Palms of Victory: Cal wins from Feb 15-22, 2021


This past year has taught many of us to be grateful and to focus on the positives in life. Applying that philosophy to how we view Cal sports, particularly with the various programs having to deal with varying degrees of pandemic adversities, this is a new series that will ONLY dwell on Cal victories. Here, we will celebrate the Cal wins and Top-3 finishes in larger competitions from the previous week. This is probably the best way to approach the stacked Cal Athletics schedule, with the postponed fall sports also active, for their regular seasons. I will attempt to give a quick status update on all the programs that earned a mention in that week’s post.

Without further ado, here are the results that should make Cal fans proud.

Cal Men’s Swimming beats Stanford in the final regular-season tune-up

A last-minute scheduled dual meet between the two Bay Area rivals gave the two squads one final tune-up ahead of the championships season. As expected, the Golden Bears won the meet by claiming 10 of the 16 events, including both relays.

Even with all the Cal greats that have swum at Spieker Aquatics Complex, this year’s team was able to set or break 5 pool records. Senior Daniel Carr, Junior Reece Whitley, Senior Bryce Mefford, and Freshman Björn Seeliger broke their own 200 Medley relay record set earlier this year. Senior Trenton Julian set two records in winning 200 Freee and 500 Free. Zach Yeadon, a senior transfer from Notre Dame, set a new 1000 Free record. Senior Bryce Mefford tied the pool record for 200 IM.

In addition to those 5 wins, Cal also took 1st in 100 Back (Daniel Carr), 100 Breast (Reece Whitley), 50 Free (Ryan Hoffer), 200 Back (Destin Lasco), and 400 Free Relay (Seeliger, Hoffer, Julian, Lasco).

The Bears stayed perfect in dual meets this year with this win and also extended their dual meet winning streak to 14 straight, dating back to 2018.

Big Picture: Golden Bears will look to repeat as Pac-12 champions next week before battling Texas for the NCAA crown after that. W4C will have dedicated posts to cover the conference and NCAA championships for all Cal Aquatics teams.

No.1 Cal Men’s Water Polo defeats rivals UCLA and USC

The third and final round-robin weekend of the men’s water polo “regular season” saw the No.1 Golden Bears earning two more hard-fought victories.

On Saturday, Cal won their 3rd straight victory over the USC Trojans by a 10-7 final. Facing a 5-4 halftime deficit, sophomore Nikolaos Papanikolaou scored 3 of his 4 goals to help the Bears take the lead for good. The “Greek Freak” also tallied 4 steals. Freshman Alika Naone also had a hat trick while junior Jack Deely added 2 goals and an assist. Sophomore goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg made 13 saves.

The Bears were not daunted by the Bruins taking an 11-8 halftime lead. This was a very physical match that also saw Cal given 18 exclusions to just 9 to the Bruins (so UCLA had twice as many man-advantage opportunities). Again using a strong 3rd quarter, Cal had a late lead only to saw UCLA equalize with 5 seconds left in regulation. Sophomore Warren Loth scored the winner with 44 seconds left in OT.

Deely scored goals to lead the way for the Bears. Papanikolaou, Naone, and Loth all had a brace (2 goals) apiece. Weinberg made 6 saves.

Freshman Alika Naone won the conference Newcomer of the Week honor for providing 11 points and 3 steals in the three matches. Naone is also Cal’s go-to guy so far this year in most period-opening sprints. Fellow freshman Tommy Kennedy won this honor the previous active water polo weekend. The great play by the freshmen has been a major reason for the program’s success.

Big Picture: The Cal Bears (7-3) will be the top seed at the MPSF Championship next weekend. Cal would need at least one more win (semi vs. USC or 3rd place match) to secure a spot in the NCAA championship that only has room for 3 of Cal, UCLA, USC, and Stanford; the Bears have beaten all of their rivals at least once in 2021.

No.17 Cal Women’s Tennis beats No.3 UC Los Angeles and UC Santa Barbara

Cal defended Bear Territory this past weekend against two UC younger sibling schools.

Cal 4, UCLA 3

Cal (5-1) avenged their previous lone blemish by beating the Bruins. Bears took the doubles point with wins at No.1 (Haley Giavara/Valentina Ivanov) and No.3 (Erin Richardson/Julia Rosenqvist). The No.40 ranked Giavara and Ivanov pair took down the top-ranked UCLA pair of Elysia Bolton/Jada Hart by a 6-4 score.

Bears then won in singles No.3 (Ivanov), No.4 (Jada Bui), and No.5 (Hannah Viller Moeller) to seal this win. Freshman Moeller won her singles match in straight-set while sophomore Ivanov and freshman Bui were able to withstand the pressure of the 3rd set in their victories.

Ivanov was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for her performance in this meet.

This second meeting between the two schools is still considered non-conference and will not factor into the Pac-12 standings.

Cal 6, UCSB 1

Bears took the doubles point with No.2 and No.3 wins by Anna Bright/Hannah Viller Moeller and Erin Richardson/Julia Rosenqvist, respectively. Bears also had the lead on court 1 when that doubles match was abandoned.

Wins by Hannah Viller Moeller (No.5), Anna Bright (No.6), and Haley Giavara (No.1) sealed the win. Julia Roseqvist (No.2) and Jada Bui (No.4) also won while Ivanov only lost the tie-breaker in lieu of a real 3rd set since the meet was already decided.

Big Picture: Pac-12 conference action officially starts in two weeks as the Golden Bears are legit contenders. Bears’ team ranking improved from 17th to 12th.

