Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What's Not To Like?

Exaggerator won the Preakness Stakes Saturday by 3.5 lengths.

When he got back to the barn, he probably told the other horses he won by twice that.

Get it? Exaggerator? C'mon, that was funny.

Okay, TigerBlog can't be the only person to have made that joke. Still, it was funny.

TigerBlog isn't a huge horse racing fan. He was interested to see if Nyquist was going to win, following up on his win in the Kentucky Derby two weeks earlier.

It had been 37 years since there had been a Triple Crown winner when American Pharaoh swept the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Before that, the most recent winner had been Affirmed in 1978.

A year earlier, Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown. Would there be back-to-back winners?

Not this time. Not after Exaggerator ruined everything.

TigerBlog was in his car, driving back from Brown, when the Preakness started. He flipped through the stations but couldn't find a broadcast of it.

So how did he find out who won? Twitter.

Don't worry. He didn't check while he was driving.

TigerBlog has often wondered how much his teens and 20s would have been different had things like Twitter, texting, email and the like existed back then. Certainly his own kids couldn't possibly fathom a world in which they didn't have their phones and access to all of their social media.

One thing that is clear regarding Princeton's athletic social media efforts is that posts on Instagram get way more "likes" than those on Twitter. Why is that? Probably because the students themselves are the ones on Instagram. Twitter is probably used more by alums, parents, fans and those who might be a little older.

Take, for instance, the stories about the announcements of the finalists for the Roper Trophy and von Kiensbusch Award. Those two combined for 200 likes on Instagram. On Twitter? They combined for 21 likes. That's roughly 10 times more on Instagram.

Princeton Athletics - @putigers - has nearly 13,000 Twitter followers. There are nearly 1,000 who get live updates from @putigers_live.

Princeton athletics on Instragram, though, has approximately 2,800 followers. Despite that, the number of likes is off the charts from that smaller group. 

Interesting.

As for Twitter, for TigerBlog it has become the best way to get in-game updates of events, especially Princeton events. The live updates from @putigers_live are pretty thorough.

At first, Princeton had just one Twitter site, until it became apparent that users were getting turned off by having too many updates flooding their feeds. That's when @putigers_live was born, and in the two years since, followers to the original site have more than doubled.

When the live update feed began, it became apparent that it couldn't just be updates of home games that someone from the OAC was already going to be. It had to be basically every game, home and away.

This, of course, meant games on the road, when the OAC contact didn't travel and may have been at, you know, the movies or a restaurant or something like that.

TigerBlog followed the Princeton softball team in the NCAA tournament this past weekend through Twitter.

The Tigers lost the regional opener 7-0 to host James Madison and then were eliminated on Day 2 with a 2-1 loss to Longwood. Princeton had the tying run on base in the seventh of the second game.

Princeton's only run in the tournament came on a home run by Keeley Walsh, a freshman who was an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection this year. There is a great picture on the softball page of goprincetontigers.com that shows Walsh and head coach Lisa Van Ackeren after Walsh's home run.

You can see it HERE.

It's apparently hard to pull an upset in the regional at the NCAA softball tournament. There were 16 of them last weekend, and 13 of the hosts advanced to the Super Regionals this weekend.

James Madison, for instance, destroyed its regional, outscoring Princeton, North Carolina and Longwood by a combined 22-2 this past weekend. The Dukes will now be home again against LSU in the Super Regional.

As for Princeton, the 2016 season ended in the NCAA tournament. Any season that does is a big success.

Van Ackeren took Princeton to second-place finishes in the division in each of her first three seasons to the Ivy championship and NCAA tournament this year.

Her program is clearly pointed in the right direction, and she has established herself as one of the bright lights in Ivy softball and Princeton Athletics.

There was an Instagram picture at princetonathletics of the softball team prior to the NCAA game against James Madison. The team was wearing its travel Princeton shirts, and the players had their NCAA passes draped around their necks.

It drew 135 likes on Instagram.

After all, what's not to like about where Princeton softball was - and is going?

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Long Walk Up The Steps

TigerBlog is pretty sure that the last time he was at Brown Stadium was for the 2001 Princeton-Brown football game.
They haven't moved the stairs any closer to the press box in the last 15 years.

The Ivy League has eight football stadiums, obviously. There are long walks straight up to the press boxes in three of them - Harvard Stadium, Franklin Field and Brown Stadium.

TigerBlog has been to the other two a bunch of times, since they also host lacrosse in addition to football. Brown, though, plays its lacrosse games on Stevenson Field, which is with the rest of the athletic facilities, about a mile from the football stadium, which is tucked into a residential neighborhood.

Princeton defeated Brown 34-14 in the 2003 football game in Providence, but TB doesn't think he was there. He knows he was there two years earlier, when Brown beat Princeton 35-24, and going back before that, he was at every Princeton at Brown football game in the 1990s.

TB has always liked Brown Stadium, which is a nice place to see a game. It was built in 1925, and if TigerBlog isn't mistaken, it was the newest Ivy stadium until Princeton Stadium was built in 1997.

From 1990 through 2009, Princeton reached the NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals every year except for four - and went further most of the time. In fact, Princeton's record of success in that time is extraordinary.

Beginning in 1990, when Princeton made its first ever NCAA tournament appearance, the program won six NCAA championships, reached the championship game two other times, made 10 total Final Four appearances and had a run of 15 quarterfinals in 20 years.

It's one of the greatest runs any Ivy League team has ever had in any sport. It started with the legendary "dynasties are boring" quote as Princeton first started to crash the party with the sport's establishment, and it continued as Princeton became one of lacrosse's great dynasty.

