Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Ahead

TigerBlog knew it was officially spring yesterday when he wiped the snow off his windshield in the morning. Okay, it wasn't quite a blizzard or anything. Still, March of 2011 hasn't quite gotten this whole "comes in like a lion; goes out like a lamb" thing down.

If anything, this month has gone lion-lamb-lion-lion-lamb-verylamb-lion. Temperatures this month around here have ranged from the 20s to the 80s - and back.

For the first day of spring, there was a little of everything: rain, snow, sleet, sunshine, wind, no wind. Today is a fairly average day, though tomorrow's forecast includes snow showers.

Still, it is spring, and the winter is over, officially and in Princeton athletics. Only men's volleyball remains, and that sport is sort of a winter/spring hybrid.

The winter was a tremendous one for Princeton teams, and the Tigers enter the spring having won 11 Ivy League championships in the academic year, including seven that came in the winter.

The men's indoor track and field team set a Heps record for the most points ever scored; the women's team and the men's swimming and diving team won extraordinarily close championships of their own.

Women's basketball overcame the loss of a top player to win the league going away. Womens' fencing ran through the league undefeated, and women's swimming and diving also was the dominant Ivy team.

The men's basketball team used an epic moment at the end of the Ivy League playoff game to get into the NCAA tournament and then nearly knocked off powerhouse Kentucky, losing by two in the first round.

Men's squash player Todd Harrity did something that hadn't happened since 1990 - he became an American player who won the national collegiate championship. He also did so in style, without losing a single game in the tournament.

Hey, but that's all in the past. Ahead is the spring, and there's a lot on the line for Princeton in the next two-plus months.

Among the storylines:

* can Princeton break the Ivy League record for championships won in an academic year? The record is 14, something Princeton has done twice (1999-2000/2000-01) and Harvard has done once (2004-05). Can Princeton get three more to tie and four more to win?

* will Princeton have an NCAA individual track and field outdoor champion? Last year, Donn Cabral finished as the runner-up in the steeplechase, while Ashley Higginson was third on the women's side.

* what will crew season be like? The lightweight men are the two-time defending national champion; the women's open crew opens the season ranked second nationally.

* how will the softball team play in the aftermath of the death of teammate Khristin Kyllo?

* can the women's tennis team win a third-straight Ivy title? Will the men come out of a fairly even group?

* will the men's lacrosse team get healthy enough to make a run this season? Can the men or women reach the NCAA tournament, something that at least one of them has done every year since 1989?

There are other teams and athletes and storylines.

Aside from lacrosse, tennis and water polo, no spring team has had a home event yet, something that begins to change this weekend with softball and rowing.

Each season at Princeton has its own feel to it. The fall begins with hot weather and the promise of a new, uncertain academic year. The winter is a marathon, with events running from late October until this time.

As for the spring, it's something of a sprint to the finish. The weather starts out unpredictably and gets steadily better. Eventually, there will be events on days when it'll be sunny and 70 or 80, and the games will almost feel like they're being played on the beach.

Between now and then, Princeton teams have a lot that can be accomplished. History, for instance, should the spring yield at least three more Ivy championships.

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