No.9 Cal Women’s Gymnastics set new season-high at Oregon State

The Pac-12 Network broadcast said that co-head coach Liz Crandall-Howell said that she only decides on the Cal lineup after seeing the warm-ups. With a historically deep roster and a nice blend of experience and youth, Cal Women’s Gymnastics saw great first-time performances by freshman Andi Li on vault and sophomore Maya Green on floor in setting another season-high team score. It is particularly nice that this came on the road since the Regional Qualifying Score will eventually be determined by the team’s top 4 scores, requiring two from road contests.

Senior Kyana George set the current Pac-12 best All-Around score in this meet, picking up the slack from teammate Naveah DeSouza who was the top Cal gymnast and Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week the previous weekend. It is a really good sign that Cal was able to improve their team score despite some wobbles from DeSouza.

Big Picture: The Golden Bears will face their toughest test yet when they visit the Utah Utes AKA the Red Rocks this weekend in the battle of the top two West Coast teams this season (UCLA has had their viral floor moments despite being rather inconsistent thus far).

Cal Women’s Water Polo won 2 matches

The second weekend of Women’s Water Polo action saw the Bears improve to 3-0. They were able to beat Fresno State for the second consecutive weekend although this was not as easy as the season-opening 16-7 win.

The second match of the day saw many of the 9 talented freshmen shine against a much weaker opponent.

For her clutch goals that sent the Fresno State match to OT, Cal senior Brigit Mulder earned the MPSF Player of the Week honor.

Big Picture: The real tests for No.8 Cal Water Polo will start soon with MPSF play in the middle of March at UCLA. They will host No.13 San Jose State this weekend first.

Cal Men’s Gymnastics beat Springfield College

Like their higher profile female counterparts, No.10 Cal Men’s Gymnastics (3-1) set another season-high in their win over No.15 Springfield College in another virtual meet (both squads competed at their own home which is the norm for men’s gymnastics in 2021) last Wednesday (Feb 17th).

Yu-Chen Lee again led the Bears with 3 top scores in 6 events, but it is Noah Newfeld (career-high All-Around score) and Will Lavanakul (career-high on pommel horse) that garnered conference awards.

Big Picture: Short-handed Cal team already defeated No.11 William & Mary this Wednesday (to be recapped next week). The Bears will have a rematch against Stanford next as well as a meet against top-ranked Oklahoma on deck.

Cross Country season opens with Bears taking Women’s 2nd and Men’s 3rd

The last of the Cal Fall sports to be active was Cross Country, who raced in their first meet last weekend. A pair of seniors led the way for the Golden Bears. Annie Boos was 2nd overall for the women while Steve Kahn was 3rd overall for the men at the Dave Murray Invite in Arizona.

Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, as well as the New Mexico State women also raced in this meet. For their team total, the Cal men placed 2nd while the Cal women placed 3rd.

Big Picture: Even though this was the season-opening meet, the next race is already the Pac-12 Championships in two weeks (March 5th from Washington).

Members of Cal Track and Field picked up wins at Air Force Open

The other members of the Cal Track and Field went to Colorado to compete against several teams, mainly Air Force and Grand Canyon, at the Air Force Collegiate Open.

Canadian Olympic hopeful Camryn Rogers won the women’s weight throw event to add to her growing collegiate resume.

A new Cal record in the 60m hurdles was set by senior Deshae Wise. Wise also won the women’s 200m.

On the men’s side, the highlight was Christian Catlin’s personal record in men’s 60m hurdles. Catlin also won men’s 200m.

Bears also swept the podium in the women’s 60m: Ezinne Abba, Kennedy Williams, and Jenea Spinks finished 1-3. Josh Johnson took first in men’s shot put. Sydney Reid was first in women’s long jump.

Big Picture: The Bears will have one more chance this weekend at the Championship at the Peak meet hosted by Air Force to put up top results that can earn them a berth in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 12-13.

Cal Women’s Basketball

The Bears won their first game of an extremely tough season on Senior Day 67-55 over ASU. Sophomore guard Leilani McIntosh led the way with a career-best 21 points, including 15 in the second half. Early enrollee (it’s a free season, eligibility-wise) Mia Mastrov had her best game yet with 12 points and 7 rebounds.

Big Picture: Bears have one last regular-season game (at Stanford) before the Pac-12 tournament.

Cal Softball beat SMC via a walk-off

The season-opening weekend saw the short-handed Bears (1-1) win in dramatic fashion. The Bears scored 3-runs in B7 to beat Saint Mary’s 5-4. Freshman Candace Yingling hit the two-run game-tying homer before junior Karlee Sparacino earned the team their first win of the season, and the first win in the new Chelsea Spencer era.

Junior catcher Makena Smith continued to hit well and had an early homer in this win. She also has an impressive on-going 21-game hitting streak dating back to last year when she hit 0.481 in 24 games. Smith is on the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year preseason Top 50 Watch List.

Big Picture: It’s way too early to tell how good this team will be in 2021. The two games against host Stanford this weekend at the Stanford Invitational will be the first two streamed games of the season.

Cal Baseball walks off Pacific in the season-opener

Two days before Cal Softball had their final inning, come-from-behind walk-off, Cal Baseball won their season opener in a similar fashion when they scored two runs to beat Pacific.

Sophomore SS Keshawn Ogans started things with an HBP before senior 2B Darren Baker reached on a single. CF Dylan Beavers, who hit a 2-run homer earlier in the game, was intentionally walked. 3B Quentin Selma brought home the game-tying run that cost two outs but Connor Mack was able to end the game right there.

Check out the exciting moment below:

Big Picture: There are plenty to works for this Cal team in all facets of the game as they seek a second win of the year when they play another 4-game series this weekend. This time, it’s a home-and-home against USF.