Of the five times that Princeton did not reach the quarterfinals in that time, three of them came in years that Princeton Stadium was the predetermined site for the event. That was in 1999, 2005 and 2007.

TigerBlog knows full well how much effort goes into putting on the quarterfinals. It's fun too, especially if you're the kind of lacrosse fan that TB is.

But it's a lot of work. And it's less fun when your team isn't in it.

When TigerBlog got an email from his friend and Brown colleague Chris Humm saying that he was looking for volunteers for the quarterfinals at Brown Stadium, TigerBlog responded saying he was in. No problem.

And so there he was Saturday, in Providence, back at Brown Stadium, for the doubleheader. And there he was, making the walk up the stairs to the press box, for the first time in 15 years.

Patrick Stevens, one of the top lacrosse writers in the country, tweeted that he had gone downstairs and come back up, this time "without a sherpa." Now that's funny.

The first game was between Syracuse and Maryland. TigerBlog thought Syracuse would win the game, largely because of the edge the Orange had in face-offs and because of how well the SU goalie had been playing since becoming the starter.

As it turned out, Maryland didn't care about either of those things. The Terps, the top seed, rolled past Syracuse 13-7. TigerBlog wasn't all wrong: SU's Ben Williams won 15 of 24 face-offs in the game. It's just that Maryland got better goalie play and, in the most simplistic analysis that TB can offer, was just better.

The second game matched Brown and Navy. This was an already intriguing matchup made even more so with the absence of the Bears' - and college lacrosse's - best player, Dylan Molloy, who injured his foot late in Brown's opening round win over Johns Hopkins.

Navy got an epic performance from goalie John Connors, who made 21 saves, many of them ridiculous, to keep his team in the game. In the end, face-offs meant way more in this one than they did in the first game, as the Bears' Will Gural won 18 of 24.

More than that, he won the face-off each of the times in the second half after a Navy goal cut the lead to one, at 8-7, 9-8, 10-9 and finally 11-10. Each of the first three times, Brown scored on that possession, and Navy would never get possession in the box again after the fourth.

Molloy's status for the Final Four is uncertain. With a healthy Molloy, TigerBlog doesn't see a team that can beat Brown, not even Maryland. Even if he can play, though, Molloy won't be 100 percent. What percentage of Molloy there is, if any, will go a long way to determining who the champion is.

The matchups in Philadelphia this coming weekend will be North Carolina vs. Loyola in one semifinal and Brown vs. Maryland in the other.

TigerBlog's pre-tournament Final Four was Syracuse (wrong), Denver (wrong), North Carolina (right) and Brown (right). 

Princeton has won its six NCAA championships. Cornell has won three, all in the 1970s. No Ivy team has won one since Princeton in 2001.

Brown has been to the Final Four before, back in 1994. Its opponent? Princeton, who knocked the Bears off 10-7.

That was on the way to NCAA title No. 2 for the Tigers. There would be four more to come during that dynasty.

As someone who was there for all of it, TigerBlog can tell you that it wasn't boring in any way.

Friday, May 20, 2016

High Honors, For Kim And Others

TigerBlog stepped back in time yesterday.

There he was, at the last of the department staff meetings for 2015-16, and there was Gary Walters, Ford Family Director of Athletics emeritus at the podium speaking.

It was like the scene in the wildly underrated "Godfather Part III." You know. "Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in."

And yeah, TigerBlog called the movie "wildly underrated." If there had only been "III" and not "I" or "II," then people would consider "III" one of the greatest movies ever made.

That's TigerBlog's thought anyway. It is a great movie on its own.

Meanwhile, back at Gary, he was at the staff meeting yesterday to help the current AD, Mollie Marcoux, announce the Lorin Maurer Award for 2016.

Lorin, for those who don't know, was killed in a plane crash outside of Buffalo back in 2009, when she was the Athletic Friends' group coordinator here. She was just past her 30th birthday when she died.

The award that bears her name is given to a member of the Department of Athletics who "best reflects the passion, dedication and infectious enthusiasm that defined Lorin Maurer's character and her inspiring impact on colleagues and friends."

This year's winner was Kim Meszaros, whose title is, well, TigerBlog doesn't really know what her title is. He does know that it doesn't matter what her title is or job description says.

She does basically everything around here to keep the place - and its AD - running smoothly. First with Gary. Now with Mollie.

And that's why it was so nice to have both of them - and Kim's husband Greg - there yesterday to salute Kim, who was probably embarrassed by the whole thing. The entire department gave her a standing ovation.

It wasn't the first award for Kim, who previously won the University's prestigious President's Award. That award goes "to recognize members of the support and administrative staffs with five or more years of service whose dedication, excellent work and special efforts have contributed significantly to the success of their departments and the University."

TigerBlog wanted to start out today by offering his congratulations to Kim.

Also part of yesterday's meeting was a salute to the Princeton coaches who were named Ivy League Coach of the Year this spring. There were three names on the list - women's open rowing coach Lori Dauphiny, women's tennis coach Laura Granville and women's track and field coach Peter Farrell.

During the meeting, TB sent a text to Mollie telling her that while the meeting was in progress, two other coaches had also been named Ivy Coach of the Year. Only one of them was at the mandatory meeting.

That one was Scott Bradley, the baseball coach. Bradley took his team from the worst record in the Ivy League a year ago to the Ivy League championship this year.

Princeton had five first-team All-Ivy League baseball players as well. That's the most the team has had since 2000.

You can read all about HERE.

The other Coach of the Year was Lisa Van Ackeren, the softball coach. Her team, which also won the Ivy League championship, had two first-team All-Ivy League selections, including Kaylee Grant, the first Princeton freshman softball player in 10 years to be first-team All-Ivy.

