to hit the road once again for the Friday evening meet. What’s more, for the second week in a row the Bears will be without recent Pac-12 Specialist of the Week junior Toni-Ann Williams.

Williams tore her Achilles tendon in practice prior to the Utah meet and is out for the rest of the season. Her high production value, especially on floor, will be sorely missed by a Cal lineup that has struggled throughout the season on Williams’ best event.

The Bears also continue to suffer the absence of freshman Cassidy Keelen, who dislocated her knee in practice.

The Wildcats come to Berkeley riding a two-meet losing streak. Last weekend, they dropped a meet against Oregon State, their first home loss of the season. Against the Beavers they put together an impressive performance on bars, scoring a season-high 49.275, but struggled on beam. Cal will need to hit clean routines on bars this weekend in order to put up a good fight against Arizona.

The Wildcats’ 48.875 on vault in last weekend’s meet was also a season-high, but Cal’s season high score of 49.250 indicates its superiority in that event. If the Bears go out and compete at vault like they have been all season, they should have no trouble coming out in front on that event.

Cal has been shaky on floor, but has improved its score on the event in the past two meets. Prior to her injury, Williams had won three consecutive floor titles. With Williams out, the Bears look to freshman Mariah Peterson and sophomore Sylvie Seilnacht. While neither can provide the high level of difficulty and powerful tumbling of Williams, clean routines from both should keep the Bears within striking distance of Arizona on floor.

Despite the loss against Utah last weekend, Cal continues to dominate on the balance beam. The Bears’ 49.125 in Utah was their second-best score on the event all season, and one of three 49-plus beam scores of the season. Three different Bear gymnasts have earned event titles on beam this season, showcasing the depth of the beam lineup. Cal’s performance on beam signifies a shift in its game, as beam had been the program’s worst event in years past. Many attribute the Bears’ recent success on the event to head coach Justin Howell, who joined the program in 2012 and last year was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

Interestingly enough, Cal’s fourth-best all-time score as a program was the 196.825 it earned against Arizona just last year. With history on the Bears’ side, they are in position to mount a comeback following their first loss of the season.

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