Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Bella In Red, White And Blue

TigerBlog talked yesterday about the women's open rowing team, which had a dominant Sunday on the Cooper River at the Ivy League championships.

Princeton won five of the six races there, including the first varsity 8 race, which the Tigers ran - rowed? - away with by nearly four seconds.

TigerBlog knew that seniors Claire Collins and Emily Kallfelz were four-year members of the first varsity 8, but he didn't know if that was unique or something that regularly happens or something in between. To find out, he emailed women's open rowing coach Lori Dauphiny, who said that there are often freshmen who row in the first varsity 8 but that Collins and Kallfelz are the first two seniors who have rowed in the first varsity 8 all four years and won four Ivy League championships.

That's very impressive stuff.

In other news, TigerBlog has never watched an episode of "Game of Thrones." He has a sense that it's not his kind of show, something that was reinforced when he watched the first five minutes of Episode 1 and gave up.

He'll add that to the list of shows that he just never got into, including "Mad Men" and "Walking Dead."

He was intrigued by two "Game of Thrones"-related tweets though.

One was from Derek Jones, the voice of Princeton men's basketball:

TigerBlog can tell Derek what the best finales were. That's easy.

In second place? "Breaking Bad." In first place? "Newhart," which can never be matched.

If you never saw "Newhart," you'll have a lot of catching up to do, going back to "The Bob Newhart Show," but if you get to the end, you'll be glad you did, because it was great.

The second tweet came from Princeton women's basketball:

This is very clever.

The "Queen Buckets of the House of Princeton" is Bella Alarie, the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year. Alarie was trying out this weekend for the U.S. team for the Pan Am Games, which will be held in Lima, Peru, Aug. 6-10.

There were 35 payers who were invited to the tryout, with the final list of 12 announced yesterday. Alarie, of course, made the team.

TB says "of course" for two reasons: 1) he wouldn't be writing about it had she not made it and 2) that's how good she is.

In fact, here's the breakdown of conferences for the other 11 members of the team:
Big 10 - 3
Pac 12 - 3
Big 12 - 2
SEC - 2
ACC - 1

Alarie already has international experience, having won a silver with the U.S. team at the 2017 U-19 World Championships.

She also has NCAA tournament experience with Princeton the last two years, with one more year to go. She enters her senior year with a chance to become a four-time first-team All-Ivy League selection, something Princeton has never had.

In fact, she's already one of four Princeton women to be first-team All-Ivy three times. Guesses on the other three? TB will tell you at the end.

Alarie will enter her senior year with 1,301 career points, which leaves her 382 away from Sandi Bittler Leland's school record of 1,683. If Princeton plays the same 32 games it played last year, Alarie would need to average 12 per game to break the record. If she matched last year's 22.8 points per game, she'd end up with 2,031 points.

That's a lot.

There will be plenty of time later to talk about Alarie and where she lands historically, in both Ivy women's basketball history and Princeton women's athletic history.

For now, there's the upcoming Pan Am Games and another opportunity for this extraordinary player to represent the United States again.

As for the other three players who have been first-team All-Ivy three times? Here's the list:
Meagan Cowher
Lauren Edwards
Niveen Rasheed

And of course Bella Alarie.

Or as the tweet said, "Queen Buckets of the House of Princeton."

Monday, May 20, 2019

And Women's Open Rowing Makes 12

TigerBlog was on his way back from the NCAA women's lacrosse game at Boston College when he stopped at a rest stop on the Mass Pike for gas Saturday afternoon.

He had to wait a few seconds for the person in front of him to finish pumping his gas when he noticed his hat. It said "Columbia Baseball."

TB then put two and two together and figured this was probably the parent of a Columbia baseball player, on his way back from the Ivy League playoff series between the Lions and Harvard in Cambridge. This made him wonder who won, and so he looked it up - Harvard had won Game 1.

But wait. Game 2, and if necessary Game 3, wouldn't be until yesterday. So why was he so far outside the city at a gas station on the highway?

Did he have a wedding to go to yesterday? A business trip? Another child in another game someplace else? Couldn't find a closer hotel room?

TB will never know, since the man got back in his car and drove away. TB will tell you that he's never seen a pump that worked slower than that one, since it took about three times longer than normal to fill the tank.

For the record, Harvard defeated Columbia 8-6 in 11 innings to win the league championship. It came on the final weekend of Ivy League championships for the academic year of 2018-19.

The last sports to crown champions were baseball, women's open rowing, men's heavyweight rowing and men's lightweight rowing.

And now they're done. That's 33 Ivy League sports and 33 championships decided.

Princeton won 12 of those championships, marking the 26th time the Tigers have reached double figures in Ivy League titles in an academic year.

TB has mentioned this a bunch of times.

At the same time, there's really nothing else that fully captures the sustained level of excellence across the board than the fact that Princeton has reached double figures in Ivy titles 26 times. As for the rest of the league, Harvard has done it 10 times (the baseball championship was the Crimson's ninth this year) and no other team has ever done it even once.