You can read all about that HERE.

Van Ackeren wasn't at the meeting, even though, as TB said, it's mandatory. She had an excused absence though.

Van Ackeren and the rest of the softball team is in Harrisonburg, Va., to open the NCAA tournament today at 4:30 against James Madison. The other two teams in the regional are Longwood and North Carolina.

You can read all about it HERE.

If you don't want to click on the link, TigerBlog can tell you that James Madison is 46-4. That's a pretty good record. That's the same record the Golden State Warriors had after 50 games this year.

The note that leaped off the page at TigerBlog is that James Madison has two pitchers who account for 235 2/3 innings - all but 12 the team played this year - and both have an ERA below 1.00.

Still, it's the NCAA tournament. Anything can happen in a short regional, and, in baseball and softball, it's double elimination.

The baseball selection show, when Princeton will find out where it's going in that tournament, will be on Memorial Day. When the show comes on,  TigerBlog will be at Lincoln Financial Field, for the NCAA men's lacrosse championship game.

This weekend is the lax quarterfinals. TigerBlog's pick a week ago to win it all, Denver, went out in Round 1 to Towson. His other three Final Four teams - Syracuse, Brown and North Carolina - all won, and he'll stay with them.

He'll also stay with what he's been saying. In fact, he'll quote himself from last week:
The team best built for a championship run is probably Brown, with the face-off man (Will Gural), goalie (Jack Kelly) and superstar (Dylan Molloy), as well as an outstanding, deep, veteran supporting cast and a somewhat unique style of play.

Certainly Brown looked the part of a champion last week against Hopkins. Next up for the Bears is Navy, who with its defense and goalie has as good a chance as anyone to slow Brown down.

The quarterfinal is a tough round in the tournament, with the reward of the Final Four trip out there. Navy cannot play from behind against Brown, so the first quarter of this one will be important.

The Towson-Loyola game is a toss up, and both have looked really good of late. And maybe TB is selling Maryland a little short, since the Terps are No. 1 and haven't lost since March 5. TB just thinks Syracuse matches up well with Maryland, with its face-off man and settled goalie position. He'll be surprised if this game isn't a one- or two-goal game.

Whatever happens, TB will be there to see it up close, as he'll be in Providence for the doubleheader tomorrow.

With an eye on how Princeton is doing in softball.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

One Week Away

The forecast for one week from today in Princeton is for a high of 84, a low of 61 and a slight chance of showers.

Every now and then, TigerBlog thinks of an idea for a particular day and then looks back a year or two or so ago to see if he'd written the same thing before. He figures that if he can't remember then nobody else would either, though he likes to see.

And here it is, one week before the Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet, and TigerBlog figured he'd check out the weather forecast. And so he looked back to last year, and lo and behold, look what he found:
TigerBlog likes to say that the average temperature of the annual senior awards banquet is 70, since it seems like it's either 90 or 50. He hadn't looked at the 10-day forecast for Princeton until just now, and he chuckled when he saw that the forecast for the banquet one week from today is for a high of 93. For the record, TigerBlog will take the under on that one and is predicting a pleasant, comfortable evening.

That was exactly 52 weeks ago. Interesting.

There is one week until the 19th banquet. There aren't too many people who have been to all of the first 18, and TigerBlog is among them - he wasn't at the first, which was a small gathering held in Jadwin Gym.

He's been to every one since, and he knows that the weather has always been a big topic of conversation. As TB thinks back, though, there's only been one time where the weather really wiped out the evening, forcing the awards to be given the following afternoon in Jadwin Gym after a thunderstorm came tearing through the Grad College and wouldn't leave.

Each year when the banquet roles around, TigerBlog is amazed that another year has come and gone. It's not different this time.

Right now, with a week to go, there are countless details that need to be finalized. They will be. They always are.

The night will run smoothly. It always does. There's a lot that goes into this banquet, from a lot of people who work here. But it always runs smoothly.

Hey, even the weather will cooperate.

If it really is a high of 84 and a low of 61, then the evening at the Grad College could be pretty nice. And if it's really 90? It'll still be a nice night.

The banquet is a celebration of the four years for the graduating class. The Class of 2016 will have a lot to celebrate.

Princeton has won 43 Ivy League championships in the last four years. In the last two years alone, Princeton has won 27 league titles, with 21 different teams with at least one.

The banquet last year was the first for which Princeton announced finalists for its top athletic awards, the Roper Trophy and the Von Kienbusch Award. It worked out really well, with the winner announced at the banquet.

This year's nominees were announced the last two days.

The five Roper Trophy - top senior male athlete - nominees are rower Martin Barakso, pole valuter Adam Bragg, swimmer Teo D'Alessandro, baseball player Danny Hoy and soccer player Thomas Sanner. You can read their accomplishments HERE.

The six von Kienbusch Award nominees are lacrosse player Liz Bannantine, runner Cecilia Barowski, basketball player Michelle Miller, volleyball player Kendall Peterkin, fencer Gracie Stone and basketball player Alex Wheatley. Their accomplishments are HERE.

Oh, and by the way, in case you haven't thought about the 2017 von Kienbusch field, it's an incredible group. Start with water polo player Ashleigh Johnson, hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe, fencer Kat Holmes - all three have been out this year training for the Olympics.

To that you can add soccer player Tyler Lussi, hockey player Kelsey Koelzer, lacrosse players Olivia Hompe and Ellie DeGarmo (named a first-team All-America yesterday) and probably some others that TB isn't thinking about off the top of his head.

