After struggling with injuries, illness and early season jitters, No. 10 Cal put up its best performance of the season against Stanford last weekend. The Bears put up a 197.325, the fifth-best score in the country, and beat the Cardinal by nearly two full points. Cal was healthy, at home and on fire, nailing event after event. The Bears showed that they can be among the nation’s best. But can they do it again?
On Sunday, Cal travels north to No. 24 Washington, where the team is undoubtedly the favorite. The blue and gold’s season highs eclipse the GymDawgs in almost every event.
This time, however, the formula is different. The Bears will be away from home in the midst of the school year, a new challenge for a blue and gold team whose previous travels came during winter break. There will be no home crowd after a long trip to Seattle.
The GymDawgs, on the other hand, have been home all week after a victory against No. 21 Boise State. Washington will surely hope to add another upset to its resume in the friendly confines of Alaska Airlines Arena.
This meet will pit strength on strength. The GymDawgs have been most consistent in the uneven bars, where the team has tallied above 49 in each of its two prior contests.
Cal, however, put up an unbelievable 49.575 last week, a score tied for best in the nation. If Emi Watterson — who scored a record shattering 9.975 — Nina Schank, Maya Bordas and Kyana George can all manage to score above 9.9 again, the Bears should hold the upper hand.
Where Washington may really challenge Cal is on the floor. Both squads bounced back from poor floor performances in their prior meets to put up 49.425s. The GymDawgs are led by Maya Washington, Evanni Roberson and Amara Cunningham, all of whom reeled in 9.925s against Boise State.
No two meets are the same, but if the trio of Washington, Cunningham and Roberson perform as they did at the beginning of the week, the Bears’ best may not be enough. But Washington fields a top-heavy lineup, and it may fall on the bottom half of Cal’s floor rotation to win the event.
The blue and gold entertained three career-highs in last weekend’s floor routines, as Grace Quinn, Neveah DeSouza and George all set personal bests. Maya Bordas and Milan Clausi, the other two Bears in the event, tallied season’s bests. George, in particular, stood out as she stunned the judges and the audience with her 9.500. If the Cal floor rotation as a whole can put together a similarly great performance, the Bears should be able to hold off the GymDawgs without trouble.
If Cal performs to its potential, then a victory should not be in question. Washington has competed at two meets and has shown steady improvement in that time, but barring a Herculean effort, it won’t be enough to catch the blue and gold. The GymDawgs have only tallied three scores over 9.900 this season; the aforementioned efforts from Roberson, Cunningham and Washington. The Bears had six at their last meet alone.
If the blue and gold want to stay in contention nationally, however, they will have to have a great performance regardless of the challenge mounted by Washington. Cal’s brilliant performance last week was a fierce reply to early season inconsistency, blasting the Bears up the rankings and raising expectations, but is it the first of many?
Tune in to the Pac-12 Networks Jan. 26 at 2 p.m. to find out.
Jasper Kenzo Sundeen is the sports editor. Contact him at