Heading into its last meet, the Cal women’s gymnastics team, which is tied for 14th in the nation, was on fire. The Bears had won three straight competitions, including beating No. 6 UCLA for the first time since 1985 and setting a new record for the best road score in program history.
But then, things went wrong. Cal lost a road meet to No. 17 Oregon State and picked up its second worst score of the season with a 195.350, a full 1.55 points lower than what the Bears scored just five days prior.
Now, with No. 5 Utah coming to Haas Pavilion on Saturday, Cal will have its normal amount of rest and needs to right the ship quickly as the end of the season nears.
“We finally have a full week of training, so we’re going back to our normal regulated training plan, which is going to be great,” said Cal head coach Justin Howell. “We’re going to be able to pace ourselves a little bit this week and pay for our training to peak on Saturday.”
And the Bears will certainly need to peak if they want any chance of beating the 6-1 Utes, whose only loss was by .025 points Feb. 6. Utah is led by a talented group of gymnasts, both young and experienced. Senior Breanna Hughes has won the all-around competition in three of the Utes’ meets, most recently coming out on top with a 39.400 against the Cardinal, despite the presence of the nation’s number one all-arounder, Stanford’s Elizabeth Price.
Another prolific performer from the meet against Stanford, Utah sophomore Maddy Stover, will also pose problems for the Bears. She comes into the meet off a scintillating beam routine that earned her a 9.975, proving her potential to put up big numbers that Cal will struggle to match.
The Bears will need to counteract Utah’s big scoring output by refinding the form they had before facing Oregon State. Against Arizona State on Feb. 15, Cal notched a 169.900, which is the second best score in the Bears’ history. Sophomore Toni-Ann Williams especially excelled, winning the all-around with a stellar 39.700 and had season-best scores in every event. Cal also set a new program record for its 49.325 score on beam, which will be something to aim for against the Pac-12’s top team.
But even that may not be enough for the Bears.
Utah’s average score this season is a whopping 196.789, a showing Cal has topped only once all year, so it’s no understatement to say the Bears will need to be at their very best if they want any chance of winning. They will also return home for the first time in nearly three weeks, which could serve to help their chances of pulling the upset.
“The girls are pumped up about (the meet and being at home),” Howell said. “It feels great to be back home, I know everyone’s excited to be back at Haas Pavilion and to see our family and fans in the stands.”