Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Mind Wanders ...

Thoughts as winter and spring overlap at Princeton ...

* even two days later, it's hard to let go of what happened here at Jadwin Sunday in the men's squash national final. Longtime local scribe Harvey Yavener, a TigerBlog mentor, always said to judge events on their significance within their sport, not on the sport itself. Using that logic, it's really hard to imagine how any championship event in intercollegiate athletics this year can match the Trinity-Princeton match Sunday for sheer, sustained, gut-wrenching drama. Those who dismiss it as "it's just squash" are missing the point. Even though it went against the home team in the end, that match will be remembered by TigerBlog as one of the greatest single athletic contests in the last 20 years of Princeton atlhetics.

* one more thought about the squash match. TigerBlog is filled with respect for the job Mauricio Sanchez did in the No. 1 match that decided the outcome. Under that kind of pressure as a heavy underdog against the top player in the country (and one built more like a linebacker than a squash player), Sanchez rallied from 2-1 down to force a fifth game and almost was able to pull it out.

* Princeton athletics this coming weekend has 19 of its teams competing; that's exactly half of the 38 teams that the University sponsors and more than the average number that Division I schools field in total. It's an insanely busy weekend for Princeton; in other words, it's the kind of weekend that reinforces the institutional commitment to broadbased athletic participation. TigerBlog, back in its Trenton Times days, used to be fascinated when Harvey Yavener (hey, Yav gets two mentions already?) used to rank the coming weekend's events with stars, giving five stars to the best event. Princeton this weekend will have several five-star events:
Ivy League swimming and diving championships for women *****
Ivy League Heptagonal indoor track and field championships for men and women *****
Men's and women's squash individual championships *****
Princeton-Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse *****
Men's hockey vs. Dartmouth/Harvard *****
Women's hockey ECAC playoffs first round vs. Rennsalaer *****
If you're keeping score, Princeton will have about 600 athletes competing this weekend.

* the ECAC men's hockey regular season enters its final weekend, and Princeton has already clinched a first-round bye. That means the Tigers will host a quarterfinal series March 13-15 in a bid to return to the ECAC final four in Albany the following weekend. Yale (home with Cornell/Colgate) leads Princeton (at Harvard/Dartmouth) by two points and Cornell (at Yale/Brown) by three points; Yale, Princeton and Cornell will definitely host quarterfinal series and should all be in good shape for NCAA tournament bids should they win those series.

* were it not for the folks at Inside Lacrosse magaine, the Princeton-Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse game would be coming up this weekend on the Princeton campus. Instead, for the third straight year, Princeton and Hopkins meet at M&T Bank Stadium in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic (Saturday, noon, ESPNU, WPRB FM 103.3). This year, unlike the first two, the other game of the doubleheader is Maryland-Duke, which replaces Virginia-Syracuse. And just in case you weren't paying attention last weekend, Ivy League men's lacrosse teams went a combined 7-0 in their very early openers. Included in that was a 9-6 Harvard win over Duke and an 18-6 Cornell thrashing of Binghamton. Princeton, for its part, took 60 shots in a 14-6 win over Canisius. The Tigers actually trailed 3-2 at halftime despite having already taken 27 shots, which included five that hit the pipe. Hopkins will be, obviously, a great test for the Tigers, though the Blue Jays are down just a bit from where they were the last few years, owing largely to the graduation of Paul Rabil, whom TigerBlog believes was the best player in the country the last two years.

* how could TigerBlog failed to have predicted that Pete Carril, given an open mic at Jadwin Saturday night during the festivities naming the court in his honor, would not go off-script and come up with something that would become this week's "They Said It" in Sports Illustrated? And yet he did just that, with his line of "first you walk all over me, and then you hang me as well?" when the banners were unfurled. As for the night, it was a who's who of Princeton basketball history at the game and at the reception afterwards. TigerBlog, standing in the back with Sean Gregory and former manager Mike McDonnell, couldn't see the front area where the speakers were due to the large gathering of the 6' 6" and taller crowd. No matter. It was a great night.

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