Friday, May 1, 2015

Tournaments And Trivia

Okay, TigerBlog is looking forward to next week.

Why? Because he gets the answer to this trivia question, that came through here yesterday, anonymously at that.

Here it is:
Here's a random trivia question prompted by your comments yesterday about FieldTurf and tigers having their stripes painted on, not sewn on.What makes the 50-yard-line and end zone logos painted on the surface of Powers Field at Princeton Stadium different than the on-field paint markings of every other Division I football stadium? Bonus clue: Until last year, Princeton Stadium shared this odd distinction with Notre Dame Stadium. However, as of the 2014 season, now Princeton Stadium stands alone. 
Answer next week.

TigerBlog has no idea. None.

Anyone know?

Actually, before TigerBlog gets the answer, he's also looking forward to this weekend.

Why?

The Ivy League lacrosse tournaments.

TigerBlog will be in Providence this afternoon for the men's semifinal game between Princeton and Cornell, which faces off at 5. The second game will match Yale and Brown.

The women's tournament will be on Sherrerd Field. Princeton will play the second game, beginning at 7, against Harvard, after Cornell and Penn open the tournament at 4.

The men's final will be Sunday at noon. The women's final will be Sunday at 11 a.m.

The winner of each tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The tournament does not determine the Ivy League champion; those were decided by the regular season.

For the record, Princeton's women won the outright Ivy League championship. The Princeton men shared the championship with Brown and Cornell.

Heading into the tournament, TigerBlog is wondering who has the advantage, the team that won the first game or the team that lost the first game.

This is the sixth year of Ivy League tournaments. That means that each tournament has had 15 games played to date.

TigerBlog added it up, and he found that on the men's side the team that won the regular season game is 8-7 in the tournament rematch games. On the women's side, the regular season winner is 11-4.

One of those four losses, though, was Princeton's 9-6 loss to Penn in the Ivy final a year ago, after Princeton had beaten Penn in the regular season.

TigerBlog brings this up because Princeton is playing Cornell in men's lacrosse for the second time in six days, after falling 15-10 in Ithaca last Saturday in a rather odd game. Odd? Well, Princeton led 5-0 after one quarter and trailed 9-5 at halftime, which meant that the first 14 goals of the game were all scored on the same side of the field.

Take the 5-0 start away, and it was 15-5 Cornell. Take away the second quarter and it was 10-6 Princeton.

The last time the Tigers and Big Red did this was two years ago, when Cornell beat Princeton 17-11 in the regular season finale. Princeton then won the rematch six days later 14-13 in overtime, getting seven goals from Mike MacDonald and the game-winner from Kip Orban.

Should Princeton win today, let's just say that those two will probably be a large part of why.

As for the women, Princeton has won 13 straight Ivy League regular season games, but as TB said, the Tigers lost in the final a year ago to Penn.

This time, Princeton plays a Harvard team it defeated 17-12 on March 21. The Crimson needed a win last week against Yale to even get into the tournament, and they more than got it, steamrolling the Bulldogs 15-4.

In other words, Princeton's women need the dominant trend on the women's side to continue, with the regular-season winner again victorious in the tournament.

The men? They need the regular-season losing teams to get to .500 in the tournament.

As for the whole tournament concept, TB loves it.

Wait, isn't this the same TB who hates the idea of a men's basketball tournament? Yes.

It's a combination of the doubler round-robin versus the single round-robin and the fact that the Ivy League will get multiple NCAA tournament bids in both men's and women's lacrosse pretty much every year.

The Ivy tournament has changed the dynamic of the regular season, without cheapening the regular season championship.

Either way, TB is excited for 5 this afternoon. Princeton-Cornell is always special. With so much on the line it is even more so.

Fittingly, it'll be unseasonably cold in Providence today. That's how it's been basically the entire way this season.

But it's May, as of this morning.

May is when it really matters in college lacrosse. Both Princeton teams hope to keep playing for awhile this month.

They'll find out this weekend whether that will happen or not.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Breathing In The Water

TigerBlog hopes that the whole Snapple cap thing won't become a daily update or anything.

He did want to share yesterday's with you. One day after reading about how tigers have stripes on their skin, not just their fur, TB learned that dolphins sleep with one eye open.

Maybe the dolphin in the wildly underrated "Shark Tale" should sleep with his eye open. He wasn't really a dolphin though. He was a shark who crossed the big boss of the reef.

If you never saw "Shark Tale" but like "Goodfellas" or "The Godfather," make sure you see "Shark Tale." It's up there with "Toy Story" and is way better than "Finding Nemo."

Anyway, why would dolphins sleep with one eye open? TigerBlog was intrigued, so he went to Google and learned this: When dolphins sleep, only half of their brains shut down, which enables them to remain vigilant to the threat of predators and to regulate their breathing to avoid drowning.

Dolphins can drown? Who knew? 

So back to Google TB went ,where he learned this (from the website "whalefacts.com"): For a dolphin to breathe it must come to the surface of the water and inhale oxygen through its blowhole.

And this: Unlike humans dolphins are unable to breathe from their mouth, which is very important because as dolphins dive underwater to hunt for food they need to be able to consume their prey while they are submerged without the fear of accidentally inhaling water and getting it in their lungs.

