TUCSON, AZ., January 25. THESE 'Cats aren't mild, they're wild.
Coach Frank Busch's Arizona Wildcat women's swimmers made it a sweep of their California-based Pac-10 foes here this afternoon at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center with a 197-136 win over Cal's Golden Bears.
Yesterday, Arizona knocked off Stanford and speculation was rife that the 'Cats' had "rested" for Stanford and would go in the tank against Cal.
Not a chance.
Spurred on by three victories from sophomore Emily Mason, and two individual titles from Jessica Hayes, Arizona defeated the ninth-ranked Golden Bears while claiming nine victories out of a possible 13 events — including crucial relay events and both rounds of diving competition.
The win gave the 'Cats' their fourth-straight dual-meet victory this season and put them in a good position to make it six-for-six against Texas and SMU on the road next weekend.
For the rising Wildcat women, Mason led the way. She won the 500-1000 frees and the 200 individual medley (4:54.40, 10:13.06, 2:03.65 respectively).
Over the weekend, Mason took five individual titles, a key in the Cats' sweep of its two higher-ranked squads. (Her only loss was to Stanford's Dana Kirk in the 200 fly and they'll likely have a rematch at the Pac-10s a month from now at the Kings County Natatorium in Federal Way, WA — unless of course Mason opts for the mile on the final day.)
Arizona won the first three events (400 medley relay, 1000-200 frees) before Cal's Michelle Harper led a one-two Golden Bear sweep of the 50 free.
Then Mason came right back to win the 200 IM and the handwriting was on the wall.
Also on Saturday, the suddenly dominant Hayes raced to victories in the 100-200 frees with finishes of 51.54-1:50.19. Hayes swept the aforementioned events in both of this weekend's meets.
Perhaps the key to Arizona's victory was the stellar performance of its divers. Junior Claire Febvay won both the 1- and 3-meter springboard events with scores of 176.30 and 197.55, respectively. Junior transfer Daniela Bemme placed second in both too. In fact, the Wildcats went 1-2-3 in the 3-meter with senior Jenn Hess finishing third (176.45)
Cal was led by the redoubtable Natalie Coughlin, who scored at with wins in the 200 fly (1:59.07) and 200 back (1:57.86) — events where she's the national leader and the American/NCAA record-holder too. Runner-up in both was the 'Cats Atlanta 100 back Olympic gold medalist, Beth Botsford, and third in the backstroke was Cal's Helen Silver (pr 1:58.86).
Olympian Staci Stitts also scored a win for Cal with a victory in the 200 breast.
After defeating two Top 10-ranked teams this weekend, the future offers no respite for the Wildcats. They return to the road next weekend (Jan. 31-Feb. 1) when they battle Texas and SMU, both nationally ranked squads.
– Bill Bell