It’s almost Halloween, aka spooky season. During this time of year it is normal to be a little cautious, if not outright terrified of what monsters may come out from the shadows.
For the Washington State Cougars, however, what they should fear will not surprise them during the night but instead will meet them in the afternoon, specifically 2 p.m. in Berkeley’s own Spieker Aquatics Complex, exactly one week before Halloween.
The monster I’m referring to is none other than the Cal women’s swim team. The Bears come into Thursday’s meet undefeated after dominating the Chick-Fil-A Invitational with 17 first-place finishes. The Cougars, who finished fourth at that invitational, are entering this week with only one victory so far this season. They will also be coming off a meet the night before against the defending national champions, Stanford.
Facing the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked teams in the nation back-to-back should be scary for any team, especially for an unranked team such as Washington State.
While the Cougars dread another potential loss (or two) this week, Cal is training hard.
“We’ve been mostly training long-course, just to get back in shape after taking some time off this summer,” said Cal sophomore Isabel Ivey. “And then we’ve really been hitting short-course hard these past couple of weeks, just preparing for meets like this.”
When asked about the Bears’ goals for their home opener, Ivey said, “I think, most importantly, to have fun, but also see what we can do at this point in the season. I am not expecting to go a best time or anything, but I want to see how close I can get to my personal best.”
The Bears’ expectations for the season remain high going into their first home meet of the year.
“I think we obviously want to win a national championship, but at the same time, we don’t want to slip under second. We either want to stay where we are or move up. We did lose Katie (McLaughlin) and Amy (Bilquist). Those were our seniors last year, and they left some pretty big shoes to fill, so I think that everyone has to step up a little bit, but I think we’re prepared to do what needs to be done,” Ivey said.
For some, however, the goals go beyond the collegiate scope. Ivey was ranked the 18th best swimmer at the 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Championships, as a freshman no less, and has the 2020 Olympics in sight.
“That’s in the back of my mind. I obviously have goals for trials and everything, but I think NCs (national championships) comes first because it is technically first in the year,” Ivey said. “So I think when we train long-course practices, I’m obviously thinking about trials. But other than that, when we do short-courses, it’s pretty Cal-oriented for NCs.”
The Bears have high hopes for the year but can’t be sure about individual goals until they find out their events the morning of the meet.
“I believe we will find out Thursday morning. I am expecting to do similar events to what I did in Fresno,” Ivey said.
Ivey swam the 100-yard butterfly and backstroke at the Chick-Fil-A Invitational.
Cal looks to continue its undefeated status into November with a win (and a scare) in its home opener.
Tom Aizenberg covers women’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].