This, of course, makes TigerBlog wonder where Dolphins sleep. They're underwater, no? Then how do they breathe? They're mammals, so they can't get air through the water. They need to breath into their lungs.

Sigh. This is too confusing. Back to Google, for this: Dolphins have two basic methods of sleeping: they either rest quietly in the water, vertically or horizontally, or sleep while swimming slowly next to another animal. Individual dolphins also enter a deeper form of sleep, mostly at night. It is called logging because in this state, a dolphin resembles a log floating at the water's surface. 

And that's today's lesson on dolphins.

And now here comes an all-time easy segue:

Speaking of needing to breath in the water, the women's water polo team hosts Wagner in an NCAA tournament play-in game Saturday at 1 at DeNunzio Pool.

That was too easy. 

The women's water polo team won the CWPA championship this past weekend with a thrilling 7-6 win over Indiana. There aren't too many teams at Princeton whose biggest in-league rival is Indiana, but it's the case in women's water polo.

Princeton had lost to Indiana seven straight times, including twice this year, both by a goal. The championship game saw Princeton play from ahead and hold off the Hoosiers at the end.

Princeton is led by the two Ashleys, or two Ashleighs, or one of each of them. Ashley Hatcher is the team's leading scorer, the fifth-ranked scorer in program history for that matter. 

Ashleigh Johnson is the goalie. She is an extraordinary, international-level goalie. 

TigerBlog has asked the question before of who is the greatest female athlete in Princeton history. It's possible that it's Johnson. 

If you've never seen her, she is incredible. TigerBlog didn't even need to see her play live to figure this out. He knew it from looking at some of the still pictures of her.


TigerBlog has great respect for those who play water polo. It's a brutal sport, one that requires its athletes to be in sick shape. It's hardest, TB supposes, on the goalies. They have to tread water and tread water and then explode to the ball when it's come at them.

And it comes at them hard. And fast. TB doesn't know how they ever make a save.

Princeton and Wagner are meeting in one play-in game. The other matches Whittier College and UC-San Diego. It seems like the NCAA committee had a rather easy choice in setting the matchups.

The winner of Princeton-Wagner will have to go to California, to take on Stanford. The Cardinal are the second-seed in the 10-team field.

The eight teams that advance to Stanford will play three games each. Princeton's best finish ever has been fifth.

There are 10 teams in the field. There are seven teams from California. Hawaii is in it. 

The other two are Princeton and Wagner, two eastern schools located an hour apart.

That means that no team is in the NCAA tournament for a 3,000-mile stretch between here and California. Can any other sport ever say that?
 

Princeton made sure of the geographical anomaly by knocking out Indiana. Now it's NCAA tournament time.

Admission to the play-in game is free. Ashleigh Johson, and admission is free.

That's going to be hard to beat.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Virginia Is For Tigers

TigerBlog is a fan of diet peach Snapple.

Way back when, he used to drink a lot of soda. And eat a lot of cookies. He's drawn the line with both of those.

Now, his snack of choice is apples and grapes. Still, he does drink the Snapple. The diet kind, anyway.

It probably isn't any better for him than diet soda, so maybe he should just go back to that. Or maybe not.

Anyway, if you've ever had Snapple, you know that there are little fun facts under the cap. This is always an exciting part of drinking one.

Last week, TigerBlog had one that said that 1,111,111,111 times 1,111,111,111 equals 12345678987654321. Or something like that. Whatever, it's pretty interesting.

He got his favorite one ever yesterday though.

He popped open the bottle, and there it was. Tigers, it said, have orange and black stripes on their skin, not just their fur.

That's pretty cool. Any cap that mentions Tigers and orange and black seems to be trying to get the attention of Princeton Athletics. Maybe it's a sign. All Princeton teams will win every game until TigerBlog gets another sign from the Snapple cap?

That might be asking a lot.

Anyway, it makes TB think of FieldTurf fields. Tigers have their stripes sewn on, not painted on.

The Snapple cap was one of two highlights of yesterday. The other was when TigerBlog got to the event meeting yesterday morning and saw that there, on the new TV in the conference room, was a classic of American culture, led by an iconic figure in American character acting.

It was Bugs Bunny. The one where he gets drafted into the Army.

How can you beat that? If the Snapple cap was a sign of the coming of good fortune for the Tigers, what's that a sign of?

TB has no answer to that.

It was at the event meeting that Brendan Van Ackeren, who is a mainstay in the business office and the husband of softball coach Lisa Van Ackeren, said that the women's and men's tennis teams would both be heading to Virginia for the NCAA tournament.

Given that the men didn't have an automatic bid, it was hardly a certainty.

Then, several hours later, that's exactly what happened.

It'll be the Ivy League champion Princeton women in Virginia to take on South Carolina in the opening round. That match will be Saturday at 9 a.m., which, when TigerBlog was a kid (and probably adult) was always prime Bugs Bunny time.

The men will also be in Charlottesville, they to take on Minnesota Friday at 10 a.m.

If the women win, they play the winner of Virginia-VCU Sunday at noon. If they men win, they would take on the winner of Virginia-St. John's Saturday at 3.

The women are looking for a repeat of last year, when they won the first round match against Arizona State and then scared second-ranked Alabama before falling short.

