All four of the Cal women’s diving team’s divers will hit the deck Monday to Wednesday this week as they look to wrap up their season on a strong note at the NCAA Women’s Zone E Diving Championships in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Cal’s diving squad is headlined by its two seniors, Sara Lina-Boushakra and Anne Kastler, both of whom qualified in all three diving events, the 3-meter, 1-meter and platform, for the NCAA Championships in the final meet of their collegiate careers. Freshman Phoebe Lamay and junior Hayden Tavoda will only compete in the 3-meter and 1-meter events at the NCAA Championships.
The Bruin Diving Invitational, hosted by UCLA on Jan. 15 to 17, was an early precursor to the NCAA competition. The Bears will once again square off against the same tough Pac-12 rivals that competed at the tournament, such as UCLA, USC and Utah. The field in the NCAA Championships will be expanded, however, as more schools will be added to the mix, such as Hawaii, San Jose State and Northern Arizona.
The Bears put forth a strong effort in that invitational as Lamay took third place in the women’s 1-meter diving finals with a 587.80 score, placing her behind the dominant performances of a pair of UCLA divers, sophomore Maria Polyakova and freshman Eloise Belanger, who notched scores of 633.05 and 604.20 respectively. UCLA junior Anika Lenz and San Diego State sophomore Alexandra Caplan rounded out the top 5 in the event with 566.40 and 566.05 scores.
Additionally, Lamay took seventh place in the women’s 3-meter diving finals of the Bruin Diving Invitational, scoring 578.00 points. Boushakra was ninth in the event with a score of 572.85. The event saw UCLA dominate once again, with a 1-2-3 finish by the trio of Polyakova, Belanger and Lenz. The other two Cal divers to place in events at the invitational included Kastler, who finished 12th in the 1-meter event with a 517.25 score in the finals, and Tavoda, who finished 18th in the event with 477.90. No Bears placed in the platform events at the Bruin Diving Invitational.
UCLA’s diving depth will once again present a tremendous challenge for the Bears and for the rest of the field competing for a title. Belanger took second place in platform finals of the Pac-12 Championships last Saturday with a 312.65 score that was only second to Stanford’s Gracia Leydon-Mahoney’s 341.40 total. Lenz also finished fourth in the event with her 292.00 score.
At the Pac-12 Championships, Polyakova also captured first place with her 324.80 total in the 1-meter finals, while Stanford senior Alex Clay took second at 297.05. Belanger, Leydon-Mahoney and Arizona junior Sally Hackett took third, fourth and fifth in the event, respectively. No Cal divers qualified for either the platform, 3-meter or 1-meter finals at the championships.
There is no denying it, if the Pac-12 Championships are any indication, Cal’s divers should be overmatched by the sheer level of talent being featured at the NCAA Championships, especially if Stanford and UCLA bring the heat. The Bears must overcome tremendous odds if they want to capture a title or even come remotely close to that goal this season.