You're talking about some of the greatest women athletes Princeton has ever had.

Ah, but that's for 2017. It'll be here soon enough.

This is still 2016. A week from the banquet.

There's more to the banquet than just the top senior athlete awards. There are also other awards, and recipients this year include such notables as John Thompson III and Clayton Marsh.

As always, it'll start with the 90-minute cocktail hour. And it'll end with the senior-athlete video.

It's gone from a small beginning in Jadwin Gym to what it has become, which is one of the signature events on the Princeton campus each year.

And this year, the weather will be good. Or it won't.

Either way, the banquet will still be great.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Best Goal Ever, Or Second-Best Of The Weekend

Brody Merrill's 85-yard goal against Rochester 
Olivia Hompe's last-second goal against UMass

TigerBlog isn't sure what the best lacrosse play he saw last weekend was.

He can say three things with total certainty though:

1) it wasn't in one of the eight NCAA men's games he saw
2) he hasn't seen too many better plays
3) if it happened at the end of a championship game, it would go down as one of the greatest plays ever

The two candidates are Brody Merrill's 85-yard shot in a Major League Lacrosse game and Olivia Hompe's buzzer-beater to force overtime for Princeton's women in their NCAA opener.

Let's start with Merrill's shot.

TigerBlog was on Game 4 of the first day of the NCAA tournament last Saturday, and Notre Dame was comfortably ahead of Air Force. It had been a long day of watching college lacrosse on TV - and his phone, for the first game, between Maryland and Quinnipiac, while he was at the Ivy League baseball championship series.

So, he figured, he could see what else was on. And what did he find?

Major League Lacrosse. How lucky was he?

Anyway, he went from the college game to the pro game, between the Rochester Rattlers and the Boston Cannons. The matchup meant three Princeton alums were in the game - Boston goalie Tyler Fiorito, Boston defenseman Chad Wiedmaier and Rochester middie Kip Orban.

By the way, Boston's next game is against the Ohio Machine, with two other Princeton alums, Tom Schreiber and Mike MacDonald. Schreiber leads MLL with 15 assists; no other player has more than 10. Fiorito is again among the league leaders in goals-against and save percentage.

Anyway, as Air Force-Notre Dame wasn't that close, TB stayed with Rochester-Boston. He's sort of glad he did.

As it turned out, Rochester led by two with a little over a minute to play and possession of the ball. There is a 60-second clock in MLL, and the Rattlers took it all the way down before throwing it into the corner behind the goal. There were 3.3 seconds to go.

As a lacrosse field is 110 yards x 60 yards and the goal is 15 yards from the end line, Boston now had to go 85 yards. On the other hand, there's also a two-point shot in the league, so the game was not out of reach, even if it seemed completely implausible that Boston could make it happen.

Merrill, who played collegiately at Georgetown and is the best longstick midfielder TigerBlog has ever seen, picked the ball up and winged it down the field. By the time the camera caught up to it, the ball was in the goal. And the Rochester goalie was there the whole time.

How is that even possible? If TigerBlog gave Merrill 100 chances to do it again, even without the goalie, how many times would he succeed?

If that had been the end of an NCAA men's championship game (one-goal game, forcing OT), it would be universally called the greatest play ever.

It might have been the best play of the weekend, though. Olivia Hompe's goal against UMass at the end of regulation might have been better.

Princeton and UMass played a great game in the opening round of the NCAA tournament last Friday in Ithaca, with eight ties and nine lead changes. It was tied into the final minute when UMass scored what figured to be the winning goal with 14.6 seconds to play.

Princeton, though, wasn't done.

Amanda Leavell won the draw and was fouled, forcing a restart with 8.3 seconds left. After a Princeton timeout, Leavell threw it to Eileen McDonald, who lofted the ball towards the goal.

TigerBlog, watching the videostream, thought for a minute that McDonald's throw had a chance to go in on its own. Instead, Hompe caught it and scored, with 0.8 seconds left.

A few things on Hompe's play:

1) just catching the ball in the first play was an incredible play
2) it's possibly that the goalie was thinking that McDonald's pass was headed to the goal and had to adjust once Hompe caught it
3) TB isn't sure how Hompe kept her balance
4) her shot was perfect
5) her reaction was better

There is a one big difference between Merrill's goal and Hompe's goal. Both were incredible. Both forced overtime.

Only Merrill's team won. Princeton fell 13-12 to UMass, ending its season. UMass then turned around and beat Cornell in the second round to earn a quarterfinal date with Maryland this weekend.

Hompe went on to be named first-team all-region for the second time, following up on her second unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection. She had a team-best 59 points this season, with 47 goals and 12 assists.

She will enter her senior year 11th all-time at Princeton with 175 career points, including 123 goals.

TigerBlog hasn't seen them all, but his sense is that none of them were more amazing than the one with 0.8 seconds left against UMass.

It might have been the best single goal he's ever seen.

Or maybe just the second-best one from the weekend.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Winning Women

The last four Ivy League championships of the 2015-16 academic year were handed out this past Sunday.

Princeton won baseball and open rowing. Yale won men's lightweight and heavyweight rowing.

And with those, all 33 Ivy League titles for the academic year of 2015-16 had been awarded. As TigerBlog mentioned yesterday, it was a seriously good year for Princeton Athletics.

The collective Tigers won 14 Ivy championships, which matches the second-best total in league history.

There have been six times in the history of the Ivy League that a school has won at least 14 Ivy titles in an academic year. Harvard has done it twice, with 14 both times (2004-05, 2013-14), and this is the fourth time Princeton has done it.

