Practice makes perfect. And, hopefully more practice in the form of competitions will do No. 10 Cal a favor on Saturday, when the team faces No. 19 Washington.
The Bears so far this season have only faced the Huskies once before at the Stanford Open. There, the Huskies, who earned a score of 375.60, came in third behind the Bears, who obtained a 398.580. Washington has only had three more competitions after the Stanford Open, whereas Cal has had (almost) twice that number.
The Bears have repeatedly faced many NCAA top-10 teams so far in the season, so ideally Saturday’s matchup against the Huskies would be a slight reprieve. When the Bears faced off in a tri-meet with then-No. 10 Air Force and then-No. 20 SC United, the team just below the Huskies, the Bears blew SC United out of the water with a 100-plus point lead. The Bears desperately need a win, and though rankings haven’t proven anything in the past, perhaps they will work in Cal’s favor on Saturday.
The Huskies have only two seniors, Justin Rowen and Max Soifer. Rowen is an All-American in the all-around competition, vault and high bar events. Four years ago, Soifer placed sixth in the high bars at the Junior Olympics Nationals.
In contrast, the Bears have three seniors and two graduate students, including captain Capri Sano. Most recently, at Cal’s home meet against the Air Force and SC United, Sano had the third-highest individual score on the high bar. Cal Junior Yordan Aleksandrov took home the event title. Although Sano and seniors Nicholas del Junco and Adam Young competed in many of the events, Aleksandrov and sophomore Aaron Mah consistently have proven to be two of Cal’s strongest gymnasts. Both individuals also compete in the all-around competition, and they represent the Bulgarian national and Canadian junior national teams, respectively.
While Aleksandrov’s performance on the high bar is often highlighted, Mah’s performance on the floor event has proven time and time again to be his strong suit. At the last regular season home meet, Mah took home the floor event title with a phenomenal score of 14.850.
The Huskies have a relatively young team, with seven of its players being freshmen. What does that mean for Cal? The Bears can capitalize on their experience in Mah, Aleksandrov and the seniors. Given the Huskies’ ranking, the Bears will ideally use Saturday to work on events they struggle in — namely the pommel horse — and simultaneously secure their second team win. The pommel horse has been a trouble for Cal repeatedly since the beginning of the season, just as the high bar and floor have been their strong events.
Coming off of a second-place finish at their Senior Night meet, the Bears will have had a little less than a week of practice before their competition against Washington. Rankings have not proven indicative of meet results in the past for the Bears, yet the Huskies’ current ranking in the NCAA indicates that they won’t be on par with the tough competition that the Bears have seen in the past.
Avanti Mehrotra covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected]