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In Senior Day showdown, UCLA swim and dive aims to upset rival No. 4 USC

Members of UCLA swim and dive celebrate with each other. The Bruins are facing the Trojans on Senior Day. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Swim and Dive

No. 4 USC
Feb. 9, 1 p.m.

Spieker Aquatic Center
No TV info

By Aaron Doyle

Feb. 9, 2024 11:12 a.m.

By just 0.04 seconds, the Bruins out-touched the Trojans in the final event to defeat USC for the first time in 13 years.

That was in 2021. Friday presents a chance to do it again.

UCLA swim and dive (5-3, 3-3 Pac-12) is set to compete against No. 4 USC (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) in this year’s rivalry matchup. While USC is entering the meet as the ranked favorites, UCLA has kept its competition close for the past two meets, finishing within 16 points against No. 5 Stanford and No. 7 California last weekend.

The Bruins had multiple podium-topping finishes against their Northern California foes.

“It gave us a lot of confidence that we can do that regularly,” said senior Maddie Wright. “We have something to prove, and we got so close to beating them last year. We’re excited to give our best shot again this year.”

Last year, the Trojans clinched the win by only four points, the closest margin since UCLA beat USC by three in 2021.

A notable absence from the meet will be freshman Lauren Hallaselkä.

The diver will be representing Finland at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar. Junior Gizem Guvenc will also be competing at the same championships, representing Turkey, but isn’t expected to leave before Friday.

Although the rivalry brings out higher expectations to win, coach Jordan Wolfrum said the focus is still on the postseason.

“Our job is to make sure that all of the preparation never takes us off track from what our postseason goals are,” Wolfrum said. “For us, the focus has to stay on Pac-12’s and NCAA’s.”

In the days before, the team has been participating in its annual rivalry week traditions.

From decorating the locker room to making surprise posters for each other, Wright said the meet brings a different competitive energy.

On top of the rivalry energy, this meet also marks Senior Day. All of the Bruin graduates will be honored, including junior Zoe Jespersgaard, who is graduating early.

For graduate student Brooke Schaffer, this meet holds a lot of emotion, as it’s the last time she will swim with her two younger sisters, freshman Alexis Schaffer and junior Taylor Schaffer.

“Being a Bruin has meant so much to me, getting to wear those four letters on my cap, and with my dad being an alum, and my sisters coming into it,” Brooke said. “My family is the team, and the team is my family.”

Only 24 swimmers will get to travel with UCLA as they take on the postseason, so Friday will be the last meet with the entire squad together.

Wright said the team culture is what she will miss the most as she bids farewell as a senior.

“I love my team so much. It is truly the most incredible group of 40 women, and it’s made it worth it,” Wright said. “I’m going to miss being around them every day, but I know I’m always going to have their love and support.”

The competition will begin at 1 p.m. at Spieker Aquatics Center.

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Aaron Doyle
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