When the regular season does not exactly go their way, good teams often write off its importance. Sometimes these teams are right: they prevail when it really matters in the playoffs, proving that at their best, they can defeat anyone. Other times, however, it is foolish optimism and the team enters the playoffs with an overstated sense of confidence, only to be eliminated with ease.
The question is: Which scenario describes Cal? The only way to find out is to wait and see.
The Bears come out of this meet with a mouth full of splinters after falling to the Cardinal 193-104. The season is not over, but the Cal Stanford rivalry may be done for awhile. Between 2004 and 2015, the Cardinal only led the season series 7-5. In fact, the Bears managed to win four national championships in this span, while Stanford only made the finals twice and lost both times. Since 2015, however, Cal has been no match for Stanford, losing five straight regular season meets and failing to win a single championship — while Stanford has won the last three in a row.
Not only did Stanford win, it dominated. The 193-104 defeat marks a new largest margin of victory for the Cardinal over the Bears. Stanford has set a new record for each of the past 4 seasons. On each occasion that Stanford beat Cal by at least 50, it went on to finish higher in the playoffs.
This is concerning for the Bears, to say the least.
“It just wasn’t the best day for us. I think we had some high points but I think we just got a little more work to do until the end of the year,” said Cal assistant coach Dani Korman. “We didn’t do well. That is what it is. Of course we wanted it to be closer and it just wasn’t a good day all around for us.”
With a margin of victory like this, you might think the Bears had a really poor showing. In reality, they had some of their better times in some events. This makes the loss that much more impactful as Cal did not simply underperform across the board.
The Bears logged their fastest times of the season in both the 200-yard freestyle and medley relays. For the freestyle event, they touched the wall at 1:29.46, which took first place — one of Cal’s four winning events of the day. In the medley relay, the Bears took second, with a time of 1:38.77, which was only .08 seconds shy of first.
Cal junior Robin Neumann also lost the 200-yard freestyle by only .08 seconds. She touched the wall at 1:47.58.
Senior Abbey Weitzeil was spectacular as usual, setting a new pool record in the 50 free with a time of 21.89. Weitzeil also took first in the 100-yard freestyle in 47.97 seconds. The Bears’ only other individual victory came from sophomore Isabel Ivey, who got a time of 53.06 in the 100-yard butterfly.
Both teams displayed their top-heaviness, since their only three individual victories came from two swimmers — while the Cardinal had only one swimmer, junior Lauren Piter, take first in multiple events. Pitzer won both the 500 and 200-yard freestyle, capturing the former by more than three seconds.
Junior diver Briana Thai also turned in a good showing. She snagged second place in the 1-meter dive with a score of 312.6, her highest of the season. She was three points shy of first.
Cal’s next meet, the Pac-12 Championships, comes Feb. 26-29 in Federal Way, Washington.
Tom Aizenberg covers women’s swim and dive. Contact him at