Bears Right Back Where They Started From for Final Meet of Regular Season

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The Cal women's gymnastics team's season comes full circle on Friday. For their final meet before the Pac-10 Championships, the Bears travel to face Sacramento State and UC Davis -- their opponents from the year's very first competition -- as well as Seattle-Pacific.

Cal comes in ranked 10th in the Western region, while Sacramento State, which won the opening tri-meet, is seventh. UC Davis and Seattle Pacific enter ranked ninth and 12th, respectively.

But while the opponents are familiar, coach Cari DuBois believes that the Cal team entering Friday's quad-meet is quite different from the one that posted a score of just 186.650 in January.

"From the beginning of the year, we didn't have a lot of individuals that were cleared (from injuries suffered in 2008)," DuBois said about the team's rough start due to injuries suffered by key performers.

Two of the Bears' senior leaders, Joanna Bennett and Bridgette Glass, went into 2009 recovering from major injuries, while Jessica Kelley was lost for the season following Cal's first competition.

"(Joanna) had some setbacks here and there," DuBois said about Bennett, who missed nearly all of 2008 and scored just an 8.350 on her only routine during January's opener.

However, she has been "really coming on strong in the end," posting a career-high 38.800 all-around mark in her final home meet against Arizona.

Glass didn't compete at all in that opening meet, but she has made a tremendous impact since returning to competition on Feb. 1.

Despite only competing in three of the four events this year (including just one this past weekend), she holds team-high scores in all of them: 9.850 on bars and beam, and 9.875 on vault.

Yet improvement has not been limited to the senior gymnasts. DuBois has praised the season-long progress of the Bears' underclassmen, who have had to step up this year due to the team's lack of depth.

"We have a smaller team this year," DuBois said. "Some (of the underclassmen) had not had the time to get the numbers in and get their confidence ready."

But throughout the season, their confidence has steadily grown -- and it has shown in the scores.

"Erica (Varon) hit four-for-four (routines) for the first time this year," DuBois said of the freshman's performance in last weekend's Michigan tri-meet, during which Varon recorded career highs on the beam (9.825) and in the all-around competition (38.125).

DuBois also highlighted the development of sophomore Avery Gee, who holds Cal's second-highest all-around score (38.800) of 2009 and is one of only two Bears to have competed in every single event this season.

Not bad for someone who, according to the coach, "didn't believe that she would ever compete bars at Cal."

"She's stepped up to that expectation and really has continued to improve," DuBois said. "I'm really pleased with where she is she's very clean and consistent."

Indeed, the Bears' goal going into the meet in Sacramento is exactly those two things -- clean executions and landings, as well as consistent scores across the board.

"We've got a lot of extremely talented ladies," DuBois said. "It's just a matter of putting it all together this week."


Contact Ed Yevelev at [email protected]

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