When two undefeated teams meet, one will inevitably walk away with its record intact and the other with its first loss of the season. When No. 11 Cal women’s gymnastics hosts No. 3 Utah on Saturday, it will look to surpass its performance in Friday’s commanding win over Stanford.
After the Bears narrowly defeated the Cardinal in their season opener by a score correction, they cemented their status as the Bay Area’s best, winning 196.925-196.250. Cal took home the all-around, uneven bars and beam titles, all of which Stanford fifth-year Kyla Bryant had won or tied for the last time the two teams met.
Sophomore Andi Li earned two of the three individual wins, her 9.95 on bars contributing to a 39.525 in the all-around, which tied her season best. The third came from freshman Mya Lauzon’s career-high 9.9 on beam.
“We have a lot of freshmen competing this year, and watching them go out there with such confidence and such poise and just seeing them nail their routines, it’s really an incredible experience,” said redshirt senior Nina Schank.
Among the evening’s most notable performances were the returns of seniors Abi Solari and Grace Quinn. After being sidelined due to injury, Solari competed in her first vault of the season, the third of her collegiate career.
“My favorite moment was watching Abi Solari compete vault,” Schank said. “It was just really rewarding for her and for all of us to see her and all her hard work and overcome all the adversity that she’s gone through.”
Quinn returned to the floor lineup after a fall in the Bears’ season opener. Her 9.925 routine earned a 10 from one judge and marked a career high for the floor specialist.
“I had that fire lit after week one of coming back and doing my best,” she said. “I wasn’t even thinking like, ‘Oh, I’m going to, you know, score my career high.’ It was more of, ‘I’m going to go out there, and I’m going to have fun, and I’m going to do what I know how to do.’ ”
Consistently improving upon past performances will be important for the Bears when the No. 3 team in the nation comes to town this weekend. Coming off a down-to-the-wire victory over UCLA, Utah will look to continue its three-year winning streak against Cal.
With the reigning Pac-12 champions’ roster comprising two Olympians (one silver medalist, one bronze), an Olympic alternate and a two-time NCAA champion, the Bears will have to bring their best.
“We have a really good chance, and competing against (the No. 3 team in the country) will … push us to bring more energy and have a lot of fun,” Quinn said.
The Utes’ 197.75-197.65 win came despite two falls in their beam lineup — uncharacteristic for a team that was No. 1 in the country in the event. Their tenacity was evident, however, with gymnasts tallying 9.9 or better on all four of the other routines. In the final performance of the night, 2021 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year Maile O’Keefe’s 9.975 on beam won the meet for Utah after UCLA freshman and Olympic silver medalist Jordan Chiles scored a 10 on floor.
Starting the wave of four Olympians who received their first NCAA perfect 10s over the weekend, Utah freshman Grace McCallum posted the team’s first 10 on bars of the season.
Although the Bears will certainly hope to continue their undefeated streak, they’re also looking to soak it all in.
“Every meet, before we go, we talk about having fun,” Schank said, who was granted an extra competition year due to the pandemic. “My personal goal for this year is just, really enjoy the moment.”
With the promise of a “party in Haas” from Quinn, the blue and gold faithful can expect an exciting matchup between the Pac-12’s top two teams Saturday at 4 p.m.