Four teams have already punched their tickets to the national championship – now, it’s the Gators’ turn. They’ll have to face down three top 15 teams to do so, though, and only two of the four can qualify.
Despite all four seeded teams qualifying as expected, Friday’s semifinals had their fair share of drama – session I saw some missteps from both Cal and MSU, which you can read about in this livetweet thread, though both were able to qualify fairly comfortably over Western Michigan and West Virginia.
Session II saw Florida super-senior Trinity Thomas injured on floor with an undisclosed lower leg injury; Florida has listed her status as day-to-day, so we don’t know if we will see her tonight. As warmups begin around 3pm, check @mycluttereddesk on Twitter for live updates on her condition and the Gators overall.
Even without Thomas’s scores on three events, the Gators posted a solid 197.875, led by freshman Kayla DiCello’s massive 39.8 all-around performance. She was next on floor after Thomas walked off, unable to continue, and used some sage advice from head coach Jenny Rowland to put the nerve-wracking sight she’d just seen behind her: “be a goldfish.”
Goldfish have almost no short-term memories, so when DiCello was starting to have trouble at SEC Championships a few weeks ago, Rowland encouraged her to channel the adorable animal to great success. It worked so well that DiCello wrote it on her arm on Friday in preparation for the meet – clearly, it’s working for her.
Florida has rested big names against top opponents and still come out with solid scores – see floor vs. Oklahoma late in the regular season – but qualifying to Nationals without Thomas is not an ideal situation. Cal, MSU, and ASU will not go down easily, and after some of the chaos that occurred at the regional finals elsewhere in the country yesterday, it’s evident more than ever than anything can happen in this sport. A quick tweet story to catch you up…
Ultimately, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Utah, and UCLA punched their tickets to nationals, but clearly, it wasn’t smooth sailing.
The Gators will start on bars tonight, perhaps their best event this season, and finish on vault, their weakest. They will want to build a comfortable lead going into the final rotation, as Cal will get Olympic order and Michigan State will get to finish on bars, one of its best events.
Key routines to watch from Cal include the entire bars rotation – the Bears on Bars are clutch, Mya Lauzon in the all-around, and eMjae Frazier on floor. Both Lauzon and Frazier have perfect 10s this season to their names, Lauzon on beam and Frazier on floor.
From Michigan State, Nikki Smith has previously been a powerhouse freshman for the Spartans but faltered on Friday afternoon on several events. They’ll hope to have her head back in the game if they’re going to qualify over top seeds Florida and Cal. Also keep an eye on powerhouse sophomore duo Gabi Stephen and Skyla Schulte, as both are capable of near-perfection on all four events.
Arizona State is led by all-arounders Hannah Scharf and Emily White, who filled out the AA podium on Friday behind DiCello. The team’s standout event is bars, where the Sun Devils will go in rotation 3, so if they’re going to make a push for an upset, that’s the likeliest moment for it.
The meet starts at 5pm on ESPN+, but we’ll have live tweets from warmups starting at 3, so follow @mycluttereddesk on Twitter for live updates! I’ll be sure to post the highlights from that thread here shortly before the meet starts as well.
2:37pm: Gators have arrived here at Petersen Events Center and are starting to filter onto the floor. ASU and MSU were already here when we arrived, and Cal has since arrived as well. Just under 20 minutes til warmups!
3:02pm: Thomas is not running or jumping during open stretch but is stretching and warming up some. We’ll see what happens when it’s actually time to warm up events.
4:39pm: Warmups have finished and I am back at my seat! Check out some highlights from my tweet thread:
Thomas will not be competing tonight, as she did not warm up at all. Richards will go in for her on UB and BB, Blakely is her likeliest replacement on FX, but vault is where it gets interesting.
On vault on Friday, both Edwards and Clark competed, instead of just one of them, as it has been most of the season. However, Victoria Nguyen also warmed up her Yurchenko 1.5 tonight and looked nearly ready to make another attempt, just a month after her scary crash at the TWU quad meet.
We’ll have to wait and see exactly what head coach Jenny Rowland is prepared to do, but vault will be the last event for the Gators, so it may be a question of what give them the best chance to qualify. In the meantime, get ready for bars!
5:00pm: Rotation one, let’s go Gators!
Blakely, UB: Solid opening handstand. Maloney to pak, both clean leg form. Last handstand maybe a little shy. Blind change is good. Sticks her double front! That’s how you start!
Li, Cal VT: Yfull, little hop in place.
