GYMNASTICS STARTS SEASON AT NORCAL CLASSIC ON MONDAY

GYMNASTICS STARTS SEASON AT NORCAL CLASSIC ON MONDAY

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OPENING PASS
The Sacramento State gymnastics team will open its 2018 season at the NorCal Classic on Monday, Jan. 8, at 6 p.m. The meet will take place at Maples Pavilion on the campus of Stanford. Along with the Cardinal and the Hornets, the meet will include Cal, San Jose State and UC Davis.

Sacramento State will open the meet on bars. There will be a bye for all teams following vault meaning the Hornets will compete on all four events before having a bye in the fifth rotation.

Stanford does not charge admission for its home gymnastics contests. Fans that cannot attend can also follow a live video stream.

This year marks the seventh annual NorCal Classic and the second time it has been held at Stanford. Last season, Sacramento State placed second with a score of 194.475 at Cal. The score was the highest by the Hornets in a season opening meet. The Hornets scored between 48.450 and 48.925 on all four events and received career highs from Lauren Schmeiss in three events.

The NorCal Classic will return to The Nest at Sacramento State in 2019.

OPPONENT PREVIEWS
Cal is ranked 11th in the Road to Nationals preseason poll. The Golden Bears' roster includes 2016 Olympian Toni-Ann Williams, two-time all-Pac-12 selection Arianna Robinson and Cassidy Keelen.

Cal is coached by Justin Howell who is in his sixth season. The Golden Bears lead the all-time series, 24-8.

Stanford was tabbed 18th in the preseason poll. The Cardinal have just one senior on its roster but it's Elizabeth Price who's a six-time All-American, won the 2015 NCAA vault title and was chosen the 2016 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year.

Tabitha Yim returned to her alma mater to become the Stanford head coach during the summer. Yim, competed for the Cardinal and was a 14-time All-American. After working as an assistant coach with Stanford, she was the head coach at Arizona the last two seasons. The Hornets earned their first victory over the Cardinal last season and now trail the all-time series, 1-15-1.

San Jose State claimed the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title last season after scoring a school record 195.925. Senior Kaitlin Won and sophomore Taylor Chan combined to win 17 individual event championships in 2017.

The Spartans are coached by Wayne Wright who's in his 17th season. Sacramento State leads the all-time series, 50-46-1. The teams will meet four times in 2018.

UC Davis returns just over half of its lineup from last season but the Aggies do have MPSF Gymnast of the Year Alexis Brown. The senior scored 39-plus six times last season in the all-around and earned first team all-MPSF honors in all five categories.

John Lavallee is in his 11th season as the Aggie head coach. The Hornets lead the all-time series, 57-34.

THE LATEST ACTION
Sacramento State scored at least 195 points for the second consecutive meet but finished third at the MPSF Championships at San Jose State. The Hornets totaled 195.175 but trailed SJSU (195.925) and UC Davis (195.725) in the team standings.

Caitlin Soliwoda finished first on bars with a 9.925 to account for the team's lone individual victory. She was also third on beam (9.900) and tied for third on floor (9.850). Lauren Rice added a trio of top five finishes, tying for third on bars (9.875) and tying for fifth on beam (9.875) and floor (9.825).

FAMILIAR FACES
Sacramento State returns 10 gymnasts who started in at least six meets last season. Among the returners are seniors Lauren Rice, twins Caitlin and Courtney Soliwoda, Jennifer Brenner, Annie Juarez and Courteney Ng. Rice has been an NCAA Regional qualifier the last two seasons. In 2017, she was a first team all-MPSF selection on bars and earned second team honors on beam.

Caitlin Soliwoda made her first postseason appearance last season as an all-arounder. The senior was named first team all-MPSF on vault and floor as well as in the all-around and was a second team selection on bars and beam. She finished the year with an RQS of 39.165 which ranked second in the MPSF despite having never competed in the all-around prior to the start of the season.

Courtney Soliwoda punched her ticket to the Seattle Regional as a beam specialist. She had an RQS of 9.790 in the event and scored at least 9.750 on seven of the team's 11 regular season meets.

Brenner has been a fixture in the lineup during her first three seasons. The senior has been battling a back injury during the fall but is expected to compete on Monday. Last year, Brenner had an RQS of 9.820 on floor in 11 meets.

For the first time since her freshman season, Juarez enters the season healthy. The senior is slated to compete as an all-arounder for the first time in her career. As a freshman in 2015, she had highs of 9.875 on floor and 9.825 on vault.

Ng competed in all 11 meets last year on bars . She placed fifth at the MPSF Championships with a career high of 9.850 and averaged 9.732 over her final seven routines of the year.

WHO'S NEXT
Juniors Lauren Schmeiss and Jackie Sampson both return. Both gymnasts battled injuries a year ago but are expected to compete in multiple events during the season. Sophomores Tara Catour and Alexis Belkoff were thrust into the lineup as true freshmen in 2017 and will likely continue their roles.

Sacramento State has one of its largest freshmen classes in recent memory as the team boasts seven first-year gymnasts. Jordyn Brent should see the most time in the lineup among the group. Brent trained at All Olympia Gymnastics Club in Los Angeles and could crack the lineup as an all-arounder.

POSTSEASON CHANGE
Just when you were finally able to figure out the NCAA postseason formula, it was announced that NCAA would change the way the teams qualify for regionals. Beginning this year, the number of regionals will drop from six to four. However, each site will now have nine teams instead of six. The biggest change will be in the format as the eighth and ninth seeded teams will compete in a dual meet on the opening night of the regional. The next day, the remaining eight teams will compete in a pair of four-team meets. The top two teams from each of those meets will then move on to the third day of competition and another four-team meet. The two top scoring teams from each of the four regional finals will qualify for the NCAA Championships.