Stanford finished second in the women's distance medley relay at the Penn Relays on Thursday at Franklin Field, leading on the final lap at the 121st annual meet.
The Cardinal was in position to win, with Elise Cranny ahead. But Villanova anchor Stephanie Schappert pulled in front on the final turn and won going away, giving the Wildcats their fourth consecutive victory in the event with a second consecutive runner-up finish.
Cranny, a freshman in her first Penn Relays, took the baton in second after Claudia Saunders cut a 15-meter deficit to within a few meters at the exchange.
Cranny took the lead from Schappert with 1,000 meters to go and the two pulled away from North Carolina's Annie LeHardy, who had closed to within striking distance.
Schappert waited until 150 left to make her move and Cranny was unable to respond. The Cardinal posted a time of 11:11.07 to Villanova's 11:09.06.
"Elise was up against a seasoned Penn Relays veteran who got a chance to sit on her and kick," Stanford coach Chris Miltenberg said. "Having to lead in the wind like that is really tough and Elise did a great job of keeping her composure and competing super gritty. I know this was a great learning experience for her and she'll get so much better from it."
Jessica Tonn ran the opening 1,200 leg in 3:27.00, with Kristyn Williams moved from fifth to second on a 53.61 400 leg, and Saunders followed with an 800 split of 2:09.62. Cranny finished with a 4:40.87.
"I'm really proud of the way all four of our athletes competed," Miltenberg said. "It was a tough situation -- super windy and cold and they competed really tough on every leg and each gave us the best possible shot to win."
Stanford will resume its quest for its first relay title since 2006 when it competes Friday in the women's 4x1500 and sprint medley relays and the men's DMR.
"We're excited to line up again tomorrow," Miltenberg said.
Stanford edged visiting Santa Clara, 3-2, Thursday in a nonconference match.
Stanford junior Madi Bugg and redshirt freshman Ivana Vanjak clinched it at No. 2 singles, earning a hard-fought 24-22, 18-21, 15-13 victory over Sabrina Clayton and Kirsten Mead. Bugg and Vanjak move to 12-5 on the year.
Stanford (10-4) moves to 6-1 all-time against the Broncos.
Santa Clara took an early 1-0 lead as Katrina Inch and Sarah Vaccaro defeated sophomore Kelsey Humphreys and freshman Catherine Raquel in the No. 4 spot.
Stanford junior Inky Ajanaku and sophomore Grace Kennedy evened the match with a 21-12, 19-21, 15-5 decision in the No. 5 spot. Ajanaku finished off the third set with an emphatic kill as the pair moved to 7-5 overall.
The Broncos pulled ahead 2-1 after their top pair, Nikki Hess and Danielle Rottman, defeated senior Lauren Birks and junior Brittany Howard, 21-11, 25-23. Birks and Howard fall to 12-7 on the season.
Stanford's No. 3 pair, junior Jordan Burgess and redshirt freshman Merete Lutz, evened the match with a 21-18, 21-15 win over GiGi Cresto and Mary Shepherd. The pair improves to 10-4 overall.
Stanford finishes the season at California on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Krista Hardebeck won her first-round match, but fell in the Round of 16 on Thursday at the Pac-12 championships in Ojai.
While most of the Cardinal singles players are taking the week off, Hardebeck was the lone winner.
Ellen Tsay lost her first-round match in the championship finals.
Castilleja grad Paulette Wolak and Nora Tan also lost first-round matches in the invitational singles bracket.