As flowers bloom and bears awaken from hibernation, the spring equinox ushers in a new year—one with a new set of Cal sports.
With a total of 19 teams set to play this spring, many are from former and future Olympians. Other than COVID-19-induced postponements and cancellations, the Blue and Gold believers have a lot to be excited about. Below are five programs poised for successful seasons ahead.
Swimming and diving for men and women
What makes Cal Athletics truly elite is its water sports program, with swimming and diving at the forefront. Following the lead of athletes like Missy Franklin, Nathan Adrian and Ryan Murphy, many world champions practiced in the pools at Cal’s Spieker Aquatics Complex before competing on the Olympic podium. We expect this year to be no different.
Among the bears starring in the Spring 2022 season are Destin Lasco, Hugo González, Reece Whitley, Alicia Wilson, Ema Rajic and Isabel Ivey. Collectively, the aforementioned swimmers have four Olympic appearances, 27 Pac-12 championships, and 29 school records.
Swimming and diving for men and women is of course as much a team sport as it is an individual sport. As units, the men’s team currently ranks second in the nation, while the women’s team is seventh — two well-deserved placements indicative of Cal’s historic success.
Men’s and women’s crew
The aim of the crew – also called rowing – is to achieve a harmonious symphony of swings. Since the oar blades plunge into the water at an even rate, the propulsion propels the boats with rapid acceleration. For decades, Cal’s men’s and women’s teams have perfected this to perfection.
Under head coach Scott Frandsen, former Cal rower and three-time National Champion, men’s rowing is looking to pick up where it left off with a runner-up finish at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association, or IRA, National Championships in June 2021. Meanwhile, head coach Al Acosta is standing , Berkeley Local and Cal graduate who led the Bears to two NCAA Championships, at the helm of women’s rowing for the seventh straight year.
Since the 1920s, both programs under the Blue and Gold banner have been known to produce some of the best rowers west of the Mississippi with no intention of slowing down.
With high-flying acrobatics, the Bears are ready to keep defying gravity. In a poll for preseason coaches, they ranked seventh nationally — the highest of any school in the state. Despite taking the top team score at the NCAA Championships, the third best achievement in the entire country, Cal women’s gymnastics has his eyes set on the prize: a first-place finish and a title trophy.
Last year, athletes Kyana George, Nevaeh DeSouzas and Maya Bordas paved the way for the Bears to set numerous school records, with Bordas earning an individual national championship on the uneven bars. This season is likely to see much of the same success as many of the program’s top performers return to Haas Pavilion.
Regardless of the sport, it’s rare to see a Division I team achieve true perfection. Cal men’s rugby might just be one of them.
A force to be reckoned with, the Bears have not lost a game since April 2021. They currently hold a 16-0 record on January 16 and are widely regarded as a top-five team year after year. With team captain Sam Golla, three-year starter Jack Manzo and top scorer of the Pac Rugby 7s Championship tournament Max Schumacher, the Bears are eager for a Collegiate Rugby Championship title. 2013-17 marked Cal’s golden age, with the team winning five consecutive national trophies. It seems that 2022 is the year to reclaim the throne.
Last season was anything but a scratch for the Bears. After 17 matches played, they managed to win only one and were in last place in their conference. So far, however, they have experienced a significant resurgence.
With a 9-2 record, the team entered the Pac-12 game under head coach Charmin Smith with one of the best season starts in program history. After crushing teams like Saint Mary’s, UC San Diego and University of San Francisco, blue and gold look like every part of a team that recently entered the nation’s seventh-best recruiting league in 2020. The key to their success lies in a deadly offensive weapons with a double-digit average score in Jayda Curry, Evelien Lutje Schipholt and Cailyn Crocker from January 9, paired with veteran playmakers such as Leilani McIntosh and Jazlen Green.
The Pac-12 is one of the most competitive NCAA women’s basketball conferences in the country, as evidenced by the Bears’ slow start to 2022. Overall, however, Cal women’s basketball has surpassed all expectations this season. Who’s to say the team won’t continue to prove doubters wrong?
Ryan Chien is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]