Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tuesday Afternoon At Bedford

The very nice lady crossed paths with TigerBlog for the first time in Caldwell Field House.

About two minutes later, they ran into each other again, this time on the steps down to C level in Jadwin Gym.

TigerBlog was on his way to play squash, and the nice lady was on her way to the Zanfrini Room, where she and her group were going to eat lunch and kill off about two hours. When they crossed paths the third time, TB joked that if she really wanted something exciting to do in the meantime, she should come watch the squash match.

Which she did. For a few points, anyway. Then TB and his partner invited her to go to the next court and watch Princeton's two most recent men's tennis coaches, Billy Pate and Glen Michibata, play in what TB called "the varsity match."

So the nice lady did. And when she came back, she mentioned that it took her about two seconds to realize that Pate and Michibata were much better players.

When TB's match was over, he walked back to the locker room past the Zanfrini Room, and he ducked his head in to thank her for coming to watch. At that point, the very nice lady offered TB lunch, a good-looking chicken/pasta/salad combination that he might have accepted had he not brought his own lunch.

All in all, this woman whom TB had never before couldn't have been nicer to him. Then, about three hours later, TB rooted against her.

The woman was Missy Meharg, the head coach of the two-time defending NCAA field hockey champion Maryland Terrapins. Meharg and her team were in Princeton to take on the Tigers in a late afternoon game, and the Terps made Jadwin their home for the middle of the day after a walkthrough pregame.

Princeton began the day ranked third to Maryland's fourth, and both moved down one spot when the new rankings were posted in midday. Still, this was clearly a matchup of two of the nation's very best programs.

Unfortunately, the rain lingered in the area longer than the forecast said it would, something that kept the crowd smaller than it otherwise might have been, though there was still a nice-sized, and enthusiastic, turnout.

And the game they saw was a great one.

Princeton scored first, and then Maryland scored the next two to go up 2-1 at the half. The Tigers would draw even on Kathleen Sharkey's rocket with eight minutes gone in the second half, the game-winner came from Sydney Kirby with 20 minutes to play.

Tiger goalie Christina Maida made six saves, several of which were spectacular.

TigerBlog has seen far less field hockey than he has soccer, and he has very little feel for the intricacies of the game.

What was obvious, though, was that Princeton-Maryland had a little more intensity and skill than a regular game.

It had something of a playoff feel to it, even if it was just the second day of October.

It was also obvious that Bedford Field is a great place to watch a game, even if the project isn't completed. Once it is, the facility will be even more impressive.

And the turf? It looks spectacular, and it obviously plays really fast.

The combination of the field and the quality of players on it resulted in a game played at a very fast tempo, and it seemed like both teams were constantly attacking and countering.

Princeton is now 9-1 on the year, with its lone loss a 2-0 decision to No. 1 Syracuse. The drama certainly figures to build as the rest of the season plays out.

Princeton is a big draw in field hockey now because of the presence of its Olympians.

It wasn't until after the game that TB put two and two together and realized that Meharg had been the color commentator for NBC on its Olympic field hockey coverage. He remembered that she came across as a nice person during those telecasts, and certainly nothing happened at Jadwin Gym to make TB think any different.

In fact, she seemed like very easy coach to root for in a field hockey game.

Only TB wasn't doing that yesterday.

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