Stanford's women's basketball team won its 24th Pac-12 regular-season title on Monday -- but it was the program's first since 2014.
The No. 4 Cardinal defeated No. 9 Arizona 62-48 at Stanford's Maples Pavilion, clinching the league championship at 18-2.
Tara VanDerveer, who became Division I women's basketball's all-time wins leader earlier this season, has been the coach for all of the Cardinal's title teams except in 1995-96, when she stepped away from Stanford to coach the U.S. national team in preparation for the 1996 Olympics.
VanDerveer said this year's championship is especially satisfying because of what the Cardinal went through this season: a nine-week road trip when they couldn't live, practice or play at Stanford because of COVID-19 regulations in Santa Clara County. After their season opener at Maples Pavilion on Nov. 25, the Cardinal didn't play there again until Feb. 5.
"I have to say I get a little emotional because it's such a great thing that this team has accomplished," VanDerveer said. "It's not just about basketball, it's about how they have been as teammates. How they have been mature. You want good things for people that are like that. I'm really proud of the leadership of our team, the sisterhood, that they really care about each other.
"There's not a team I've wanted it so badly for. And I still want it really badly for the [Pac-12] tournament and the NCAA tournament."
The past three years, Oregon has been the Pac-12 regular-season women's basketball champion. Oregon State won the title in 2015 and 2017, and shared it with Arizona State in 2016. Those six seasons are the longest stretch Stanford has gone without winning or sharing the regular-season title since the league -- then known as the Pac-10 -- began governing women's sports in 1986-87.
Four of the Cardinal's regular-season titles have been shared, the other 20 were won outright.
VanDerveer took over the Stanford program in 1985-86 and won her first conference title in the 1988-89 season. The league started a conference tournament in 2002, and Stanford has won that 13 times, most recently in 2019. The Cardinal won the NCAA title in 1990 and '92.
"I think to win this Pac-12 championship means more," said junior guard Lexie Hull, who led Stanford with 16 points and nine rebounds in Monday's win. "We had to do a lot more, we had to sacrifice a lot more this season. I think that really shows how much we wanted it.
"We still have a long season ahead of us, and we want to check that last box at the end; that's the biggest one for us."