LOS ANGELES – California came into Friday’s meet against No. 5 USC with an undefeated dual-meet record and the nation’s top ranking, but left the Uytengsu Aquatics Center with a 180.5-119.5 loss to the Trojans.
The Bears, who were coming off an 80-point win over No. 10 Arizona at home last weekend, captured just four of 16 events on the day.
“I’m disappointed in the score,” head coach Teri McKeever said. “We weren’t quite as sharp as we were last week. To USC’s credit, they did a great job. They were ready to go from the get-go. We just couldn’t really respond for a variety of reasons, not any single one. That’s what Kristen and I will have to go through over the weekend.”
In the opening 200 medley relay, Cal (6-1) jumped out to a quick start on the backstroke leg, holding the top two places after 50 yards. But USC’s Kasey Carlson’s breaststroke pushed the Trojans to the front, a lead they never relinquished, with the Bears finishing 2-3.
Missy Franklin, swimming the 1000 free for the third time this season and for the first time since last Oct. 20 vs. Florida, held off a challenge from USC’s Meghan Hawthorne to win in 9:47.44, her fastest time of the season to put her fifth on the Bears’ all-time list.
The Trojans responded with a string of racing victories that lasted until the 200 back late in the afternoon. They took the top two places in the 200 free, followed by Kendyl Stewart (53.34) out-touching Stephanie Au (53.81) and Cindy Tran in the 100 back (54.29). USC then went 1-2 in the 100 breast, and the Trojans’ Jasmine Tosky (1:58.00) edged Celina Li (1:58.62) to build a 70-42 advantage.
Because of ongoing construction at USC’s pool, the diving competition took place earlier in the day at UCLA. Anne Kastler continued with her strong start to 2014 by winning the 1-meter competition with a score of 285.05. She was third on 3-meter with 294.95, less than eight points from the lead.
In the 100 free, Carlson, the national leader in the event, held off a strong challenge from Franklin over the final yards to win in 49.24 to Franklin’s 49.75.
Elizabeth Pelton finally broke through by edging Joanna Stenkvist at the finish, 1:57.00 to 1:57.01, in the 200 back after trailing for most of the race. Stephanie Au claimed third in 1:58.72. However, USC returned to its winning ways with a 1-2 showing the 200 breast.
Swimming in her third freestyle event of the day, Franklin couldn’t hold onto a lead she established through the first 450 yards and placed second to a hard-charging Chelsea Chenault of USC in the 500-yard event, 4:46.88 to 4:47.14. Stewart then claimed the 100 fly for the Trojans in 53.74.
Li gave the Bears their third swimming victory when she held off USC’s Stina Gardell to prevail in the 200 individual medley with a winning time of 1:58.93 for a 0.18-second edge. The Trojans wrapped up the afternoon with a first-place finish in the 400 free relay.
“We’re going to need to be ready to go tomorrow and definitely when we go over to Stanford,” McKeever added, noting Cal’s Feb. 15 match-up vs. the fourth-rated Cardinal. “The emotional energy wasn’t there today, particularly at the beginning. We kind of rebounded, but it was a little bit too late.”
The Bears get back into the pool on Saturday when they visit UCLA. The first event will get underway at 11:40 a.m. and the meet will be shown on delay by the Pac-12 Networks, airing at 4 p.m. Sunday.