No. 1 Arizona hosts pair of top-ten opponents Cal and Stanford
Arizona’s swim and dive teams jump back into action this weekend, hosting a pair of nationally ranked top-ten teams Friday and Saturday at Hillenbrand Aquatics Center. The Wildcats, who’s men were recently named No. 1 in the country this past weekend by the CSCAA, face off against two-time defending national champion, Cal, currently ranked No. 3, at 2pm on Friday; and continue to battle No. 9 Stanford on Saturday at noon. Friday’s meet against Cal will be televised on the Pac-12 network on Feb. 2 on tape delay.
“I’m just expecting two great days of racing with two quality opponents,” head coach Eric Hansen said. “It’s a great time for us to be doing speed work and racing to get ready for Pac-12 and NCAA Championships. We are going to rely on everybody this weekend. Everyone needs to show up to contribute and be a team player.”
The Lady Wildcats show up at No. 6 in the national rankings after sweeping their last meet against Northern Arizona, Oregon State, and New Mexico State. The women, led by senior Lauren Smart, junior Margo Geer, and freshman Bonnie Brandon, look to defeat No. 3 Cal and No. 8 Stanford.
Smart currently has top-ten times in the nation in the 100y-backstroke and 100y-butterfly events with times of 52.57 and 52.49 respectively. Geer owns the top times in the country in the 50 and 100y-freestyle and in addition, her top time in the 200y-freestyle event ranks fourth nationally. Brandon returns to the pool after breaking a school record and possessing the second best time in the country in 200y-backstroke.
“As a team, I think the main thing we can expect for ourselves is a tough battle across the board,” senior Matt Hurko said. “They’re going to be hurting a little bit, we are going to be hurting a little bit; it’s just going to be more about racing then times that are ranked in the top of the country.”
Hurko, junior Giles Smith, and sophomore Kevin Cordes lead the men this week into battle. Freshman Rafael Quintero also looks to make waves and contribute to his team’s hopes. Quintero has had a phenomenal first year, recording eight victories so far and most recently coming off a sweep in all three events at the competitive UCLA Bruin Invitational. Hurko represents another player who is eager to do all he can to contribute to the team.
“I’m really looking forward to the 200y-backstroke event,” Hurko said. “I think we have a chance to do some damage with that event. I’m also looking forward to our breaststroke events, which are where we traditionally do most of our damage. It’s going to be an interesting weekend.”
Smith has been a strong force all season and currently possesses the top time in the nation in the 100y-butterfly event with a 45.81. Cordes returns to the pool after setting two American records and possesses two top times in the 100 and 200y-breaststroke events.
In addition, the Wildcats have the nation’s top time in the 200 and 400y-medley relays and the 400y-freestyle relay with times of 1:24.84, 3:05.69, and 2:51.21 respectively.
“I’m looking forward to racing the national champs in a dual meet setting,” Smith said. “Personally I think the underclassmen will step up and keep improving and growing. I expect the team to face some adversity in closing out tight races- in particular our finishes and relay exchanges. I think its nice that we are ranked number one in the country, but at the same time there’s no trophy for who’s number one in January.”
In their previous duels last year, Arizona came out on top defeating Cal 191-109 and also winning their meet against Stanford. The Wildcats hope to do it again this weekend and get one step closer to a national title.
“We have Cal and Stanford this weekend, then we go to Texas for a two day meet, and then the following week have ASU,” Hansen said.
“We are kind of at the tail end of our season, but our next few meets are going to be pretty high level competition, so it’s good for everybody involved to know exactly where everyone is at.”