That's amazing.

Princeton has gotten to double figures five straight academic years and 10 of the last 11. The longest streak of consecutive academic years in double figures is nine, from 1993-94 to 2001-02, a streak that ended when Princeton won nine titles in 2002-03.

This academic year, by the way, is the 13th one in which Princeton has won at least 12 Ivy titles.

And that doesn't even include the league championships won by non-Ivy teams men's volleyball, men's water polo and women's lightweight rowing.

As for the 12th and final title, it was done in completely dominating style.

The Princeton women were at the Ivy League championships on the Cooper River in South Jersey, and they dominated, winning all but one race to run away from the field.

The Ivy League champion is considered the winner of the first varsity 8 race, and Princeton won that one by nearly four full seconds. The Tigers sizzled from the start, building a two-second lead after 500 meters and doubling it after 1,000 meters.

Princeton finished the 2,000-meter course in 6:23.476, followed by Brown, who managed to get the final margin under four seconds. From there it was another 4.5 seconds back to third-place Yale. In other words, Princeton was unstoppable.

It's the fourth straight Ivy League championship for the women's open rowers. There are two seniors - Claire Collins and Emily Kallfelz - who have been in the first varsity boat for all four of those, which is something of a rarity.

The Ivy League title gets Princeton an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA championships in Indianapolis May 31-June 2 in Indianapolis. Princeton, unbeaten this year, is ranked eighth nationally.

The men's lightweights and heavyweights and the women's lightweights will compete at the IRA national championships in Sacramento the same weekend. 

The national championships in rowing and the NCAA regionals and finals in track and field are all that's left for the 2018-19 academic year. 

It's another academic year that ends with double figures in championships. Running it down again, it's:
football, men' soccer, women's soccer, men's cross country, men's water polo from the fall
women's basketball, men's indoor track and field, women's hockey from the winter
women's lacrosse, men's golf, women's tennis, men's volleyball, women's lightweight rowing, men's outdoor track and field, women's open rowing from the spring

That last one, by the way, was a pretty good way to wrap things up.

Friday, May 17, 2019

It's TigerDog

The part in italics is the only part of this that TigerBlog is actually writing. The rest of it has been dictated, with some editing mixed in. Also, he put TigerBlog in parenthesis next to whatever it was that the talk-to-text changed it to in that particular sentence.

Tiger dog (TigerBlog) is trying something different.

He's actually in a car on Interstate 84 right now. He's not driving. He's in the passenger seat, and he's actually dictating this on his talk-to-text function on his phone. He's never tried this before.

He’s actually never even tried to dictate a text message or anything like that, though he’s seen people do it and he finds it to be fairly fascinating.

Anyway, other than the wild technology, what should he talk about - and that's literally talk about? Usually when he says "what should I talk about" he means "what should I type at this moment." Now he really means talk.

Had he done this normally and simply typed this, his first paragraphs were going to be about Knicks fans and his hopes that they are okay with the fact that it appears they are not going to get Zion Williamson in the NBA draft.
The Knicks had a 14 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick in Tuesday's lottery but instead ended up with the third pick. New Orleans has the first pick, and Memphis has the second.
Here’s what Knick fans need to understand, and here's also a little free advice to the team's brain trust, which includes Princeton basketball alums Steve Mills and Craig Robinson: RJ Barrett is the best player in the draft.
Zion Williamson was a dominant college player, but his game does not necessarily transfer to the NBA. It might, but it might not. At the very least, he's hardly a, say, slam dunk. The way he was successful in college was to be so physically imposing that that not one player on any team could really match up with him. That’s not going to be the case in the NBA where every team will have somebody or multiple somebodies who can match up with him.
He could be really good, like Charles Barkley. But Williamson is 6-7, and in today's NBA, you better be able to shoot three's a lot better than he can if you're 6-7. 
Memphis appears to be sold on Ja Morant, who appears to be a pretty good player, but that’ll enable Barrett to fall to the Knicks.
Barrett’s game translate perfectly to the NBA, and the way he carries himself sort of suggests that he would be comfortable in New York City. In 10 years, when RJ Barrett is an annual NBA All-Star and Zion Williamson is a decent player who never really lived up to the hype, you can call tiger boy (TigerBlog) and say "you were right."

