The USC men’s swim team consistently ranks among the best in the nation. In the 11 dual meets against Cal since 2000, the Trojans have been nationally ranked all but twice, reaching the top 10 seven of those years.
Yet in spite of USC’s perennial talent, the Cal men’s swim team has come away with a win in each of those meets. The squads are often close in the national rankings, but not since Feb. 4, 2000 have the Trojans come ahead in a dual meet against the Bears. It’s a testament to the sport’s lack of parity. In each of those years, Cal has had the higher-ranked team.
But in Friday’s 2 p.m. dual meet against USC at McDonald’s Swim Stadium in Los Angeles, it’s Cal’s turn to be the underdog.
The No. 5 Trojans (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) are ranked as high as they have in over a decade. Though just a spot ahead of the No. 6 Bears in the national rankings, USC will match off as favorites for the first time in years.
“They are ranked ahead of us, and deservedly so,” Cal coach David Durden said. “They have put up faster times than we have to date … They certainly have the talent that should yield a better performance, a better result, a higher ranking than us. And this year they’re putting that together.”
The Trojans’ surge in the polls is attributable to the success of their talented underclassmen freestylers. Sophomore Vladimir Morozov has been the best short-distance freestyler in the nation thus far, holding the top times in the nation in the 50 and 100 free. Fellow sophomore Dimitri Colupaev holds the top time in the 200 free. Freshman Chad Bobrosky, a member of the Canadian national team, rounds out USC’s exceptional lineup of freestylers.
“You have enough of those components to be a really successful dual meet team,” Durden said. “They do a nice job competing. They have some good pieces.”
The Bears (3-1, 2-1) will also strive to avoid their second loss to a top-five team in as many weeks. Cal’s 191-107 defeat at the hands of top-ranked Arizona on Jan. 20 was its first dual meet loss of the season. But the Bears rebounded the next day with a thorough win over Arizona State. With the added perspective of time, the loss no longer stings as much as it did then.
“It hasn’t been weighing on us,” Durden said. “When we just look at ourselves and how we perform, how we swam, we did pretty well.”
But even in a sport in which moral victories are easy to come by, Cal won’t be settling for one on Friday. USC’s 2000 win over the then-No. 4 Bears was an upset. The underdog still has a chance.
“We feel pretty good about where we’re at,” Durden said.