March 1, 2001
By: Tim Haran -
Entering its final homestand of the season, Cal finds itself riding a wave of accomplishments that demonstrate the team has hit its stride under first-year head coach Caren Horstmeyer. Not since the 1986-87 season has the Golden Bears recorded a five-game winning streak in the Pac-10. By beating Stanford two weeks ago, Cal capped its string of five straight wins while at the same time whipping Stanford, 82-73 at Maples Pavilion, something the team hadn't done in 15 years.
And now, with four games left in the regular season, Cal has positioned itself as a team that could conceivably qualify for post-season play.
But before talking about tournaments, let's talk some more about the Stanford game on Feb. 16.
"Where have you been hiding that move?" asks Carol Alfano, of Cal's basketball operations, referring to a baseline drop-step executed by reserve center Genevieve Swedor that made a couple of Stanford defenders look silly. "(Associate Athletic Director) Chris Dawson came out of her seat on that one."
"To be honest, I didn't know that I had it," the 6-foot-3 Swedor sheepishly replies. "I've never done that before."
In Cal's huge win over the Cardinal, Swedor played arguably her best basketball of the season, tossing in seven points and pulling down six rebounds. Those numbers came just a week after the center out of Auvernier, Switzerland by way of New Mexico Junior College, scored a career-high 13 points in the Bears victory over Oregon State.
"It's a really good atmosphere on the court right now," Swedor says. "Everybody is playing well and we're playing together as a team. It's fun to be out there."
The fun may have started when the Bears traveled to Southern California to face USC and UCLA early in February. Cal was still reeling from a last-second loss to Washington at Haas Pavilion a week before and was anxious to steal a win or two from its intrastate rivals.
Cal defeated the Trojans by six points, 61-55, and then two days later squeaked past the Bruins 58-57. "It's a lot more fun when you win those close games," Swedor says.
Before arriving at Cal at the start of last season, Swedor, Nicknamed G, spent two years attending junior college in New Mexico. From Switzerland to New Mexico was quite the leap of faith for Swedor, who had rarely been away from her mother and brother. She boarded a plane and flew the 5,000 miles to Hobbs, New Mexico when she was 17 years old at the urging of an acquaintance that suggested she had the talent to play basketball in the United States.
"I had a friend who told me I should play," Swedor remembers. "I told myself that if I didn't like it I could always go back home. I didn't like it, but I decided to stay for some reason."
That reason may have been due in part to the way she was playing basketball. As a sophomore at the junior college, Swedor averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game, up from her freshman numbers of 11 and 8.5, respectively.
The flat, hot desert of New Mexico stood in stark contrast to the lush green fields and towering mountains Swedor grew up next to in Switzerland. But she said that the European country generally doesn't get excited about sports, save skiing, tennis and possibly soccer. So Swedor took her love of the basketball to the United States.
The sociology major transferred to Cal two years later for its academic reputation, but admits that the cultural opportunities and mild climate characteristic of Berkeley suit her better than the southwestern desert landscape.
"Telegraph Avenue, for example, is just a great place to be," Swedor says. "It's very European and reminds me a lot of home. You can walk a lot of places here too, which is nice."
As a junior last season, Swedor played in 21 games for the Bears and averaged 2.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. The talented athlete is also a triple jumper on Cal's track and field team.
"I was running track in Switzerland and I just wanted to try something different," Swedor says of her introduction to basketball. This year the backup center's minutes have nearly doubled to almost 14 per outing and, after last weekend's trip to Washington, Swedor is averaging 3.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 20 games, while starting twice this season.
"It's really nice to get the opportunity to play more minutes this season," Swedor says. "The more I play, the more confidence I get and that makes me play better."