Cal bellyflops at Stanford in first loss of season

The last dual meet of a perfect season for the Cal women’s swim team was anything but perfect.

The No. 1 Bears (7-1, 7-1 in the Pac-12) lost their first dual meet of the season to the No. 8 Cardinal, 174-126, at the Big Meet Saturday at the Avery Aquatic Center at Stanford.

Stanford came out ready to face the challenge of taking on the number one team, winning the first five races and completely dominating the rest of the meet. The Bears ended up winning just five of the 16 races.

“To be honest, it really was not a close meet,”associate head coach Kristen Cunnane said. “We lost a bunch of races at the beginning that we just could not recover from.”

The Cardinal (9-1, 6-0) emerged victorious in large part due to Maya DiRado and Sam Woodward. The two combined for four victories, including two relays.

Cal had some great individual performances of its own such as Caitlin Leverenz — who won three of the Bears’ five events — and came close in many races, but the team could not finish the deal in an upsetting finale to the season.

“Right now, the atmosphere around the team is just realistic in that we know we need to get better,” Cunnane said. “It is going to be important for us to see how we as a group respond to this setback.”

The next few weeks will be very challenging for this squad, as Cal looks to rebound from this loss and head to Federal Way, Wash., for the Pac-12 Championships on Feb. 22. Before that time, the Bears will need to improve their times if they wish to contend for a national championship, as was shown in their lackluster performance against their longtime rival.

“(Head coach Teri McKeever) and I are going to work with each of the swimmers individually and see where they are at and what they need in terms of training,” Cunnane said. “We know we have the capability of contending, but we need to keep working and improving.”

Although the coaches will definitely be trying to keep the team morale up and support the swimmers as much as possible, Cunnane thinks that the team’s emotions will be relevant to its performance in the future.

“I think it is important that they are disappointed,” Cunnane said. “They are upset, and we are not the kinds of coaches that will just say that everything is fine.”

The team will look to use its two weeks of break to regroup and get back on track before its two most important meets of the year.

“We are going to back off of the training a little bit going forward,” Cunnane said. “This is a crucial part of the season, and we want everyone to be well-rested and ready to go.”