BERKELEY – The No. 22 California women’s gymnastics team recorded two scores above 49.0 to put up a strong showing in its 196.575 - 195.550 loss to No. 9 UCLA in front of 1,053 fans at Haas Pavilion. Although the Golden Bears (3-5, 0-4 Pac-12) trailed the Bruins (2-2, 2-1 Pac-12) for the duration of the meet, Cal displayed some fantastic gymnastics, and their 195.550 marked the second highest team score this season.
The Bears claimed titles on the bars and beam and had finishers among the top three in each of the four events. Senior Alicia Asturias put up together another strong performance for the Bears, finishing second in the all-around competition with a 39.350. Freshman Jessica Howe competed in the all-around for the first time and finished with a score of 38.925. Howe, who had never competed on vault at the collegiate level, was placed in the lineup to fill a spot due to injury and really stepped up for the Bears.
“I was really pleased with her first effort as an all-arounder tonight,” said Cal head coach Justin Howell. “I think that her elite experience tonight really came out. She trusts herself and her gymnastics and that was great to see.”
Cal began on vault and got off to a bit of a slow start, posting a team score of 48.825. Howe posted a 9.825 in her collegiate debut on the apparatus, while Serena Leong earned third place in the event with a 9.850.
The Bears then moved to bars, where they posted a team season-high of 49.100. Asturias tied UCLA’s Hallie Mossett for first place with a 9.900, which marked a new career-high for the all-arounder. Senior Leilani Alferos performed a beautiful routine to tie for third with a career-high 9.875.
“We had a void we needed to fill on bars tonight and Leilani delivered,” said Howell. “She delivers in practice all the time so it was great to see her transfer that same performance she does every day in practice to competition; and we needed that, it was huge for us.”
The Bears rocked the beam tonight and combined for a team score of 49.050. Howe earned her third-consecutive beam title with a career-high 9.900. Freshman Desiree Palomares posted a career-high on beam with a 9.800.
“Our beam team in general is just doing great,” said Howell. “We have a calm confidence about us on beam that is really starting to show in competition and that’s huge for us.”
Leong let her personality shine in her floor routine and was able to take second place in the event with a 9.900, matching her career-high. Asturias performed an exciting, high-energy routine that earned her a new season-high 9.850. Collectively, the Bears posted a 48.575 on the floor.
Cal’s efforts were simply not enough to top five-time national champion UCLA, who posted a season-high 49.050 on beam as a part of their 196.575 overall.
“Hopefully we’re starting to believe as a team that we are as good as any program out there,” said Howell. “It’s really exciting for us to see our girls step up their game in the presence of some of these phenomenal athletes.”
Aside from the gymnastics, it had been one of the team’s goals to gather a large crowd at Haas Pavilion. The Bears definitely received an added boost from the electric crowd tonight.
“I was thrilled with the crowd that we got tonight,” said Howell. “It creates so much energy in here and we’re able to feed off of it. I really believe gymnastics is such an exciting spectator sport, and I want to do this again.”
Pac-12 competition continues as the Bears head to Corvallis, Ore. for a meet at Oregon State on Saturday. The meet begins at 6 p.m.
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