All season long, this has been the one. This has been the scary regional. Cal is the only truly dangerous floater among the hosts. Oklahoma and Auburn are favored to advance, and it would be a shocking, Kent State-level upset to see West Virginia, Ohio State, or Iowa State go to nationals. But with Cal, you wonder. Cal is the 4th seed and does have a pretty low ranking of 20th (I thought this would be the season they got into the top 15), but Cal also has a recent history of big home results, finishing 3rd at Pac-12s last year and scoring as high as 197.325 this year. Making this regional all the better, we have a trio of top seeds in Utah, Georgia, and Boise State that would make for a tight and competitive meet all by themselves, even without a challenging 4th-seeded host.
The Berkeley regional starts later than all the other competitions, beginning at 9:00 ET/6:00 PT, so we’ll have plenty of time to focus on just this one. But that does mean the pressure is on for it to be interesting because there won’t be any other, better meets to be distracted by if this gets boring early. You hear that teams? Be interesting.
Competing teams (starting event)
 Utah (bars)
 Georgia (bye before bars)
 Boise State (beam)
 Cal (bye before floor)
 Utah State (vault)
 BYU (floor)
Competing individuals are from San Jose State (Cami Guyer – AA; Kaitlin Won – AA; Maddie Herr – AA), UC Davis (Tiana Montell – AA; Katy Nogaki – vault; Dani Judal – beam; Kala DeFrancesco – floor), Alaska (M’rcy Matsunami – AA); and Sacramento State (Cassie Benning – bars).
Before Pac-12s, Utah looked to be on cruise control, just waiting for nationals for things to matter. The Tory Wilson Achilles catastrophe has thrown a little bit of doubt into that picture, but not enough doubt to make Utah a true upset threat. I mean, when was the last time Utah didn’t make nationals? Oh, that’s right, it was never.
Still, the lack of Wilson, and how that changes the dynamics of each of the events, adds an extra twist to this meet. Certainly, Utah has people to slot into those empty spots who can score 9.850s. The depth is pretty solid this year. Tiffani Lewis has had plenty of competition opportunities and can easily go on vault, bars, and floor, though Baely Rowe could also come in on vault if she’s feeling 100%. Across the four events, they’ll probably drop a couple tenths compared to what they could have scored with Wilson, but that should not in itself be enough to put Utah in the danger zone. It does compromise their potential to contend with the top teams (Wilson could get 9.9s and we’re much less likely to see 9.9s from her replacements), but it shouldn’t compromise regionals as long as they don’t suddenly lose their minds.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about beam. Even though beam was Wilson’s weakest event, it’s the area where her absence will be felt the strongest. Utah doesn’t have nearly as many comfortable options on beam, and Wilson was the reliable leadoff all season long. Someone else is going to have to take that role now, throwing the lineup and the comfort level they have recently developed on beam into flux. Do you just slot her replacement (likely Delaney) into that leadoff spot? Do you put Rowe or Lothrop back in there, potentially compromising their scoring potential? You can guess which one I favor, and it doesn’t involve compromising scoring potential. It’s something they’ll have to figure out and quickly become comfortable with because there are four teams in this competition boasting high-196 potential, so counting a fall isn’t really an option. Second rotation: Utah beam. Watch it. But unless something goes nasty to a level it hasn’t yet this season, it should be smooth sailing to a qualification spot.
Georgia, Boise State, Cal
Georgia. Look what you’ve done to us. Show me this collection of teams before the season, and I say, “Utah and Georgia,” easy pick, easy regional. Even with Cal as a host. That’s how it should go, but we’ve all been so traumatized by watching Georgia this year that none of us knows what to think anymore. Up is down. Black is white. Vault is bad now for some reason (and what’s that about, by the way? You have Brandie Jay). Everything is all over the place. Still, when the Gym Dogs put four events together, they are the second-best team in this regional, and if they hit 5-for-6 on four events (these goals…), they should be able to go through.
It will be essential for Georgia to start strong because their first event is bars. Across all three of these contending teams, Georgia’s bars is the most likely rotation to get a 49.500. The talent is clearly there, and they’ll need to use that rotation to provide some early breathing room so that we’re not in a “Mary Beth Box needs a 9.950 on floor” situation, because you know she’s getting a 9.875 no matter what. She could colonize Mars as her middle pass and still get a 9.875. But, if the Gym Dogs start slightly flat and get stuck on maybe a 49.300 on bars, this meet gets really interesting as they head to beam, which has obviously been the biggest struggle this season. That rotation is the main reason this regional seems to be the best upset chance (not counting Penn State/Oregon State, because Penn State advancing wouldn’t really be an upset at all). Georgia’s beam is terrifying and has come in under 49 as many times as it has been over 49 this season, including that rather unpleasant meltdown from SECs. On the bright side, Georgia should be helped by competing in a whole regional of weak beam teams. It’s like a support group or something. Beam is even more nerve-wracking for Boise State and Cal, so as long as Georgia hits beam, even if that includes counting a 9.700 or something, it should be fine. Boise State and Cal wouldn’t be able to open up a lead because of beam since they’ll be counting a 9.7 or two as well. As long as Georgia is 98.500 or greater at halfway, it’s not time to hit the panic button.