As for the men, it's their first NCAA appearance since 1998. 

It was a good night for Ivy League tennis, as Dartmouth got an at-large bid to the women's tournament and three teams were in the men's draw - Princeton, Harvard and Columbia.

Princeton is the only school in the league in both tournaments.

TigerBlog jumped on the women's tennis bandwagon when he saw the Tigers win at Dartmouth. He also went to the match against Cornell at home, where Princeton closed out an outright championship and cemented the automatic bid.

As for the men, TB hasn't seen any of their matches this year. He has played squash against Billy Pate, who likes to pass himself off as a nice guy but who turns ultra-competitive when competition begins.

Actually, he is a really nice guy. He just also happens to be super-competitive. It's a good combination for a coach.

Last night was a big night for Princeton tennis, both teams.

TB doesn't really think all of Princeton's teams will win all of their games until he gets another sign from the Snapple cap.

Hey, he can still root for it to happen.

Hopefully that magic can work this weekend in Virginia. For both teams.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Get Well Gooch

TigerBlog Jr. was no more than three or four years old when he met Gooch Arcamone.

Gooch - "Goocher," as TigerBlog always has called him - has been a fixture in these parts for a long, long time. TB has no idea quite how long exactly.

There have been many more meetings between TBJ and Gooch through the years.

TBJ would come to games at Jadwin back when he was a ball boy for men's basketball, and he would see Gooch here, in his familiar post with the event staff. Each time, Gooch would stop the boy and engage him in conversation, the kind that your grandfather would, or perhaps an old teacher.

Eventually, TBJ stopped coming around as often. It didn't stop Gooch from asking TigerBlog about how his son was doing.

Every single time TB saw Gooch, he'd ask. "How's your son? Tell him I said hi."

Gooch is in his mid-’80s now. TigerBlog would see him often still when he would work a shift at the desk monitor in Jadwin.

TigerBlog was struck and saddened by the news that Gooch had suffered a stroke recently. He wishes him all the best to a quick, full recovery.

Gooch is an old-timer, of course. He's old-time in age, but also in civility and manners. He's just a nice guy, one who takes the time to get to know the people who walk by him day after day here.

The Department of Athletics is this wonderful mix of faces that change all the time with others that endure for decades. It's a real melting pot, with people from all over the country, from all different backgrounds, at all different stages of their lives, careers and everything else.

It's a great combination of young and old, with some in the middle, like TigerBlog, who leans more to the old than the young side.

When TB sees the new generations come through, it's hard to keep all of their names straight sometimes. He wonders what they know about Princeton Athletics, its history, who all these "old" people are who've been here.

Not everyone is looking to stay here very long. How will they remember their time here?

It's the people, right? 

People like Gooch are very much a part of the fabric of the department. People like Gooch bring a great deal of character to the place while asking very little back.

When TigerBlog heard that Gooch had his stroke, he thought about how kind he's always been to TBJ. He thought of all the football games where TigerBlog was the PA announcer and Gooch was the monitor by the door outside the PA booth.

TB can't count the number of games he and Gooch were stationed near each other. It's always been good to see him, and TB's wishes are that it isn't long until Gooch is back to be part of it again.

Now that TigerBlog thinks about it, he can't remember when he in fact met Gooch. And he doesn't know what Gooch's career was. Or why they call him Gooch, for that matter.

He does know that Gooch is a really good man, and TB has always enjoyed talking to him.

And now he's not doing well.

TigerBlog joins with everyone else here in wishing him the best.

Get well Gooch.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Busy, Busy

TigerBlog posted his men's lacrosse story to goprincetontigers.com Saturday, after the Tigers fell to Cornell 15-10.

Then he got in his car and drove back from Ithaca, which takes around four hours.

When he got back, he checked his computer to see what was new on the website. And what did he find?

In the time it took him to drive back, goprincetontigers.com had had 10 new stories posted. This doesn't include box scores or stat updates or anything.

TigerBlog is talking about 10 new stories.

That's how it is on a spring Saturday. It gets pretty busy.

TigerBlog gets asked a bunch of times how Princeton's Office of Athletic Communications decides which stories to post at the front of the webpage each day. The answer is that everything is done chronologically.

Whichever story is done first, that's posted. Then the next one. And so on.

The result is that stories like TB's men's lacrosse game cycle through the front page and off relatively quickly. There's really nothing that can be done about that, though obviously the stories stay prominently displayed on the individual sports pages.

The OAC isn't going to make value judgements that one sport is more important than another, or one game trumps another. It's an assembly line of content that gets churned out, especially on the weekends.

This one was busy, that's for sure.

It featured some big wins and a few crushing losses, as well as more smiling softball players in game action shots on the webpage, something that will be among TB's lasting memories of the 2015 spring season at Princeton, along with the awful weather.

The men's lacrosse team lost a tough one against Cornell, who took control of the game with a perfect second quarter, one that started with the Tigers ahead 5-0 and ended with the Big Red up 9-5. Still, the teams will meet again Friday in the Ivy League tournament semifinals at Brown, so the Tigers have another shot at extending their season.

