With apologies to several Cal sports that I will skip this week, this week’s post will focus on just three sports. There are plenty of action both on campus and on the road yet again though. Check back on Saturday for a preview post of top ranked Cal Men’s Swimming’s final regular season meet against rival Stanford.
Bear Sightings in Berkeley ️ pic.twitter.com/pBsoh3esAL— Cal Athletics (@CalAthletics) February 18, 2019
Cal loses star Toni-Ann Williams to a ruptured achilles
On her final tumbling pass of her floor routine last Sunday, the dreadful injury bug bites Cal redshirt senior Toni-Ann Williams again. You can tell right away that Toni-Ann knows it was bad. After a couple of day, it was confirmed that the Jamaican Calympian has ruptured her achilles tendon - the other one from few years ago. Williams’ 2019 season had been slowed by a fall elbow injury, now her 2019 season and likely collegiate career may have ended prematurely.
When Cal fans in the future look back on the Cal Women’s Gymnastics program and its rise from the brink of elimination in 2010, the coaching duo of Justin Howell and Liz Crandall-Howell will obviously get the most credit for its resurrection. Right behind them is Toni-Ann Williams, one of the most beloved student-athlete in college gymnastics with her combination of grace and power, along with that infectious smile.
In her 5 years at Cal, the Golden Bears program has risen from unranked to a steady top 15 (would probably have been top 10 had Toni-Ann Williams returned to her top form) program in the country. Williams’ near perfect floor routine last year gave the Bears that historic win over Utah.
Although Williams only got to participate once in the NCAA championships with her team (she qualified another time as an individual), she helped the Cal program to qualify for the NCAA championships (a top 2 finish at a Regional) twice. Because of the scheduling conflict with her eventually successful attempt to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics, Williams had to miss one of those NCAA championships.
More unfortunately for the Cal program, Williams injury meant that the Bears could not erase a low floor score of 9.450 posted earlier by senior Chelsea Shu. With their team leader sidelined, the Bears will not quit however. The Golden Bears rallied for a huge beam rotation, with a huge redemption routine by Shu to score 9.90 and win that event, to still post a team score of 196.150 - a team score that was needed for the postseason determining Regional Qualification Score. Although the Bears lost the meet to No.12 Oregon State 196.950 to 196.150, they are able to drop the bad road outing at Arizona earlier this year (when the Bears had 4 out of 6 routines being misses on the bars). Prior to her injury, Toni-Ann Williams won the vault event with a 9.875.
Moving forward, the Bears have enough depth to still be a postseason threat without Toni-Ann Williams. With a number of underclassmen who are improving on a weekly basis such as freshman Milan Clausi who posted a 9.90 on the floor, Golden Bears could still be a threat comes the postseason to possibly make the top 8.
Bears will host Washington on Saturday afternoon. The program is certainly in a better place to withstand a devastating injury to its star athlete this year than two years ago - the continuing success of the Cal Women’s Gymnastics program will always be one of the many lasting legacy of Toni-Ann Williams (who still might be able to maybe get a 6th year of eligibility?)
Cal Beach Volleyball faces expectation as the preseason No.12 squad in the country
Golden Bears will open the season this Saturday with a doubleheader that starts super early at 8:30 AM!!! vs. Santa Clara and 2:30 PM vs. USF.
Coming off a 24-8 season in 2018, the Bears will play one of the toughest schedule in the country - thanks to how stacked the Pac-12 is in beach volleyball. Bears will face both No.1 UCLA and No.2 USC twice this year.
This weekend’s matches should not be that tough, however. Cal are heavy favorites against both of these programs that only won 1 (Santa Clara) and 4 (USF) matches last year.
We will find out head coach Maegan Owusu’s lineup. I would guess that the pairing of Mima Mirkovic and Alexia Inman (the two sophomores played together before Cal as well as this past summer but were not a pair for the Bears by the end of last season) is the new No.1. Bears got plenty of success last year at the bottom of the lineup. The No.5 pair of Grace Campbell and Maddie Micheletti and the No.4 pair with Mia Merino and sophomore Caroline Schafer are both back (but may be moved up the lineup?). Bears also have some talented freshman such as Harper Goldfarb, who has great genes as the great niece of Dodgers legend Don Drysdale.
Cal Track and Field to compete at the MPSF Indoors Championship in Seattle
Bears had a successful weekend up in Seattle in a make-up meet after the previous meet two weeks ago was cancelled due to weather. They will look to duplicate and improve on that with the MPSF title on the line this weekend.
Tuomas Kaukolathi will look to defend his triple jump title. He was part of three Cal title last year but Ashtyn Davis (coming off a great fall with Cal Football) no longer has eligibility to defend his hurdles title and pole vaulter Lauren Martinez is injured.
Other Bears to watch includes McKay Johnson in shot put, Garret Corcoran in 3000m and 5000m (coming off a great Cross Country season), and freshman Noelle Schiller in long jump.
Besides winning this meet, athletes are looking for a top 16 result to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.