Midterm check-in: Looking back at Stanford Athletics’ success since November 2018

Nov. 3, 2022, 7:16 p.m.

In the college athletics stock market, Stanford has limited up since the last midterm elections in November 2018. To this day the Cardinal have won 131 NCAA team national championships, the most of any Division 1 school in the NCAA. More than 10% of those (i.e., 15 NCAA, and overall 16 national titles) came in the last four years. Ready for a trip down memory lane?

12/15/2018: Women’s volleyball (34-1, 20-0 Pac-12) has been dominating the entire season but the title match against Nebraska (29-7, 15-5 Big Ten) turns into a five-set thriller. The Cardinal overcome an early deficit in the fifth set. With the score tied at 9-9, freshman Holly Campbell slices a kill through the block to give Stanford a lead it won’t relinquish. Sophomore outside hitter Meghan McClure’s backrow kill on the third match point seals the deal and brings an unprecedented eighth NCAA women’s volleyball championship. The day before, junior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer won the National Player of the Year award for the second straight season.

3/23/2019: Women’s swimming and diving (7-0, 7-0 Pac-12) finishes with 456.5 points and claims its third straight NCAA championship in Texas ahead of Cal with 419 points, and Michigan with 314. Freshman Taylor Ruck sets a school record in the 200-meter backstroke with a second-place finish of 1:47.59 and becomes the first Stanford swimmer to break 1:48. In her final individual race as a Cardinal, senior Ella Eastin finishes second in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:50.46. The eight-time individual national champion concludes her collegiate career as a 20-time All-American. The t(h)ree-peat is a combined effort featuring 18 different All-Americans.

4/20/2019: After finishing a close second to Oklahoma at the MPSF Championship, Stanford men’s gymnastics enters the NCAA finals poised for glory. The task is all but difficult. The four-time defending champion Sooners march to a fifth title with one more event to go. Despite the 4.40-point deficit, the Cardinal have not yet spoken their last word. They produce a season-best 71.131 score on the rings while the Sooners stumble, managing a 66.065 on high bar. Fueled by a dominant effort from freshman Brody Malone (College Gymnastics Association Rookie of the Year and conference Gymnast of the Year), Stanford men’s gymnastics closes the meet with a 415.222 team score, topping Oklahoma at 414.556. The king is dead, long live the king! The Cardinal are just beginning their own dynasty.

5/12/2019: The stage is set at Avery Aquatic Center for an epic battle in the Cardinal’s 10th consecutive women’s water polo title-game appearance. No. 2 Stanford (23-2, 6-0 Pac-12) and No. 1 USC (28-2, 5-1 Pac-12) advanced to the championship after overtime wins in the semifinals. The teams are tied 5-5 at halftime. USC takes a 6-5 lead to open the third quarter. Sophomore Aria Fischer converts on a penalty shot at 6:09 in the third to make it 6-6. With 3:37 left in the third, senior Kat Klass scores with a shot well past the five-meter mark, which evens it at 7-7. Freshman Ryann Neushul draws the exclusion on USC’s Paige Hauschild, and junior Makenzie Fischer scores on the penalty shot to tie it 8-8 going into the final period. Neushul scores the only goal of the final frame at 4:51. It is the fifth final in a row decided by a single goal. Stanford wins its seventh NCAA title (fourth in the last six seasons) and ties UCLA for the most in the nation. Makenzie Fischer is named Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) Player of the Year, and head coach John Tanner collects his sixth ACWPC Coach of the Year honor.

5/19/2019: The No. 3 seeded women’s tennis (28-1, 10-0 Pac-12) faces top-seeded Georgia (28-2, 13-0 SEC) in the final. After winning the last four NCAA titles as a No. 8 seed or lower, the Cardinal know that seed is just a number. Another final, another rendezvous with history. Stanford comes out strong, capturing the doubles point for a 1-0 lead. Seniors Caroline Lampl and Melissa Lord set the tone right from the start of the singles, giving the Farm a safe 3-0 lead. The Bulldogs try to stay in the match after winning the first sets on two courts. Eventually, the clincher comes from sophomore Janice Shin on court five, as she defeats Elena Christofi 6-2, 6-4. The most decorated program in college history and the winningest program on the Farm, Stanford Women’s Tennis captures its 20th NCAA Championship (of the possible 38!) and third in the last four years. Head coach Lele Forood now has a ring for each finger, matching former head coach Frank Brennan with 10 national titles. Her record improves to 466-44 in her 19-year tenure on the Farm.