Each game the Tigers do play gives Kip Orban and Mike MacDonald another opportunity to continue their incredible senior years, with the assault that they continue to put on the program's record book. TigerBlog will have way more on that later this week.

The toughest loss of the weekend was the men's golf team's. Princeton led much of the way in the Ivy League tournament, only to fall by one stroke to Penn.

One stroke. One lousy stroke. How close was it? Penn had a four-man score of 885. Princeton? 886.

That's ridiculous. It's also the second time in three years that Princeton golf felt that sting, after the women lost by one back in 2013.

On the bright side for Princeton was sophomore Quinn Prchal, who tied the Ivy record with a final-round 67 to win the individual title by three strokes.

As for those who won big this weekend, there was the women's lacrosse team, which took care of Brown 14-8 to finish off a perfect 7-0 run in the Ivy League. The Tigers will host the women's tournament for the second straight year and will play Harvard in the semifinals; Penn and Cornell meet in the other semifinal.

Princeton has won 13 straight regular-season Ivy League games, since an opening day loss to Brown a year ago. This time Erin McMunn had five goals, Erin Slifer had three and sophomore Olivia Hompe reached the 100-point mark for her career - in just 34 games.

Princeton finished the regular season at 12-3, led by the same three who led the team against Brown. McMunn is Princeton's career leader in assists, while Slifer and Hompe are 1-2 on the team in points this season with 55 and 54.

The other team who won a championship this weekend was the women's water polo team, who defeated Indiana 7-6 in the College Water Polo Association championship game.

The incredible Ashleigh Johnson broke the school record for saves in a career with the 17 she made in the title game, giving her 1,003 for her career and making her the first Tiger to go past 1,000.

Princeton had lost seven straight times to Indiana, including twice this year by one goal each.

This time, in the championship game, Ashley Hatcher scored four goals, three of which came in the second half, after Princeton had trailed 4-3 at the break. She also put in two straight after the score was tied at 5-5, giving Princeton a 7-5 lead in the fourth quarter.

Indiana got one back to make it 7-6 but would not get the tying goal. The win, and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, belonged to Princeton.

And with that, a very long and very busy weekend came to a close.

If TigerBlog is correct, then the only remaining home events for 2014-15 are the women's lacrosse tournament and rowing and track and field.

TB will be back on the road this weekend, heading to Brown for the men's lacrosse tournament. It to would have been in Princeton had the Tigers defeated Cornell, but it wasn't meant to be.

Sometimes that happens. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you don't.

There were both ends of that spectrum for Princeton on this busy, busy spring weekend. 


Friday, April 24, 2015

That's Cold

TigerBlog was doing the PA at a high school girls' lacrosse game last night, and he can tell you first hand that it was beyond freezing.

The temperature was 39. The wind chill was probably half that. And this was late April?

What's up with that?

If you consider a nice spring day to be something between, say, 62 and 72 degrees with perhaps a gentle breeze and sunshine, then the greater Princeton metropolitan area has had exactly none of those yet. Okay, maybe one or two. Maybe three at the most.

There have been a few where it's been near 80 already. Just nothing spring-like.

TigerBlog grew up an hour east of Princeton. He remembers great springs, with great spring weather.

One of his best memories of his old house was the window in the kitchen. It had a long metal rod that slid out, pushing the window back. With the rod was pulled in as much as it would go, it had to be turned to the right to be secured and locked.

He used to love when that window was open in the spring and the fresh air would pour inside the house.

There was a line of trees that started at the end of his block and ended in TigerBlog's backyard, which was the halfway point of his street. The edge of the treeline always formed a great blend of green leaves against the blue sky on the nicest spring days.

He can almost see it now, looking up and out of that window.

Anyway, as TigerBlog was at the girls lacrosse game shivering, he thought about the Penn Relays. So he texted Mike Henderson, Princeton's Director of Track Operations and an honorary member of the Office of Athletic Communications - he is a former SID and his desk is in this office.

"Warm?" TB asked. "So cold" was the response.

Princeton had a good start to the Penn Relays.

Julia Ratcliffe won the hammer throw. The 4x400 men's relay advanced to the Championship of America final for tomorrow, defeating such notables as LSU and Texas A&M. All three women in the 5K - Kathrn Fluehr, Kathryn Little and Erika Fluehr all ran personal bests. In the steeplechase championship, junior Emily de La Bruyere ran 10:38.03 to finish in sixth place.

Princeton did well on a cold night.

You want really cold?

The Tewaaraton Trophy nominees were announced this morning. The top 25 players in Division I, for men and women.

Well, supposedly top 25.

You can't tell TigerBlog that Kip Orban and Mike MacDonald don't belong on the list. At least one of them.

There were six offensive middies nominated. None of them is Orban.

Of course, none of them have as many goals as Orban, who has 36. None of them have a shooting percentage anywhere near that of Orban's .429 (none is better than .350, actually).

MacDonald? He's fourth in Division I in points per game and sixth in goals per game. Neither was nominated.

TigerBlog will never figure out why Orban doesn't get his due. He wasn't even honorable mention All-Ivy last year, let alone All-America. He wasn't a preseason All-America this year.

Each game now he seems to pass someone on Princeton's season or career scoring list who regular earned both of those honors. The same is true with MacDonald.

