The Bears are looking for reassurance.
After a loss to USC and a two-week hiatus, the Cal women’s swim team is looking to make sure its dismal performance against the Trojans was just a fluke. The Bears will do so by taking on No. 4 Stanford on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Avery Aquatic Center. This match against the two long-time rivals marks the last dual match of the season for the No. 1 Bears (7-1), as they attempt to ruin the Cardinal’s undefeated record.
Cal comes off its short break after the team’s only loss of the season against No. 5 USC a couple of weeks ago, when the Bears fell from their usual standards and took only four of the 16 events, ultimately losing 180.5-119.5. But after finishing that weekend with a win against UCLA, Cal will go into the Stanford meet trying to prove its only loss of the season was just a slight bump in the road.
While USC did outperform the Bears, the loss to the Trojans was indicative of Cal’s top swimmers not performing up to their usual standards.
Senior Stephanie Au, who serves as one of the Bear’s top 10 performers and has two Olympic appearances under her belt, was just one of the Cal swimmers who was outraced by the Trojans. Au has had previous success in the 100-back as well as in part of the 200-medley relay-race team, and she can usually be counted on to place in one of the top spots every match.
“(Against USC), we both went into that meet without losing, and for the team, we didn’t really lay it all out in the beginning,” Au said. “We weren’t holding back, but we weren’t really racing. We were just swimming, but we weren’t racing.”
Cal freshman Missy Franklin and sophomore Elizabeth Pelton are both national leaders, with Franklin winning the gold in multiple events at the 2012 Olympics and Pelton capturing gold medals at the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona.
With the heated rivalry between Cal and Stanford, not to mention having Olympians on both sides, the stakes are even higher than usual. Both teams have swimmers ranked among the top 10 in the country in their respective events.
The Bears will have to watch out for Stanford’s senior Felicia Lee, who won all 14 events she competed in last month and claimed Pac-12’s swimmer of the month. Junior Maddy Schaefer also ranks first in the nation with a 21.78 in the 50-free, and senior Maya DiRado’s 1:53.50 has secured her first in the 200 individual medley.
“Winning the meet on Saturday would be great, and we all know it’s important,” Au said. “It’s a traditional rivalry, and it’s going to be a huge crowd. I think people are more excited than scared.”
Both Cal and Stanford dominate the competition boards with a total of 28 top-10 times: 16 for the Bears and 12 for the Cardinals. This dual meet can almost serve as a preview of the NCAA tournament coming up in a few weeks, with both teams currently taking the majority of the top spots in the NCAA.
Alicia Fong covers women’s swim. Contact her at [email protected]