The 2010-11 Tigers won a league-record 15 Ivy League championships. The 1999-2000 and 2000-01 Princeton teams won 14 each, and now the 2015-16 academic year joins that list.

This is also the 23rd time that Princeton has reached double figures in Ivy League championships in an academic year. The only other school to win at least 10 Ivy titles in an academic year is Harvard; the Crimson have done it nine times, including this year, with 10.

The competition Sunday also ended Ivy League unofficial all-sports points championship for this year. Princeton won for the 29th time in 30 years, with 208 points to 185.5 for second-place Harvard.

Schools earn points based on their finish in Ivy standings, with eight for first, seven for second, and so on. If fewer than eight schools have a sport, then the winner still gets eight points. Also, if there is a tie, then those points are split. In other words, if two teams tie for third, then they both get 5.5 in that sport.

The Ivy League has 33 official sports that compete for a league title. There are 17 for men and 16 for women.

There are two men's rowing championships (heavyweight and lightweight) and only one women's (open), which explains the difference in the total number of titles available. Women compete in field hockey and men compete in football. Ivy has a champion in women's volleyball but not men's volleyball. Men have wrestling. Every other sport has a men's champion and a women's champion.

Princeton's 2015-16 academic year might have been one off the overall record, but it was historic in one sense. Princeton's women's teams combined for 10 of the 14 championships, marking the first time in Ivy League history that one school has reached double figures in one gender.

The year started with another first - Princeton swept the four Ivy League titles for women, which was the first time in league history that a team had won all of the championships available for one gender.

Even beyond the 10 championships, Princeton had no women's team all year who finished in the bottom half of the league in any sport. That too is incredible.

Princeton had 10 Ivy League women's champions and three more who finished second. There were two third-place finishes and one fourth-place finish.

And the team that finished in fourth was women's indoor track and field, and the Tigers won cross country and bounced back to finish second outdoors.

Of the three teams who finished second, two of them - women's swimming and diving and women's basketball - won a year ago.

Princeton has long had a serious commitment to women's athletics. It dates back basically to the earliest days of women at Princeton, back to the early 1970s.

Those pioneers of women's athletics here really set the stage for all of the success that has followed. TigerBlog has met many of them and heard them tell the stories of what it was like when women - and women's athletics - were so new to Princeton.

They were, for instance, called "girls," and not "women." They had substandard practice equipment and access to facilities only when the men weren't using them.

Athletic medicine? Strength and conditioning? Marketing and communications? The women were given the scraps.

Despite that women's athletics here grew quickly. And it was because of those earliest women athletes, and the coaches and administrators who believed in them and encouraged them.

By the 1979-80 season, the Ivy League awarded 13 championships for women - and Princeton won five of them.

Today Princeton is a model for women's athletics, and for an institutional commitment to equity and excellence. And it shows.

Clearly, the results speak for themselves. It's not easy to do what has just been done.

TigerBlog has long been in awe of the success of Princeton's women's athletes.

This year, that's more true that ever.

Monday, May 16, 2016

And Open Rowing And Baseball Make 14, Or 19, Or 21

If you thought the five straight walks Saturday made for a different kind of rally, that was nothing compared to what was to come.

The five straight walks came in Game 1 of the Ivy League baseball championship series. They were long forgotten by the bottom of the ninth of Game 3, when Princeton, shut out through eight innings, trailed by a run and were desperate for a baserunner.

That came in the form of a lead-off single.

And that was followed by:

* wild pitch
* walk
* hit batter
* hit batter
* strikeout
* wild pitch

Added all up, and it made it 2-1 Princeton, final. And that made Princeton the 2016 Ivy League champion.

The baseball title was the 14th of the year and the second yesterday. The 13th came from the women's open rowing team.

Princeton shocked top-ranked Brown to win the Ivy League women's open championship. The weather forced the schedule and location to be changed, to really, really early yesterday, with a 6 a.m. start.

You want to read a good story about it? Here is Craig Sachson's first two paragraphs from goprincetontigers.com:

They moved the Ivy League Championships from Mercer Lake to Lake Carnegie. They moved the Championships from the afternoon to the morning. 

And then Princeton made a move more dramatic than either of those.

That's pretty good, right?

The whole story is HERE.

Anyway, here are Princeton's 14 Ivy League champions for 2015-16:
field hockey, women's soccer, women's cross-country, women's volleyball, men's fencing, women's fencing, men's swimming and diving, men's indoor track and field, women's hockey, women's lacrosse, women's tennis, baseball, softball, women's open rowing.

Beyond that, Princeton had seven other teams finish in second place in the league.

And even beyond that, of the 33 Princeton teams who compete for an Ivy League title, an incredible 19 have won at least one championship in the last two years. Add in both water polo teams, and that's 21 of Princeton's 38 teams who have won at least one championship in the last two years.

That's nuts, by the way.

Think about it. That's 19 of 33 Ivy sports, or 57.6%. And 21 of 38, which is 55.2%.

That's in two years, people.

For all that, perhaps the most unlikely winner is the baseball team.

Princeton had 11 Ivy League championship teams in 2014-15, but the baseball team wasn't one of them. No, Princeton went 7-32 a year ago, finishing 4-16 in the Ivy League.

That was a distant, distant memory this weekend, when Princeton hosted Yale at Clarke Field in the ILCS. And a wild weekend it would be.

It started before it ever started, when the weather forecast changed the format. Instead of two games Saturday and an if-necessary game Sunday, it instead became one game Saturday and the rest on Sunday.

The crowd Saturday might have been the largest in the history of Clarke Field. Certainly TigerBlog doesn't remember a bigger one.