Oh well. It doesn't really matter, TB supposes. Orban and the Tigers have more important things to worry about now.

What matters is tomorrow's game at Cornell. Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse is one of the best events on the Ivy League athletic calendar each year. Cornell has won 28 Ivy titles. Princeton has won 27. Nobody else has won more than eight. They are by far the dominant teams in Ivy men's lacrosse history.

Princeton has already assured itself a share of the league title and a spot in next week's Ivy tournament. A win over Cornell would mean an outright championship and that the men's tournament would join the women's tournament in Princeton. Princeton's women have already sewn that up, though those Tigers need a win over Brown tomorrow or a Penn loss tomorrow to get the outright Ivy championship.

Back at the men, a Cornell win would mean that the tournament would be in Providence if coupled with a Brown win over Dartmouth or in Ithaca should Brown lose.

Princeton is also playing to get into the NCAA tournament. If the Tigers don't get the automatic bid from the league, then they will find themselves as probably either the last team in or first team out. Every game is huge now, especially in an Ivy League that could get four teams into the NCAAs.

Still, TigerBlog can't help but be a bit, well, pissed off about the way Orban has been consistently overlooked.

Back when TB first started doing radio for Princeton basketball, he was often part of a three-man radio crew with David Brody and Rich Simkus. One night, as halftime came, TigerBlog said that Pete Carril looked "pissed off" as he left the court.

Brody and Simkus then looked at him without speaking, at which TB said "what, you can't say 'pissed off' on the radio?"

At that point, Brody said: "I guess you can, because you just did. Twice."

The same applies here. Can TB say "pissed off?" He must be able to do, since he's said it a bunch of times.

But it applies in this case.

Orban deserves better. So does MacDonald.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Marathon, The Relays, And Softball Smiles

Kelly Widener was late for the weekly staff events meeting Tuesday.

Widener works on the compliance staff and also has event management responsibilities. She's also an Ohio State grad, undergrad and law school.

TigerBlog saw her shortly after the meeting. She looked like she was just running late, typical stuff. She has two little kids. Maybe one them was the cause.

Then TB found out why.

It was because she ran the Boston Marathon the day before. Her time, TB thinks, was a little below 3:30. That's pretty strong.

For Widener, it was her seventh completed marathon. That's seven more than TB will ever run.

The day after the marathon? She hardly seemed fazed by it at all.

So congrats to Kelly for her accomplishment.

The Boston Marathon started the week in track and field. The end brings the Penn Relays.

TigerBlog goes to Peter Farrell, the only head coach of women's track and field that Princeton has ever had, for all things track and field. And what was his take on the Relays?

Well, he said that he went to a food truck outside of Franklin Field and got a cheesesteak, pretzel and soda - all for $6.

Actually, TigerBlog's conversation with Farrell actually started with last weekend's meet, the Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton. TigerBlog wondered if a meet like that, a huge track and field meet, which means a huge administrative undertaking, still got his juices flowing.

Clearly it does. You can talk to Farrell for two seconds to get that answer.

The Penn Relays is one of his favorite events of any year. TigerBlog went once, when he was at Penn. It's certainly entertaining.

If you're a track guy, then yes, it's about as good as it gets.

One event after another, for three days. High schools kids in one event. Olympians in the next.

Princeton has been competing in the Penn Relays since before it was the Penn Relays. In fact, the Penn Relays began in 1895 as an offshoot of an annual relay competition between Princeton and Penn.

At least that's what it says on the website:
When the University Track Committee, chaired by Frank B. Ellis ‘93, looked for ways of adding interest to their 1893 spring handicap meet, they struck on the idea of a relay, four men each running a quarter mile in succession. The idea created enough interest that a team from Princeton was invited to contest the event. Held at the end of the meet on May 12, the Princeton team of J.A. Chapman, George McCampbell, Isaac Brokow and Theodore Turner pulled away in the homestretch to beat Penn by eight yards with a time of 3:34.0.
The following year Penn exacted its revenge against the Princeton team on the University Field track, located at 37th and Spruce Streets, where the Quad Dormitory is now. Interest in the first two years’ races was such that the committee decided to sponsor a relay meet in 1895 with hopes of reviving sagging interest in Penn track. The first Penn Relays also served as the dedication for Franklin Field, built on the same ground it occupies today, but under a different guise. The only grandstand at the time was a wooden single-tiered bleacher on the South side of the field, along what is now the sprint straightaway.


TigerBlog never knew there was a track at 37th and Spruce, though he did live there for two years back as an undergraduate.

The Relays started with the decathlon and heptathlons. They get into full swing today and run through Saturday.

TigerBlog has seen a lot of football games in Franklin Field, but the most crowded he ever saw the old stadium was that one time he went to the Penn Relays.

In other news, there was supposed to be an epic thunderstorm yesterday afternoon. It was supposed to be absurd wind and rain and hail and all of that biblical stuff.

It certainly looked like that was going to be the case around 2:30 or so. And yes, a storm came, but it was hardly epic.

It was nasty enough to cancel the baseball game and wipe out the second game of the softball doubleheader.

Earlier, when it was 70 and perfect sunshine around 10:15 of so, TigerBlog went off to the PVC weight room to work out. When he walked out of the door in Caldwell that goes into the men's locker room, he walked smack into the middle of the softball team, in uniform, ready to head over the to field.

