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Golden Medals: Cal diving update, strong season opener by Women’s Tennis and Rugby

Cal women’s tennis earned a big upset win at No.11 Florida on Wednesday

How much has the opening of Legends Aquatic Center improved Cal Diving?
Cal Men’s Swimming Facebook

We are finally getting to the point of the season where there should be a full slate of Cal Olympic sports action on campus every weekend.

From Bear Territory this weekend: Cal Women’s Water Polo opens their 2019 campaign this weekend at home. Cal Rugby has their 15s season opener as well. Cal Men’s Gymnastics will match up against Stanford for the 3rd straight week.

Promising improvements from Cal Diving at the Bruins Invitational

I have not follow Cal Diving as closely as the other Cal Olympic sports. Cal fans know that the fact that it is the NCAA “Swimming AND Diving” championship rather than just Swimming only has cost the Golden Bears several team championships. With the recent opening of the Legends Aquatic Center, Cal Diving is expected to see a big boost as Cal divers no longer have to travel to Stanford to practice their platform diving.

With Derek Stark now in his 3rd year in charge of Cal Diving, the program is hoping to take the next step - from just having divers qualify for the NCAA Championships to actually score some pivotal points.

There are twice as many female than male divers at the Bruins Diving Invitational last weekend (part of this is due to the fact that UCLA had cut their men’s swimming and diving program years ago). Still, the Cal men appeared to have performed better.

Junior Connor Callahan, who has made it to the NCAA championships in both of his first two seasons, led the Bears at this meet. Callahan finished 3rd in 1-meter, 5th in 3-meter, and 2nd in platform. Sophomore, and reigning Pac-12 Freshman Diver of the Year, Jonathan Robinson took 9th in 3-meter and 4th in platform.

For the Cal women, sophomore Briana Thai finished 13th in the 3-meter. She followed that up with a 10th place finish in the platform. Senior Phoebe LaMay and sophomore Jackie Im finished 13th and 15th, respectively in the 1-meter. Bears still have a long way to go to score points in diving, but sophomores Thai and Im may get there before they graduate.

The swimming side of both Cal Men and Women teams are in action from the state of Arizona this weekend as they visit the Arizona State Sun Devils on Friday before the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday. The Cal men did their annual training from the USA facility in Colorado Springs while the Cal women had their annual training trip in Hawaii.

Cal Women’s Tennis upsets No.11 Florida from Gainesville

Cal Women’s Tennis opened their dual-meet season in style by recording a big come-from-behind victory at Florida. After dropping the doubles point (rather quickly losing 6-1 and 6-2 in courts 2 and 3) and then the first two singles (Julian Rosenqvist at No.1 and Maria Smith at No.5), Golden Bears did not just roll over. Sophomore Hana Mraz won in two sets before junior transfer Katerina Stloukalova from Fresno State won in 3 sets. Florida native (she’s from SoCal far from Gainesville) Anna Bright then finished No.3 via a 2nd set tiebreaker win before senior co-captain Olivia Hauger also won in the 2nd set tiebreaker to clinch the victory for the Golden Bears.

The addition of Stloukalova is essentially the only new look for Cal, who last year lost No.1 player and then senior Karla Popovic to injury and struggled as a young team (particularly with two freshmen at the top of the singles lineup). Bears lost one of their talented freshman from last year in Vivian Glozman, who has transferred to Virginia, but replaced her with a more experienced Stloukalova. Another impact sophomore for the Bears is Jasie Dunk who is pairing with Bright as the Bears’ top doubles pair; they are also ranked 17th in the country.

Next up for the Golden Bears is a weekend trip to South Carolina where they will open against the host Gamecocks. A two win weekend would send the Bears back to the ITA Indoor Championships, a tournament won by Cal in 2016.

It is a promising start for the Cal program that missed out on the NCAA postseason last year. Bears will again face some tough competition in the Pac-12, including rival Stanford who won yet another NCAA team championship last year.

Cal Men’s Tennis dropped a tight dual-season opener vs. Florida State from Orlando

Also opening their dual-meet season from the state of Florida were the Cal Men’s Tennis squad, whose originally scheduled opener at Pacific was rained out. Playing at the USTA tennis complex in Orlando, Golden Bears had a tough battle against No.20 Florida State.

With the 14th (sophomore Jacob Brumm and freshman Yuta Kikuchi) and 18th ranked (sophomore duo of Paul Barretto and Can Kaya) doubles squad in the country, Golden Bears won the doubles point.

In singles, Bears need a new No.1 with the graduation of Billy Griffith. Paul Barreto is the lone ranked single player for the Bears at No.98. Barreto was not able to win in the No.1 court. Sophomore Jack Molloy, who moved from No.3 to No.2 court for the Bears from last year to this year, also lost in singles. Molloy partnered with fellow English import Ben Draper in doubles last year - the pair came to Cal from the same high school. Draper, who was also a mainstay in the Cal lineup last year, did not play in either singles nor doubles in this match; he is potentially injured.

Golden Bears added two new players to the lineup - freshman Yuta Kikuchi from Japan and Turkish junior transfer Mert Zincirli who was at USF before. Barreto, Kikuchi (at No.4), and Zincirli (at No.6) all lost in the decisive 3rd set of their matches. Brumm at No.3 and junior Bjorn Hoffman at No.5 were the only Golden Bears that were able to win their singles match.

Despite a rocky start in the 2018 dual season, Cal men’s tennis did make the NCAA postseason yet again by finishing the year as the 34th best team behind the top ranked freshman class in the country. Bears upset NC State in the first round before falling to No.11 Texas at Texas. A realistic goal for 2019 is both another trip back to the NCAA championship as well as a return to the top 25 ranking.

Bears will next play from College Station, TX where they hope to upset both No.17 Virginia and probably Texas A&M to earn a berth in the ITA Indoor Championships this weekend. Virginia had won 3 straight NCAA championships from 2015 to 2017 but did not win the title last year (it went to Wake Forest).

Solid start by Cal Rugby in 15s opener at Storer Classic

The 15s season start yet again with some dominant Cal Rugby performances down at UCLA in the Storer Classic.

On Saturday, Bears dominated UC Santa Cruz and Claremont Colleges in a 43-0 and 68-0 victories, respectively. 15 different Golden Bears scored the 17 tries as a lot of youngsters got some valuable experiences.

On Sunday, Bears defeated host UCLA 31-3 in a shortened 40 minute final (that’s half the length of a typical 15s match). Junior Christian Dyer and senior Jack Iscaro each earned two tries in that match. Elliot, younger brother of Russell, Webb kicked the conversions in this one.

It is way too early to say how much this year’s squad has improved from last year. The hope is that the numerous freshman and sophomore who saw action last year have all improved simply by physical maturation AKA aging. Golden Bears saw their dual championships (15s and 7s) winning streak snapped in 2018 when they lost (in unfortunately rather convincing fashion) to the Lindenwood Lions in both the USA Rugby D1A and the Collegiate 7s championship finals (two different competitions for the Bears in 2018 with the Varsity Cup folding and the Bears choosing to not go to the CRC that lost NBC as a sponsor).

Check out head coach Jack Clark and some of the senior captains talk about this season in the embedded video below.

Cal Bears will have their home opener this Saturday afternoon at 1pm when they host UC Davis.