Jan. 13, 2005
This Week: Fri., Jan. 10, vs. UC Davis, Brown. Berkeley (Haas Pavilion), 7:30 p.m.
WHAT'S ON TAP: Bolstered by strong senior and freshman classes and buoyed by recent successes, the No. 25 California women's gymnastics team ushers in a new season Friday, Jan. 14 at Haas Pavilion against UC Davis and Brown. In head coach Cari DuBois' first two seasons, the Bears showed marked improvement, posting the program's first back-to-back winning campaigns in over a decade and finishing both years nationally ranked. If Cal hopes to keep up the trend in 2005 and qualify for a third-straight NCAA Regionals appearance, they'll have to do it against, perhaps, the toughest schedule in program history. Cal faces four of the top six finishers at last season's NCAA Championships, and 10 of their 16 opponents - including all six Pac-10 foes - qualified for the NCAA Regionals in 2004.
2005 SEASON OUTLOOK: Senior My-Lan Dodd, the 2004 Pac-10 balance beam co-champion, looks to be Cal's top all-arounder once again. The Seattle native has been Cal's lone NCAA Championships representative (2003) since 1994 and holds a share of the Bears' all-time top marks on balance beam (9.950), vault (9.950) and floor exercise (9.950) ... Senior co-captain Lauren Shipp (vault, beam, bars) took third on balance beam at the 2004 NCAA West Regional Meet (9.900) but her top score of the season - a 9.950 on beam - was critical in the Bears' upset of Oregon State ... Cal's third senior, Miho Maeda will see considerable time in the all-around ... Britani Pittullo underwent ankle and shoulder surgery in the offseason and DuBois hopes to have the junior in the rotation by mid-season ... sophomores Elyse Wong (all-around) and Isabel Garcia (vault, balance beam, floor exercise) should see more mat time in 2005 along with Justine Cephus, who is rehabbing from a knee injury ... DuBois' strongest recruiting class in her three years is highlighted by freshman Nicki Wells, an all-arounder who competed for New Zealand at the 1999 and 2003 World Championships and 2002 Commonwealth Games. She was also New Zealand's 2003 all-around champion ... other first-year all-arounders looking to contribute this season are Keiko Nakamura, Siobhan Luce and Alli Szutu. Depending on how she bounces back from a broken right foot, Alexandra Dillon could see competition time on the vault, beam and floor.
BEST OF THE BEST: As the Bears' status improves, so does the quality of opponents. Following Friday's opener, Cal flips into the pressure cooker Jan. 23, when it faces defending NCAA team champion and 2005 preseason No. 1 UCLA in Los Angeles. No. 3 Stanford, No. 5 Utah, No. 6 Florida, No. 9 Arizona State, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 13 Arizona and No. 21 Washington all dot the schedule at least once in 2005.
HOME-MAT ADVANTAGE: Haas Pavilion will play host to the 2005 Pac-10 Championships, scheduled for 3 p.m. on March 26. It's the first time the structure has ever hosted the event, which should give the Bears an added boost. Due to the conference's strength - something that shouldn't change this season as all seven teams are ranked - Cal hasn't fared well in the championships, finishing higher than seventh just once since 1994.
SCOUTING THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS: Though they didn't qualify for the NCAA Regionals in 2004, Cal's Friday foes each had strong finishes a year ago. UC DAVIS (3-11, 2004) took third at both the USAG Collegiate National Championships and MPSF meet last season and return three USAG All-Americans in seniors Nicole Doherty, Tiffany Chan and junior Hanna Anderson. Cal is 24-1 against the Aggies, coached by Ray Goldbar (129-158, 16th year, Sac St. '64) ... BROWN (15-9, 2004) took third at the ECAC Championships. They return 12 letterwinners but graduated ECAC Gymnast of the Year Jayne Finst, who was also the Bears lone NCAA Regionals participant. Brown, who Cal has never faced, is coached by Sara Carver-Milne (23-20, 3rd year, Alaska-Anchorage '97) ... No. 3 STANFORD, scheduled to compete in Friday evening's competition, has opted to delay the beginning of its season. Cardinal head coach Kristen Smyth, in a statement released by the athletic department Thursday, stated "The coaching staff feels that it is in the best interest of our student-athletes to push back the start of the season by one week." The Cardinal, who will face Cal on March 4 at Utah and March 19 at San Jose State, will travel to Berkeley next season to make up the event.