Every player on the team looked up at the stranger who walked into their circle. TB said "go get 'em" and kept walking.

Shanna Christian took his words seriously. The junior came within one out of throwing a no-hitter against Yale in the opener. She had two outs in the seventh and got a ground ball that the Yale batter barely beat to first. Then she got the last out for the one-hitter and the win.

Game 2 made it to the fifth inning with Yale ahead 5-0 before the rains came. The Tigers will be at Cornell for four games this weekend.

The Tigers are 8-7 in the league, with five games to play - the remainder of the Yale game and the four against Cornell. Penn is in first place in the division, at 10-6, with four against Columbia.

One thing that TigerBlog has noticed about softball pictures on goprincetontigers.com is that all of the players seem to be smiling. Not in their posed pictures. In their game pictures.

There are five action shots of Princeton softball players on the softball page of the website, and in three of them - with four players - there are wide smiles in the middle of games. TB has never seen anything like it.

Hey, it's fun to play softball at Princeton. What other conclusion can be drawn?

Either that, or they have a great sense of where the camera is.

 Nah. TB will stay with the though that they're having fun.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Strength And Conditioning

TigerBlog is looking pretty ripped these days.

Okay, maybe not ripped. How about more ripped than he was four months or so ago, when he started his new exercise regimen.

TigerBlog was forced to abandon squash awhile back because of a knee issue. After surgery and physical therapy, he found himself mostly walking last fall. Lots and lots of walking.

As it got into the heart of the brutal winter, he found taking walks around Princeton's campus less than appealing. So he started riding the exercise bike.

One day, he decided to add weights to the routine. This was in January, he thinks.

Since then, he's lifted three times a week and been on the bike six or seven times a week.

This is TigerBlog's second go-round with weightlifting. The first time was back in college - back when Ronald Reagan was President.

He began to lift with his friends Charlie Frohman and Paul Glazer. They were bigger and way, way stronger than TigerBlog, who was a tad scrawny back then.

At first, TB could hardly bench press the bar, which is just 45 pounds. Well, maybe not quite that weak, but you get the point.

One of the best parts about lifting weights is the ability to set goals and then achieve them, if you put in the work. TigerBlog's first goal was 135 pounds in the bench, which would be the bar and a 45-pound plate on each side. Then he wanted to get to 185 and eventually 225, which was his ultimate goal, two 45-pound plates on each side.

And then he got there. It took maybe two years or so, but he got there. And then he stopped.

Now, basically 30 years later, he's gotten back into it, repeating the same program that Charlie had taught him all those years ago.

When he first did the bench press again, he remembered back to what Charlie had taught him all those years ago. When he attempted to show TB how far apart he should put his hands on the bar, he put two fists together from the end and had TB put his hand next to that. TigerBlog can still hear him as he said the unit of measure he had invented - "two Frohman hands,"  he called them.

So there was TB, with his hands two Frohman hands in from the edge of the bar, or at least what he estimated Frohman hands would be. And off he went.

TigerBlog was actually better than he thought right off the bat. Now, four months later, he is proud to say that he was able to bench 200 pounds the other day.

His goal is to beat 225 pounds and set a personal best. And then? Who knows. He'll get there though.

TB's spot is the Princeton Varsity Club weightroom, on E level in Jadwin Gym. His preferred time to work out is first thing in the morning.

It's not always empty in the weight room then. In fact, he often finds himself there at the same time as Princeton's out-of-season teams are there.

When TB first started at Princeton, there was no strength and conditioning program. He remembers Princeton's first strength and conditioning coach, or at least his self-appointed nickname - "the difference maker."

Today there is a very coordinated, very involved program for strength and conditioning.

The head coach of strength and conditioning at Princeton is Jason Gallucci. His assistants are Angie Brambley, James DeVincenzi and Terry Joria.

Jason spends his time the varsity weight room in the football stadium. TB mostly sees JD and Terry in the PVC weight room.

Oh, and he also sees Jeff Milliron, the volunteer assistant track and field coach. Jeff basically takes all of the weights in the room, puts them on the bar at once, adds big straps and rubber bands to them to make it even more challenging and then then lifts them. 

Actually, he's seen JD and Terry lift too. They bring a certain intensity to the proceedings.

The first thing about the weight room is the music. It's always loud, and it's never TigerBlog's choosing. He's gotten used to the grungy/metal music that seems to be preferred, to the point where he hardly hears it.

The teams that come in are working hard in advance of next year. It is here, in the weightroom, that a huge part of the progress that individual athletes and teams make is done.

How many times have you heard a coach or a commentator remark that so-and-so "needs to get in the weight room?" Well here they are, and they are working hard.

This is far away from any cheering crowds. This is far away from any competition date. This is far away from nice Princeton uniforms. This is far away from any sort of glory.

This is where the work gets done though. JD and Terry are in total control in their weight room.

There's a great sign outside the weight room that says: "This weight room has trained National Champions, All-Ameicas, Ivy League Champions and Olympic Qualifiers. Do not disgrace their efforts by giving anything less 100% when you step through these doors."

