Cal women’s swim set to host Stanford in season’s final dual meet

Kevin Cheung/File

Related Posts

The oldest college rivalry in the West should need no introduction.

On a typical day, Cal students are a relatively low-profile bunch of academics. But any time our friends from across the Bay come to town, you can count on us to create a welcoming atmosphere.

The Bay Area schools own six of the past 10 NCAA championships and nine of the last 10 Pac-12 titles. Cal’s four national championships in 10 years lead the nation in that span, while Stanford looks to cement a dynasty after capturing gold in 2017 and 2018.

The undefeated Cardinal have seen nothing but blue skies throughout their schedule, as their national title defense has held its ground against all challengers thus far. Meanwhile, Berkeley’s recent turbulent weather is symbolic of a Cal season buffeted by early shortcomings and righted by hard-fought second-half wins.

What’s at stake Saturday goes beyond school pride alone — it’s a chance for both teams to see where they stand heading into both conference and national championships. Currently, No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Cal own the best and second-best records, respectively, in the Pac-12, and the one dual meet left to swim is the season’s most crucial for both sides.

Light showers are in the forecast for when a confident Cardinal squad that comfortably dispatched No. 14 USC and No. 20 UCLA just two weeks ago visits Spieker Aquatics Complex. Cal matched that feat with wins of its own against the team’s SoCal rivals, and for Stanford, the Bears will be their toughest competition thus far.

The inverse, however, does not apply — Cal has had a taste of top-tier opposition in No. 1 Texas, which silenced the Bears’ home support with a 163-137 first-half win at Spieker. Stanford has not yet seen Texas or opposition ranked higher than USC after its meet with the Longhorns was canceled because of poor air quality last December.

Cal needs its veteran contingent of junior Abbey Weitzeil, senior Amy Bilquist and senior Katie McLaughlin to come through in key events Saturday, with sophomores Robin Neumann and Sarah Darcel also aiming for significant contributions. Freshman Isabel Ivey, the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruit, will face the Cardinal for the first time as a Cal swimmer.

Stanford’s lineup features a senior trio of Ella Eastin, Leah Stevens and Kim Williams alongside a high-caliber underclassman squad. Eastin in particular poses a threat in all individual medley events — she currently holds the nation’s top time in the 400 IM and the nation’s second-best mark in the 200 IM.

The Bears are hoping for a ray of sunshine to end the dual meet year, and they will need to channel everything they have left to keep pace with the reigning national champions. A win for the Bears would be their first over the Cardinal since a 158-142 victory during their 2014-15 NCAA championship season — Stanford’s only loss in its last 30 dual meets. Since then, the Cardinal have compiled a streak of 29 consecutive dual wins that will be put to the test this weekend.

The meet will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks, and fans can cheer on their Bears live at noon at Spieker.

Chanun Ong covers women’s swimming and diving. Contact him at [email protected].