5/29/2019: Despite the four consecutive season-ending victories at The Goodwin, Western Intercollegiate, Pac-12 Championships and NCAA Stanford Regional that punched a ticket for the men’s golf Championships, very few consider the 12th-ranked Stanford a serious threat. After knocking off higher seeds Wake Forest and Vanderbilt the day before in dramatic 3-2 finishes, Stanford draws fifth-seeded Texas in the final. The Longhorns, who upset the top-ranked and strong favorite Oklahoma State, take an early lead. Head coach Conrad Ray comes up with a plan. He sends off junior Henry Shimp, senior Isaiah Salinda and senior Brandon Wu first hoping to set the tone. The strategy works perfectly. All three upperclassmen secure wins, with Shimp clinching the crown and a 3-2 outcome with a two-putt par at 17. It is the program’s ninth NCAA title and first since 2007, Ray’s third at the helm. He also played on the team that won the 1994 NCAA crown.

6/2/2019: Women’s lightweight rowing opens the final day of competition with fifth-place in the Double Grand Final, clocking in at 8:00.499. In the Varsity Four Grand Final, the Cardinal storm the field with a mark of 7:12.848. Runner-up Boston University finishes almost seven seconds behind (7:19.504). In the Varsity Eight Grand Final, Stanford places first, checking in at 6:32.825, almost 4.5 seconds in front of runner-up Princeton (6:37.335). The victory clinches the fifth consecutive Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) team national title and ninth overall for the Farm, four more than the next closest competitor (Wisconsin).

12/8/2019: In a thriller semi-final, top-ranked and top-seed men’s water polo (21-2, 2-1 Pac-12) defeats No. 2 USC (15-6, 3-0 Pac-12) in triple-overtime and punches a ticket to the final. The Cardinal take the driver’s seat and never look back. Redshirt junior Ben Hallock and sophomore AJ Rossman keep the foot on the gas pedal with three goals apiece, and Stanford surges ahead 6-3 after the first period, leading 9-3 at halftime, and 10-5 after the third quarter to end the game up five goals (13-8). The final whistle marks the beginning of long-awaited celebrations. Head coach John Vargas, who guided Stanford to its most recent NCAA crown back in 2002, when the Cardinal defeated Cal 7-6 in his first season on the Farm, grabs his second ring. It is the 11th NCAA title and 12th national championship in program history overall.

12/8/2019: The women’s soccer NCAA title match gets down to the wire. The regular time ends in a goalless draw. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Katie Meyer makes two critical penalty-kick saves in the thrilling penalty kick shootout and propels the Cardinal (24-1, 11-0 Pac-12) to a National Championship victory over North Carolina (24-2-1, 9-0-1 ACC). Katie’s celebration after making the second save is iconic. She points to the crest on her jersey and the word “Stanford” emblazoned on the front, looks directly at the camera, and gestures as if she is shutting her mouth and throwing away the key. Stanford sets a program record with 102 goals in the season. On the defensive end, the Cardinal are equally impressive (clean sheet in every single one of the eight games in Oct. and in five out of the eight remaining games in the season).

12/21/2019: What should one expect from the Class of 2019, arguably the best in Stanford women’s volleyball history? Nothing less than going out on top. The Cardinal (30-4, 18-2 Pac-12) sweep the Badgers (27-7, 18-2 Big Ten) (25-16, 25-17, 25-20) to win their second straight national championship, third in four seasons and ninth in program history. Sheer dominance. Stanford hits .358 to Wisconsin’s .152. Senior Kathryn Plummer puts on a clinic. 22 kills on a dominating .459 hitting percentage, 10 digs and three blocks. Seniors Morgan Hentz, with 17 digs, and Jenna Gray, with 39 assists, follow Plummer’s steps. Graduate transfer Madeleine Gates hits .529 with 10 kills, finishing six NCAA Tournament matches with a single attack error! A 10-match absence due to an injury that revoked Plummer’s eligibility for the AVCA postseason awards cost her the National Player of the Year award for a third straight time.

