Some seasons are better than others for the ferocious bear. Not knowing what the yield will shape up to be is fur-raising, but this season’s harvest looks to be a bountiful one for the Bears.
On Sunday, the beasts took down archrival Stanford with their highest season-opening score in program history, landing them just outside the top 10 in the national rankings.
The meet marked a victorious hunt for Cal beyond its record-shattering score of 196.325. Junior Nevaeh DeSouza placed first on vault and second in the all-around, with sophomore Andi Li and reigning uneven bars national champion senior Maya Bordas taking third and fourth place, respectively. Li also tied with Stanford’s fifth-year Kyla Bryant for first on beam with a 9.925, the Bears’ highest score of the meet.
“It feels amazing because coming in, I was really nervous, with not working so much in the preseason within the last two weeks because of COVID-19 protocols,” Li said. “But I just went out there and did what I had and whatever I’ve been working on, so I’m really happy with how I did.”
Also notable were freshmen Mya Lauzon and Madelyn Williams, who made stellar collegiate debuts with scores no lower than 9.8.
“I was really nervous, but just being in this environment with such a loving and amazing, supportive team, I felt like I was able to be me,” Lauzon said. “It just made me feel at home with everyone here.”
Competing in front of a live audience for the first time since 2020, the Bears made it a mission to put on a show for the blue and gold faithful.
“It was so fun to compete in front of fans again. It’s been so long, it’s crazy. … It’s fun being back in Haas and having fans, and we’re really excited for what this season will bring,” DeSouza said.
The junior’s impressive performance on vault yielded a 9.9 and gave her team the event title, the only individual first-place finish not claimed by Bryant.
The fifth-year all-arounder was a powerful force for the Cardinal. Bryant’s stirring performances, coupled with the Bears’ two falls on beam, closed the gap between the rival teams in the second half of the meet.
Stanford took the lead from Cal in the fourth rotation before Bordas’ 9.775 on floor allowed the home team to drop senior Grace Quinn’s 8.975. Bordas originally received a 9.725 — the exact score the blue and gold needed to tie the Cardinal’s 196.275 — before it was changed based on her start value.
“We definitely can improve a lot, but it was a great start, and we’ll definitely be back in the gym working hard,” DeSouza said. “The next meet, we’ll be even more focused on those details and … grow from here.”
The Bears will head to Washington this weekend to face the Huskies, who placed second in their season-opening tri-meet against Oregon State and San Jose State with a score of 194.0. Cal bested UW in both of their dual meets last season and will look to continue that streak.
For Washington, sophomore all-arounder Skylar Killough-Wilhelm and senior Amara Cunningham, a former Pac-12 Specialist of the Week, will be the gymnasts to keep an eye out for. Both placed in the top three in at least two events against OSU and SJSU. When the Huskies faced the Bears last year, both athletes set and matched their career highs.
Fans can watch Cal and UW compete Saturday at 1 p.m. PST on the Pac-12 Network.