Monday, November 12, 2012

How Was Your Weekend?

How was your weekend?

At Princeton Athletics, it couldn't have gone much better. Actually, had TigerBlog been asked last week to script out the best-case scenario weekend, he probably wouldn't have dared to ask for everything that happened.

Princeton had one of those weekends that don't come around too often and therefore demand to be appreciated immediately. TB, who prides himself on having a reasonably good memory, can't remember a weekend that had as many big events go well for the Tigers.

Perhaps there have been others in the quarter-century that TB has been paying close attention and he just doesn't remember off the top of his head.

Yes, there have been times when there have been a huge win by one team and some nice performances by others. This weekend, though, was extraordinary across the board.

Between Friday and Sunday, Princeton teams played 13 games. The record? How about 10-2-1?

It's not just the record, though. It's the significance of the outcomes.

Regardless of any kind of championship implications, a win over Cornell in men's hockey is always a big deal. This past Friday night, Princeton got out to a 2-0 lead over the No. 4 Big Red, fell behind 3-0 as the Big Red scored three goals in a 4:51 stretch of the third and then pulled it out with three goals in a 4:52 stretch of its own. It was a very well-played, well-dramatic game, the kind that sticks out over the course of the long season.

This weekend? That's not even in the top three of wins.

Hockey - the men's and women's on ice variety combined - put together a 3-0-1 weekend after being a combined 2-4-1 for the young season prior to that.

Dartmouth, by the way, is the only remaining undefeated in Division I men's hockey now. Cornell had been the other before its loss to Princeton, and the Tigers now find themselves off to a great 2-0 start in the ECAC.

As far as hockey at Princeton goes, though, this weekend belonged to the one that doesn't play on ice or with a puck. The field hockey team shut out Drexel 5-0 and then came from down 1-0 and 2-1 to knock off Virginia 5-2 and advance to the NCAA Final Four.

Your field in Norfolk next weekend will have Princeton play Maryland in a rematch of a game the Tigers won 3-2 during the regular season while Syracuse will take on North Carolina Friday, with the final Sunday.

Each of the four teams appears to have a reasonable chance in a highly balanced field. Syracuse has given Princeton and Carolina their only losses, but the Orange lost to UMass and Connecticut, whom Princeton defeated during the regular season and Maryland just defeated to reach the Final Four.

Long before the NCAA tournament started, this was already a special year for the Tigers, with three members of the U.S. Olympic Team and a fourth member of the national team back on campus. Princeton destroyed the Ivy League, going 7-0-0 and outscoring its opponents 45-1 in league games, but this was a team that had to be thinking of at least reaching this level and seeing if this could be the first time Princeton wins it all.

Let's see. What else happened this weekend? Oh yes, women's soccer.

Every great Princeton women's soccer team will be measured against the 2004 team that reached the NCAA Final Four, going 19-3 in the process. Clearly, that is the greatest team in program history.

Now, though, there is the 2012 team, which has accomplished something that the 2004 team, or any other women's soccer team in school history, did not do.

When Princeton defeated West Virginia (who went undefeated in the Big 12 during the regular season) 2-1 in Morgantown Saturday, it marked the first time in program history that the Tigers had won an NCAA tournament game away from the Princeton campus. Lynessa McGee and Jen Hoy scored to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead; for Hoy, it was her 18th of the season, two off current assistant coach Esmeralda Negron's single-season school record.

Princeton's reward is a trip to Utah to play Marquette, who has given up 12 goals all year and is ranked as high as second nationally in one poll.

Princeton is now 14-3-1 after having won 12 straight, the second-longest winning streak in school history. The 2012 team, which went 7-0-0 in the league, can make the claim of being the second-best team in program history - and still has a chance to make a run at No. 1.

What else is TB missing?

Oh yeah, football.

Princeton trailed Yale 7-0 after the opening drive of the game, but the Bulldogs would not score again as Princeton won 29-7. With Penn's win over Harvard and Dartmouth's loss to Brown, Princeton finds itself in the shocking position of playing for a share of the Ivy League title in the season finale this weekend at home against Dartmouth.

Penn has already clinched a share, but the Quakers lost their starting quarterback Billy Ragone to a brutal ankle injury in the win over Harvard. Minus Ragone and off the hangover of the huge win over the Crimson, Penn travels to Cornell to take on a Big Red team that. as Princeton knows all too well, is tough at home and can put up a ton of points.

Should Cornell win, then Princeton, Harvard or both would get a share of the league title with a win. Coming off of back-to-back 1-9 seasons, it's a remarkable accomplishment for the program.

There was more. The men's soccer team won to finish third in the league. Women's volleyball lost twice - but the Tigers still finished second in the league.

And the basketball teams both opened with nice road wins. And the men's cross country team qualified for the NCAA championships.

This weekend?

It was spectacular for Princeton Athletics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I so love your upbeat, positive spin on everything!