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No. 3 Bears Advance To NCAA Semifinals

May 6, 2022
Sophomore Ruby Swadling had three assists for the Bears.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Another appearance in the NCAA Championship, another trip to the semifinals for the Cal women's water polo team.

The third-seeded Golden Bears made it 8-for-8 in semifinal berths, qualifying for the 2022 NCAA semifinals with a 10-4 win over Michigan on Friday evening at Canham Natatorium.

Three-time All-American and 2020 Olympian Emma Wright had three goals and an assist and All-MPSF goalie Isabel Williams made 12 saves – including three on Michigan penalty shots – as Cal (17-5) advanced to a semifinal date with No. 2 USC on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT. The game will be streamed on NCAA.com.

The Bears have qualified for the NCAA Championship eight times in program history, and have made at least the semifinals each time. Their best finish was as the runner-up in 2011.

Cal got off to a bit of an uneven start and led just 1-0 at the end of the first quarter. But the Bears extended to a 5-2 lead at halftime and gradually pulled away in the second half.

"In the past, if we were a little off, we would press the panic button. Now, I think we're comfortable with that moment when things haven't really been clear," Cal head coach Coralie Simmons said. "I think we are maturing to the point where we really trust how we are going to perform under pressure, and that's important going into the semifinals."

Junior Shea Salvino scored on the first possession of the game, and that was all the scoring until the Wolverines tied it at 1-1 with a power play goal at the 6:09 mark of the second quarter. After Michigan cut it to 3-2 with 2:49 left in the second quarter, Wright scored back-to-back goals off assists from sophomore Ruby Swadling and junior Cecily Turner.

The teams traded goals to begin the third quarter, but Wright and All-MPSF Newcomer Rozanne Voorvelt extended the advantage to 8-3, with Voorvelt's goal coming on a penalty shot.

"We had to play a lot of defense in that first quarter," Simmons said. "In reality, I think we passed up on two or three goals that we should have had early. That kind of set us back in terms of momentum. I think with a more solid start offensively, we are going to have a lot of fun tomorrow."

Williams, who leads the MPSF at 10.7 saves per game, was spectacular in the cage again. In one sequence early in the second quarter, she stopped a penalty shot attempt by Michigan All-American Maddie O'Reilly. O'Reilly was able to collect the rebound and take another shot at point-blank range, which Williams also blocked.

"Goalies can and should be a backbone for a team, and knowing she is our backbone makes us kind of relax in those moments where we are a little bit off," Simmons said. "I think beyond blocking the ball, it's just composure in the cage and her ability to read the game and collectively keep people in check. That's what really sets her above the rest and allows us to do some special things on defense that other teams can't do."

Swadling finished with three assists while All-American center Kitty Lynn Joustra added two goals. Joustra sat out a substantial chunk of the game with foul trouble, and graduate student Georgia Gilmore filled in admirably with some of her most extensive playing time of the season.

"GG really stepped into that place for us today, especially with Kitty in foul trouble," Simmons said. "She really did some big things on defense. She just played an all-around solid game, and was really in tune with her teammates."

The margin of victory was Cal's third-most all-time in an NCAA Championship game and the most lopsided since it defeated Michigan 13-6 during the 2018 quarterfinals.