Kalefe just stuck her dismount for MSU on BB, and ASU hit their leadoff routine on FX as well.
Nguyen, UB: Solid handstands. Pak looked a little better today. Stuck her DLO!!
5:05pm: Harkness, MSU BB: I’m joining partway through here. Sidie aerial is good, maybe a little lean but covers well. Switch leap switch leap, both 180s are good. Cat leap side aerial back tuck 1.5, looked stuck from here! Wow!
DiCello, UB: Big Ray, lovely toe point. Pak is sooo clean, straight to handstand, straight to the van Leeuwen, legs glued together. Full out dismount, same usual lower leg sep with her knees crooked, but she sticks it!!
Brown, Cal VT: Yfull, little hop back.
Clark, ASU FX: Nailed her double back to close!
All these teams are on fire right now y’all.
DeSouza, Cal VT: Y1.5, some knee bend in the air, little hop forward.
Nikki Smith for MSU just nailed her series on BB.
Wong, UB: Great opening handstand! Maloney is clean, so is the pak. low bar handstand maybe a little shy? van Leeuwen good. Last handstand is excellent. DLO is stuck! Yes!
Theodorou, ASU FX: Has nailed both of her passes so far. Turning cat leap is fun as she finishes up, should be another hit for them.
9.975 for Wong!! Two judges went 10.0, two 9.95.
5:11pm: McCusker, UB: Maloney to pak, solid. Maybe a little shy on her low bar handstand? van Leeuwen is GORGEOUS. Stalder is good. Double tuck, little bounce in place it looked like.
Cal celebrating Frazier’s vault, must’ve been a good one.
Jaslow, ASU FX: Really floaty double pike to open. Front lay to front full, lots of power but well controlled. Looked like maybe she missed something in a dance series there? It wasn’t really an element at all. Double tuck is excellent.
Richards, UB: Maloney, some leg sep there. Bail is solid. Last handstand is good. Double layout, little hop forward – we’ll take it.
5:13pm: Stephen, MSU BB: Nails her acro series! Beat to straddle 1/2, solid 180 position there. Roundoff double full is stuck!
White, ASU FX: Front double full, really strong on that landing. 1.5 to front lay, very clean in her twisting form. Switch ring to switch half, could use a clearer ring position but amplitude is fine. Front full to front lay for her last pass – also well controlled, just a little lowkey for my personal taste.
Garcia, MSU BB: Acro series nailed right off the bat, excellent. Front aerial to split jump, lovely extension on that. Switch to split jump, clean 180 positions. Team is going nuts for her on EVERY element, love that for them. Bhs gainer full, a little forward with her chest but she sticks it!
5:17pm: Scharf, ASU FX: Front through to double tuck, little bouncy on that landing. Front full to front tuck, very clean and floaty on that. Double pike to close it out, very strong finish.
Every team is in the hunt on this. This is incredible!
AFTER ONE: UF 49.575, MSU 49.425, ASU 49.3, CAL 49.275
This explains the big cheer for Frazier – she threw a double twisting Yurchenko! It is essentially the hardest vault being competed in the NCAA currently, once competed by Gator great Alex McMurtry for you longtime Gator fans.
5:26pm: Rotation 2! Here we go!
Blakely, BB: Front aerial to bhs, solid. Switch leap to switch half to beat jump, like I said on Twitter, those leaps are fire tonight. Gainer full dismount is stuck! She has turned into such an incredible leadoff performer for this team. So clutch.
DeSouza, Cal UB: Good opening handstand. Big piked Jaeger to immediate overshoot. Sticks her dismount!
Nyah Smith for MSU just opened their floor rotation with a solid routine.
Mangahas, ASU VT: Yfull, looked like a stick from here!
Frazier, Cal UB: Maloney to pak, a little whippy in the pak but keeps moving okay. Sticks her DLO!
5:30pm: Lazzari, BB: Triple series, absolutely gorgeous. Switch leap to split jump, perfect. Front aerial, so clean. Dismount looked stuck from here!
Kalefe, MSU FX: Front double full, excellent. Cat leap to switch leap to wolf jump full to Shushunova – that’s a dance pass! Punch Rudi to loso, she’s got some power, wow. Good for her.
Big cheers from the ASU crowd for Theodorou, but I missed it. 9.925 for her!
Smith, ASU VT: Y1.5, maybe the tiniest slide back? Maybe a stick? She’s celebrating like it was a stick!
