The No. 3 Cal women’s swimming and diving team will hit the water against sharks Saturday as they face their most imposing foe of the season, No. 2 Stanford. The team will enter its final dual meet rested, thanks to a two-week gap in between this meet and their road meets against No. 7 USC and No. 19 UCLA.
The Bears’ most consistently impressive performers this season have been a pair of freshmen, Kathleen Baker and Amy Bilquist. In the team’s loss to USC, Baker, January’s Pac-12 Women’s Swimmer of the Month, showed off her versatility as she took the 500-yard freestyle event in 4:45.49, the fastest of any Cal swimmer in the event this season, and the 100-yard backstroke with a 52.95 time. Bilquist won the 200-yard freestyle event with a time of 1:47.12 and the 200-yard backstroke with her 1:55.86 time.
“They’ve done just a fantastic job for us and I know that they will continue to do that throughout the year,” said assistant coach Kathie Wickstrand. “They’re both incredibly talented young women. With Kathleen, we can kind of put her anywhere. Amy is more of a sprinter but they’ve just been really instrumental, and, more than (being) good swimmers, they add a lot of team spirit and enthusiasm.”
Outside of the two freshmen, Cal still features a deep roster chock-full of contributors capable of taking any given event. Senior Kelly Naze is also a name to keep note of against Stanford. Naze took the 200-yard butterfly event against USC in 1:56.23.
Despite the Bears’ talent, depth and versatility, Stanford will still pose serious problems for Cal on Saturday. The Cardinal are just as deep and talented a team, and also boast strengths in areas where Cal is weaker.
“We’ll go back and forth (against Stanford) just like we did against USC,” Wickstrand said. “We’re better at certain events; they’re better at certain events. They have a ton of really good breaststrokers and that’s not our forte since we don’t have as many of those. That’ll be a place that will be a bit of trouble for us.”
Stanford’s most dangerous breaststroker is senior Sarah Haase, who most recently swept the two events against USC, with her times of 1:00.93 and 2:12.25 in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. The Cardinal also feature talented junior Lia Neal, who won the 100- and 200-yard free events against the Trojans, with her times of 48.36 and 1:45.87, respectively, and versatile sophomore Janet Hu, who won the 200-yard back at 1:54.62 and the 100-yard fly at 53.33.
The Bears understand the beast that awaits them in Stanford and the significance of the matchup against a contender in light of their slip-up against USC. The Cardinal are keen on sending a message to defending champion Cal that its run as the face of the Pac-12 may be coming to an end.
“USC was the first really hard, competitive dual meet we’ve had (this season),” Wickstrand said. “This will be the second one.”
Shiktij Dave covers women’s swimming. Contact him at [email protected]