clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No. 23 Arizona GymCats defeat No. 12 Cal

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The No. 23 Arizona GymCats have been experimenting with different line-ups for the first few weeks of the season. Putting athletes on events they haven’t competed in years. Performing new vaults. Adding in new tumbling passes. Whatever it takes to maximize their scores.

Is it having the desired effect?

Well, it worked last week against Washington, when the GymCats scored 49s on floor and uneven parallel bars. Still, they lost that meet by a score of 196.525 to 195.650.

On Saturday afternoon, it had an even bigger impact. Not only did the GymCats score 49s on floor and bars, they also walked away with the 195.975 to 194.450 victory over No. 12 California. The 195.975 total was a season high.

Things couldn’t have started better for Arizona or worse for Cal. The GymCats opened the meet with a 48.850 on the vault. It was a season high, improving on the 48.800 they scored against Arkansas two weeks ago.

“I feel really good about vault, too—with both of our leg events,” GymCats coach John Court said when asked about the team’s progress on floor and vault. “We’re moving in the right direction. Is it where I would like it to be? No, but is it moving in the right direction? Are we making progress? Yes.”

The big score on one of their lower-scoring events was enough to take a huge lead over a Cal team that couldn’t hold onto the bars. The Golden Bears had a major form break and three falls on their opening event, all resulting in scores of 9.250 or lower. They came back to close out the rotation with a 9.775 and a 9.825, but they had already fallen into a 1.775 hole with the 47.075 they scored to open the meet.

Cal rebounded strongly on the vault, putting up a 49.300. Freshman Milan Clausi and sophomore Kyana George both had 9.9s. The problem was that Arizona was moving to the bars, which has been their strongest event all season.

Early in the second rotation, it didn’t look like the GymCats were quite as crisp on the bars as they have been in previous meets. They started off with two scores in the 9.6s. There were no major errors, but small form breaks cut into the totals. The 9.650 put up by freshman MacKinzie Kane would be the only sub-9.775 they would have to count all day, though.

The trio of Maddi Leydin (9.825), Dani Spencer (9.900) and Chrissy Berg (9.875) got them back on the right track, closing out the rotation with a team score of 49.000.

Going into the third rotation, the GymCats had lost a bit of their lead, but were still firmly in control by a score of 97.850 to 96.375. Leydin’s fall off the balance beam right out of the gate had Arizona hoping that everyone else would hit.

They did.

“Kudos to the beam team,” Court said. “(Assistant coach) Taylor (Spears) is really working them hard. And it shows when one of your best athletes goes first and falls, and then you go five-for-five.”

The GymCats once again approached 49 points with a 48.925. Cal cut into Arizona’s lead again, but it was slight. The Golden Bears’ 48.950 on floor exercise left them trailing the host team by a score of 146.775 to 145.325 heading into the final rotation.

In an encouraging development last week, Arizona scored their first 49 of the season on floor exercise when they put up a 49.025. A repeat performance wasn’t necessarily required for the GymCats to win the meet, considering the 1.450 lead they carried. It would be a boost on an event that hasn’t always been their strongest, though.

Arizona went out and not only put up another 49+ score, but scored a season high 49.200 on the floor. Haylie Hendrickson opened things up with a 9.775, followed by Heather Swanson’s 9.850. Courtney Cowles fell on her final tumbling pass, but was picked up by Leydin’s 9.825 and Berg’s 9.900. It was the second straight week that Berg scored a 9.900 on the floor.

“On floor exercise. Gosh... Out of these six, two competed at Pac-12s last year—two,” Court said, praising the efforts of his gymnasts to jump in and contribute. “Haylie (Hendrickson), Heather (Swanson), Sydney (Freidin) and Courtney (Cowles) you didn’t see on floor at all last year. That’s a big deal. That’s something they’re proud of and I’m proud of.”

The GymCats will face the No. 4 Red Rocks of Utah next week. It will be one more meet against a tough Pac-12 squad, but that’s just part of being in this conference. For now, Court just wants his team to enjoy the upset over the Golden Bears. He’s off to recruit for the future.