DiCello, BB: Candle mount is clean. Double wolf, good. Switch leap to split jump, good 180s on those. Nails her acro series. Front aerial, flicks those hands like she knows she’s got it. Bhs gainer full, stuck! Best one she’s done all day.
Harkness, MSU FX: Opens with a full in, great amplitude but a little bouncy. Hits her last pass, although I missed what it was.
Williams, Cal UB: Floaty pak salto. Sticks her dismount! Every single team is fighting for this – it is ELECTRIC in here.
5:36pm: Wong, BB: Switch leap to split leap, just textbook. Bhs loso, so steady. Front aerial to beat, excellent. Roundoff double full is stuck!! Yes!
Stephen, MSU FX: Front through to double tuck to open, very well controlled. Giving big Trinity Thomas vibes with her opening music and choreo, but now it’s a flavor all her own. Controls the landing on her last pass as well – MSU fighting for every tenth.
Big amplitude on the Jaeger to overshoot from Cesario to close things out on bars for Cal. Should be another good score.
McCusker, BB: Gave me a small heart attack on the wolf turn but she makes it around just before there’s a problem. Front aerial is lovely. Bhs loso, nails it! Switch leap to split leap, gorgeous. Sticks that gainer full dismount, let’s go!
Nikki Smith, MSU FX: Full in to open! Just a step into the lunge. Love this choreo here, lots of drama and showing off her flexibility and musicality all at the same time. 1.5 to front lay, well done. Double tuck to close it out, bringing the difficulty too – that should be an EXCELLENT score for the Spartans.
5:41pm: Richards, BB: Bhs loso, super steady, she’s locked in. Switch half to beat, maybe a little shy of 180? Certainly some knees. Switch leap to straddle, much better positions there. Bhs 1.5, stuck! That’s an entire lineup of stuck dismounts for the Gators, y’all!!
Schulte, MSU FX: Full in to open, great control there. Gorgeous split positions in her dance series. Really fun choreo sequence, playing to the whole crowd. Front through to double tuck, a little bouncy on the landing, but ends it powerfully in her final pose.
AFTER TWO: UF 99.175, MSU 98.9, CAL 98.8, ASU 98.75
Sam is 100% right here – Richards has been absolutely CLUTCH for this team in so many situations this season. She’s built up her mental fortitude and confidence so much and played such a key role for the Gators.
5:53pm: Rotation 3 time!
Nguyen, FX: Front double full, overcooks it a little and jumps waaay forward into her sissone. A little bouncy coming out of her leap series, but the leaps themselves are just so incredible. Y turn is excellent. 1.5 to front lay, some knees in the layout, that’s uncharacteristic for her. I wonder if the closeness of this meet is getting to them at all?
Garcia just nailed her vault for MSU, and DeSouza looked like she stuck for Cal on beam.
Samiley, ASU UB: Jaeger to overshoot, good amplitude there. Last handstand was a little quick, sticks her DLO though!
Baumann, FX: Double wolf to start is good. 1.5 to front full is so clean, looks like she’s dialed in to me. Switch side to straddle, such amplitude, incredible oversplit. I’m never getting over it. Double pike to finish, overcooks it and stumbles OOB. Gators can only eat one of those right now, maybe.
Schulte, MSU VT: Yfull, little slide back. Pretty clean body position.
Scharf, ASU UB: Great opening handstand. Maloney to pak, very clean. Last handstand maybe a little shy? Full in, looks like she shifted a little backward in her salute but not sure if judges will take that.
Li, Cal BB: Front aerial to loso, that’s a fun series. Switch to split, maybe a little shy of 180. Gainer tuck full off the end, little hop.
Richards, FX: DLO to open, pops it out into a lunge. Maybe not quite as fully rotated as Friday but I wouldn’t call it under. Leaps are solid. 1.5 to front full to finish up, it’s a good one! Good reset – like I said, talk about clutch.
Stephen, MSU VT: Another Yfull, another little slide back.
6:00pm: White, ASU UB: Gorgeous Handstand work. Jaeger is excellent. Transition was good. Great last handstand, sticks her dismount!
Frazier, Cal BB: Front aerial to loso, excellent. Dance series was solid, lovely straddle positions. Roundoff 1.5 is stuck!
Wong, FX: Dos Santos, a little deep, but doesn’t cheat back with the stag like Friday. Leap series is gorgeous, so precise. Whip half front full, single step forward, well controlled. That should be a fantastic score! Don’t think it’s a 10 but it’ll be great.
