March 10, 2013
LOS ANGELES -
The University of California women’s gymnastics team placed third at a quad meet hosted by UCLA Sunday, dropping a 194.925 decision to Michigan (197.550) and UCLA (197.075) while defeating Iowa State (194.650) at Pauley Pavilion.
In the final road meet of a season that has seen the Golden Bears make major leaps toward becoming one of the nation’s leading programs, Cal entered the meet as an underdog with one major goal in mind: to post a better score than the 194.125 the team registered at Washington to improve its Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). The Bears did just that, once again solidifying the notion that the program is rising up the ranks to join the gymnastics elite.
“A year ago, it didn’t look like we belonged in a meet like this with teams of this caliber, but every week this team recognizes that it is getting better. We’re going through the process of the team learning what it’s capable of,” said California assistant coach Elisabeth Crandall-Howell.
California started out on the uneven bars, where an uncharacteristic mistake by a usually high-scoring Dallas Crawford left the team with a 48.800. The team moved on to the beam, where once again Cal was plagued by uncharacteristic mistakes, putting the last few event performers – junior Alicia Asturias, freshman Serena Leong and sophomore Crystal Paz – in a critical spot to hit their routines. The gymnasts hit their routines, scoring 9.70 or better to help the team to a 48.075 performance.
“We really attacked our big skills, but got too relaxed on the little things and that was unfortunate,” said California head coach Justin Howell. “The team faced an incredible amount of pressure to get us back on track, but I’m proud of how they pulled it together.”
While the Bears could have crumbled under the pressure as they entered the third rotation, the floor exercise, the team once again demonstrated its grit and toughness, stringing together a solid 48.925 team score. Asturias led the team with a beautiful 9.85 performance, and the ever-consistent Leong still registered a 9.725 despite a slight out-of-bounds deduction. As the floor anchor, Paz faced a lot of pressure to hit her routine and she rose to the challenge with a focused 9.825 presentation.
“Everybody did a great job on floor. They had a lot of energy and performed well, and we didn’t let the mistakes on beam affect us,” Howell said. “The team really pulled it together when they needed to.”
On the vault, an event where the Bears are ranked 18th in the country, the Golden Bears capped off the meet with a 49.125, their best score of the night. Senior Mariesah Pierce had been fighting through a cold all week and the Bears were forced to drop her 9.775 leadoff performance, but the rest of the vault lineup hit solid routines to guarantee an improved team score.
“Our vaults really saved us and helped us pull out a score we really needed,” Howell said.
The team’s total was enough to drop California’s score from the Washington meet, bringing its RQS to 195.140. This time last year, Cal’s RQS was 193.070 heading into the final meet of the regular season. The new score gives Cal plenty of reason to celebrate and even more to work toward entering the postseason.
“Our scores are showing us we can go into bigger meets and be comfortable with our performances,” Crandall-Howell said. “The biggest difference I see is the pride our gymnasts have when they do their routines. They are proud of their gymnastics when they are competing.”
California concludes its regular season on Saturday, March 16 at 7 p.m., with a double dual meet featuring the women’s gymnastics team taking on Nebraska and the men’s gymnastics team against Illinois in Haas Pavilion. Admission is free.
Quad Meet Event Winners