This is so cool, by the way. TB still hasn't typed one word yet.
The only downside is that he has to go back and completely proofread this because the voice-to-writing feature on his phone keeps referring to him as a bunch of things other than Tiger blah (TigerBlog), including on first reference "Tiger Dog," which is actually fairly ironic since a tiger is not a dog but a cat.
In other news the car that Tiger Blog (hey, that one was pretty much right) is riding in just crossed from Connecticut into Massachusetts, making this the first interstate blog that he has put together. 
What else can he say? Oh yeah, he’s on his way to Boston for the Princeton-Boston College NCAA quarterfinal women’s lacrosse game tomorrow at 1. Princeton is the seven seed in the tournament and brings an 11-game winning streak into the game against BC, who comes in with a record of 20 wins and one loss.
Take a bug (TigerBlog) listened to a podcast yesterday about the Boston College-Princeton game actually about all for women’s quarterfinal games and the focus seem to be where Tiger bye (TigerBlog) thought it would be, that the game would be decided in the circle.
It appears whichever team will do better on the draws is going to have a huge advantage. Consider that Boston College is among the country's best teams in terms of both shooting percentage and the number of shots, and that’s a lethal combination.
The women’s lacrosse team has won six street Ivy League championships. It’s one of 11 Princeton teams so far this academic year who has won an Ivy championship, while two others - men’s volleyball and men's water polo - won their league championship, giving Princeton 13 league champions for the year.
If you want to have a complete list, it’s men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s cross country, football, women’s hockey, women’s basketball, men’s indoor track and field, men’s outdoor track and field,  women’s lacrosse, men’s golf and women’s tennis.
There are three more Ivy League championships to be contested for the year and those will come up on Sunday as the Ivy League women’s rowing championships will be held in Pennsauken on the Cooper River and the Eastern Sprints, where the men’s lightweight and men’s heavyweight champions will be crowned, will be held also in Massachusetts on Lake quick sink them.
Tiger blood (TigerBlog) can’t wait to see how the voice prompt what it did with "Lake quick sink them."
Hah, it turned it into "Lake quick sink them," which is which is really unfortunate considering you’re talking about rowing.
Anyway, that's the voice prompt. It was fun, though it probably took more time to edit then it would have taken to write it normally. 
Also, it's "Lake Quinsigamond," not "Lake Quick Sink Them."
And with that, TigerDog wishes you a good weekend. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Graduation Day

TigerBlog walked into the Webster Bank Arena in Fairfield Sunday morning, and the first person he saw was Sacred Heart University men's lacrosse coach Jon Basti.

The sight of Basti took TB back awhile. Not to the last four years, when Basti was TigerBlog Jr.'s coach. Nope, it took him back to the West Windsor fields of, what was it, 12 or so years ago?

That's where TBJ first met Basti. It was Princeton boys' lacrosse summer camp, and Basti was a coach there when TBJ was first starting to play.

In fact, TigerBlog still has an email Basti sent him after one of those camps. It said:
"Your son is a great kid. His passion for the game is fantastic. He has been very lucky to be around some GREAT people his whole lacrosse life and it shows because he knows how lucky he is."

If there's ever been a time when TigerBlog had trouble staying in the present, it was this past Sunday at the Webster Bank Arena. The occasion was graduation day, where TBJ was one of 1,122 undergrads who received a diploma.

For TigerBlog, as the ceremony went along, he found himself more and more replaying the video that exists in his head of the road TBJ took to get there.

And so much of that road happened on the Princeton campus. Even meeting his future college coach when he was 10 or 11 or so.

There are a lot of kids, well they're not kids anymore, like TBJ. They're the children of people who work at Princeton, and they spent so much of their young lives on the Princeton campus, where they were introduced to so many different people and experiences.

And all of that came flooding back to TigerBlog Sunday. It was a bit eerie actually.

He thought back to all of the nights that he'd leave Princeton, go get TBJ and his friend Matthew and bring them back to Jadwin Gym so they could be ball boys for Princeton basketball. Matthew, by the way, graduated from Chestnut Hill College a day before TBJ did.

He thought back to TB's earliest heroes - Bill Tierney, Chris Young, Brian Earl, Jason Doneger, Ryan Boyle. He thought back to all the great pictures he has of his son from when he was little, especially the one where he sat courtside at Jadwin with a headset on next to Tom McCarthy, while he was doing his old ESPN radio show.

And the one where TBJ had a "Princeton Football" sweatshirt on, while also wearing a headset, in the radio booth at Lafayette before opening day of the 2000 football season. Again, with Tom McCarthy.

That was the day when TigerBlog brought TBJ to the game and had no idea how the then-three-year-old would be during the three hours or so that his dad was on the radio. As it turned out, he just sat there for three hours and watched the game.

Ah, but as Joni Mitchell wrote, the seasons they go round and round. And so they have.

And so there he was Sunday, in a cap and gown, a graduate - magna cum laude, if you'll allow his father to brag a bit. That wasn't easy for TB to digest either.

A college graduate?

He's been to a lot of Princeton graduations, and he always enjoys them. He can't remember the last time he didn't go to Nassau Hall to be part of the commencement ceremony.

His favorite part is always the recessional, when the newly minted Princeton alums make their way back past Nassau Hall, to meet family and friends and classmates for hugs, pictures and goodbyes.

The best pictures from that day, at least from TB's perspective, are the ones of the seniors from all of the different teams. There's such a sense of accomplishment in those pictures, a recognition that they successful navigated four years together as students and athletes.