For Boise State, it’s a similar story to Georgia. Bars is their best event and their most likely area to make up ground on the rest of the teams, as it always is. Boise State and bars. Once again this year, they have three quite realistic 9.9s in Perkins, Jacobsen, and Mejia, which means they’ll have the ability to mitigate any Georgia bars advantage and make the meet about the other three events. The problem areas for Boise State are beam, as already mentioned, and floor. Floor has recovered somewhat since the disaster at Alabama, but it’s still not the solid score that Georgia’s floor rotation has evolved into in recent weeks (Saint GiGi blessed them with a DLO, and things got better). Boise State’s rotation order, starting on beam and then going to floor, means that they’ll be playing catch-up during this meet. I would be surprised if Boise State isn’t in 4th place at the halfway point. The final rotation is where they’ll look to make a serious move. Georgia ends the meet on vault and Cal ends on beam, while at the same time, Boise State will be on bars. If Georgia hasn’t suddenly pulled together those landings, Boise State has the ability to make up multiple tenths on the final event. If they’re keeping it close and staying within a reasonable number of tenths going to the last rotation, even if they’re in 4th, that’s a workable position.
Cal will look to take the exact opposite route of Boise State. Cal’s events are floor and vault. That’s where the 9.9s live because that’s where Toni-Ann lives. And because Cal begins with floor and vault, they must start huge. No sluggishness. No working their way into the meet. Huge. To legitimately hope to beat a hit meet from Georgia (and force Danna to exclaim, “I’VE CREATED A MONSTER”), they’re similarly going to need a 49.500 right of the gate on the first event, floor. Cal’s home average on floor is better than any other team’s road average on floor, so it’s conceivable that they could win floor at this meet. They’ll probably need to do it, too. By the halfway point, Cal’s two best events will be out of the way, while both Georgia and Boise State will already have their very worst events out of the way, so if Cal is not sitting in first or second after three rotations, I have a hard time seeing it happening at all. They’ll finish up on bars (which has been fine, but is not the strength it is for Georgia or Boise State) and then beam (which has been the nightmare event, breaking 49 just once this year). They will definitely give back serious tenths at the end of the meet, so an early lead is crucial.
Largely, this meet should be dictated by Georgia’s beam. If Georgia hits beam (rotation 3), then they’re in a solid position, unless Cal starts getting those 49.5s all over the place like on senior day. But if not, this is going to be a Bart Conner, four-ring-circus special.
And the rest/Individuals
Every year, one regional ends up getting all the Utah teams, and since this is the only one in the Pacific or Mountain time zones, it’s the winner. Utah State and BYU round out proceedings (Southern Utah couldn’t join the party because the host, Cal, is already the 4th seed here), and with both Utah State and BYU peaking at 196.3s this year, it’s tough to see them moving ahead of all these other challengers. Yet, teams with beam issues are always the most vulnerable. I certainly don’t see all three of Georgia, Boise State, and Cal having beam catastrophes at the same time, but just note that Utah State has as many 49s on beam this year as Boise State and Cal combined. And it’s three. Like I said, this isn’t a great regional for beam.
In the AA, this meet is a little sparser than the ones previewed so far and should go a bit more predictably. If Utah and Georgia do indeed hold their seedings and go through to nationals, then Toni-Ann Williams of Cal and Kelsey Morris of Boise State seem the likely picks to advance individually. Even if Williams doesn’t go as an AAer, she is one of those rarer gymnasts who really could win an event and go as a specialist, with both vault and floor seeming very realistic. Georgia doesn’t have an AAer this season, so if they do end up getting upset, it really opens the door for a surprise AA qualifier, like Charlie Owens from Cal, Makenzie Johnson at BYU, or Sarah Landes at Utah State, all of whom are solidly over 39 this year.
One thought on “Berkeley Regional Preview”
The talent is clearly there, and they'll need to use that rotation to provide some early breathing room so that we're not in a “Mary Beth Box needs a 9.950 on floor” situation, because you know she's getting a 9.875 no matter what. She could colonize Mars as her middle pass and still get a 9.875.
You crack me up. Seriously. I love that we share a hobby, because this humor would be WASTED on golf or tennis…
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