4/4/2021: Women’s basketball (31-2, 19-2 Pac-12) defeats Arizona (21-6, 13-4 Pac-12) 54-53 in a nail-biting final. Stanford finishes the year on a 20-game win streak, winning both the Pac-12 regular season and tournament championships, along with the national title, its first since 1992 and third in program history. The next day is equally memorable. Head coach Tara VanDerveer and her players hop into several convertibles and take a triumphant spin around campus. A couple hundred students and fans grab the opportunity and gather with masks to celebrate the Cardinal’s “COVID championship”, as Tara calls it. The legendary coach sets another record as she becomes the winningest coach in women’s basketball history, surpassing Pat Summitt’s record of 1,098 wins.

4/16 – 4/17/2021: Synchronized swimming competes in front of a home crowd at Avery Aquatic Center in its quest for a ninth national championship. Senior Jacklyn Luu produces a routine of 81.0000 to claim the solo champion crown. Sophomore Hailee Heinrich, sophomore Audrey Nguyen and senior Caitlin Klauer earn the trio title with an 80.6000. The Cardinal enter the second and last day of competition with a 10-point lead. Stanford continues to distance itself from three-time defending champion Ohio State as Luu and freshman Emmanuella Tchakmakjian secure the duet title with a total of 82.3000. The Cardinal put the finishing touches with a victory in the team final, as junior Grace Alwan, Heinrich, sophomore Ava Jih-Schiff, Klauer, Luu, Nguyen, junior Alexandra Suarez and Tchakmakjian post an 83.6000 and take home the hardware.

4/17/2021: Deja vu? Men’s gymnastics is battling with the Sooners for first place at the championship meet after losing the title to them at the MPSF Championship. The Cardinal save the best for last and turn in their best score of the year at 414.521, almost four points ahead of Oklahoma (411.591), becoming back-to-back national champions. Junior Brody Malone repeats as an individual national champion, capturing the all-around (85.064) and high bar (season-best 14.466) titles. He becomes the first NCAA men’s gymnast to win the all-around title in his first two championship meets.

4/16/2022: Men’s gymnastics has won every meet but the first in the season, scoring more than 410 points and enters the championship meet as the absolute favorite. The recently crowned MSPF and back-to-back NCAA champions put on an impressive performance totaling a 423.628 that propels them to a third consecutive NCAA championship crown, its eighth in the program history. Showcasing a combination of superior lineup depth and dynamic routines, Stanford produces individual NCAA champions in five different events. Senior Brody Malone becomes a seven-time national champion, winning the horizontal bar (14.700) title for the third consecutive time and sharing first place on pommel horse (14.000). Senior Curran Phillips (15.233) on parallel bars, junior Riley Loos (career-high tying 14.600) on rings and senior Bryan Perla (career-high tying 14.800) on floor also secure individual NCAA titles.

5/8/2022: Women’s water polo (25-2, 5-1 Pac-12) appears in its 11th NCAA final in 12 seasons. Another pool party, yet the invitees are the same. The Trojans (20-4, 6-0 Pac-12) are ahead 3-2 after the first period and 4-3 at halftime, but the Cardinal snatch the lead in the third period. USC ties the game for the fifth time early in the fourth period to make it 7-7 with 6:37 remaining. Then it’s time for the Cardinal to put the finishing touches on a dominant season that featured two different 10-match winning streaks. They switch to another gear and never look back, claiming the NCAA title for the eighth time in program history (seventh in the last 11 seasons). The 10-7 victory over USC (third in the season) marks the end of an illustrious college career for senior Makenzie Fischer. The NCAA Tournament’s MVP scores a game-high four goals on six shots while sophomore Ryann Neushul adds another three.

