After losing its undefeated record last weekend, the No. 3 Cal women’s swimming team will attempt to bounce back in its next meet against the best team in the country.
After last weekend’s disappointing loss against No. 6 Arizona, the Bears spent the week working on both technical and mental improvements. Though the NCAA has not updated their rankings since January 17th with Cal still at No. 3, the College Swim Coaches Association of America recently dropped the Bears to No. 7 after their loss to the Wildcats.
“We’re spending time talking about what we did well and what we need to improve,” associate coach Kristen Cunnane said. “We’re working on being ready to go from the start and attacking that first race, as well as racing techniques like turns and dives.”
Facing No. 1 USC on Friday and No. 12 UCLA on Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Complex, the Bears have a difficult weekend ahead of them. Head coach Teri McKeever and Cunnane will be coaching Cal against their alma maters of USC and UCLA, respectively.
Despite the drop in rank, the Bears are still focused on the NCAAs rather than strategically placing swimmers based on USC’s lineup.
“Instead of playing defense, we want to put people where they need the most growth before March,” Cunnane said.
To get to the NCAAs in top shape, the Bears are focusing on putting together a strong team and taking this opportunity to race its biggest competition before the Pac-12 and NCAA championships. Not only do the Bears get to scope out the competition, but they can also expect to be pushed to swim faster on Friday.
“It does help to see them at the dual meet first,” Cunnane said. “Whether we win or lose, we’re getting a good opportunity to race against a strong team.
Senior co-captain Haley Anderson will lead the Trojans’ effort against the Bears. Anderson won a silver medal in the Olympic marathon swim, becoming the first American to medal in the marathon swim. The three-time All-American also holds an NCAA title in the 500 free and two Pac-12 titles.
USC has seven All-Americans in addition to Anderson, and the Trojans will also feature an impressive freshman class with two-time world champion Jasmine Tosky, who has a NCAA qualifying time in the 200 fly.
The Bears have posted faster times in the 200 free, 400 free, 800 free, 200 medley and the 400 medley relays this season, and they have the depth to come out on top after both days of racing.
Notably, the Bears’ 400 free relay is the second-fastest time in the country compared to USC’s seventh-fastest, and in the 200 medley relay, Cal has the fastest time in the country to USC’s fourth-fastest.
Led by Olympian Caitlin Leverenz, the Bears are coming into the USC meet with some top times. Leverenz has the second-fastest time in the 200 IM, third-fastest time in the 200 breast and fourth-fastest in the 400 IM. Leverenz and her freshman teammate Rachel Bootsma are tied for the fourth-fastest time in the 200 fly behind Tosky’s second-fastest time.
Cindy Tran also has the fastest time in the 100 back, followed by Bootsma and Elizabeth Pelton with the second and third-fastest time, respectively, in the same event. Pelton also holds the nation’s fastest times for the 200 back and 200 IM.
On paper, the Bears should be able to beat the Trojans while swimming their fastest times, but times are variable.
Though Cal is focusing on March, the USC meet will be the Bears’ test for the way they stack up against one of the best.
Jessica Lim covers women’s swimming. Contact her at [email protected]