The No. 4 Stanford women’s swimming and diving team continued its dominance of the Pac-10 Conference this past weekend, rolling past UCLA (5-3, 2-3 Pac-10) and No. 9 Southern California (10-3, 3-3) in Los Angeles. The Cardinal (8-0, 4-0) is now 4-0 against opponents ranked in the top 25 and 3-0 against top-10 teams. With the sweep, the team remains on track for a second consecutive undefeated dual-meet season.
Stanford came in heavily favored against the Bruins – whose five wins have come at the expense of very weak programs – and did not disappoint, running away with a 169-126 victory. Out of 16 events, the Cardinal took home 13 wins, posting numerous “B” standard times. Senior co-captain Julia Smit, who posted wins in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard breaststroke, led the way once again for Stanford. She made a “B” standard time of 2:13.04 in the 200 breast, beating UCLA standout Brittany Beauchan by a full 2.5 seconds.
There were several other excellent performances from Cardinal swimmers. Freshman Andi Murez scored a second-place finish in the 100 free and a victory in the 50 free. The familiar duo of senior Elaine Breeden and junior Kate Dwelley also made significant contributions.
Junior diver Meg Hostage also won both diving events to power Stanford. On the 3-meter springboard, Hostage beat out UCLA’s Karina Silva by 10 points and on the 1-meter, Hostage and senior teammate Carmen Stellar got first and second place.
The real test, however, came on Saturday, when the Cardinal dueled USC. The matchup was highly anticipated, due in part to the fact that USC had just beaten No. 5 California, the defending Pac-10 and NCAA team champion, by a score of 153-147.
At the start, the meet seemed like it would be a close one, with the first four events evenly split between the Cardinal and the Trojans. After USC’s Presley Bard won the 100-yard backstroke, Stanford began to pull away, reeling off seven straight victories and winning nine of the last 10 events overall. Stanford ended the afternoon with a final score of 179-119.
The USC meet saw three swimmers shine for Stanford – Dwelley, Smit and junior Liz Smith. Dwelley paced the Cardinal with three victories in the 50, 100 and 200 free. Smit continued to impress by winning the 200 back and the 200-yard individual medley, as well as driving numerous Cardinal relay teams.
After a quiet meet against UCLA, Smith scored very well against USC, winning the 100 and 200 breast and coming second behind Smit in the 200 IM.
Easily the most anticipated matchup of the day was Breeden’s race in the 200-yard butterfly against USC’s Katinka Hosszu, who has swum in the Olympics for Hungary. Breeden is the defending NCAA champion in the event while Hosszu came into the race with the fastest time in the nation for this season. With a time of 1:56.70, Breeden came in more than two full seconds ahead of Hosszu (1:58.72).
“We knew ahead of time that both teams would bring strong competition, especially when preparing for USC after they beat Cal on Friday,” Smith said. “We knew that every member on the team would have to step up their game and swim with lots of heart, and I would say that we were very successful in all of these areas.”
While its swimming team was being pounded, USC’s divers were able to beat the Cardinal on both boards. USC’s Ariel Rittenhouse, an Olympian, won both boards over Hostage and Stellar by significant margins. However, this result was not very surprising as USC is generally considered to have the best diving team in the conference.
The weekend’s results have positioned Stanford as the team to beat in the Pac-10. After the meet, Smith commented on the Card’s new position.
“I think that Stanford was, and is, one of the best programs in both the Pac-10 and the country,” she said. “The next step for our team is to move from ‘one of the best’ to ‘the best’ and we are working our way toward that goal.”
Looking ahead, the Cardinal will face off at home against Cal in its final dual meet of the season on Feb. 13. While notching its second consecutive undefeated season would certainly be an impressive feat, a win over Cal would be no guarantee of postseason success. Last season, Stanford defeated the Golden Bears 162-129 in Berkeley, but the Bears went on to win the overall NCAA championship while the Card finished fourth at that meet.
“We will bring the same approach as we did this weekend: have fun, race hard, stay positive and don’t relent,” Smith said. “Dual meets often come down to touch-outs and small differences in points, so we are gearing up for what should be a very exciting meet.”