Princeton trailed 6-5 into the eighth inning before the aforementioned five straight walks made it 7-6 Princeton. Yale then answered with two in the top of the ninth to win 8-7.

All that meant was that Princeton had to win two yesterday. So what that the Tigers were 0-3 against Yale on the year heading in. So what.

Chad Powers went seven strong innings in Game 2, and Princeton scored four in the second inning, which would be more than necessary in the 6-2 win.

And so it was winner take all.

Yale struck first, getting a run after three batters in the top of the first. That, though, would be it off of Cameron Mingo, who went all nine, allowing eight hits while striking out five.

When he walked off the mound after his 117th pitch, he and his team were down 1-0. Down to their last three outs.

From the time Yale scored in the first inning until Mingo got out of the top of the ninth, there had been 71 plate appearances without a run.

Still, in baseball, it's about getting the last three outs, and that is never, ever easy with a championship on the line.

Also in baseball, it's all about the "first." First out. First strike. First man on. Those things all change the dynamic of an inning.

And so it was in the bottom of the ninth yesterday.

The first man up was Danny Hoy, who ran the count to 3-1 and then lashed a single to left. Then it became nuts.

A wild pitch moved Hoy to second. Then Danny Baer walked. That brought up Zack Belski, who had driven in eight runs in one game earlier this year. Do you bunt? Hit and run? Swing away?

Belski squared to bunt and was nailed on the hand. The home plate umpire at first said no, but then the four umps got together - as Belski was trying to show them his hand - and ruled yes, it was an HBP.

So now the bases were loaded, with nobody out. So now what? A fly ball ties the game. A hit wins it.

How about another hit by pitch, this time Joseph Flynn. Tied, 1-1. Bases still loaded. Still nobody out.

Next, though, came a strikeout, bringing Andrew Christie to the plate, still with the bases loaded now with one out. A double play gets out of the inning. A fly ball wins it.

And so does a wild pitch. Baer sprinted across the plate, to a huge hug from Christie and a huge dog-pile from the team.

It was a great moment. This was a team that went from last to first in one year and then won that championship in dramatic fashion. Princeton scrapped to this championship.

Next up will be the NCAA tournament. The selections are still two weeks away, which will give Princeton a chance to celebrate and reflect on what it has accomplished.

Eventually the celebration slowed down enough for the trophy presentation. And then there were the Tigers, holding the Ivy League trophy. To the victors go the trophies, and Princeton has clearly won a lot of them in the last two years.

This one, though, was a little different, and maybe a little more special.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Weekend Watch

If you're like TigerBlog, then you think this is one of the three best sporting weekends of the year.

You know. The first round of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament. Four games tomorrow. Four game Sunday. All on TV.

The other two?

The first two rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and of course Memorial Day weekend, which is the semifinals and finals of the men's lacrosse tournament in Division I and the Division II and Division III finals.

Okay, every four years you can throw the World Cup in there too.

By the way, odds are good you don't think like TigerBlog and that you like things like the Super Bowl or NBA playoffs or something.

As for the 2016 NCAA men's lacrosse tournament, Princeton is not in it. TigerBlog, as always, is optimistic for next year.

This year's event? It's completely wide open.

TigerBlog's predictions for sporting events are usually awful. And this year's field is too unpredictable anyway.

At various times this year, TigerBlog has thought five teams had a legitimate chance to win it all: Denver, Notre Dame, Maryland, Brown and Yale. Interestingly, they ended up as the top five seeds, so TB has some clue as to what he's talking about.

To show you how completely nuts it is this year, TigerBlog could still see any of those five teams as the champion on Memorial Day in Philadelphia - or knocked out this weekend. Maybe not any of those five knocked out, but it wouldn't be shocking if even three of them lost in the opening round.

The most consistent team this year has probably been Maryland. The team best built for a championship run is probably Brown, with the face-off man (Will Gural), goalie (Jack Kelly) and superstar (Dylan Molloy), as well as an outstanding, deep, veteran supporting cast and a somewhat unique style of play.

Then again, there's the defending champ, Denver. The Pioneers can score with anyone and win face-offs with anyone. Their goalie (Alex Ready) is a freshman, which could be an issue. The last team to win a national championship with a freshman goalie is, TB believes, Syracuse, in 2008, with John Galloway.

Bill Tierney, who has won seven NCAA titles, has never done so with a freshman goalie.

With how this season has gone, what happens next is anyone's guess. And here is TigerBlog's:

He'll go with Syracuse (playing well, solidified goalie position, great face-off guy), Brown, Denver and  North Carolina for the Final Four. He'll go Denver-Brown on Memorial Day. He'll take Denver to repeat.

The women's tournament starts today.

Maryland, the two-time defending champ, is unbeaten and the heavy favorite to make it three straight.

Interestingly, Princeton is the last team to win three straight NCAA men's lacrosse championships, having done so in 1996, 1997 and 1998. On the women's side, dynasties have been more common. Maryland was in the middle of a seven-year run while Princeton was winning its three straight, and Northwestern added a run of five straight in the last decade.

If the women's tournament goes according to seed, then the Final Four would be Maryland vs. Syracuse and Florida vs. North Carolina. TigerBlog would say that it's much more likely that those four all make it to Talen Energy Stadium (it's the one in Chester, home of the Philadelphia Union, formerly called PPL Park) than it is that the top four men's seeds all get through.

Princeton's road to being a party buster for the Final Four would involve beating Maryland in the Final Four. The quarterfinal might be a week away, but it might as well be 100 years from now for the Tigers, who need to be fairly focused on the immediate future.

