A sea of blue: Cal looks for deliverance against Cardinals

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Vanessa Lim/Senior Staff

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They faced the Trojans and bested the Wildcats. They humbled the Utes and swam with the King of the Pool. They competed against the best of the best and saw the worst of the worst. After all of that, what is some mere Cardinal?

There will be no fear in the hearts of Cal men’s swim and dive as it heads to Stanford this Saturday, Feb. 19, to compete in its final regular dual meet of the season. After a convincing win over then-No. 8 USC just two weeks ago, the Bears are more than ready to sweep their final conference opponent and head into the postseason with a victory.

Stanford sits confidently in the national rankings at No. 6, a solid 31 points behind No. 5 Florida’s 299. Just a couple months ago, it was still clawing its way up from the outskirts of the top 10, falling just short at No. 11. January was an extremely successful month for the Cardinal, however, as it won its last five dual meets with surprisingly large margins. It beat the previous No. 6 Arizona State 184-93 and, most recently, walloped USC 182-118 to boost its ranking precipitously. Stanford looks toward this Saturday as the next step in its rise to the top. And what better way to cap off the season than to beat the No. 2 team in the nation?

Not only have the Cardinal been acknowledged as a dominant force in the nation by the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America, or CSCAA, it has also been recognized as a true competitor within its conference. During the week of Jan. 26, sophomore Leon MacAlister was recognized as the Pac-12 Men’s Swimmer of the Week for his exemplary performance against the Sun Devils and Wildcats. His teammate, senior Conor Casey, was also named Pac-12 Men’s Diver of the Week. Just two weeks later, Stanford’s Andrei Minakov was named the Pac-12 Men’s Swimmer of the Week on Feb. 10.

Though the Cardinal hosts a spectacular cast of athletes, Cal is in no way below its Bay Area rival’s standard. The Bears’ resume speaks for itself: 20 consecutive dual meet victories, six Pac-12 championships in the last nine years and 11 consecutive top-two performances in the NCAA championships. Plus, nine graduating student athletes, including Daniel Carr, Trenton Julian and Hugo González, aim to make their last dual meet with the Cardinal one worth remembering.

In other words, don’t overlook the Bears.

This Saturday marks a matchup of the last two undefeated teams in the Pac-12. Both Stanford and Cal boast an overall record of 6-0, each having beaten four other conference rivals.

A win this weekend will usher Cal into the postseason with high hopes and set a precedent for the success that the Bears are striving for. The next time they touch the water after Saturday will be Wednesday, Feb. 23, in Washington for the Pac-12 championships.

Cynthia Ge covers men’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].