The No. 3 Cal women’s swimming and diving team faltered for the second time this season against a Pac-12 rival. Unlike the Bears’ 153-147 loss to No. 7 USC, however, this time it was not a remotely competitive contest.
Cal failed to show up in its final dual meet of the season against No. 2 Stanford, and the Cardinal blew past the Bears at Avery Aquatic Center on Saturday, 172-128.
Cal freshman Amy Bilquist once again put forth a strong effort for the team in the short distance events, capturing the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke events with times of 52.59 and 1:53.80, respectively. Bilquist also went second in the 50-yard freestyle event behind junior teammate Farida Osman’s 22.45 time.
“Pretty big schedule for me with a lot of my better events,” Bilquist said. “I was kind of nervous going into it because Stanford has good swimmers in all of those events, and I really wanted to swim well for the team and have some good swims to motivate others to go fast as well.”
Bilquist’s performance at the meet was more of the same from the freshman, who’s pulled through with big performances for the team at almost every dual meet this season. Most recently, in the team’s road trip to Los Angeles, she showed off her versatility in short-distance events with victories in the 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke events with times of 1:47.12 and 1:55.86, respectively.
“I am really thankful that I’ve been able to pull through for the team and really be a strong member at dual meets,” Bilquist said. “It’s been nerve-wracking every time I go out (because) everything is so new, and every dual meet provides a new opportunity and basically, I have to adjust every time something doesn’t go as expected.”
Prior to the meet, Cal was aware that it had a hole in the breaststroke events while those events were a strength for Stanford, and the Bears anticipated that the Cardinal had the swimmers to capitalize on their weakness. Cal’s prediction came to fruition as Stanford went 1-2 in both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke events with its tandem of senior Sarah Haase and freshman Kim Williams. Cal junior Marina Garcia took third in both events with times of 1:03.36 and 2:17.30, respectively.
Some of the other strong performances from the Bears included victories in the 1,000-yard freestyle by junior Celina Li at 9:58.98 and sophomore Noemie Thomas’s victory in the 100-yard butterfly with a 52.58 time.
The Bears’ dual meet season is officially complete and while the 44-point loss is certainly not an ideal result, they have an opportunity to use the lopsided loss as a learning opportunity and redeem themselves at the upcoming Pac-12 Championships, which will take place Feb. 24-27 in Federal Way, Washington.
“I think the team collectively didn’t show up like we usually do at a dual meet but it’s always a time to learn and I think we learned a lot from Stanford,” Bilquist said. “(For me, personally, it’s) building my confidence and, knowing that, even as a freshman, it’s okay to race older girls. Having the team behind me, it’s a great feeling knowing every time you’re behind the blocks, you’re swimming with a great group of girls.”