Princeton opens the tournament today at 4 at Cornell against Atlantic 10 champ UMass, who comes into the tournament with a rather gaudy18-1 record, with a lone loss to Boston College. Put another way, UMass hasn't lost since March 2.

Should Princeton get past that game, looming in the second round would be the winner of Cornell-Canisius.

If ever two teams wanted to play each other, it is Princeton and Cornell. Princeton would love to get back at Cornell for knocking the Tigers out of the Ivy League tournament last week. Cornell would love to get another shot at Princeton for beating the Big Red during the regular season and costing Cornell a share of the Ivy League championship, which instead went to Princeton and Penn.

Princeton and Cornell have split one-goal games. They'd love to see each other again. To make that happen, they need to win today.

The games can be seen on the Ivy League Digital Network. NCAA tournament rules require that such videostreams be free, so you don't need an ILDN subscription to watch.

There's other postseason play this weekend for Princeton teams.

The baseball teams hosts the Ivy League championship series against Yale tomorrow and Sunday, hopefully with cooperating weather. You will need an ILDN subscription for those games.

The women's tennis team plays Georgia Tech in the opening round of the NCAA tournament today at the University of South Carolina. .

There's also the Ivy League championships in rowing this weekend as well.

And, as TB said, the eight NCAA tournament men's lacrosse games. He'd like to watch all 16 or so hours, but he'll probably tear himself away to check out the baseball.

He'll definitely be watching the women's game today.

A year from now? Hopefully he'll be busy with the Princeton men at this time of 2017.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

More Than Half

TigerBlog got off the Jadwin elevator at around 12:30 yesterday and saw Lisa Van Ackeren was part of the lunchtime basketball game.

It had been two days since Van Ackeren led her Princeton softball team to the Ivy League championship, defeating Harvard in a decisive third game in the Ivy League championship series, and it was four days before she was to find out where her team will be playing in the NCAA tournament.

So why not play some basketball?

Van Ackeren's team gave Princeton its 12th Ivy League championship of the academic year. It also put Princeton two Ivy titles ahead of Harvard for the year.

Oh, and the Ivy League all-sports points championship? The unofficial one?

Princeton has 5.5 point lead over Harvard at this point, but the Tigers are assured of gaining either 4.5 or 5.5 points on the Crimson in baseball. Princeton hosts the Ivy League championship series this weekend, taking on Yale.

Because of that, Princeton will be at minimum 10 points over Harvard when the baseball playoff is over. It means that it is nearly impossible mathematically for Harvard to catch Princeton, which means that Princeton will have won for the 29th time in the last 30 years.

The softball team finished second in its division last year, meaning that Van Ackeren's team became the fifth Princeton team to win this year after not winning last year. Add that to the 12 this year, and that's 17 different Princeton teams that have won an Ivy title in the last two academic years.

Because the Ivy League crowns a champ in 33 sports, that means that more than half of the Princeton teams that compete for an Ivy title have won at least one in the last two years alone. Of all the stats that TigerBlog could come up with related to Princeton sports, that one might be the most impressive.

It shows a total across-the-board commitment to athletic success here, from the department to the University as a whole.

The four league titles still on the table - baseball, women's open rowing, men's lightweight rowing and men's heavyweight rowing - will be decided this weekend. Princeton did not win any of those four a year ago, so it is possible for the percentage of teams to win at least one in the last two years could go up.

Again, that's unbelievably impressive.

As for the four remaining championships, they're part of a busy weekend for Princeton. Not as busy as a weekend in November or February, but still a reasonably busy one.

And the last busy one.

It's also the end of home events at Princeton for the year.

The baseball playoffs begin Saturday at noon on Clarke Field. Princeton and Yale will play twice Saturday, with a deciding game Sunday at 1 if necessary. The winner is the Ivy League champ and earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

If you're wondering, Princeton was 7-32 a year ago and 4-16 in the Ivy League. This year has been an amazing turnaround, as the Tigers will bring a 22-18 overall record and 13-7 Ivy record into the weekend.

Princeton went from last in its division a year ago to winning by three games this year.

Yale swept Princeton 6-3 and 6-1 back on April 8 in New Haven, something that means relatively little for the rematch. The bigger issue for Princeton is that it hasn't played in two weeks, because Yale and Dartmouth needed last week for a playoff to decide the divisional title.

In football, a week off to play a team that didn't have a week off could be a pretty good bonus. In baseball, you want to just keep playing. Of course, once the games start, that should be forgotten.

The only other home events left on the 2015-16 calendar are the IC4A and ECAC track meets this weekend at Weaver Track and Field.

The women's lacrosse team and the women's tennis team will be in the NCAA tournament on the road tomorrow, with tennis at South Carolina against Georgia Tech and women's lacrosse at Cornell against UMass. The winner gets the winner of the Big Red and Canisius.

As for the rowing, the Eastern Sprints for men's heavyweights and lightweights are in Worcester, Mass. The heavyweight final could be a great one, as third-ranked Princeton will try to catch second-ranked Yale, with everyone else's trying to catch those two boats.

The women's Ivy League championships will be closer to home, at Mercer County Park in West Windsor. Brown is the favorite there, but never count out Lori Dauphiny.

By the end of the weekend, there won't be that many events left to the academic year.

There will be the NCAA track and field regionals and championships. There will be the national championships in rowing. There will be the NCAA softball tournament and possibly the same for baseball. Women's lacrosse and tennis would love to still be playing.

And that'll be it for 2015-16.

