On Saturday, then-No. 23 Cal women’s gymnastics battled with then-No. 25 Stanford for bragging rights in the storied rivalry, and it was Cal senior Alicia Gallarzo who took over the night. For only the second time in her four years as a Bear, Gallarzo performed a floor routine, resulting in a team-leading score of 9.875.
“She trains all around in the gym and earned this opportunity,” said head coach Justin Howell. “It was a thrill to watch her do so well and was exciting to see her get rewarded by the judges.”
Not only was Gallarzo in unfamiliar territory while performing on the floor, but her appearance in the vault event came as a surprise to both her and Cal’s coaches. Interestingly enough, her career-high score almost didn’t happen.
“It was a gametime decision to start Alicia on the vault,” Howell said. “She had a really good warmup before the start of the meet, so we decided to give her a chance.”
Gallarzo’s unexpected performance proved to be crucial in a close meet between the Bears and the Cardinal, ending in favor of Cal by a final score of 196.700-196.425. Stanford came into the meet viewing it as an opportunity to bounce back from a loss against then-No. 24 Arizona the previous weekend.
After the first rotation, in which Cal suffered a fall on the uneven bars, Stanford found itself with an early lead of 49.225-49.125. It was not until the end of the second event that Cal saw its first lead of 98.400- 97.975, putting together a strong team performance.
The Cardinal tried to close the margin on the floor, with senior Elizabeth Price earning a perfect 10 during her event, but even this proved to be too little for them to overcome their deficit.
A win in Palo Alto this weekend was huge for the Bears, especially considering the fact that senior Toni-Ann Williams was not competing in the floor event, in which she is ranked No. 22 in the nation.
Ultimately, Howell made the decision to give Williams a rest and was pleased to see how the rest of the team members responded despite missing a key component of their attack.
“It’s a long, grueling season, and her legs were in need of a rest,” Howell said. “It was great to give others an opportunity that they might not get normally, and it was exciting to see our depth as a team. We know that we can turn to them if we need to.”
Kellan Grant covers women’s gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]