No. 16 Cal women’s gymnastics looking for win at Master’s Classic

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MIchael Wan/File

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This weekend, the No. 16 Cal women’s gymnastics team will seek to do something that its male counterpart failed to do just a few weeks ago –– beat Nebraska. The Bears will travel to Lincoln Nebraska for the 27th annual Master’s Classic, where they will be met by the No. 14 Cornhuskers, as well as Utah State and Southeast Missouri.

The Bears are coming off an unexpected and highly impressive victory against No. 12 Oregon State, in which they notched their highest aggregate score of the season, with a total of 197.075. They managed to record scores above 49 points in all four events, including a 49.475 on bars, which was the third-highest in the program’s history.

The win came following not only a two-meet Bear losing streak, but also injuries to a slew of impact players. Most notable among the injured is junior Toni-Ann Williams, who was devastatingly sidelined for the season with an Achilles’ tear shortly into the season, and after earning a fair share of awards. Cal was also once again without freshman Cassidy Keelen, who is recovering from a dislocated knee. Finally, and for the first time this season, the lineup was missing senior Dana Ho, who recently suffered an ACL injury.

To fill those holes, the Bears will continue to look to freshman Mariah Peterson and junior Yuleen Sternberg. Rookie Peterson has shown steady improvement on each of her two events, floor and vault, throughout the season, capped off by a career-high 9.80 on floor against Oregon State. Sternberg made her season debut in the Oregon State meet, where her 9.875 contributed to Cal’s massive bar rotation.

Their prowess serves to complement the consistency shown throughout the season by seniors Emily Richardson and Desiree Palomares, as well as junior Arianna Robinson. As a trio, they have earned event titles on all four events this season.

Of the three opponents the Bears will face this weekend in Nebraska, the Cornhuskers pose the most significant threat. On paper, Cal and Nebraska are nearly identical teams, with the Bears averaging a 195.904 to the Cornhuskers’ 195.929. Both teams have beaten No. 22 Iowa this season, although Cal did so on the road and Nebraska at home.

In its last meet, Nebraska put up four 49+ event scores, including a massive 49.550 on floor. That matchup should prove interesting as floor is considered the Bears’ weakest event, however they have been improving their event score steadily.

This year’s Master’s Classic will serve as the first meeting between Cal and Southeast Missouri, and the first meeting of Cal and Utah State since 2015 NCAA Regionals.

The Bears will look to build off their victory against Oregon State last weekend as they head off this weekend. A win there could provide a boost in team morale as they proceed into the final stretch of the season, which will present a whole new set of challenges in the form of No. 4 UCLA and No. 1 Oklahoma.

As the Bears take on their mirror image team in Nebraska, as well as Southeast Missouri and Utah State, they will seek what could be the last easy victory of their season.

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