Bruins burst Bears’ bubble

Lisi Ludwig/Staff

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Unlike other sports, in gymnastics, it is often helpful to ignore what the opposing team is doing on the other side of the competition floor. The goal of gymnasts is to achieve personal bests each weekend, no matter who their opponent is. In an away meet against the No. 3 team in the nation that attracted more than 7,200 spectators, this strategy was needed more than ever.

“We don’t pay attention to the scores. We don’t pay attention to what the other teams are doing. We just pay attention to ourselves,” said co-head coach Justin Howell. “We try to stay in our ‘Bear bubble.’ ”

On Sunday, Cal was forced out of its Bear bubble when the Bruins unsheathed their claws and popped it. No. 3 UCLA won the meet against No. 9 Cal with an impressive team score of 197.9, easily outperforming the Bears’ 196.725.

A team like UCLA is hard to ignore. Bruin senior Kyla Ross took the No. 1 all-arounder spot with an overall score of 39.725. The NCAA national champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist astonished fans by scoring a perfect 10 on vault and a 9.975 on bars.

The second all-arounder spot belonged to UCLA senior Felicia Hano, who achieved a 39.45 overall score, including a 9.95 on floor. The Bruins are known nationwide for their floor performances — as No. 1 in the nation in the floor category, their routines are borderline sensational. UCLA junior Nia Dennis, whose floor routine went viral on Twitter this year, scored a 9.95 Sunday.

But Cal fans still had plenty to watch on their side of the gym. On Sunday, the Bears welcomed back Kyana George, who had to sit out of the last competition March 1 due to an ankle injury. Her time away did not seem to disrupt her consistency, as she was able to score a 39.35 overall, including a 9.9 on floor.

Sophomore Maya Bordas was the No. 3 all-arounder at the meet and the No. 1 all-arounder for Cal. She earned a season high of 9.925 on beam, which must have been a relief for the athlete, who took a substantial fall off of the beam the previous weekend.

In the same spirit of redemption, Maya Green and Emi Watterson were able to score a 9.875 and a 9.825, respectively, on bars, following their rattling falls March 1. Nina Schank, who was the No. 1 all-arounder March 1, made Cal fans proud with a 9.925 on bars.

“What we talk a lot about on our team is staying in our Bear bubble,” Schank said.

While the Bears had some strong individual performances, there were a few athletes that clearly struggled to stay in that Bear bubble, failing to meet their typical marks.

Freshman Nevaeh DeSouza was the No. 5 all-arounder at the meet and the No. 3 all-arounder for Cal, despite seeing a sizable decrease from her typical vault score.

Likewise, Watterson had a redeeming run on the uneven bars, but a slip-up on beam left her with a score of 9.3. Also out of the ordinary were Milan Clausi’s score of 9.275 on the vault and Rachael Mastrangelo’s score of 9.05 on floor, as both athletes have been consistent contributors to these respective lineups.

If Clausi’s mistake highlighted anything, it is her mental fortitude and ability to recover. Even after beginning the meet with an extremely uncharacteristic vault, she was able to score a 9.925 on floor, her second-highest floor score of the season. Clausi may have left the safety of her Bear bubble, but by the time she was up on the floor, she was able to return to her comfortable suds.

Luckily for the Bears, these mistakes were spread evenly across different events, so they didn’t have to count any falls in their event or overall scores. Still, the Bears failed to achieve a 197 score — typically regarded as the threshold of excellence — for the second weekend in a row. This late in the season, that is cause for some concern if the Bears hope to finish their season with the same strength they started it with.

Sarah Siegel covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].