Much was at stake on Saturday afternoon, when the No. 8 Stanford women’s swimming and diving team squared off against defending national champion and top-ranked Cal at the Avery Aquatic Center. In the final meet of the regular season, which held important implications for both teams heading into the Pac-12 Championships, the Cardinal pulled out a huge upset victory.
Recent history has intensified the rivalry between the Bay Area schools. After all, Stanford lost to Cal in last year’s regular season dual meet — a tough 10-point defeat that came down to the final event. The Cardinal edged out its rival at the Pac-10 Championship, but went on to see the Golden Bears win the grand prize, the NCAA title.
Fast-forward one year. The Golden Bears came into the dual meet as the No. 1 team in the country, looking to clinch its first undefeated regular season since 2006. The Cardinal made sure their rivals had to wait at least one more season.
Stanford (9-1, 6-0 Pac-12) defeated Cal (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) by a margin of 174-126 in the highly anticipated showdown, and in the process, the Stanford women accomplished an impressive feat: upsetting three opponents ranked higher than them in the span of four weeks.
Without showing any signs of intimidation, the Cardinal got off to its usual fast start by winning the very first event of the meet, the 200 medley relay. Cal led after the first two legs, but senior Sam Woodward swam a blazing butterfly to give Stanford a half-second lead. This allowed freshman Maddy Schaefer to hold off Cal senior Liv Jensen, one of the country’s fastest sprinters, in securing the win for the Cardinal. The win gave Stanford an 11-6 lead that it would never relinquish.
In the very next event, sophomore distance specialist Andie Taylor swam close to her season-best time to win the 1000 freestyle. Taylor was neck-and-neck with Cal freshman Catherine Breed for the first 700 yards, but managed to pull away in the final few laps.
No Cardinal swimmer won more than one individual event, but Stanford still managed to win 11 out of 16 events. Stanford’s most impressive performance may have come in the breaststroke events, one of the team’s perceived weaknesses. Freshman Katie Olson edged out Cal’s Yvette Yong in the 100 breaststroke by two-tenths of a second. And although the Cardinal was less successful in the 200, it was outscored by just three points. Combining the two breaststroke events, Stanford outscored Cal 19-18.
One of Stanford’s most reliable strengths is the backstroke, and that strength was put on display on Saturday. Sophomore Felicia Lee touched out Cal’s Cindy Tran in the 100 backstroke — a remarkable win considering that Tran is the defending NCAA champion in the event. Backstroke star Maya DiRado also chipped in with a victory in the 200 backstroke and put up a valiant effort against Cal junior Caitlin Leverenz, one of the country’s fastest swimmers, in the 200 individual medley.
Leverenz had a spectacular meet, as expected, with three individual wins. In both the 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley, she won by an margin of five seconds.
The swimmers weren’t alone in racking up points for Stanford. On the diving side, sophomore Stephanie Phipps swept both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events. On the 3-meter, Phipps obliterated the competition, winning by nearly a 50-point margin. The 1-meter proved to be much closer, but Phipps still managed to outscore Cal senior Molly Hayes by more than ten points.
Although the Cal diving squad’s depth was able to essentially nullify Phipps’ first-place points, Phipps’s sweep ensured that Cal would not be able to gain back the points it lost in the pool by winning on the diving board.
With the regular season over, Stanford will now take time to prepare for the Pac-12 Championships, held from Feb. 20-25, at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash.