The No. 5 Utah Red Rocks (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) will take on the No. 14 California Golden Bears (8-3, 3-2 Pac-12) tomorrow Saturday Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. PT/2 p.m. MT with television coverage on the Pac-12 Networks. This will be the second-straight week the Red Rocks will compete in the Bay Area (after defeating Stanford last week). Utah holds a 15-0 all-time advantage (5-0 in Berkeley) in the series with Cal.
Cal is led by third-year head coach Justin Howell. Cal failed to make the NCAA Championships last season. Cal is led by sophomore Tori Ann Williams, who was the 2015 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year last season. Williams, who has scored a school-record 39.700 in the all-around twice this season, will likely compete for Jamaica in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Williams's beam routine is a must-see, as she is the only gymnast in the whole world who performs a double front dismount in the event. Cal's 196.900 at Arizona State this season is the second high score in school history and the highest road score in school history. Cal defeated the only team to beat Utah, taking down UCLA for the first time since 1985 in Berkeley 196.375-195.175.
Gymnastics is the women's sport that has the most risk of injury, and injuries are mounting for the Red Rocks. Sophomore All-American Kari Lee was lost of the season earlier this year when she suffered a torn achilles tendon. For the meet against Cal, senior Kailah Delaney is out with a knee injury and sophomore Samantha Partyka will be limited to bars and beam (sitting out of vault and floor). According to co-head coach Megan Marsden, neither injury is serious. The two gymnasts are getting rest as a precaution, so they are ready to compete at full-strength for the national championships. Delaney will still travel with the team for the meet even though she is not competing. Freshmen Erica Muhaw and MaKenna Merrell will replace the two injured gymnasts. Merrell is excited and ready for her opportunity to compete, but it bittersweet since it comes due to injuries to teammates. Merrell and Muhaw have gotten advice from some of the older gymnasts on the team, mainly to do in the meet what they do in practice. Marsden is confident both freshmen are ready. Baely Rowe will also be competing in the floor lineup. She had not been due to a lower leg injury that she is finally past according to Marsden.
Utah has won 21-of-28 individual events this season and five-of-seven all-arounds (including a win against Stanford, who featured the No. 1 in the nation all-arounder sophomore Elizabeth Price). Utah is led in wins by Breanna Hughes (10), followed by Partyka (4), Delaney (3), Rowe (3), Sabrina Schwab (3), Maddy Stover (3), Kari Lee (2) and Kassandra Lopez (2). While this is a deep squad, Hughes and Rowe are two of the main leaders on the team. Coaches expected Rowe to step into the role, but Hughes has been a bit of a pleasant surprise this season. Utah tends to be very consistent with their scores, gradually improving as the season goes on rather than jumping from a very high score one week to a low score the next week.