The awful rain, cold and wind Sunday deprived TBJ and his men's lacrosse teammates of a similar photo op outside the arena. In fact, it cancelled the big post-graduation picnic that was planned.

As a result, TigerBlog found himself sitting across from his son in a diner in the first hour after he graduated college. TBJ celebrated with a turkey club.

TigerBlog looked across at him and thought back to all those old days, all the times at Princeton, all the miles and miles and miles they'd driven together to go to Princeton games, or to go to his own lacrosse games.

TBJ said what every college graduate always says - that the last four years have simply flown by. Pretty much anyone that TigerBlog has spoken to about the fact that his son graduated has said the same thing: Wait, he was a senior already?

He was. And now he's a grad.

Lastly, as TB drove him back to his off-campus house, he thought back to the day he'd dropped him off at Sacred Heart for the first time, how he wanted to tell him everything he'd need to know to last him four years, how he wanted to give him advice and cover every possible scenario that could possibly come up.

Of course, that would have been impossible. Instead, all he told him was that he loved him and was proud of him.

This time, he wanted to go back in time, talk about all of those memories that had been rolling through his head all day. He wanted to remind him of all of it, remind him of the times that their relationship had revolved largely around Princeton Athletics and youth lacrosse, laugh about this game or that game.

He wanted to remind him of all of it. He wanted to stay anchored in the past for just a little longer, before his son passed through yet another milestone, another step forward that made those days just a little further in the past.

He wanted to make sure his son hadn't forgotten any of it, and that those days were just as important to him as they were to his dad. 

And just like the day he dropped him off, he didn't say any of it. He kept it in his mind, where it belongs.

A lot has changed through the years. A lot has changed in the last four years.

Back in the present, his son went inside to clean and pack, ready for the next chapter, and beyond, no longer remotely the kid he was in his father's flashbacks.

"I love you," TB said as he dropped him off. "And I'm proud of you."

He's a good kid.

Even if he's no longer a kid.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Calm Before The Storm, And After A Bunch Of Storms

It's supposed to be sunny today.

TigerBlog remains skeptical. The weather has been simply awful here for the last few days. It's May, though it feels like November.

There have been snow flurries in Princeton this week. Well, maybe one or two at least.

It's not just that it's been raining. It's that it's been really cold and raining non-stop. Even when it seems like it's about to clear up, it starts to rain again.

The wind hasn't helped much either. It just makes it colder and rawer and just plain nasty.

The forecast, though, is improving. There might be actual sunshine today. And temps in the 60s, which is about 20 degrees better than it's been the last three days. Hey, there's even been a wind chill - in May.

If there's one team that's either due for a nice day to play or is used to playing in bad weather, it's the Princeton women's lacrosse team.

Look at the last three weekends for the Tigers. There have been five games, all of which had major championship implications, and four of those five were played in really bad weather. As for the fifth, it was played on an evening when the forecast was for really bad thunderstorms that just happened to not show up.

It started with the last game of the regular season, when there really was snow, on the final Saturday of April, in Ithaca. Undaunted, Princeton beat Cornell 18-15 to win its sixth straight Ivy League championship.

Next up was the Ivy League tournament. Game 1 was a rematch with Cornell in the semifinals on a cold and cloudy night. Princeton won that one 11-6.

Then it was the championship game against Penn, which Princeton won 13-9. This was played in driving rain from star to pretty much finish.

And finally there was the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament. Princeton defeated Wagner 19-7 in the first round on what was a pretty nice night, even if the threat of t-storms were everywhere.

And then there was the second round, a 17-13 win over Loyola, again played in a driving, cold, miserable rain.

That win advanced seventh-seeded Princeton to the quarterfinals, against No. 2 Boston College. That game will be played Saturday at 1 at BC.

If you look at the forecast now for Boston, you'll see that Saturday is supposed to be cloudy at 66 degrees, with a 10 percent chance of rain. Yeah right.

It's been a great year for the Tigers, who bring an 11-game winning streak into the matchup against the Eagles, who are 20-1 and who made it to the NCAA final a year ago, ending Princeton's season 16-10 in the second round along the way.

This figures to be a good one. It's two very good, very confident teams who are playing with a lot of confidence and would love to be playing next weekend in the Final Four at Johns Hopkins.

There's an intensity to that sort of matchup, and it was about 180 degrees away from what the Princeton women experienced last night, when they had their annual banquet. This was the calm before the storm, or, if you prefer, the calm after a bunch of storms.

This was a celebration of Princeton's tremendous senior class, the fourth in program history to win four Ivy League titles.

It featured some typical team banquet stuff - players, parents, gifts for the seniors and coaches, dinner and a lot of laughs. There were also two really well-done videos, one that showcased those seven seniors with pictures of them from when they were babies through the present and humorous commentary from the juniors, and then another video made by primarily the seniors that made fun of pretty much everyone on the team.

Both were really endearing.