It's already been a wildly successful year. And, with 17 different sports having won Ivy titles, a wildly successful two years.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Guest TigerBlog - Returning To Levittown

TigerBlog never met Irv Mondschein, the legendary men's track and field coach at Penn from the 1960s through the 1980s, including all of TB's time there.

TB does know Brian Mondschein, Irv's son and the assistant women's track and field coach at Princeton. Brian was an All-America decathlete at the University of Washington as an undergraduate, and he has had a long career as a college track and field coach.

Perhaps it's come from hanging around so close to Peter Farrell or maybe it's just how he's wired but Brian Mondschein is one funny individual. With him, the material is usually good, but it's the subtle delivery that really puts him over the top.

Beyond that, though, Brian is also deep. Way deeper than TigerBlog would have guessed at least until he read Brian's entry in the "Tiger Writes" staff writing competition. It is incredible.

Don't believe TigerBlog. You can read it for yourself, since TB asked Brian for his permission to reprint it as a Guest TigerBlog. And you can see all of the winning entries HERE.

Anyway, here is what Brian had to say:

My father was a Brooklyn-born Jew attending New York University on the G.I. bill who met and married a Hawaiian-born Japanese grad student at Columbia. I think of myself as the poster child for ethnic outliers. Growing up, the kids at my elementary school were either Irish, or Italian, or Polish, or Irish-Italian, or, well… they were something. I was seven, and I asked my parents what I was. My mother told me I was Jewpanese. “Yes,” my father said, nodding. “You are Jewpanese.”

Years later I realized that the Jewpanese were not a bona fide ethnic group, which explained why I had never met any other Jewpanese children at school.

My brother and I grew up in Levittown, New York in the late 50s and early 60s. Levittown was only slightly more enlightened intellectually and culturally than a few other places I have since lived, places often referred to as the “Deep South.” I married a Southerner, and if you are Jewpanese from New York, imagine how disappointing it must be to hear one’s mother-in-law refer to the Civil War as the “Wah of Nawthen Agression.”

“Do people really think like this?” I thought to myself, as I have often thought to myself during a lifetime of thinking things to myself. But I said nothing. The teachable moments are few for those surrounding the Jewpanese living in the South. Even as an adult living in the Louisiana, I felt my primary obligation was neither to correct nor instruct, but to survive, or should I say: live smoothly, without incident. And in that sense, I can find some similarities to the situation Southern students of color who come North for their education experience.

When you live in a state where the saying, “Thank God for Mississippi and Alabama,” lingers as an afterthought to every national survey involving health, education and the general welfare of the populace, being part of “the other” prohibits you from speaking out in many situations where injustice is either perceived, detected, or runs rampant. It isn’t as easy as you would think to speak out about injustice, or to act in the name of social or racial equality, whether you are in Princeton, New Jersey, or Princeton, Mississippi, although the smart money says that when you do speak out, you are less likely to get bitten by a police dog in New Jersey.

But nonetheless you sense things, you feel things. Things to you sometimes seem quietly not right.

In Levittown, the paper boy on his Stingray bike delivered the news to our doorstep 365 days a year.

He was probably four years older than I, two years older than my brother, and he wore boots with heels, his hair slicked and coiffed like the rock and roll singers of the time. Each day he would wait until he got to the end of our block, and then he would yell “Chink!” at my brother and me. It always seemed odd that he would never say anything when he was directly in front of our house. And I would never even look up at him, hoping that this was the day he had decided to stop yelling “chink” at us. But it never was.

There came a day one November that my brother had had enough, and he confronted the paperboy.

For the buzzing in my ears I could not hear a word they were saying, but I knew from the way the paperboy kept tilting his head sideways at my brother trouble was in the works. They began to fight, and the paperboy landed punches that felt as if they were landing sickeningly on my own stomach and chest. My brother was not fighting, it seemed. He was just sort of holding on. I noticed that the paperboy’s pants, the tight jeans that teenage hoods wore in those days, now had a tear in them, and there was some blood coming from his knee. My brother tightened his grip on the paperboy while they struggled on the ground. I saw that the paperboy had begun to cry. Finally, my brother stood up, the paperboy still face down and motionless on the ground, trying not to cry but the tears still streaming across his reddened cheeks. “We’re not Chinks,” my brother said to him, “We’re Japs.”

We rode off on my brother’s bike with me on the handle bars and my brother peddling down our street. We rode through a pile of yellow and brown leaves, and I kicked the pile with both my feet.

It’s possible to think of your mind as a kitchen strainer or a common sieve. Most of your experiences pass through easily and are long forgotten, but for one reason or another, and sometimes it seems pretty random, things get trapped by the sieve. What’s interesting is that we don’t really get to choose what memories get trapped, what events in our lives make up who we are and how we think. One day something touches a chord in us, unleashing feelings that we never acted on or never knew we had, and we find ourselves doing things that surprise us and others around us. We are standing up for ourselves in a manner of speaking, or we are standing up for our brothers and sisters, or a group of people, or just people we feel connected to. Sometimes the injustice is so far removed from where we are at present that the standing up part almost seems contrived or misdirected. But doing the right thing always feels like the right thing, and, well, if we don’t like that there are people occupying the President’s office, think only to yourself that the President seems pretty good with it, so you might as well be too. Maybe he knows something that you don’t.

As for myself, as untouched as I am as an adult by the transgressions of the real world, I am but one step away in my mind from the boy I was in Levittown, New York, watching my older brother fighting in the street against what I would now call ignorance, but what I thought of back then as tyranny. Perhaps the part of us that once felt alien and mistreated, while different for everyone, may be the key to understanding some of the things that are happening on our campus and in our country.

And the Jewish part of Jewpanese?

OMG. A whole other story.