Cal Hosts First Meet of Year Against Iowa

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A house is made of floors, bars and beams. Add a pommel horse and vault and it becomes the home of the Cal men's gymnastic team. On Saturday, The No. 3 Bears will be in the comfort of Haas Pavilion for the first time this season at 7:30 p.m. to take on No. 10 Iowa.

This dual meet also marks another first in eight years, as Iowa has not traveled to Berkeley since 2003. The two programs are nevertheless familiar with each other from their past faceoffs at the NCAA Championships.

The most recent encounter between the Bears (1-2 in dual meets) and the Hawkeyes (2-2) was in April 2010 for the NCAA Team Championship qualifier. Cal came away with a convincing victory, scoring 355.000 to Iowa's 341.550 and advancing through the qualifying rounds.

The Bears may not be under the same level of pressure this weekend, but the gymnasts know not to take any match lightly.

"I want everyone to continue to work hard like they are and stay healthy," sophomore Donothan Bailey said.

Bailey seems to be taking his own advice. The Lake Forest, Calif., native has been Cal's most consistent performer this season. He is currently enjoying a rich vein of form, with back-to-back gymnast of the week honors wrapped up like the tape on his wrists.

"I'm always trying to improve," Bailey said. "All I can do is just hope to do even better for the upcoming competitions."

Although none of the Bears on the current squad were around for the last home duel with Iowa, they still want to keep the all-time 14-4 advantage growing.

That motivation will push them past the sting of this season's lowlights.

"We have had some tough meets," junior Glen Ishino said. "It is even tougher for me to just sit back with my injury."

Last weekend's showdown with No. 1 Oklahoma proved to be a difficult test for then-No. 4 Cal, with the Sooners grabbing the victory on their home floor, 360.850-375.750.

"Meets like these are going to help transform our team into a top team," Ishino said. "It becomes the time for the underdogs of the team to solidify their places in the lineups."

Coach Tim McNeill has been "very excited" with the way the Bears have responded in training and meets.

"We will have no regrets as we approach the final strides of our program," McNeill said. "I actually expect the team to have their best meet of the season yet."

There is also a subplot with McNeill and his counterpart, Hawkeyes coach J.D. Reive. The two had crossed paths during McNeill's time as a Cal gymnast; Reive was the former assistant coach at Stanford for the past seven years before moving to Iowa. Both men are taking on their first seasons at the helm.

But come Saturday evening, the focus will be on the gymnasts. The Bears have been working out the kinks in their routines and are hoping for a warm welcome in their home opener.

"It's not always fun competing in a big gym like Haas Pavilion, especially since it's a lot harder to fill," Bailey said. "But if we get a big, loud crowd then it will be great."


Camellia Senemar covers men's gym. Contact her at [email protected]

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