TigerBlog has been to a lot of these banquets. In this one, it was impossible to miss the genuine affection and closeness that permeates through the program, something that goes deeper than just winning championships.

He was also struck by how relaxed and comfortable everything was, tucked in between three straight weekends of intense competition and with the huge one at BC just a few days away. It was good for everyone to have a night like that.

And now today it's back to practice and preparation. And then the chance to move on to championship weekend.

That will be the storm after the calm.

Hopefully, at least, it'll be a dry, clear storm. This is a team that deserves to play a big game on a day like that.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

No More At Home

If you're a Philadelphia 76ers fan, like, say, a certain Charles W. Caldwell Jr. Head Coach of Football at Princeton, then that was one tough way for your season to end.

That's up there with anything TigerBlog has ever seen.

If you missed it, the Sixers and Toronto were in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, with the winner to get Milwaukee. The game was tight and clearly headed down the stretch.

That's when fate ripped the hearts of Philly fans out twice. First, there were the three straight 24-second violations. It almost seemed like the shot clock was starting out at 10.

Then there was the game-winner from Khawi Leonard, after the Sixers had rallied to tie it with four seconds left. Leonard, who scored 41 points in a 92-90 win, took the ball, dribbled until he almost ran out of time and then launched a shot from the deep corner that bounced on the rim and decided it like the view, since it hung there for longer than any shot TB has ever seen do so, and then finally dropped in.

It was excruciating for the Sixers. Tough to process, one might say.

Like most general sports fans, TigerBlog watched the Johns Hopkins-Notre Dame men's lacrosse opening round game and flipped over to the NBA game during commercials. He did stay with the basketball game for the final minute or so, or just long enough to see the heartbreaking end.

During one commercial in the lacrosse game, TB did see Philly's J.J. Reddick make two foul shots, and it got him wondering what Reddick's career numbers are from the line, since TB doesn't think he's ever seen him miss a shot between Duke and the NBA. Turns out, he actually has missed 227 NBA foul shots in the regular season and another 27 in the playoffs.

Of course, he's taken 2,073 regular season free throws and 224 playoff ones, which leaves him just short of 90 percent for both. At Duke he was better than 90 percent for his career, shooting 662 for 726, or .912.

Guess they play better free throw defense in the NBA.

Reddick, of course, is one of TB's two least favorite college players ever, and both of them have gone on to become NBA guys he likes. In the case of the other one, he went from being TB's least favorite college player to one of his five favorite NBA players. Who was it?

Patrick Ewing.

Anyway, after Sunday, the Sixers are finished for this season. You know what else is finished?

Home events at Princeton. Yup. Another year come and gone.

At home at least.

There are still eight Princeton teams who are competing in the 2018-19 academic year, including the men's golf team, who is currently at the NCAA regional in Georgia.

The rest of the calendar includes the NCAA women's lacrosse quarterfinal between seventh-seeded Princeton and second-seeded Boston College Saturday at 1 in Chestnut Hill. Princeton fell 16-10 to BC in last year's NCAA second round.

Boston College is 20-1 by the way, with only a 15-13 loss in the ACC championship game to North Carolina. The Eagles also reached the NCAA championship game a year ago, falling to James Madison.

Beyond that, there are the NCAA track and field regionals and national finals and the IRA and NCAA rowing championships. After that, it'll be the curtain on yet another academic year.

TigerBlog tried to figure out how many home events Princeton has in any given academic year, but there's not way to do it other than to simply count them. He'll guess that number is more around 300 though.

That's a lot of events. And when you consider how many people work to get these events to run smoothly, that's a lot of effort, all coordinated by Associate AD for Events Karen Malec and her assistant Abby Ferguson.

It's not easy. There are so many details that go into every event, and the goal is to have those who come here to watch them - and especially those who compete in them - not notice any of those details.

Princeton's home events provide an opportunity to showcase all of the best parts of Princeton Athletics - the athletes, the facilities, the campus, the Department's values. It's an open invitation to the surrounding community to experience Princeton, with almost every event free.

And now, for another year, there are no more events. It's amazing how fast it goes.

Don't worry.

The time between now and opening day 2019-20 will zoom by as well.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Happy Mothers' Day

One day later, TigerBlog would like to wish all the Princeton moms out there a Happy Mothers' Day.

As for his own mom, this was Mothers' Day No. 25 since his passed away. It's also the 25th Mothers' Day since MotherBlog's ashes were scattered on the steps of the United States Capitol, as per her wishes.

MB was a nurse and ultimately a lobbyist, and she hoped having her ashes scattered where they were would be, in her mind, a small reminder to those in power that everyone can have a voice. TigerBlog thought they'd be the first people who ever did this and that all 25 or so people who were there were going to get arrested. Instead, they ran into two other groups who were doing the exact same thing.

Victory, MotherBlog.

She also wrote her own eulogy, which called for raised glasses, not tears. She got both.

TigerBlog thinks about that day at the Capitol in 1995 in Washington, DC, each time Mothers' Day rolls around. Yesterday was no different.

