Cal Advances to Women's NCAA Gymnastics Championship

No. 5 Bears place second in Morgantown regional to earn berth in nationals later this month
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The fifth-ranked Cal women’s gymnastics team earned one of the eight berths in the NCAA gymnastics championships by placing second at the two-day Morgantown, W. Va., Regional that was completed Saturday.

On Friday, Cal won its four-team semifinal round, which included No. 12 BYU, Ohio State and Towson by posting a score of 197.725.

On Saturday, the Bears recorded their second-best team score in school history with a 197.750. Cal finished behind only No. 4 Michigan, which finished first with 198.100 points. No. 13 UCLA (197.275 points) finished third and Ohio State (195.625) was fourth.

The NCAA gymnastics championship will be held on April 16-17 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. The Bears will be part of the first semifinal which will begin at 10 a.m. Pacific time on Friday, April 16, and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The top two teams from that semifinal will advance to the final four on the floor on Saturday, which will begin at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time and will be televised on ABC.

Cal will be joined by Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Minnesota and Utah at the national championships.

"We've gotten to a place the last several meets where they have ownership of what they're doing," co-head coach Justin Howell said. "They're just getting bigger, more powerful and dynamic vaults. We've been able to focus on landings, and that's what it boils down to; can you run fast, hit the vault, do a high-scoring vault and stick the landing, then you're going to get a good score. We've been getting better at that and they've been able to shift their mindset and they're so dialed in right now."

Nevaeh DeSouza continued her outstanding sophomore campaign by finishing second in the all-around competition. She tied her career high with a 39.600 score, the third time she has hit that mark this year. That mark also ranks fifth all-time in school history. She scored a 9.90 on both the bars and vault, while setting a personal best on the balance beam of 9.925 and taking second place. She rounded out her score with a 9.875 mark on balance beam.

Freshman Andi Li also tied her career high with a 39.575 score as she finished in third place in the all-around. Li posted a 9.90 on bars, a 9.85 on beam and a 9.925 on floor. She closed the meet with a career-best 9.90 on vault which helped secure Cal's place at the NCAA Championship.

"We have a group of young women who are passionate and hard working," co-head coach Justin Howell said. "Cal is a challenging place all the way around. The grit of being a Cal student is a huge factor. We are a very gritty team, we're able to handle a lot of adversity. I think it's the people that we have in the building. The whole philosophy of being at Cal and thinking of new ways of trying to solve problems, you can't help but shift your mindset. We're privileged to work with those type of students. It helps us as coaches to stay in that mindset as well."

"Our freshman and sophomores are handling this pressure for the first time in this environment," co-head coach Elisabeth Crandall-Howell said. "It speaks volumes to how prepared they are and how much they trust each other. Because when you trust your teammates, it takes pressure off of you. The weight of the work for everyone is less when everyone is doing their job and I think that's true emotionally as well."

The Bears assured their spot in the NCAA championships by posting a season-high mark of 49.375 on vault. All six vaulters posted at least a 9.850, led by Li and DeSouza's 9.90 marks.

Click here for all of Saturday’s results in the Morgantown regional.

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Cover photo courtesy of Cal athletics