March 8, 2013
With just two meets left in the regular season, the California women’s gymnastics team (8-6) enters Sunday’s Heart of a Champion quad meet hosted by UCLA with two goals in mind – rankings and regionals. The Golden Bears will compete against No. 3 Michigan (13-1), No. 6 UCLA (7-3) and unranked Iowa State (4-6) at Pauley Pavilion starting at 2 p.m.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compete against these programs because the gymnastics is going to be great, and the fans are going to pack the new Pauley Pavilion,” said California head coach Justin Howell. “We’re prepared and ready to better our score from last week. We have this one last chance on the road to get a better away score.”
Last week, California was able to drop its 192.750 score from Utah from the RQS rankings following a third-place finish at last week’s triangular meet at Stanford against the Cardinal and Oregon State. This week, the team is eyeing another high-scoring finish to drop its 194.125 from the Washington meet. A good score would solidify the Bears’ spot at an NCAA Regional meet and could boost them into the Top 25 rankings.
“We set Regionals as a long-term goal in the beginning of the season, and what we’ve really focused on in practice and week after week are all the smaller goals that would get us there. Everything we could control, we could make sure we could own those things because they would be stepping stones.”
At last week’s meet, six Golden Bear gymnasts set seven career-high scores, and the team matched its season-best 49.20 on the vault apparatus. Senior Mariesah Pierce returned to the all-around lineup, where she placed third and set a new career-best score with a 39.200. Cal finished with 195.00 and No. 12 Stanford posted a 197.200 to claim the title, while No. 9 Oregon State placed second with a 197.175.
“We’ve been focusing the last couple of weeks on our consistency in the gym and going and going 24-for-24. We’re focused on being a consistent team.The good news is we’re finally at a place where we have more depth. We have some choices – good choices – on all four events, and we were not in that position in the beginning of the year,” Howell said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of everybody to know it’s not a big deal if they’re sick or hurt because we have those choices.”
The Bruins are coming off a 197.075-196.375 dual meet loss to Alabama. Michigan, who has been ranked in the nation’s Top 3 all season, defeated Michigan State 197.300-194.875, and Iowa State beat Minnesota 195.550-195.025.
“With two Top 10 teams, if we do our job, we’re going to be able to draft off their high scores, and quad meets are advantageous because there’s something going on at all times. It doesn’t give your mind a chance to wander,” Howell said. “It’s a great way to end the regular season on the road.”
Cal is experiencing one of its most successful seasons in program history, with four finishes of 195.00 or better to date. The Golden Bears opened the season with a 195.425, besting the team's top score of last season (194.725).