Only six days removed from a huge weekend that saw the Cardinal defeat No. 20 Arizona State and upset No. 6 Arizona to rocket them from No. 8 to No. 2 in the NCAA rankings, the Cardinal (7-1, 4-0 Pac-12) knew that an enormous challenge lay ahead of them in a two-day home stand against two undefeated squads from Southern California. Unconcerned, Stanford held strong and rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion.
After breaking several pool records at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatic Center last year en route to a victory, Stanford treated the home crowd at Avery Aquatics Center to a similar show as they rolled to a 165-135 victory over No. 12 UCLA (11-2, 5-2 Pac-12). It was the first of two losses over the weekend for the previously undefeated Bruin squad, which dropped its seventh straight dual meet against the Cardinal, who claimed victory in 11 of the 16 events in the meet.
Highlighting the Card’s performance were record-breaking efforts by sophomore Maddy Schaefer in the 50-yard freestyle and junior Felicia Lee in the 100-yard backstroke. Schaefer’s time of 22.27 in the 50 free narrowly edged out Liv Jensen’s record of 22.39 set in 2008 to put Schaefer in Avery Center’s record books. Freshman Julia Ama and junior Alex Whitford also contributed strong showings in the 50 free to give the Cardinal a 1-2-3 finish in the event. Schaefer also contributed a second-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly and was part of Stanford’s first-place teams in both the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 200-yard medley relay.
Felicia Lee dominated, claiming the Avery Center record in the 100-yard backstroke for the second year in a row. Lee toppled her own time of 53.03 set last year with a 52.99 performance as she out-touched senior Andi Murez—the victor in the 100 free—by two seconds and Bruin swimmer Katie Kinnear by three. Lee also claimed a convincing victory in the 200 backstroke, beating second-place Anna Senko of UCLA by a margin of more than two seconds.
The true test for the Cardinal, however, came on Saturday as it geared up for a clash with No. 1 USC Trojans (9-1, 5-1 Pac-12). Although the Cardinal had won the last 12 dual meets against the Trojans, a streak dating back to 2001, it seemed like things might turn out differently this year. Long story short: they didn’t.
After Stanford honored its six seniors in the pregame Senior Day ceremonies, the Cardinal kicked off the meet with a tremendous victory in the 400-yard medley relay that gave the team an early 13-4 lead. The Cardinal held the lead and finished with a 158-137 win over the top-ranked team in the country.
Junior Felicia Lee, who had broken the pool record for the 100-yard backstroke on Friday against UCLA, once again planted herself firmly at the top of the pack for that event. The junior standout broke the record for the second day in a row, this time with a finishing mark of 52.90. Lee capped off her tremendous weekend with a first-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly, narrowly edging out USC freshman Kendyl Stewart for her fourth individual first-place finish of the weekend.
Senior Andi Murez, in her last home appearance as a part of Stanford’s team, finished in first in the 200-yard freestyle and second in the 100-yard freestyle (to teammate Maddy Schaefer) to go along with her first-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle against UCLA on Friday. Schaefer also added a victory in the 50-yard freestyle to cap off a record-setting weekend for the sophomore.
Junior Maya DiRado also had a strong weekend, winning the 200 free on Friday and the 200 backstroke on Saturday. Freshman Sarah Haase was impressive too, emerging victorious in both the 200 breaststroke on Friday and the 100 backstroke on Saturday. Junior diver Stephanie Phipps turned in yet another strong showing, dominating the 3-meter diving competition against UCLA and emerging with a narrow victory against USC.
Next weekend, the Cardinal travels across the Bay to face defending national champion Cal on Saturday at noon as Stanford looks to remain the only undefeated team in Pac-12 play. Although No. 7 Cal (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) is looking uncharacteristically shaky down the stretch, the Cardinal should have its hands full with the Golden Bears in a tough matchup.