Thursday, January 31, 2013

What A Racket

Three young men holding four pizzas each walked into Jadwin Gym yesterday at 5 pm or so.

They were headed for the women's tennis match, one that would turn into a big win both for Princeton and for direct marketing.

About 27 hours earlier, women's assistant coach Sadhaf Fath peered around the corner during an OAC staff meeting and dropped off a flyer, printed on basic white copy paper, inviting everyone to the match, with the words "FREE PIZZA" in all caps.

As the young men with the pizzas made their way down to the courts on E level in Jadwin, they found themselves with a much-larger-than-normal crowd waiting for them.

Doing a little estimating, if 100 people come for the pizza and even a third stay for the match, then attendance has gone up.

The women's tennis team defeated Temple 6-1 yesterday in the dual meet opener for both the 2013 season and the career of head coach Laura Granville, who appears to be following the same marketing strategy of her predecessor, Megan Rose, who was famous for bringing bagels to matches.

Up next for the 73rd-ranked women's tennis team (the top 75 are ranked) is a trip this weekend to Akron to take on 52nd-ranked Missouri and the home team. There are also trips to Duke, Syracuse, Denver and Colorado and finally Loyola Marymount - and home matches against Rutgers, Seton Hall, Binghamton and DePaul - before the Ivy season begins March 30 against Penn.

By then, squash season will be long over.

The top three stories on this morning featured people holding rackets, and the tennis match was the third one in.

The first two were squash, after a hugely successful night for the men and women here at Jadwin, just one floor up from where the tennis match was going on.

Princeton is the top-ranked team in the country for both the men and the women, though that doesn't necessarily make both teams prohibitive favorites to run the table in the league or national championships. This year appears to be the most balanced year for squash on both sides in years.

Both of Princeton's teams beat Penn 9-0 last night, and that was a much bigger surprise on the women's side than the men's. The Quakers were ranked third in the women's poll, which means that the Tigers have now defeated No. 2 (Harvard) and No. 3 (Penn).

Next up is Yale this Saturday in New Haven at noon, for both the men and women. Yale is very, very tough at home, especially on the four-glass-walled court that will only be used for the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 matches for the men.

In addition, Yale defeated Princeton 5-4 in both men's and women's squash in the Ivy scrimmages back in November, so obviously nothing is certain.

On the women's side, Princeton and Yale are both unbeaten in the league. If there is a divide between the top four teams in the league, then Princeton would have seem to have a little more margin for error than Yale.

Should Yale win, the Bulldogs still have to play both Penn and Harvard, who has only one loss and would possibly be playing to force a three-way tie for the league title when it met the Bulldogs.

Should Princeton win, it would be 4-0 in the league with wins over the other top three schools and with matches against Brown, Columbia and Cornell remaining to play. Oh, and Trinity, but that of course has nothing to do with the Ivy race.

Meanwhile, on the men's side, the 9-0 win over Penn was accomplished without losing a single game.

The standings are the same for the men - Princeton and Yale are the lone unbeatens, and Harvard, with its loss to Princeton, has one loss. So does Cornell, a legitimate threat to beat one of the top teams as well.

After Saturday, Princeton has Cornell remaining. Yale has Harvard remaining. The winner in New Haven will have the inside track to the championship, or at least a share of it, or even a three-way piece of it.

This weekend will be the first trip to New Haven for the men's and women's squash teams. The second will next month for the national championships.

In the squash world, winning the Ivy title is like winning the SEC title in football.

The winners this weekend between Yale and Princeton will have taken a huge step in that direction.

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