An enormously successful regular season for the women’s swimming and diving team ended on a low note on Saturday afternoon at Berkeley. The team, needing only one more win to cap off an undefeated season in conference play, was dealt a painful 154.5-145.5 defeat at the hands of archrival Cal.
Things could have turned out differently for No. 2 Stanford (7-2, 4-1) in this incredibly close meet if it had just won two of the races that it had claimed second place in. However, things didn’t go the Cardinal’s way and No. 7 Cal (7-2, 3-2) handed Stanford just its second loss of the dual meet season. The only other defeat suffered by the Card was another heartbreaker to No. 7 Texas back in early November, decided by an even smaller margin of three points.
Sophomore Maddy Schafer, one of the nation’s strongest sprint swimmers, shined in her events yet again, continuing her streak of dominance in the pool. Schaefer claimed victory in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events and was part of a winning effort in the 400-yard freestyle relay toward the end of the afternoon.
Junior Felicia Lee also ended the regular season on a strong note. Lee, who has been one of the Cardinal’s most consistent swimmers down the stretch, did not falter on Saturday. Lee claimed victory in the 100-yard backstroke and was touched out by two tenths of a second in the 100-yard butterfly. She was also part of the victorious 400-yard freestyle relay, swimming a blistering 48.71 anchor leg to hold off Cal’s Elizabeth Pelton.
It was also a strong afternoon for juniors Andie Taylor and Stephanie Phipps. Taylor showed her versatility in swimming both shorter and long-distance races, winning the 500-yard freestyle and coming in second in both the 1000-yard freestyle and the 200-yard butterfly.
Phipps, Stanford’s top diver, dominated the three-meter dive to the tune of a 30-point margin of victory and came in second in the one-meter dive by the margin of less than one point.
The Cardinal was outperformed on Saturday afternoon by the two-pronged Golden Bear attack from freshman and Olympic gold medalist Rachel Bootsma and senior and Olympic bronze medalist Caitlin Leverenz. They spearheaded the meet-opening victory for Cal in the 200-yard medley relay and continued to carry the team throughout the afternoon.
Bootsma claimed victory in both the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly events and also swam a powerful opening leg in the 200-yard medley relay to put the Bears in position for a resounding meet-opening win. Although Bootsma has not been successful in her specialty stroke, the backstroke, she has completely dominated the butterfly this year and has more than made up for her slower-than-usual backstroke times.
As expected, Leverenz proved her breaststroke prowess on Saturday, winning both the 100-yard and 200-yard events by margins of a second each. She also swept away the competition in her other specialty event, the individual medley (IM), winning the 200-yard event by a margin of over two seconds. She also swam a powerful breaststroke leg in the 200-yard medley relay to put her team in position for a strong victory in the event.
Although the Cardinal was foiled by the strong efforts of the Golden Bears today and was unable to complete a second straight season with an undefeated conference record, it has turned in yet another dominant regular season. The historically strong women’s team convincingly won in its seven victories and suffered its only two losses by margins of less than ten points each.
The team will absorb this dual meet loss and continue its intense preparations for its true goal: peaking at the championship meets. The Pac-12 Championship takes place from Feb. 27th to March 3rd in Washington and has a very different atmosphere and format from the dual meets. In just over a week, the Cardinal will attempt to claim its third conference championship in the last four years.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 “at” stanford.edu.