No. 18 Cal women’s gymnastics defeated by unranked Arizona

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Phillip Downey/File

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Just when you thought that No. 18 Cal women’s gymnastics was unstoppable, No. 5 Utah managed to bring them down. And, just when you thought a Bears comeback at then-unranked Arizona was inevitable, the Wildcats claimed victory.

Coming off of a short week of practice and competing without their team leader, junior Toni-Ann Williams (lost for the season to an achilles tear), the Bears were not poised to be at their best. However, they still should have been in position to notch a win against an Arizona team that has been struggling. Prior to this meet, the Wildcats had dropped two meets in a row to mid-level competition. Their previous highest team score on the season was a 195.850, which they comfortably surpassed Friday night against the Bears.

Despite the upset, Cal set a season high on vault and picked up three event titles. 9.9s from both freshman Mariah Peterson and junior Arianna Robinson contributed to a massive event score of 49.300. Their shared vault title was rookie Peterson’s first collegiate event title.

The night was riddled with mistakes for the Bears, beginning on the first rotation, bars. Junior Alicia Gallarzo had a rough showing in her second bar routine of the season, scoring an abysmal 8.45. With mistakes from senior Amber Takara as well, Cal totaled a meager 48.225 on bars.

Next was vault, in which the Bears looked to be starting their comeback effort after the setback on bars. Cal was clean and appeared to be in control on the event, showing improvement from their last few meets and contributing to their highest event score of the season.

“We really put a lot of emphasis into landings and we also shuffled around the lineup a little bit,” said Cal head coach Justin Howell. “We were able to get a couple sticks, which makes a big difference.”

Without Williams, their prohibitive MVP, on the floor, the Bears marched to their next event with nearly a point deficit still to make up. Senior Desiree Palomares received a career-high 9.90, good enough for second place on the event. More mistakes, however, from sophomore Sylvie Seilnacht and Peterson reflected Cal’s continued lack of steadiness in the meet.

Finally, the Bears headed to beam, which initially looked to be their best chance to make a comeback. They could not get it done. The event was highlighted by Palomares, who earned her fourth beam title of the season with a 9.90. Not much else went right for the Bears on beam, however, as routines were laced with wobbles. Senior Zoe Draghi had an uncharacteristic fall, finishing with a 9.10.

“A lot of the girls got distracted and lost focus on what they needed to do,” Howell said.

Looking ahead, the Bears will spend a full week of practice preparing for Oregon State at home. While not considered a huge threat in the Pac-12, the Beavers did beat Arizona just one week before Cal came to town.

While this loss was somewhat of a shock, it now puts once-unbeaten Cal on a two-meet losing streak. Whether that can be attributed to the absence of Williams in the lineup or competing on the road is yet to be seen. At the midpoint of the season, the Bears find themselves in neither the place they thought they would be nor the place they want to be with the postseason on the horizon.

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