Life isn’t perfect. It’s a turbulent rollercoaster marked by ups and downs and twists and turns. It’s unpredictable, and no matter how much you try to control the ride or stop the rocky segments, life moves forward under its own terms. Cal women’s gymnastics felt the brunt of one of those rocky segments Sunday as it fell to ASU in Tempe.
Up until the Feb. 27 away meet, the Bears were on a steady ascent up the season rollercoaster with five straight wins, and looked well on their way to being the sole holder of the regular season title. But life, like rollercoasters, is uncertain, and their loss in Arizona will cost them that opportunity.
The final score, 197.075-196.850, stamps the program’s second-lowest score this season, and it seems that nerves played a major role in that outcome. Co-head coach Justin Howell commented on the fact that the team seemed distracted by scoreboards, a roaring crowd and nerves as it faced the strong Sun Devil team.
“We had too many people looking at the videoboard rather than paying attention to their job, whether that’s supporting their teammates or competing. Those are things we can work on,” Howell said.
Focus is key during meets, especially against a strong team like ASU. The Arizona program boasts a season high final score of 197.8 — a score that stands above Cal’s 197.575. With the distractions that occurred during Sunday’s meet, it was only inevitable that the Bears faltered during the close competition.
Senior all-arounder Milan Clausi, who tied for third on floor alongside ASU junior Hannah Scharf and sophomore Jada Mangahas, had headed into the Desert Financial Arena meet with hope. She recognized Cal’s room for improvement, but had aimed to continue its undefeated season.
“We haven’t hit 100% yet as a team and every week we get a little bit closer to that, so we’re just hoping to build on what we did this week and step it up more next week,” Clausi said last week.
The team did “step it up” on floor, with sophomore all-arounder Andi Li clinching first with a stunning 9.950 and all-around senior Grace Quinn earning the second-place title at 9.925. Not to mention Li and all-arounder senior Maya Bordas, who walked away from the meet with twinning first-place titles on bars; However, Cal hit those rocky bumps on the other events.
Conversely, the Sun Devils competed consistently across the board, recording a season event best and matching several career highs. ASU started out the meet with a final score of 49.350 on vault, marking its season high in the event.
The team continued the meet with back-to-back personal victories by junior Hannah Scharf, freshman Alex Theodorou and sophomores Jada Mangahas and Emily White. Scharf had a career high and took the first place title on beam with an impressive 9.950, and coupled that victory by matching her personal best on vault with a 9.900.
Theodorou matched her career high with a 9.925 on vault and took first in the event. Only continuing their rollercoaster climb, Mangahas and White both tied career bests on vault and beam, respectively.
Although there were wobbles on both teams, the Sun Devils had a number of really strong performances and competed a little bit more consistently than the Bears, and naturally, that performance gave them their deserved victory over the team.
For Cal, some performances landed as low as 9.325 and 9.650, and a lack of other consistencies and standout performances contributed a critical role in the team’s downfall.
“All we had to do to win was have a beam rotation the way we’re capable of, but we were a little nervous. We’ll keep working on getting better heading into next weekend,” Howell said.
But, it wouldn’t be a rollercoaster without drops, wobbles and rocky bumps. The program’s long-lived ascent up the season rollercoaster was the only of its kind in the Pac-12, and the blue and gold will hope to return to their upward track at the approaching meet in Los Angeles against UCLA.