By the way, TB went directly from the U.S. Capitol building to Ivy League sports information meetings, which were held at Dartmouth. So he scattered his mom's ashes, read her eulogy and then drove directly to Hanover, N.H.

Anyway, Happy Mothers' Day to all the mothers out there. 

It was a hearty group of Princeton moms who sat through the women's lacrosse game yesterday, not to mention hearty dads and siblings and friends and anyone else who was at Sherrerd Field to see Princeton defeat Loyola 17-13 in the NCAA tournament second round.

Hearty, not because they gave up their Mothers' Day. Hearty because it was weather more suited for March than May, with heavy rain and cold temps that barely reached 50, if they did at all.

Princeton, for the second straight Sunday, showed it can play in the rain. Last week it was in the Ivy League tournament final against Penn, a 13-9 Tiger win, also on a nasty day, that time at Columbia.

In yesterday's game it was the NCAA second round. It was also the second straight Sunday on which Princeton played a team it had already defeated earlier in the season.

Loyola, by the way, hadn't lost since that game against Princeton, having won seven straight since. The Greyhounds sprinted past Richmond Friday night 19-6 in the first game of the weekend on Sherrerd Field, and they were a confident group heading into the game yesterday.
Princeton, for its part, had little trouble with Wagner in the first round, winning 19-7. This was also a confident team, and getting off to a good start seemed like a good idea for either team.

The first time Princeton played Loyola, it was a 14-10 Tiger win in which Princeton scored the first six goals of the game, in 11:36. In the game yesterday, it was Loyola who scored the first two in the first 90 seconds.

The Tigers might have been on the ropes at that point, but they quickly righted themselves, scoring four straight. Loyola would never tie the score again, but it was a one-goal game at halftime.

What happened after that? The perfect Princeton formula, that's what.

Draw control Nonie Andersen. Goal Elizabeth George. Draw control Nonie Andersen. Goal Elizabeth George.

Princeton would actually score the first six of the second half against Loyola. Interestingly, it took 11:46 to score those six, or 10 seconds more than it did to score the first six of the first half of the first game against Loyola.

From there it wasn't exactly game over, but in reality Princeton already more goals than it needed. The lead grew to 17-9 before the Greyhounds scored the last four.

George finished with six goals, giving her 61 on the season. That's the fourth-best season total in program history, or, put another way, the second-best this season, behind Tess D'Orsi's 63, which is the third-best single-season total, one away from Kyla Sears' 64 of a year ago.

And what about Sears? She only has 54 goals this season, though she does have 38 assists, leaving her with 92 points, or the second-best total in program history, behind the 110 Olivia Hompe had in 2017.

For her two seasons, Sears now has 175 points, which leaves her 107 away from Hompe's career record of 282. Should Sears double her total, she'd have 350. That's a big number.

Of course, with the win, Princeton is now guaranteed at least one more game this season. That one won't be easy. It'll be at No. 2 Boston College either Saturday or Sunday, and the winner of that game will head to the Final Four.

For Tiger head coach Chris Sailer, it's the 20th trip to the quarterfinals. year ago, the season ended one round earlier, at BC, 16-10.

Boston College has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 nationally all season. This game will be a tough one.

Princeton will bring an 11-game winning streak into the game. And a ton of confidence.

There are only eight teams left who are playing.

It's always good to be one them.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Finalist

TigerBlog was all set to be annoyed.

He knew the Tewaaraton Foundation was going to be announcing the five finalists for the 2019 award last night, and he figured that if Princeton junior Michael Sowers was to be one of those five, then he would get some sort of advanced noticed. He also figured it would come during the day Wednesday.

But nope. Nothing. Not a peep.

TigerBlog thought it might be held against Sowers that Princeton did not reach the postseason and that Yale's TD Ierlan figured to be a finalist, which would mean two Ivy League players among the final five.

And this was going to leave him less than thrilled.

Why? Because for TB's money, Sowers is the best player in the country. And yes, he'll freely admit that perhaps he's a bit biased, but that doesn't really matter. Sowers is a player who's just on a whole different level.

And if he turned out not to be a Tewaaraton finalist? That would have been a major shame.

He thought about reaching out to his Loyola counterpart Ryan Eigenbrode to see if he'd heard anything, since the Greyhounds' Pat Spencer was a lock for one of the spots, and very likely will be the ultimate winner. Then he decided not to, figuring that when Ryan said he had, then TB's annoyance would start earlier.

Ah, but as it turned out, Ryan texted TB, asking him if he had heard anything yet. This gave him hope.

And then eventually, around 8 Wednesday night, TB got the email saying that Sowers was in fact a finalist.

The Tewaaraton Award finalists were then announced last night. On the men's side, they are Sowers, Ierlan, Spencer, Penn State's Grant Ament and Maryland's Jared Bernhardt.

In reality, there's no doubt that Sowers belongs in this field and there never was.

