Cal women’s water polo got off to a promising start. At the 2022 NCAA championships, its efforts against University of Michigan on May 6 resulted in a 10-4 success. This secured the Bears’ spot to compete in the semifinals, which they played at Canham Natatorium on May 7.
After junior Shea Salvino collected the first goal of the game for Cal, the Wolverines scored at the start of the second quarter to tie up the meet 1-1. To the surprise of the Bears, Michigan added two goals to take the lead. Cal approached the Wolverines’ only advantage in the game with impressive tactics — senior Emma Wright contributed a pair of consecutive goals with only a few minutes remaining in the second quarter. Her achievements were made possible with assists from sophomore Ruby Swadling and junior Cecily Turner.
“This was my first NCAA and I was super excited,” Swadling said. “We knew it was going to be a close game and everyone was feeling positive.”
By halftime, the blue and gold had retaken the lead 5-2 against Michigan. Contributions from Wright and freshman Rozanne Voorvelt widened Cal’s lead by three points. Senior Kitty Lynn Joustra added two goals. The Bears’ goalie Isabel Williams ensured shots were blocked, finishing with a grand total of 12 saves throughout the meet.
Cal ultimately took the meet with a victory of 10-4. This landslide win was the third-widest margin of victory in a NCAA women’s water polo championship game.
“We had a great win over Michigan, we kept them to only 4 goals which was the best any opponent had done all season,” Swadling said. “The next game was the semifinal against USC.”
The Bears advanced to the semifinals for the eighth time in program history, and their next opponent stood in a firm No. 2 position: USC. The Trojans interrupted the Bears’ propitious standing at the NCAA championship. Cal was unable to match USC’s offense, and consequently, the Trojans handed Cal a 7-9 loss at the NCAA championship semifinals May 7.
Wright found the back of USC’s net three separate times, all while adding an assist. Wright leaves behind her legacy, ranking fourth on the program’s all-time list with 208 goals. This also marked an impressive season for Swadling, who registered an impressive 35 goals and 23 steals. Goalie Williams tallied 10 more saves to her previous 235 of the season.
“We knew it was going to be tough and, unfortunately, we lost by two points with the end score being 9-7,” Swadling said. “But after so much hard work and so many sacrifices, I have no doubt we will regroup and the experience will make us stronger and more determined as a team next year.”
What a journey this season has been for the Bears, who despite loss, have never lost hope and always donned the blue and gold with pride. Here’s to the next season.
“We have learned to be resilient, have dedication, accountability and to respect each other as a team,” Swadling said. “The highs and lows have taught us that our pursuits this year are built out of moments of triumph and moments of defeat.”