Sink or swim: Cal women’s water polo aims to remain afloat during Aztec Invitational

Photo of Cal women's water polo
Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Although its game against Cal State East Bay was canceled due to the CSU East Bay program’s COVID-19 protocols, Cal women’s water polo is back in the water Friday, Jan. 21, where it will go head-to-head with the University of Michigan.  

This upcoming weekend is a big one for the Bears. The Bears will compete in the Aztec Invitational at Arizona State, at this weekend’s Cross Conference Challenge at Arizona State University, where they face four opponents: Michigan, Arizona State, Fresno State and UC Irvine — each finishing within the top 10 last semester. 

Regardless of competition, the Bears’ fans stand hopeful that their team will swim away victorious this upcoming Friday against University of Michigan. It is usually quite a close game between Michigan and Cal — they did not play against each other last year. However, out of the three games the Bears shared with Michigan in their season of 2020, Cal only lost once, and that was by a single point in overtime. 

Following their game against Michigan, the Bears face both Arizona State University and Fresno State University in relatively back-to-back games on the same day — Saturday, Jan. 22 — and then UC Irvine on the following day, Sunday, Jan. 23, wrapping up the Aztec Invitational. 

Although Cal has the disadvantage of not being in its home pool, until it hosts the Cal Cup at Spieker Aquatics Complex later this month, the Bears are expected to show up and show out as they will be reunited with a couple of their players — Emma Wright and fellow senior Kitty Lynn Joustra. This is an exciting start for Cal, as both of these players are back after each competing in the 2020 Summer Tokyo Olympics. 

Joustra, who played for the Netherlands at the Olympic games, placed sixth, and Wright, who represented Team Canada as the captain, aided the team in placing seventh. 

After taking two seasons off to train with the Canadian National Team in preparation for the 2020 Summer Tokyo Olympic games, Wright is finally back in Bear territory and Cal fans could not be any more excited to see her return this weekend in the Cross Conference Challenge. Wright is ranked No. 9 on the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s All-America scoring list with a total of 154 career goals. 

Preparation for the Cal Cup will follow and is expected to bring players from Fresno State, University of the Pacific, Long Beach State and San Jose State. 

This is a promising season for the Bears — the team has navigated through the many challenges brought upon by the pandemic. With the return of players who were gone for the Olympics, the team is reunited and ready to take on anything that may come its way. 

Cassandra Maciel-Hernandez women’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected].