Bay Area rematch: No. 10 Cal looks for encore performance against No. 19 Stanford

Photo of Cal Women's Gymnast on balance beams
Caroline Lobel/Staff

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The Cal women’s gymnastics team is on the rise. After starting the season with record-breaking performances, the Bears earned their first 197-plus score of the year Saturday and broke into the top 10 in the national rankings for the first time since the preseason.

Cal will look to improve on its 3-0 record Friday when it faces Stanford for the second time this year. Both squads opened their seasons Jan. 16 at Haas Pavilion, where the Bears defeated the Cardinal by a narrow margin of 0.05 points. The upcoming matchup will offer Stanford an opportunity to redeem itself and defend the Farm in its first home meet of 2022.

Since the two teams’ last meeting, Cal has continuously added to its scores and finds itself in the top 20 nationally on every event and in the top 12 on each except beam, where its average includes a lower score from its two falls in the season opener. Maintaining their “Bears on Bars” title, the blue and gold have also climbed to No. 4 in the country and No. 1 in the conference on the event.

“The team has gotten a lot of numbers in since (the season opener), … which has really helped with our consistency and just trusting in ourselves overall, which I think will really pay off when it comes time to compete,” said senior Maya Bordas.

On the other side of the mat, fifth-year senior Kyla Bryant will once again lead the Cardinal as they look for revenge. The 19th-ranked all-arounder in the country took home almost every individual title in the January meet and earned a Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week award for her performance. She will seek to match her 39.675 all-around score, which has remained one of the nation’s highest this season.

Stanford has also seen improvement since Jan. 16. Its most recent matchup against reigning conference champion Utah saw the team’s highest vault and floor scores of the season, despite missing members because of health and safety concerns.

Should the Cardinal return gymnasts such as freshman Brenna Neault, who had strong all-around performances in the first two meets of the season, they will likely improve on past scores.

The two schools themselves may be storied rivals, but the nature of collegiate gymnastics means Cal and Stanford gymnastics meets are full of encouragement and goodwill.

“As everybody knows, Stanford is our rival, so it’ll be fun to just go out there and compete against them once again,” Bordas said. “It’s also cool because we have some friends on that team, so it’s always nice to have that friendly competition.”

The meet will also be an opportunity for the blue and gold to pick up their second weekly conference award of the season after Emi Watterson was named the Pac-12 Coaches Choice of the Week for her performance against Oregon State.

The redshirt senior made her season debut on beam after spending time at home in Australia for her father’s funeral. Her 9.925 — earned only five days after resuming practice in Berkeley — tied for the event title with Oregon State freshman Olympian Jade Carey and marked Cal’s only individual win Saturday.

“A lot of my routine had to do with the chemistry from the team and how supportive and amazing they’ve been,” Watterson said after the meet. “I’m looking forward to more good routines but mostly just being in this atmosphere with these girls.”

With the Bears aiming to continue their upward trajectory and the Cardinal searching for their second win of the season, both the Cal and Stanford faithful can anticipate an exciting encore between the friendly rivals.

Fans can attend the meet at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion or stream it on Pac-12 Bay Area on Friday at 7 p.m.

Jocelyn Huang covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter @jocelynxhuang.