Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Fall To Remember

What? No Twinkies? How will life go on?

No Twinkies? No soft yellow cake with the creamy inside? Possibly vanishing from America?

It seemed like a sure thing when TigerBlog read about it over the weekend. Now it appears that there might be hope for one of the most famous snack foods ever created, a 150-calorie, 4.5-fat-gram piece of heaven.

TigerBlog has probably eaten 100 Yodels for every Twinkie he's eaten in his life and probably 50,000 M&Ms for every Twinkie.

Hey, it's not all bad: He's probably eaten 1,000 apples for every Twinkie.

Twinkies to TigerBlog are sort of like the NHL.

He knows millions of people love the NHL and he respects those who do. And TB likes it when he pays attention to it.

At the same time, he doesn't exactly miss the NHL now that it's on strike, and while he definitely likes them, if he goes the rest of his life without eating another Twinkie, he'll figure out a way to get by.

Besides, he'd take the trade-off between no Twinkies for the rest of his life for the fall that Princeton Athletics recently completed.

Princeton has nine teams that compete in the fall as their primary season. Of those nine, seven play in the Ivy League - sprint football and men's water polo are not official Ivy sports.

Of the seven who compete in the Ivy League, three finished in first place, two finished in second and two finished in third.

Their combined Ivy League record? How about 31-9-2.

For the record, the three Ivy League champions were the field hockey team, the women's soccer team and the men's cross country team. Women's cross country and women's volleyball were second, and men's soccer and football were third (and so, for that matter, was men's water polo, who finished third at Easterns).

Looking beyond those two finishes, the men's soccer team still went 4-1-2 in the league, and it's only because of how strong Ivy men's soccer is that one league loss added up to a third-place finish.

And the football team? It went from 1-9 and 1-9 to 5-5 overall and went from 1-13 in the league the last two years to 4-3. The Tigers also beat Harvard in one of the greatest Ivy football games of all time and earned a bonfire by defeating Yale.

Even the sprint football team, which went winless again, had a very, very competitive fall, with almost no blowout losses and with a legitimate chance to win a few games. In fact, the sprint team was left feeling frustrated that it let a few get away, not to mention the heartbreak of falling in overtime to Post.

Princeton has a 13-point lead in the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship standings. A year ago, Princeton was in fifth place after the fall, 5.5 points out of first.

When the final horn sounded at field hockey Sunday, Princeton had extended its streak of having at least one team or individual national champion to 42 straight years. This was the first time in that streak that Princeton produced a national champion in the fall.

The three highlights of the fall came from the league champions.

The men's cross country team came past the finish line the first time at the Heps championships in a bunched field that looked like it would be tough to sort out at the end. When the runners came back around for the final time, it was all Orange and Black, led by individual champion Chris Bendtsen.

The result was a huge party on Princeton's West Windsor Fields, on a day where the women's second-place finish was a strong accomplishment as well. The men went on to an 11th place finish at the NCAA championships for the program's best finish ever.

Then there were the two teams that had perfect Ivy seasons.

The women's soccer team went 7-0-0 in the league, outscoring its opponents 20-7 in the seven games. Princeton, led by Ivy Player of the Year Jen Hoy, had a 12-game winning streak after a 2-3-1 start, with the 12th win by a 2-1 count at West Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA tournament before the run ended in Utah against Marquette.

For head coach Julie Shackford, it was the second-best team in her 18 seasons here, behind only the 2004 Final Four team - and this one was close. It was a perfect blend of a star, some other frontline players, the great depth that was necessary after six players went out with injuries and overwhelming intangibles like great team chemistry and determination.

As for field hockey, what else can be said?

Princeton entered the year with a chance to win the first NCAA championship in program history and did just that, earning it in dramatic fashion this past weekend with wins over Maryland and North Carolina, from (for now) the ACC, which had produced the previous 11 NCAA champs.

The field hockey championship would fittingly be the final event of the fall of 2012 for Princeton Athletics.

It's really hard to ask for much more than Princeton's teams produced.

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