With the Pac-12 championship just one weekend away and the official NCAA postseason just three weeks out, Cal is closing in on its last opportunities to raise its national qualifying score, or NQS, and improve its seeding for regionals.
A team’s NQS is calculated using its six best scores throughout the season, three of which must be from away meets. The highest score among the six is then dropped, and the remaining five are averaged for the NQS. Because of the formula, a team’s NQS can only increase, not drop. Because every other team in the country can also only improve, however, retaining a top seed requires constant improvement.
With two quad meets this weekend, the Bears have an opportunity not only to add six wins to their season but also to increase their NQS twice. With scores from the upcoming two meets, Cal could drop a 197.525 and a 197.6 from its calculation, raising its ceiling before the conference championship — the team’s last opportunity to adjust its NQS.
The No. 7 Bears will host No. 20 Stanford, No. 15 Ohio State and No. 47 Utah State on Friday at 7 p.m. at Haas Pavilion before welcoming No. 29 Arizona, No. 54 Sacramento State and No. 41 UC Davis on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Although Cal’s scores this season have been consistently higher than those of the opposing teams, Stanford and Ohio State have each reached the mid-197 threshold and could challenge the Bears. The Cardinal recorded a 197.575 while hosting Oregon State on Feb. 24, and the Buckeyes enter Friday’s meet coming off a 197.6 victory at home against Illinois and Kent State.
Though Sunday’s meet consists of lower-ranked teams, Arizona notably almost bested Cal during Week 3, tying the Bears after three rotations. Every team visiting Berkeley this weekend also boasts several routines that have surpassed 9.9, so the individual titles across the two meets could go home with anyone.
With quad meets, event titles remain undecided until the end of the last rotation. As such, the only way to guarantee an individual win is to receive a perfect 10. Cal has the advantage on that front, entering the meets as the only team with a 10 this season.
After freshman eMjae Frazier’s 10 on floor at the Purple and Gold Classic last Friday, the Bears will look for their second perfect score this season. Junior Andi Li and sophomore Maddie Williams have come close, each posting a 9.975 on bars twice this year. Sophomore Mya Lauzon has also reached the 9.975 mark, with one judge deeming her floor routine against UCLA perfect.
In front of a home crowd this late in the season, the odds of a breakthrough are higher.
“We’ve had some athletes with performances that were worthy of a 10, and it wasn’t happening,” said assistant coach John Carney after the Purple and Gold Classic. “Finally, the seal has been broken.”
While individual athletes pursue the perfect 10, the team as a whole is seeking to eclipse the 198 mark. So far this season, 10 teams across the country have scored above 198, including the Pac-12’s Utah, UCLA and Oregon State. The Bears will look to become the 11th this weekend after coming just short against UCLA during Presidents Day weekend, when they tied the Bruins at 197.975.
As the NCAA gymnastics season nears its end, every meet becomes that much more valuable — not only for its impact on a program’s NQS but also for the opportunity it offers the team to compete together. On Sunday, during Cal’s last home meet of the season, the team will also celebrate its seniors, Nevaeh DeSouza, Maya Green and Natalie Sadighi.
Though some teams falter under higher stakes, the Bears are prepared to end the regular season on a high note. The team has made it clear that its goal this year is to reach the national championship, and Cal will continue to strive toward that objective this weekend.
“We’re just going to keep grinding and keep pushing ourselves super hard because we’re ready to do this,” Frazier said after last Friday’s meet. “From here, we’re just going to keep pushing to do better.”
Fans can attend the two quad meets at Haas Pavilion on Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m., and both events will be streamed on the Pac-12 website.