Lauzon, Cal BB: Single wolf turn, fine. Bhs bhs loso, absolutely nails it! Switch leap to split, good 180 positions. Roundoff double full, a little squatty but holds the stick!
6:05pm: DiCello, FX: Front double full, back foot scoots maybe a little bit. Switch ring to switch half, super clean. Double wolf is a little wobbly. 1.5 to front lay is suuuper clean. Another good one for the Gators! One more from Blakely and they’ll drop the OOB from Baumann.
Perea, Cal BB: Double wolf is good to start. Acro series clean, good 180 in her leap series. Side somi to back tuck 1.5 off the side?? That’s a cool dismount! And it looked stuck!
Blakely, FX: Double arabian, and her foot goes out. Welp. We’d rather that than she sit it, I suppose. Leap series is excellent. Much better on her combo pass to finish. They needed a bigger lead than this going into the last rotation…
AFTER THREE: UF 148.5, CAL 148.45, ASU 148.25, MSU 148.125
Florida needed a bigger lead than that going into arguably their worst event, though floor has been their most inconsistent.
VICTORIA NGUYEN IS ANNOUNCED AS PART OF THE LINEUP, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!!!
6:17pm: Wong, VT: Yhalf on, front pike half off – a good one, just a little hop back.
DeSouza, Cal FX: Rudi to loso, looked a little funky twisting but couldn’t put my finger on it. 1.5 to front full to finish out, much cleaner.
Lee, ASU BB: Hit acro series, split to sheep is clean. Sticks her dismount. Hoo boy.
Zsarmani, MSU UB: Gienger didn’t get much amplitude but clean legs. Sticks her dismount!
6:20pm: Richards, VT: Y1.5, looks like a stick from here. Oh my god.
Reeves, ASU BB: Nails her triple series. Switch to split, short on the second 180. Front aerial to two feet. Rest was a hit I think, had to watch vault.
Blakely, VT: Y1.5, sits it. Oh my god.
Cal just hit a clean floor routine. My nerves are HIGH.
Stephen, MSU UB: Good opening handstand. Gorgeous Jaeger. Bail is solid. Little slide back on her double tuck dismount.
DiCello, VT: Y1.5, little scoot back. Needed that.
Harper sticks a dismount for ASU on beam. Team is screaming for her.
6:25pm: Clark, VT: Yfull, bounces back. They just need hits right now.
Jackard, MSU UB: It’s a hit. I saw no details, focused on Clark.
Williams, Cal FX: Hits first pass! Clean dance series. 1.5 to front lay, clean. Cal is hitting when it counts.
Clark, ASU BB: Bhs loso, solid. Split to ring, good positions in the air. Sticks her 1.5 dismount!
Looks like Florida is switching to Edwards instead of Nguyen to make sure it’s another hit.
Edwards, VT: Yfull, little hop forward. We’ll see if it’s enough.
Li, Cal FX: Front double full, gorgeous. Cartwheel to loso, to fulfill the back tumbling requirement. Front full front lay, clean. Dance series is lovely. Another great score for Cal.
White, ASU BB: Little bobble on her acro series. Front aerial to beat jump. Split to ring, short of 180 it looked like. Step on her dismount.
6:30pm: Lauzon, Cal FX: Front double full to front tuck, very floaty. Leap series is gorgeous, big amplitude. Sticks her final combo pass! Cal having the floor rotation of their life!
Scharf, ASU BB: Wolf turn is clean. Bhs loso, steady. Lean forward on her side somi. Roundoff 1.5 is stuck.
Florida finishes with a 197.8… I don’t think ASU can catch them, and they’ve already passed Michigan State, but I’m not 100% on that.
Frazier, Cal FX: Last routine of the night. DLO to open, great control. Gorgeous split ring jump in the corner. Good split positions in her leap series, although I could use a clearer ring position in the first element. Using a dance remix of Circle of Life, that’s fun. Front through to double tuck to close it out, and they’re screaming for 10s.
Regardless, of Frazier’s score, Cal will win, but Florida will also advance!!
FINAL: CAL 198.075, UF 197.8, MSU 197.65, ASU 197.475
Gators live to dance another day!
They will hope to have Thomas healthy again for nationals, but they will also hope to have Blakely out of her head and Baumann not going OOB on floor anymore. They have two weeks to figure it out before they head to Fort Worth – so we’ll see you back here then!
Thanks for joining us, and make sure you head to my Twitter for live tweets from the press conference in just a few minutes!