For the first time in five years, the UC Davis women’s gymnastics squad is not the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion as the Aggies finished second to Sacramento State at the league finals Saturday night at The Pavilion.
UCD’s 194.875 score bested fellow NCAA regional qualifier San Jose State’s 194.550, but wasn’t enough to beat the Hornets’ season-best 195.650.
The season is far from over, however, as the Aggies head next to the NCAA regionals. UCD, which is in the NCAAs for the first time since 1998, will find out where it will compete in a Monday announcement.
That the Aggies were able to perform so well Saturday was a pleasant surprise for the 810 fans in attendance as UCD co-captain and reigning MPSF Gymnast of the Week Anna Shumaker only participated in one event due to an injury she suffered in practice earlier in the week.
“We hit 23 out of 24 routines (Saturday),” said Aggie head coach John Lavallee. “We had a lot of little stuff here and there, a lot of extra steps on the landings (Saturday), but we really put up a solid performance.
“With Anna Shumaker coming up injured, we had some people step up into her spot and do an amazing job. Rachel Kreager did a 9.8 on beam as a freshman. Twelve months ago yesterday she tore her ACL.”
Shumaker’s other replacements, freshman Yonni Michovska and sophomore Jamie Yamashita, both performed admirably as well, scoring 9.775 on the vault and 9.700 on the floor exercise, respectively.
But for UCD, it was junior Kala DeFrancesco who stole the show, finishing with a 9.825 or above on all three of her events. Her first-place finish in the uneven bars was the only MPSF title claimed by an Aggie gymnast.
“Kala has had an amazing season,” Lavallee said. “She has learned how to compete and how to compete at a high level every week.”
With six teams participating in the event — Seattle Pacific, Air Force and Alaska-Anchorage round out the MPSF — UCD held the top spot as the meet went to the final rotation, for which they had a bye.
Sac State was the only other team in contention for the title, needing a 48.280 on the beam to pry the championship away from Davis.
The Hornets didn’t cave into the pressure and put up a 49.050, including a 9.900 from Elideth Guerrero, drawing a loud cheer from their large contingent of travelling supporters.
Though his team lost, Lavallee remained humble in defeat, applauding the other performances with a smile on his face.
But it was his Aggies that had him bursting with pride.
“This team has just been amazing all year,” said the eighth-year coach. “Their ability to perform week-in, week-out has just been outstanding. They’re just an incredible group of individuals who have really had a great 12 weeks of competition.”
Notes: Seattle Pacific came in fourth in the meet, while Air Force placed fifth ahead of Alaska-Anchorage. … UCD sophomore Dani Judal placed second in two competitions, posting a 9.800 to tie with four other athletes on the uneven bars and scoring a 9.825 on the beam.
— Reach Evan Ream at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam