Jan. 11, 2013
Stanford Game Notes
STANFORD, Calif. - According to the official record books of each school, No. 5/4 Stanford and No. 7/7 California will meet for the 68th time this Sunday when the Cardinal hosts the Golden Bears at Maples Pavilion.
However, the memorable rivalry actually stretches back over a century to April 4, 1896, when a team of Stanford women defeated California 2-1. On that day women from Stanford and California stared at one another from across the court, just as today's Cardinal and Golden Bear players will do Sunday, 117 years later. The rules, uniforms, and look of the game may have changed drastically since that early spring day in the 19th century, but one thing has remained constant in the 21st century: the Stanford-California rivalry is still as hot as ever.
Sunday's 1 p.m. contest, televised nationally on ESPN2 with Pam Ward and Mary Murphy on the call, continues the tradition started by the women in full-length wool skirts in 1896, and one tradition Stanford hopes to continue is capturing the annual meeting with California. The Cardinal enters the contest having won 10 in a row and 42 of the last 45 against the Golden Bears. Stanford leads the all-time series 60-17 entering Sunday, and since the inaugural season of women's basketball for the Pac-12 (then the Pac-10) in 1986-87, the Cardinal owns a 52-6 record against the Golden Bears.
The "modern" era of the intercollegiate women's basketball series between the Cardinal and Golden Bears actually goes back to Feb. 12, 1975, when Stanford defeated California 49-38 in Berkeley. The early years of the rivalry featured the schools battling it out in the Northern California Athletic Conference, Stanford winning six of the first nine meetings through the 1979-80 season.
Yet as the 1980s got underway, the scales tipped east towards Berkeley. Despite Stanford winning the first meeting of the new decade on Feb. 17, 1981, the Golden Bears would experience their shining moment in the all-time series, capturing eight straight decisions from March 1981 to February 1986.
That dominance from the East Bay would end as women's basketball entered the Pac-10 era in 1986-87. While the teams split their meetings that first season, it would be all Stanford from then until the present day. Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer was putting the finishing touches on her rebuilding project of the Cardinal in these opening years, going from an 8-10 mark in the conference's first season to a perfect 18-0 record and Pac-10 title two years later. In 1989-90, the Cardinal would go 17-1 en route to sharing its second conference title and winning its first national championship.
All-Americans such as Jennifer Azzi, Sonja Henning and Val Whiting, along with perennial All-Pac-10 picks Katy Steding, Trisha Stevens and Julie Zeilstra helped pace the Cardinal to five straight Pac-10 titles from 1989-93. By the end of the decade players such as Kate Starbird, Kristin Folkl, Olympia Scott and Jamila Wideman were carrying the Cardinal to more conference titles and a 15-game run against the Golden Bears from 1994-2001.
The view wasn't so rosy on the other side of the bay. California would go 13 years, from 1994-2006, without a top-half finish on the Pac-10 table. During that span Stanford went 28-1 against California, dropping only an 82-73 decision on Feb. 16, 2001.
The 2006-07 campaign, though, would bring a fresh new competitiveness to the series, as a crop of players in blue and gold began making its way up the Pac-10 table. The Golden Bear nucleus of forwards Devanei Hampton and Ashley Walker and point guard Alexis Gray-Lawson came into Maples Pavilion on Feb. 4, 2007 and captured a 72-57 win, dealing the Cardinal what would be its only loss in conference play.
That year the Golden Bears would go 12-6 to finish third in the conference, matching its highest Pac-10 win total.
But a conference title, even a share of one, continued to elude California, and it was the Cardinal-colored hump that continued getting in the way. In 2007-08 Stanford would sweep California, the second of those wins pulling Candice Wiggins, Jayne Appel and company into a tie with the Golden Bears atop the Pac-10. Things came down to the final day of the regular season, as Stanford took on Washington State in Pullman and California met Washington in Seattle.
Stanford did its part, defeating the Cougars 74-52 to clinch at least a share of the title. All California had to do was beat the 7-10 Huskies to clinch a share of its first conference title, but a 74-66 Husky upset snatched that away. The Golden Bears would get a second chance to nab some Pac-10 hardware, meeting Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament Championship Game at HP Pavilion, but that chance too would slip away as the Cardinal claimed the 56-35 decision.
California would earn a measure of revenge the following year, capturing the teams' first meeting, 57-54 at Haas Pavilion behind 37 points from Gray-Lawson. Many fans and media began to speculate that maybe the rivalry was taking a turn, and that hypothesis appeared to begin to be validated when the Golden Bears held a nine-point lead three minutes into the second half of the return game at Maples Pavilion a month later.
But that lead would slowly evaporate, and one play in particular would not only live long in the memories of the Cardinal faithful, but also arguably serve as an encapsulation of the cross-bay rivalry.
California clung to a three-point with just over 13 minutes to play when Jeanette Pohlen poked the ball free from a California player near midcourt. In the scramble for the ball, Lindy La Rocque outraced Natasha Vital to the end line, diving to save the ball then flipping it up to a trailing Jillian Harmon for the bucket. The Maples Pavilion crowd exploded at the outstanding hustle play by La Rocque and the Cardinal rode the momentum to a 27-9 run the rest of the way.
Since that memorable win, the Cardinal has gone on to take 10 straight from the Golden Bears, most recently Tuesday's 62-53 slugfest in Berkeley. Both teams meet again Sunday as top-10 teams, the seventh time that a Stanford-California meeting has featured such.
Sunday's game will go a long way in shaping the conference race between Stanford and California. A Cardinal win creates a two-game cushion on the table, while the Golden Bears hope to pull even with a win of their own. After last season's overtime thriller, pulled out by Stanford, 74-71, California has confidence coming into Maples Pavilion, but the Cardinal aim to get back to their winning ways at home after having its conference-record 82-game home winning streak snapped by Connecticut Dec. 29.