Bears stumble at Ohio State, bounce back on Senior Day

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Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff

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Cal women’s gymnastics ended the regular season with a bang, posting its highest score this year — 197.9 — while saying goodbye to its eight seniors.

As the postseason neared, some teams competed in multiple meets each week to collect more scores in hopes of improving their national qualifying score. The possibility of higher rankings came with ramifications though: Fatigued gymnasts generally do not perform as well as rested ones, and teams saw drops in scores during their second or third meets of the week.

With fans expressing concern that the Bears were fatigued after two straight losses against Arizona State and UCLA, Friday’s loss to Ohio State did not bode well for Sunday’s meet against Iowa.

After earning its first 197-plus away score against UCLA, Cal had been looking to secure a second when it faced No. 16 Ohio State and Pittsburgh in a tri-meet in Ohio on Friday night. But a sub-49 score on bars — usually its best event — for the first time this season put those hopes out of reach. Despite tallying the seventh-best beam score in school history, the No. 10 Bears left Ohio with a 196.875, beating Pitt’s 195.375 but coming short of Ohio State’s 197.1.

But Cal put any worries to rest when it defeated Iowa in commanding fashion Sunday afternoon at Haas Pavilion. Two days after its lowest bars score of the season, the team celebrated Senior Day with season highs not only on bars but also on floor and in its total score.

What’s more, the Bears’ 49.6 on floor is a program record, and the 197.9 and 49.625 on bars are the second-best in program history, only coming behind numbers earned in last year’s meet against UCLA. A 49.45 on beam was also good for fourth-best in school history.

“Oddly enough, it really felt like there was no pressure,” said senior Milan Clausi. “We just wanted to go out and have a good time and do something worth remembering, and we did that.”

Four seniors posted scores of 9.9 or better in their last routines at Haas Pavilion. Nina Schank led off the floor rotation with a 9.9, and Clausi and Maya Bordas followed with matching 9.95s, tying with Iowa’s Lauren Guerin for the event title. Grace Quinn anchored with a 9.925 to close the meet.

Clausi and Bordas also earned 9.925s on beam and bars, respectively, and Bordas ended her final regular season with a career-best 39.6 in the all-around — good for fifth in program history.

“It really felt like everything came full circle, and I was just really grateful that all my training and all those hard hours in the gym, they all paid off,” Bordas said.

Senior Abi Solari, who suffered from injury throughout her collegiate career, also appeared in the vault lineup for the third time this year and recorded a season-high 9.825.

Beyond the scores, seniors Emi Watterson and Talitha Jones performed and stuck exhibition beam routines to close their time at Haas. Kyana George’s floor exhibition also introduced the possibility of the 2021 Pac-12 floor champion, who tore her Achilles before the season began, entering postseason lineups.

“We had a lot of fun today. Before the meet, we just kind of reminded ourselves, like, we need to enjoy the time that we have with each other because it flies by,” Schank said.

With strong performances from Cal’s underclassmen, Senior Day also seemed to signify a passing of the baton. The Bears may be losing several key gymnasts, but multiple freshmen and sophomores showed Sunday that the program will continue to shine.

Underclassmen accounted for five out of Cal’s 11 scores of 9.9 or better. Sophomores Gabby Perea and Andi Li earned matching 9.95s on bars and shared the event title. Freshman Maddie Williams posted a 9.925 on bars and 9.9 on beam, and freshman Mya Lauzon tallied a 9.925 on beam to tie for first place.

“The future of Cal gymnastics is very bright. Our class definitely left a legacy, but definitely not shoes that (the underclassmen) won’t be able to fill,” Bordas said. “The girls that are under us are so talented and so capable, so I’m excited to see what they do.”

Cal will have one last chance to obtain another 197-plus road score and improve its seed heading into nationals at the Pac-12 championships Saturday in West Valley City, Utah.

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