Do the athletes take it seriously? Do they appreciate what happens in that room?

Well, TigerBlog was at the women's tennis match Sunday, when the Tigers defeated Cornell to wrap up the outright Ivy League championship. After being awarded the trophy, the Tigers were given their trophy, and now it was time for all of the celebratory pictures.

At this point, Terry was there, standing in the background. Until the players called to him, asking him to join them in the picture. TigerBlog was touched by it, by the way the players were basically saying "hey, you're a part of why we're here now, you helped us get here, come celebrate with us."

Reluctantly, he did.

He's used to being in the background, in a place that isn't about anything other than working hard. It's not a place to be intimidated. It's not a place to cut corners. It's not a place where you can get away with less than maximum effort, because the results will speak for themselves.

For the last few months, it's been one of TB's favorite places on campus.

And he's come to appreciate, like the women's tennis players, just how much the people who work there mean to Princeton's athletic success.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lax and Lax Makes 10

Before TigerBlog gets into the part about how Princeton's two lacrosse championships have given the athletic program 10 Ivy League titles this academic year, he'd like to say that Zach Currier is unlike basically any player he has ever seen play lacrosse at Princeton.

And that takes into account a lot of players.

TB isn't even sure how he would describe Currier. He's an offensive middie, or is he a defensive middie?

Currier is impossible to define through just stats. Yes, he has nine goals and 13 assists as a first-line midfielder. So what? That doesn't tell anything about what he brings to the field each game.

Currier leads Princeton in ground balls with 59, which is 20 more than the next-best total. That sort of gives a hint as to what kind of player he is, more than just his goals and assists anyway.

Basically, Currier makes every little play a player can make, and added together, they make up a huge part of Princeton's success game after game - even if it's really hard to quantify. All you have to know about him is that, as TB wrote after the Tigers defeated Harvard 12-11 Friday night, Currier's fingerprints are usually all over any success Princeton has.

Princeton led Harvard 12-7 after three quarters, but with 35 seconds left, the Crimson had pulled within one. The face-off would be huge, right?

Currier went out to take it for Princeton. It would have been easy to simply win it. Instead, Harvard's Keegan Michael won it.

So what did Currier do? He caught Michael before he reached the box and took it away from him. Harvard never touched the ball again.

Currier brings a degree of tenacity that TB has rarely seen matched at Princeton. The world of college lacrosse saw that with his epic performance against Johns Hopkins, one that earned him national Player of the Week honors.

But really, he does those sorts of things each week. He does tenacious things. Winning things. He does a lot of everything, basically.

Oh, and in Friday's game, he came within an inch or so of scoring as spectacular a goal as TB has ever seen. Currier caught the ball in traffic in the middle and then went behind the back with a ton of velocity, so much velocity that it bounced all the way over the sideline after it rocked off the crossbar. Had it gone in? It would have been incredible.


So that's where TigerBlog wanted to start today, with Currier. He'll get back to the 10 Ivy titles shortly. In the meantime, let's talk Princeton lacrosse. Men's and women's.

He could have started with Kip Orban and Mike MacDonald, who are putting together epic senior seasons. Or he could have started with the women, who are now a game away from a perfect Ivy season, one year after dropping the opener and then winning out from there.

But instead, he started with Currier. Even now, TB doesn't think he did a really good job of describing him. Maybe it's just impossible to do that.

Now, about the Princeton women.

The big game for Princeton was last Tuesday, when the Tigers defeated Penn to take control of the Ivy League race. Princeton then followed that with a win over Columbia this past Saturday and now hosts Brown this Saturday in the regular season finale.

It won't be the end of lacrosse in Princeton though. The Tigers are assured of at least a share of the Ivy League championship, and no matter what happens this weekend, Princeton will be hosting the Ivy League women's tournament in two weeks.

It'll be the second straight year that Princeton will be the host site for the women's tournament. The Tigers will be joined in Princeton by Penn, Cornell and the winner of the Harvard-Yale game.

Simple.

Olivia Hompe won the Ivy League's Offensive Player of the Week Award after her seven-goal week, which included three against Penn and four against Columbia. It was the fourth time this year Princeton had the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week; Erin Slifer won the other three.

Hompe leads Princeton with 33 goals, which is 1.5 times as many as she had last year, when she scored 22 as a freshman. Slifer leads the team in points with 48, on 29 goals and 19 assists.

The Brown game gives Princeton a chance to win the outright league title. Of course, the Bears are the only Ivy team to beat Princeton in the regular season the last two seasons. It was Brown who beat Princeton in the 2014 season opener, before the Tigers ripped off six straight then and six more this year.

And the men?

The Tigers have also clinched at least a share for the Ivy title. Princeton would win the outright title with a win at Cornell Saturday and then would also host the Ivy tournament, which would be a first in the six-year history of the event, one school as the host for both tournaments.

Of course, there's a long way to go until then. Princeton might be in sole possession of first place in the league, but it's also the ranked behind Yale, Brown and Cornell in the national poles.

Oh well. Princeton will get to prove it on the field. The Tigers are in the Ivy tournament for sure, which was Goal No. 1 after missing it a year ago. Goal No. 2 is the Ivy title. Goal No. 3 is getting into the NCAA tournament.

