No. 19 Cal Faces Big Test at No. 4 UCLA

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Los Angeles has long been known as a town of big names and entertaining performances. You never know whom you will come across walking down Hollywood Boulevard — actors, musicians, writers and, around Pauley Pavilion, maybe even Olympians. It is a town full of people who specialize in captivating an audience.

When No. 19 Cal women’s gymnastics visits the city of angels this weekend, it will be met by just that: a star-studded No. 4 UCLA team that knows how to put on a show.

UCLA features not one but two former Olympians in Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross — and a third if you count team manager Jordyn Wieber. Both in their freshman year at UCLA, Ross was a member of the storied Fierce Five that took home a team gold at the 2012 Olympics and Kocian was the uneven bars specialist for the 2016 squad, which also claimed first place. Each of their collegiate resumes, while short, are just as impressive as their international credentials. Ross has scored three perfect 10s, two on bars and one on beam, and Kocian has won the all-around in five meets already this season.

The Bruins are notorious for featuring flashy and crowd-pleasing routines, all the while doing clean and precise gymnastics. They score big, and they do it on every single event –– in their last meet against Arizona, they hit well above 49 on every event, including a massive 49.625 on floor.

The Bears, however, are not intimidated by those numbers.

“We never go into the competition with the focus of beating the other team,” said head coach Justin Howell. “We focus on the things we can control, on the training we’ve put in the week before. Going into UCLA, we’re going to go out there and have a lot of fun.”

Despite recent injury setbacks, Cal may be in the best position it has been in this season to come away with an a big upset victory. The Bears notched their highest road score of the season last weekend at Nebraska, and upset then-No. 12 Oregon State while in Berkeley the week prior.

The Bears have shown great consistency on beam all season long, with the event title going to a Cal gymnast six times over eight meets. They have also improved steadily on bars, even while having to shuffle the lineup throughout the season. Cal scored its third-highest bars total in school history in their meet against Oregon State.

The Bears will still need to step up their game, however, with UCLA averaging a score just a fraction of a fraction below Cal’s highest score of the season. That score, a 197.075, came against Oregon State and ranked third in program history for the Bears, as compared to the Bruins average of a 197.028.

In short, it would most likely require an historic score for Cal to beat UCLA.

Whatever the end results are this weekend, it is no question that both teams will put on a show. UCLA is selling $4 tickets to the meet in an effort to set the UCLA gymnastics attendance record, so the crowd should be abundant.

Because, hey, that’s just how you do it in Hollywood.

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