5/25/2022: No. 1 women’s golf featuring six players ranked inside the World Amateur Golf Rankings Top 75 (among them, sophomore Rachel Heck, the 2021 NCAA champion and No.1 ranked amateur freshman Rose Zhang, a player many thought should and would turn pro before entering college) enters the National Championship match against Pac-12 champion No. 2 Oregon with sky-high expectations. The two best teams in the country battle it out for the title. Stanford jumps out to a fast start in the match as junior Brooke Seay (4&3) and senior Aline Krauter (5&3) deliver tone-setting wins early on. Zhang, the recently crowned NCAA individual champion, delivers a 3&1 victory and provides the clinching point. The Cardinal defeat the Ducks 3-2 at Grayhawk Golf Club to capture their second NCAA championship and conclude one of the most dominant seasons in collegiate history.

Stanford’s titles and highlights

Stanford counts 22 Pac-12 titles since the previous midterm elections: men’s baseball (2022), men’s cross country (2018, 2020), men’s golf (2019), men’s soccer (2018, 2020), men’s tennis (2021), women’s basketball (2021, 2022), women’s cross country (2019, 2020), women’s lacrosse (2021, 2022), women’s rowing (2022), women’s soccer (2018, 2019), women’s swimming & diving (2019, 2020, 2022), women’s tennis (2019) and women’s volleyball (2018, 2019). The Cardinal have captured 24 additional conference titles. Eight of them are MPSF titles: fencing (2022), men’s gymnastics (2022), men’s water polo (2018, 2019, 2020), women’s synchronized swimming (2021) and women’s water polo (2022). In 2019 and 2020 the women’s field hockey won the America East and the men’s fencing team won the Western conference title. The remaining 13 are in the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference titles: coed sailing fleet (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022), coed sailing team (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022), women’s sailing fleet (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022) and women’s sailing team (2022).

To top it off, the Cardinal captured their 25th consecutive Directors’ Cup in 2018-19. The record-winning streak was interrupted by the pandemic in 2020 and Stanford’s temporary decision to discontinue 11 varsity sports programs made it drop to second place behind Texas in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Stanford showcased its dominance on the world’s biggest stage, capturing 26 medals (10 gold, 7 silver, 9 bronze) to lead all institutions at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Female athletes competing for Team USA were responsible for the majority of these medals (10 gold, 6 silver, 7 bronze). Only 10 nations produced more total medals than Stanford at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Stanford alums shine the brightest in the nation’s most popular sport. In 2018, Andrew Luck ’12 closed the curtain on his illustrious professional career featuring four Pro Bowl appearances (2012-14, 2018), an NFL Comeback Player of the Year award (2018) and many other achievements. Most passing yards (4,761) in a single season (2014), most NFL passing touchdowns (2014), most passing yards by a rookie quarterback in a single game (433) and in a single season (4,374, 2012), most game-winning drives (7) by a rookie quarterback (2012), to name a few. The back-to-back (2010, 2011) Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback passed the torch to another Cardinal Heisman Trophy finalist (2015) in Christian McCaffrey ’17. The running back took the NFL by storm: most receptions by a running back (2019), most scrimmage yards by any player (1,387 rushing and 1,005 receiving) in a season (2019), and third in overall NFL history, most receiving yards by a running back (1,005) in a season (2019), only running back to have two seasons with 100 or more receptions (107 in 2018 and 116 in 2019), only the second player in NFL history with at least 20 rushing TDs and at least 15 receiving TDs through their first three seasons and many more accolades.

What’s in store for Stanford athletics till the next midterm elections? Can the Cardinal keep up their frenzy success rate of the last four years? No question, the bar is quite high. On the other hand, with legendary coaches such as Tara VanDerveer, Lele Forood, Paul Ratcliffe, J.J. Clark, Thom Glielmi, Geremy Gunn, Conrad Ray and Anne Walker, to name a few, rest assured that our student-athletes are in good hands. After all, it’s just another challenge, and history has taught us that Stanford knows how to embrace challenges and turn them into opportunities to reach new heights.

Charis is a senior staff writer and recent alum (Ph.D.’23). If CS is his hobby, sports is his passion. Firm believer that the coach is the most important position in every team sport. A member of the sports section but not a journalist by any stretch of the imagination.

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