Without the automatic bid that comes with the tournament championship, the Tigers will be right on the bubble, one way or another.

No matter what, Princeton will have won an Ivy League championship.

And the two lacrosse titles bring Princeton to 10 for the year. For the record, that's: field hockey, men's soccer, men's cross country, men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving, men's indoor track and field, women's basketball, women's tennis and the two lacrosses.

For Princeton, it's the 22nd time the program has reached double figures in Ivy titles. Harvard is the only other school to reach double figures, and the Crimson have done it seven times.

Double figure Ivy titles. That's always a goal each year when the academic year begins.

TigerBlog will never take it for granted that Princeton will get there. Hey, the Tigers didn't do it last year, when there were six.

As for the lacrosse teams, there's a lot left to do in 2015.

It starts this weekend, when the regular season ends.

How far beyond that will the season extend?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Somebody Won

Long before TigerBlog began playing squash, he was a high school tennis player.

He played quite a bit of tennis up through his 20s. He remembers one time when he was at the newspaper, he played against the boyfriend of a woman reporter. She was about five years older than TB, and TB had a huge crush on her.

He refused to let her boyfriend beat him, and they played a grueling three-hour match on a very hot, very humid suffer afternoon before TB finally won. It was the best match TB can ever remember playing - and then she married the other guy anyway a few weeks later.

To that point, he had played squash only once in his life, once in college against BrotherBlog. TB didn't really get the whole point of squash at first.

Then, after a long and dominating career in Jadwin lunchtime basketball, TigerBlog turned to squash one summer, when the court at Jadwin was being remodeled. From that point, it became all squash all the time for TB.

In fact, he's only tried to play tennis once since, and he found that the segue from squash to tennis is nearly impossible.

See, in squash, there's a wall to stop the ball and send it back to you. In tennis, there's a fence beyond the end line, and hitting that fence is not a winning strategy.

TigerBlog found that after all the years of playing squash, hitting a tennis ball into the court - as opposed to off the fence - was quite difficult.

Still, as TigerBlog watched Princeton play Cornell in women's tennis yesterday afternoon, he had to disagree with Executive Associate Athletic Director Anthony Archbald, who said that he doubted TigerBlog could return one serve in the court against Lindsay Graff, Princeton's No. 1 player.

Not win a point. Just return one serve. In a best-of-three-sets match. TigerBlog would have to think he could get one in, no? Just one?

TigerBlog jumped on the Princeton women's tennis bandwagon last weekend in New Hampshire, when he saw the Tigers close out Dartmouth 4-3. Katie Goepel was the difference in that one, as TB saw her win the final match of the day for the deciding point.

Princeton then beat Harvard to find itself assured of at least a tie for the Ivy title. And outright Ivy title and NCAA tournament bid would be Princeton's with a win in either of its remaining matches.

Except Princeton fell to Columbia Friday, which put the pressure on the Tigers yesterday.

When TB got to the match, Princeton was ahead 2-0, having won the doubles point and one of the singles match. It got to 3-0 when Graff won her match, which meant that Princeton needed to win one of the remaining four matches to get the big prizes.

The only problem was that Cornell had won the first set in each of the other four matches. The prevailing wisdom among the large Princeton faithful who watched at the Lenz Center was this: Somebody has to win, right?

For the next hour or so, the "somebody has to win, right" thinking wasn't quite a sure thing.

From TB's vantage point - in the Cordish Family Pavilion - he was closest to the match at No. 2, where Princeton's Amanda Muliawan had dropped her first set and then pulled away to win the second set 6-2.

Now it was the third set. TB thinks Muliawan went up 40-0 in Game 1, only to lose that one and the next one. Now she was down 2-0.

It seemed like the momentum had clearly turned on that court. And as TB looked up at the scoreboard, Cornell had already won one and was up in the third second set in two others. Now it looked like maybe Cornell might make a 4-0 sweep and take the match.

Each point seemed to be huge from that point, and TigerBlog couldn't help but notice that each player on every court who won a point seemed to yell the same thing: "C'mon." Princeton or Cornell. It was one "C'mon" after another.

On Court 2, suddenly it was Muliawan who kept yelling "C'mon." Over and over.

Six straight games worth, as it turned out.

Muliawan went up 5-2 and 40-15, with two match points. On the first one it appeared that Muliawan could have called the ball out and won, but she didn't. And she lost that point.

So now it was 40-30. This time, it was a strong rally between Muliawan and Cornell's Alexandra D'Ascenzo. Then Muliawan hit one that seemed to go in slow motion, tantalizingly deliberate as it approached the net. And then it hit the net and seemed to hang there for an eternity - until it dropped on the other side.

For the Tigers, it was the second straight outright championship and in a few weeks, it'll be the second straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

There was no wild celebration. Just a few hugs, especially since there were two matches left on the court. One finished in a second-set tiebreaker to Cornell, and the other was just starting the third set when the players played a 10-point tiebreaker instead. Goepel won that one 10-0.

And then the celebration started. There was the trophy presentation, and there were pictures on the court.

 As it turned out, "somebody" did win. It was hardly easy.

Then again, championships aren't supposed to be easy.

And when "somebody" - in this case Amanda Muliana - won, Princeton had won another one.