Only days after thrashing rival Stanford in an exhibition meet, the Cal men’s swimming team (2-0) will play host to Wisconsin from the comfort of the Spieker Aquatic Complex on Friday. The Bears are rolling through the 2014-15 season thus far, going undefeated through two matches and extending their winning streak to 17 consecutive dual meets.
The Bears had little trouble thwarting the Cardinal in the Triple Distance Meet, winning 15 of 20 events and establishing themselves as the best the Pac-12 has to offer. Led by senior Will Hamilton and sophomore Ryan Murphy’s six combined victories, Cal took the exhibition match with ease. Murphy remains undefeated in individual races this season and looks to continue his current streak against an up-and-coming Wisconsin team.
Senior Seth Stubblefield and junior Tyler Messerschmidt each earned big victories when the Badgers visited Berkeley last season. In the 151-131 Cal victory, Stubblefield posted his season best 19.99 in the 50-yard freestyle, winning the race by more than a second over every Wisconsin swimmer. Messerschmidt was equally as impressive, picking up two wins in the 100- and 200-yard freestyles in a blowout. With the Bears performing at their current level, expect an overwhelmed and outmatched Badgers team to falter on the road.
“Off of our meet with Stanford, we are really trying to keep our focus on learning from the things we can improve on,” said senior Jesse Ryckman. “We need to concentrate on the details of our individual races and apply them as we prepare to take on Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin (3-0) is coming off of a narrow 153.5-146.5 victory over Minnesota on Oct. 17 and scored victories over two other Pac-12 teams — Arizona and Arizona State — earlier in the year. The Badgers are led by senior Nicholas Schafer and sophomore Brett Pinfold, who won a combined seven events in a nailbiter dual meet against Minnesota. Schafer is the only active member of the Badgers’ roster that has earned a win against top-ranked Cal, emerging victorious in the 200-yard breaststroke against the Bears last year, posting a 2:01.10. If Cal is to avoid a shocking upset at home, it must be mindful of the talent and versatility that Schafer and Pinfold bring into play.
But history favors the Bears in what looks to be a very one-sided matchup. Cal has not lost a meet at home since January 2012 when it was routed by Arizona by a score of 191-107. All things considered, the odds of Wisconsin pulling an upset on the road over the highly favored Bears appear incredibly slim.
The defending national champions are on a tear, blowing through every opponent standing in its way up to this point, and it is highly unlikely that a promising Wisconsin squad can keep pace. Despite the talent they bring into play, the Badgers look to be yet another victim caught in the wake of a national powerhouse.
Christian Legg covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].