Sowers finished the season with 90 points on 37 goals and 53 assists, setting the school record for points in a season and breaking the 25-year-old school record for points in a career despite just finishing his junior year. In fact, he has the three highest single-season point totals in program history with 90, 83 and 82, which adds up to 255 and puts him on pace to fairly easily reach the top 10 in Division I history.

He currently is fifth all-time in Division I in both points per game (6.07) and assists per game (3.57), and those numbers are the best by any player in nearly 40 years.

Will he win the award? Probably not. The award has never gone to a player whose team did not reach the NCAA tournament. If TB had to guess, he'd go with either Spencer or Ament, whom TB first saw play in fifth grade, by the way, back when he was a club teammate of TigerBlog Jr.'s.

This weekend is a huge one in lacrosse. There are eight men's NCAA tournament games this weekend, four tomorrow and four Sunday.

There are 17 games in the women's tournament, of which three will be played on Sherrerd Field. It starts at 4 today, when Loyola takes on Richmond, followed by Princeton-Wagner at 7. The winners play Sunday at 1, and one of those four teams will move to the quarterfinals next weekend.

As for the men's tournament, TigerBlog has thought all year that Penn State is by far the best team, Virginia can play with anyone, Yale and Penn are going to be really tough outs and Spencer can carry a pretty balanced team with a strong goalie a long way. On the other hand, Johns Hopkins is playing really well right now too.

Penn and Yale both can't reach the Final Four, because they'd have to play each other in the quarterfinal round. Penn has two wins over Yale, by a goal each, and a face-off guy, Kyle Gallagher, who matches up really well with Ierlan.

On the other hand, beating Yale three times won't be easy. And that's if they both win this weekend.

TigerBlog loves the NCAA lacrosse tournaments. For him, they're way more interesting than the basketball ones, though he recognizes that his opinion might not be shared by the mainstream.

For this year, he'll take Penn State over Virginia (though getting past Towson in Round 2 won't be easy for the Cavs - if  Towson can get past Maryland in the first round) in the final. He has no idea what to make out of Penn-Yale III, but he thinks they'll both get through this weekend and that one of them will play Penn State in the semifinals. The fourth team? He'll take Hopkins. They've looked really good lately.

His hope is that Sowers and Princeton will be in the field next year.

In the meantime, he's glad Sowers will have his moment in the sun at the Tewaaraton ceremony on May 30.

Of course, knowing Sowers the way he does, TigerBlog can tell you that he'd trade that to still be playing this weekend in a heartbeat. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Senior Day II

TigerBlog had a very traumatic experience the other day.

He was going to ride his bike, so he opened the door to take it outside. And what happened? A bird flew inside.

Now what do you do? This isn't like a dog or cat, which you can sort of reason with. Or a spider or something, which you can easily catch.

This is a bird, who is trying to get out, only the way it's trying to do is to fly 1,000 miles an hour randomly all over the place, since it's scared out of its mind. There's no reasoning with it at this point.

Not that TigerBlog didn't try. What do you say to a scared bird? First he tried to whistle. That didn't work. Then he thought about calling his colleague Kim Meszaros, who is a bird expert, not to mention someone who could truly appreciate how freaked out the whole thing was making TigerBlog. Then he figured she'd be laughing too hard to be of any help.

Left to his own, TB was able to follow the bird into the bathroom, where it calmly sat perched on the shower curtain rod. As the bird watched, TB opened the window and took out the screen, only to find a dead wasp, by the way.

Then he slowly backed away from the window and shower, and then the bird took one more look at him, rolled its little bird eyes and flew out to freedom.

Then he rode his bike. Well, after he bleached everything in the bathroom.

Somewhere in there is a good segue into the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament, but TB is still too flustered right now to come up with it.

Instead he'll get right into it.

There's a doubleheader on Sherrerd Field tomorrow, beginning at 4 when Loyola takes on Richmond and then continuing at 7 when Princeton takes on Wagner. The winners meet Sunday at 1 for a trip to the quarterfinals.

Princeton and Wagner have never met. Wagner advanced to this game after defeating Fairfield 15-13 in the opening round Tuesday.
Princeton is making its 27th NCAA tournament appearance. The postseason resume includes 11 Final Fours, seven championship game appearances and three titles - 1994, 2002, 2003.

Princeton last played at home nearly a month ago, when the Tigers hosted Harvard on Senior Day. Princeton won that game 14-12 to run its winning streak to four straight, and now it's continued to grow.

In fact, the Tigers two wins at the Ivy League tournament last weekend - 11-6 over Cornell in the semifinals and 13-9 over Penn in the final - stretched that streak to nine games, the longest by Princeton since the 2008 team won its first 10.

Speaking of Princeton's seniors, this is an extraordinary group of them. There are seven seniors, and all seven of them are major contributors. That's a rarity.

