Bears ready to make waves in meets against USC and UCLA

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Cal women’s swim and dive is ready to start the 2021 season on a high note. The Bears are diving into competition this weekend with home pool advantage as they face off against Pac-12 rivals USC and UCLA.

The blue and gold have high expectations this year, a result of their No. 7 national rank and the fact that they were runners-up at the 2019 and 2020 Pac-12 championship meets.

The team has not had its typical share of meets in this unique season. In a normal year, the Bears compete in roughly 15 organized competitions, touring the country as they go head-to-head with some of the nation’s highest ranked teams.

This season, however, Cal women’s swim and dive has faced off against only one program — Stanford — and those meets did not count toward either team’s record. Furthermore, the Bears have no confirmed regular season meets outside of these contests with the Bruins and Trojans.

It is important for the Bears to take advantage of the opportunity to compete in this high-intensity setting. This meet is one of the only opportunities Cal will have to compete before the Pac-12 Championships.

Cal women’s swim and dive will be hosting these meets at the Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley over the span of three days. The Bears will battle the Trojans Friday and Saturday, then turn their attention to the Bruins.

These contests will be the official start to Cal’s season. The Bears’ November matchups with Stanford featured several races but served as nonscoring meets.

The time trials and scrimmage races offered collegiate race experience for freshmen such as Isabelle Stadden, who performed Cal’s fastest 200-yard backstroke since 2019, and Emily Gantriis, who kicked off the meet with a 50-yard freestyle. Stadden and Gantriis will be looking to build on those promising performances in the upcoming meets against UCLA and USC.

Another standout at the nonscoring meets against Stanford was junior Ema Rajic, who set a Cal record in the 100-yard breaststroke and recorded the No. 2 time in school history in the 200 breaststroke.

While the blue and gold have high expectations this season, it would be understandable if they showed rust given the long layoff since their last organized competition.

In a normal season, cheering fans are there to encourage swimmers and help their team through the toughest moments of competition. But, given restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, there will not be any Cal faithful fans filling the stands this weekend.

Despite this, the Bears’ training has them prepared for anything that comes their way.

The question of whether Cal women’s swim and dive will continue its winning ways against USC and UCLA will be answered this weekend as the Pac-12 foes duke it out at the Bears’ Spieker Aquatics Center.

Alisa Steel covers beach volleyball and women’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected]