Cementing a legacy: Cal Athletics’ top moments of 2019

From a national championship in the pool to a wild celebration after a Big Game victory, Cal student-athletes reached lofty heights this past year. Here are some of the top moments from 2019: 

Year-round: Female student-athletes earn significant recognition

Throughout the calendar year, several female student-athletes shined in their respective fields of play. In May, softball infielder Lindsay Rood and pitcher Kamalani Dung earned All-Pacific Region team honors, while women’s crew veteran Dana Moffat took home the title of Pac-12 Women’s Rowing Athlete of the Year. Elsewhere, women’s water polo sophomore Kitty Lynn Joustra was one of four Bears named to the ACWPC All-American team and the lone Cal representative on the First Team.

This fall, women’s soccer goalkeeper Angelina Anderson claimed Pac-12 Goalkeeper and Freshman of the Year labels in her first collegiate season, leading the Bears to a 13-5-3 record.

Feb. 28: Men’s basketball stuns No. 25 Washington

It wasn’t quite March, but it sure felt like it that evening at Haas Pavilion. The Bears, without a Pac-12 win to their name, squared off with the Huskies, the top program in the conference.

Darius McNeill and Connor Vanover combined for 37 points while Justice Sueing produced a well-rounded statline, as Cal survived David Crisp’s 32-point effort and handed Washington a stunning 76-73 loss.

The Bears would go on to defeat Washington State and Stanford to ignite a three-game win streak after snapping a 16-game losing skid. 

March 23: Women’s swim sets record relay time

Cal women’s swim may have finished as runners-up at national championships, but it certainly wasn’t second in one event. In the 400-yard freestyle relay event, the quartet of Isabel Ivey, Katie McLaughlin, Amy Bilquist and Abbey Weitzeil clocked in with a time of 3:06.96 — an NCAA record.

Including the freestyle relay, the Bears took the top spot in four events, en route to their 11th consecutive finish inside the top three at the NCAA Championships.

March 30: Men’s swim claims national championship

A week after the women’s swim program clocked in its record-breaking time, Cal’s men’s swim program would not be denied its first national title in five years. The Bears, led by individual NCAA champion Andrew Seliskar, had finished as runners-up to Texas in each of the previous four seasons and bested the Longhorns by a margin of 560-485 in the final standings.

The championship win was the fourth for head coach David Durden, all of which have come since 2011.

April 10: Women’s basketball star Kristine Anigwe earns top-10 selection in WNBA Draft

She once scored 50 points in a single game for women’s hoops. In April, shortly after leading the Bears to a third straight NCAA tournament appearance, forward Kristine Anigwe was selected No. 9 overall by the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Draft.

Her rookie campaign included appearances in 27 games and a midseason trade from the Sun to the Dallas Wings.

Late April-early May: Yuta Kikuchi stars, men’s tennis makes improbable postseason run

Men’s tennis freshman Yuta Kikuchi quickly asserted himself as a force to be reckoned with in his debut season, moving to the No. 1 singles court by the time May rolled around. He led the Bears on a late postseason push in the Pac-12 tournament, accentuated by an upset over UCLA, and helped Cal clinch a showdown with No. 2 Texas in the NCAA super regionals.

Kikuchi’s stellar performance netted him a spot on the All-Pac-12 Second Team, along with Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors.

Mid-May: Cal rugby caps off another impressive postseason run

Arguably the most dominant Cal program since the turn of the century, the Bears’ rugby team displayed no mercy for its opposition all season long, dropping just three matches total between October and June. While Cal narrowly dropped the National Collegiate 15s Championship to Life University, the Bears remained undefeated in the friendly confines of Witter Field and are expected to return to the national spotlight in 2020.

June 3: Baseball alumnus Andrew Vaughn goes No. 3 in MLB draft

The Chicago White Sox found themselves a gem in the first round of the MLB draft in June. In his three years with Cal baseball, Andrew Vaughn was one of the most successful student-athletes in program history, winning the renowned Golden Spikes Award as a sophomore and slugging 50 home runs across those three seasons.

Shortly after his selection, Vaughn embarked on a successful stint in the lower-tier minor league affiliates of the White Sox, and found himself atop CBS Sports’ Top Ten First Base Prospects for 2020.

Oct. 18-20: Volleyball prevails in back-to-back five-set matches, Mirkovic earns national honors

Last fall, it seemed like Cal volleyball was always on the wrong end of five-set matches. On Oct. 18, the Bears got the best of then-No. 18 Utah, pulling away from the Utes in the decisive fifth set. Two days later, Cal hosted Colorado in another dramatic finish, edging the Buffaloes by the smallest of margins (16-14) down the stretch of the last set.

The pair of wins netted Cal a No. 15 ranking, while outside hitter Mima Mirkovic was named National Player of the Week.

Nov. 7-14: Men’s soccer takes out powerhouses

With its NCAA tournament dream in flux, men’s soccer willed itself to not one, but two marquee upsets of top programs over a seven-day stretch. The first domino to fall was No. 1 Washington, who Cal defeated 3-2 in Seattle to secure head coach Kevin Grimes his 203rd record-breaking win with the program.

A week later, junior forward Tommy Williamson shut the door on No. 4 Stanford as the Bears defeated the Cardinal for the second straight year on the road. Days later, Cal would secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Nov. 23: Return of the Axe — Cal football ends 10 year drought against rival Stanford

At least for a day, Palo Alto was “Bear Territory.” Thanks to receiver Nikko Remigio’s career day and a late rushing touchdown from quarterback Chase Garbers, Cal football emerged victorious in the annual Big Game for the first time since 2009.

The win clinched bowl eligibility for the Bears, denied bowl eligibility for the Cardinal and finally brought the Axe back to UC Berkeley.

Josh Yuen is the editor in chief and president. Contact Josh at [email protected]