Of those seven, four have started every game this year - Elizabeth George, Nonie Andersen, Alex Argo, Kathryn Hallett. The other three - Julia Haney, Izzy Mangan, Allie Rogers - have all played in every game, with 17 starts, 42 goals and 32 assists between them.

If you add in the other four, the total for the senior class comes to 125 goals and 63 assists, and that includes the fact that Andersen and Argo are defenders.

Princeton actually has a pretty good mix of this level of experience with underclassmen who have made huge contributions. Princeton had four first-team All-Ivy selections - two seniors (George and Andersen) and two sophomores (Kyla Sears and Sam Fish), as well as five Ivy League tournament selections (seniors George and Andersen and sophomores Sears, Fish and Mary Murphy).

It's an entire team of balance, with strengths all over the field, coming from all four classes. As the Ivy League tournament championship game reached its critical point last weekend, tied 6-6 at halftime, it was freshman Lillian Stout who came on to win seven of the last 11 draws after Penn had won 10 of 13 in the first half.

Still, having this kind of a senior class is invaluable.

At one point, Princeton was 5-3, with consecutive losses to Brown and Maryland, and faced with the prospect of having to win out to get a share of the Ivy League title, including four on the road. Having a group that has been through everything before makes navigating something like that easier.

And so now that group gets its reward. It's a chance to play at home again, this time with really high stakes.

It's a Senior Day II, one that has been well-earned. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Horsted To The Bears

Bob Surace is going to be nervous all week.

His Philadelphia 76ers are locked in a tough series with the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Surace is one of the Sixers fans who trusted the process the entire time and is now hoping that the team at least reaches the NBA finals.

TigerBlog has always been a Knicks fans, way back to the two NBA championship teams. He was a Bill Bradley fan long before he realized why he was supposed to be one. These days, though, the team is impossible to root for, as any longtime Knicks fan can verify.

The Sixers are a different. They seem to be easy to root for, and not just because they're much better. There's something endearing about a fan base that stuck with a team for as long as this one did, even when Philadelphia was fielding some of the worst NBA teams ever.

Plus, you either love or hate Joel Embiid, and TB is more the former than the latter.

On top of that, he's a big Surace fan, so why not root for his team in basketball? It balances out that whole Yankees thing.

Surace, of course, is Princeton's head football coach. This past fall he led the Tigers to their first perfect season in 54 years, as Princeton went 10-0 and, for good measure, had the highest scoring offense in Ivy league history.

Another of the stars of that team, Jesper Horsted, signed a free agent contract earlier this week with the Chicago Bears. Horsted is the all-time leader in Princeton history with 196 career receptions and 26 touchdown receptions.

TigerBlog wrote a story about Horsted's signing for goprincetontigers.com, which you can read HERE if you like. When TB was thinking back to the 10-0 season as he was writing it, he remembered two things more than anything else about Horsted.

First was the TAGD video, where he narrated the Grantland Rice poem and then appeared at the end to say "He writes not that you won or lost but how you played the game."

The second was the two catches he made on the 91-yard drive against Dartmouth in Princeton's 14-9 win in one of two games the Tigers played all year that wasn't a blowout. The other was a 29-21 win over Harvard, though the difference was that Princeton trailed for most of that Dartmouth game and never trailed against Harvard.

The 91-yard drive didn't end in points, but it did end with Dartmouth on its heels, though still ahead 9-7. At least until a three-and-out and punt set Princeton up on the Big Green 34, and it took only four plays to put the Tigers up 14-9.

The 91-yard drive is what completely turned the game around. Princeton had battled with awful field position all day while chasing a two-point deficit, and that drive changed it all.

And the two biggest plays were two Horsted catches, especially one on a third-and-eight where Horsted bobbled the ball before controlling it and getting 11. Without that catch it would have been fourth-and-eight from the Tiger 28, which would have meant another punt.

Even better, that catch came one play after Horsted dropped one that might have been a first down.

Next up for him is a shot at making the Bears. Horsted is 6-4 and fast with great hands. These are great qualities to have as he starts down the NFL path. 

Horsted was a finalist for the Bushnell Cup as the league's Offensive Player of the Year. The winner was John Lovett, the quarterback who threw him those passes against Dartmouth. Lovett is a two-time winner of the Bushnell Cup, in fact the fifth two-time winner and the first two-time winner from Princeton.

Lovett is currently at minicamp with the Kansas City Chiefs, who already seem to have their quarterback situation solved for the next, oh, forever, with Pat Mahomes. That doesn't mean that Lovett can't make the team, especially since he can play a lot of other places on the field.

TigerBlog enjoyed this quote from Chiefs' head coach Andy Reid:

“I thought he did a nice job. He’s still got a banged-up wrist, so he can’t do contact on the wrist, but it’s healing and he has about another month or so to go with that.
“Extremely smart and we had to kind of tame him down a little bit. For a quarterback, I said, ‘You are a wild man. You have to calm down here just a little bit’. He did a good job.”
As Surace subsequently tweeted, Reid had Lovett completely figured out.