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Cal Olympic Sports Roundup: Winter Championships Outlook

Let's take a look at the various winter season sports (not to be confused with "winter sports"), other than basketball, that Cal will compete in this season.

Missy Franklin and the Dream Team that is Cal Women's Swimming will try to bring back a NCAA Championship this semester.
Missy Franklin and the Dream Team that is Cal Women's Swimming will try to bring back a NCAA Championship this semester.
Jamie Squire

Since Cal just added Sand Volleyball as its 30th sponsored sports, let's start this week by taking a quick glance of the all the available NCAA sports in the spring semester.

Here are the list of NCAA Winter Championships:

For the Men:

Basketball, Fencing, Gymnastics, Ice Hockey, Rifle, Skiing, Swimming & Diving, Indoor Track & Field, and Wrestling

For the Women:

Basketball, Bowling, Fencing, Gymnastics, Ice Hockey, Rifle, Skiing, Swimming & Diving, Indoor Track & Field

Of course, Cal also compete in Rugby and Men's Rowing (Crew) which are not affiliated with NCAA for a variety of reasons. Other familiar sports such as Golf, Tennis, Women's Lacrosse, Baseball, Softball, Women's Crew, Outdoor Track and Field, and Women's Water Polo are listed as Spring Sports even though many of them have already started competitions.

Just for fun, out of all the available NCAA "Winter" sports, Cal is competing in 8 of 18. The Winter season (with NCAA Championships scheduled for March or April) does have more small sports like bowling, rifling, and skiing. For the "Spring" sports, Cal is competing in 11 of 13. The season designation is a bit misleading since most sports now requires the athletes to train year round and there are many major competitions year round to accommodate that.

Cal Women's Swimming and Diving

NCAA Championship Dates: March 20-22

Where: Minneapolis, MN

Cal's Ranking: #1

Schedule: 5 duel meets with Pac-12 foes (4 of them broadcasted on the Pac-12 Networks, see coming up next week below), Pac-12 Championships on February 26-March 1st

Outlook: The expectation are skyhigh for the dream team that is Cal swimming. Really, with Missy Franklin swimming for the Bears this and next year, anything short of a NCAA team title would probably be considered a disappointment. Of course, the way that the team competition works, it would take plenty of depth for the Bears to prevail but Bears have that. Some of the concern with overlapping skills for the Bears have been solved by Missy Franklin and Elizabeth Pelton and their willingness to swim in events that may not be their specialty. Still, the Bears are mostly sophomores and freshmen who may not be used to the year round grind that is college swimming. The Bears have shown to be the best (by far) in the country, but can they remain there comes March?

Cal Women's Swimming Hawaii Training Trip:

Bears took an annual training trip to Hawaii right after a brief Holiday break (to work off all those Holiday feasts). From the videos, it does look like that it is not all work and no play.

Cal Men's Swimming and Diving

NCAA Championship Dates: March 27-29

Where: Austin, TX

Cal's Ranking: Tied for 3rd (with Florida, behind Michigan and Texas)

Schedule: Bears' lone remaining meets in Berkeley are also the Arizona schools next week (joint with the women). A few more duel meets for the Bears before the Pac-12 Championships on March 5-8.

Outlook: Bears will certainly win some individual and/or relay Championships at the NCAA but can they do enough to make a run at the NCAA Team Championship? Texas has the edge on the Bears in diving while Michigan has some of the best freestylists in the country. Still, Michigan's grasp of the men's top spot is nowhere as tight as the Cal women's, so there is still a decent chance for the Bears to win the team title again, after an one year absence.

Feature of Cal sophomore Jacob Pebley and Josh Prenot, published in the winter issue of Cal Sports Quarterly:

The two key members of coach David Durden's 2013-14 squad openly praise the virtues of team dynamics after having grown up swimming on club teams where their primary focus was on themselves. As opposed to the majority of their college teammates who swam for both their high schools and their club teams, Prenot, from Orcutt, Calif., and Pebley, a native of Corvallis, Ore., trained mostly alone in route to becoming elite swimmers.

Now, the two standouts are inseparable on a Cal squad that is considered one of the front-runners to capture the 2014 national championship.With a tradition of excellence as impressive as Cal's in men's swimming & diving, the fact both Prenot and Pebley set school records during their freshman campaigns opened many eyes.

Prenot received slightly more notoriety in his first season in Berkeley when was named the 2013 Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year in the spring after winning the conference title in the 400-yard individual medley. He later placed fourth in the 400 IM at the NCAA Championships and set a new school record with a time of 3:40.49. He also placed fifth in the 200 IM and was fifth in the 200 breast at the NCAA meet.

Pebley was also a major contributor on the Bears' 2012-13 squad that went undefeated in dual competitions and wrestled the conference team title away from Stanford for the first time in 31 years. One of the key moments was a victory by the Bears' 400 medley relay with Pebley on the leadoff backstroke leg. After owning one of the nation's top times in the 200-yard backstroke for the majority of the year, he placed third in the event at the NCAA Championships, establishing a Cal record with a time of 1:39.71. Pebley was also seventh in the 100 back at the NCAA meet.

Between Prenot and Pebley, the two Cal newcomers scored a combined 71 points in their first NCAA competition, as the Bears finished as the national runner-up after winning back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.

