March 16, 2013
The result on paper: No. 11 Nebraska beat California 197.525-196.525. The result to the California women's gymnastics program: Immeasurable. In front of nearly 1,000 fans, parents and alumni on Senior Night and Alumni Night, Golden Bears capped off their best regular season in recent years with the second-highest team total in program history Saturday at Haas Pavilion.
"This is what we knew we were capable of. We've been telling our team this in every single meet that we've competed in," said California head coach Justin Howell. "Everything we've been preaching to the girls really came to fruition tonight. It was a phenomenal finish."
Cal gymnasts honored departing seniors - Stina Olivere, Carol Chang, Mariesah Pierce, Arla Rosenzweig, Chelsea Spomer and Madisyn O' Brien - in fine fashion by also posting the third-best vault team score (49.30) in program history, and finishing in the Top 3 in three of the four events. The team set or matched a total of twelve career or season bests in the meet.
"It couldn't happen at a better time or a better place. I'm so happy for all these senior athletes that have been through so much - the program being cut, coaching changes," Howell said. "For them to finish out their senior night in Haas with one of the highest scores in program history really ties up the experience for them. They can walk away now feeling a lot of pride."
Starting on the vault, four gymnasts rocked their routines to combine for the team's 49.30 finish. Freshman Kristina Heymann set a career-best on vault with a 9.875, and O'Brien, Pierce and freshman Serena Leong all matched their career-best scores with 9.85 performances.
The strong showing continued on the uneven bars with a 49.125 overall as Maddie Kratzke hit a 9.725 routine to match her personal best, and junior Dallas Crawford matched her season-best score with a 9.85 routine. In her final meet at Haas, O'Brien claimed a share of the title with a 9.925.
On the balance beam, the team totaled a 48.925. Leong once again matched her career-best, this time notching a 9.775, while sophomore teammate Crystal Paz set a new personal best with a 9.875 performance to tie for third.
Paz also impressed the judges in the floor exercise, matching her career-best score of 9.825, but the seniors made sure not to leave Haas without making their own special marks. Chang, who came out of retirement in the 2012 season after several knee surgeries, earned career-best marks of 9.775 - just a little more than five years to the day since she first injured her knee. Teammate Pierce registered a 9.875 to share second with junior Alicia Asturias. California finished floor with a 49.20 team total.
Both Pierce and Asturias competed in the All Around for the Blue and Gold, and Pierce set a new career-best with 39.275 while Asturias matched her 39.375 best.
"There were a lot of great individual performances tonight but we really came together collectively as a team. Everybody did her job. We had mistakes tonight, and even though you never want to make mistakes, it's nice to know that we have some room to improve still," Howell said.
The 196.525 team total is Cal's first 196-plus score since March 23, 2007 at UC Davis, and is second only to two scores of 196.80 set in 2003 and 2004. The result is yet another marking of the team's ascent to gymnastics prominence this season.
"We believe in our program and our training plan. We believe that all the work and sacrifices that we've put into this point are worth it. This is a great step for the future of this program," Howell said. "Cal is going to be a Top 10 program. We can do that in a short amount of time. We've known from the beginning that we're this kind of team."
California vs. Nebraska Event Winners
Uneven Parallel Bars