It was Stanford women's Parents Weekend, and those in attendance were treated to a hotly contested match against Chico State. Playing in its toughest match of the season, the Cardinal defeated Chico 17-5 to nab the #1 seed in the Pacific Coast's division one college bracket.
"Since the 90s, the Chico-Stanford has been fierce," Stanford assistant coach Heather Smith said. "Our yearly match is always a fight to the finish. This year was no exception."
Junior prop Alex Wolens and freshman wing Michelle Teo accounted for Stanford's first-half tries, and sophomore fullback Jamie Lawrence added a conversion. The Cardinal had to fight for every inch, and the workrate of Wolens and junior flanker Ellen Danford set the tempo for the rest of the team.
Stanford's dominating scrum also played a big part in retaining possession.
"I'm not sure how many times we successfully turned over a defensive scrum," captain Frances Wehrein said, "but several steals from the scrum that simply drove over Chico's ball and fantastic counter-hooking by senior Jessica Talbert during key plays really put them on their back foot."
Down 12 points at the half, Chico closed the gap with a try early on. It forced Stanford to refocus and stave off a comeback.
"For us, it wasn't about beating Chico so much as beating ourselves," Wehrein said. "We defended Chico well, but we struggled in areas that were in our control, like the ball carrier's placement in contact, dropping quickly on penalties, etc. We weren't playing with enough fire until Chico scored in the second half and we were only up by seven points. We then scored roughly 30 seconds after immediately turning over our kickoff."
Lawrence accounted for the final Stanford try, which stifled any hopes of an upset win for Chico.
Smith acknowledged the physicality and keen decision-making of junior flanker Wehrein, and the stellar leadership and communication of senior scrumhalf Charlotte Eilbert as key performances that helped enable the win.
Chico has proved to be Stanford's toughest competitor to date, as the Cardinal defeated UC Davis and California by 20 points. Chico's post-season destiny will be determined after its game against Cal this weekend- a match that is by no means a given victory.