The No. 4 Stanford women’s swimming and diving team (6-0, 2-0 Pac-10 Conference) has had an impressive dual meet season thus far. En route to another undefeated record, the Cardinal defeated three top-25 opponents – No. 16 Michigan, No. 7 Florida and No. 2 Arizona, with the last win coming this past Saturday.
The 2010 campaign will continue this weekend in L.A., as the Card travels to face two strong Pac-10 opponents – UCLA (5-1, 2-1) and No. 9 Southern California (5-1, 2-1). While both schools hope to challenge Stanford, the Cardinal should be able to pull out wins in both meets. Both UCLA and USC’s sole losses came against Arizona, whom Stanford soundly defeated this past weekend at Avery Aquatics Center 173-125.
Of the two L.A. schools, UCLA will pose the least significant challenge to Stanford. Last year, the Bruins finished 41st at the NCAA Championships and do not seem to have improved significantly since then. Although they have a strong record, most of their competition has been fairly weak, with their non-conference wins coming against Fresno State, Kansas and UC-Santa Barbara. The Bruins will look to junior Brittany Beauchan to pick up points in the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke.
USC fields a stronger team, boasting several swimmers and divers that have competed in the Olympics and in world championship meets. The Trojans also will attempt to build on a strong finish from last season, when they finished ninth at the NCAA Championships. To defeat the Cardinal, the Trojans will count on strong performances from Lyndsay DePaul and Haley Anderson, who won two events apiece for the Trojans against Arizona.
Stanford will look to its high-powered trio of senior Julia Smit, senior Elaine Breeden and junior Kate Dwelley to deliver victory this weekend. All three won numerous events against both the Wildcats and the Sun Devils, and will be instrumental to the Cardinal’s continued success.
Smit, an Olympian and a world-record holder, will be especially key, as she consistently delivers one or two wins per meet and anchors some of the Cardinal’s best relay teams. She has the potential to rack up points in her two signature individual events, the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medley, and she will also lead Stanford relay squads in the 400-yard and 800-yard freestyle relays.
USC also presents one of the country’s best diving teams, posing a stiff challenge to Stanford diving. The Card, however, knows victory is within its grasp – senior Carmen Stellar and junior Meg Hostage both performed well against USC earlier this month at the Bruin Diving Invitational in Westwood, Calif. USC standout Victoria Ishimatsu will provide the pair’s main challenge as the defending Pac-10 champion in the 3-meter springboard.
However, Stellar did not appear too concerned about what results the divers will achieve against USC and UCLA.
“It is important that these are working meets,” she said. “We’re dealing with anxiety and making sure we stay with our mechanics under pressure. It’s good to be put in these situations, it’s just a learning experience.”
Head coach Lea Maurer also spoke to her team’s mindset going into this weekend.
“We need to keep an eye on our recovery,” Maurer said. “[The swimmers] need enough rest so they can peak at the right time.”
“Our goal is to make sure our team races well and handles competition under pressure,” added freshman Megan Fischer-Colbrie. “We’re looking to see our times improve as the season progresses.”
While dual meets and the Pac-10 season are certainly important, they pale in comparison to the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments at the end of the season. According to Smit, each meet matters most as preparation for those tournaments, as well as a way to get a preview peek at the competition. The fact that the team must swim two meets in a row is also important, as the end-of-season meets require similar endurance.
“Since we first stepped on campus this year, our goal has been to win NCAAs,” said freshman Rebecca Hinds. “We know that can happen and that’s been our goal since the beginning.”
“We can treat each meet as a dress rehearsal for the bigger meets,” Fischer-Colbrie said.