Cal Men's Gymnastics

NCAA Championship Dates: April 11-12

Where: Ann Arbor, MI

Cal's Ranking: 4th (425.650) behind Oklahoma, Penn State, 'Furd (Bears were ranked 7th before the Big Meet)

Schedule: Bears made their lone Pac-12 Networks appearance last week in a home meet against 'Furd. Bears lost the Big Meet but had a great showing. Bears will have plenty of chances to get revenge on 'Furd this year, meeting them 4 more time and then at the MPSF Championship on March 29th.

Outlook: With a brand new coach, Cal Men's Gymnastics may surprise this year. While the team is a longshot to win the national title, the team could be amongst the best in the country (yeah, I know that there are not that many college gymnastic squads). I would gladly settle for a win or two over 'Furd this year.

Cal Women's Gymnastics

NCAA Championship Dates: April 18-20

Where: Birmingham, AL

Cal's Ranking: unranked currently, 22nd in preseason poll

Schedule: The Pac-12 Championships will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Networks on March 22nd. Cal is hosting this so Cal fans should actually show up instead of watching it on TV. Bears will be on the Pac-12 Networks 2 times for the meet against UCLA and 'Furd. The ASU meet will be streamed online.

Outlook: Cal added a bunch of youngster to the team, but the best gymnast is probably senior Alicia Asturias. Asturias won the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week honor (Cal's first since 2003) after the NorCal meet on January 10th. Asturias had the top all around score of 39.175 with personal best at the beam (9.85).

Given the youth on the team, it is very plausible that the squad would drastically improve between now the Pac-12 Championships. Cal having the home gym advantage may also help the Bears to surprise. The Gymnastics program is still sort of recovering from on the verge of being cut, they took a huge step forward last year by finishing 6th in the NCAA West Regional. This year's team may be young, but they may prove to be a huge stepping stone in coach Justin Howell's molding of the Cal program in the long run.

Cal is also making good news outside the gym. Here is Leilani Alferos talking about her numerous community service projects:

Cal Rugby Union (XV)

Varisty Cup Championship Dates: May 3rd

Where: Salt Lake City, UT

Cal's Ranking: No.2 in the preseason

Schedule: Bears are starting the 15s season with an All-UC tournament down in LA (hosted by UCLA on their campus) this weekend. Varsity Cup starts on April 19th. The World Cup matches with UBC are Feb. 15 (in Berkeley) and Mar. 23 (in Vancouver). Bears will also compete in the PAC Rugby Conference yet again.

Outlook: When is Cal Rugby NOT a contender? Cal suffered a last second drop kick goal loss to BYU last year. You got to think that the team is fired up to win the Varsity Cup in its 2nd year of existence (Cal boycott the USA Rugby Championship the year before in order to create the Varsity Cup competition). Leading the Bears is 5th year senior Seamus Kelly who spent the fall training with the National team. You would think that plenty of ruggers of all level will see action for the Bears this weekend, we should have a much better look of the Cal squad after this weekend's play down at UCLA.

Cal Women's Water Polo

NCAA Championship Dates: May 9-11

Where: Los Angeles, CA

Cal's Ranking: tied for 4th with ASU behind USC, 'Furd, and UCLA in preseason CWPA Poll

Schedule: Bears play in 4 tournaments in 4 weekends starting with the Cal Speedo Cup last weekend. This weekend it is the UC Davis Invitational. MPSF Championship is scheduled for April 25-27. With the larger field for the NCAA Championships, winning the MPSF is not as imperative as for the men, but obviously still quite important.

Outlook: Given the aquatic dominance reputation of Cal especially recently, Cal Women's Water Polo is never that far from the promise land despite never reaching there...yet. Coach Richard Corso is in his 9th year, being responsible of the Bears' two lone appearances in the NCAA tournament in 2010 (3rd place) and 2011 (runner-up). With only one senior listed on the roster and plenty of juniors, this may be the start of a two year window for the Bears.

Coming Up Next Week:

It's your last chance to see Missy Franklin compete in person in Berkeley (you might be able to catch her down at The Farm later if you choose to make that commute) this season!

Cal hosts its final two home meets of the year Jan. 24-25 when Arizona State and Arizona visit Spieker Aquatics Complex. Admission is free and both events start at 12 noon.

For those of us who no longer reside in Berkeley or the surrounding area, Pac-12 Networks will have coverage of these two meets. Last year, Cal swimming superstar alum Natalie Coughlin was one of the commentator for the Pac-12 Networks coverage. She is back this year with Nathan Adrian also joining the Pac-12 Networks swimming coverage team. Here is the schedule for next week which will feature both the Men and the Women Cal Swimming teams.

Jan. 24 M&W Swimming Arizona State at California 12:00 PM

Jan. 25 M&W Swimming Arizona at California 8:30 PM (D)

Cal Men's Soccer in the Pro

Finally, we have already had a post up on the awesome day yesterday for Cal Men's Soccer in having 4 players selected in the MLS Superdraft, including the 2nd and 3rd overall picks in defender Steve Birnbaum (to D.C. United) and defender Christian Dean (to Vancouver Whitecaps FC) and three 1st round picks (defender/midfielder Ryan Neil to Real Salt Lake as the 18th pick). Midfielder/forward Alec Sundly was picked 31st overall (12th pick of round 2) by New England Revolution.

Of course, there are now more interviews of these Golden Bears online.

No.2 overall pick Steve Birnbaum talked with D.C. United website at the Draft

No.3 overall pick Christian Dean talked with Vancouver Whitecaps FC also at the Draft