Monday, May 13, 2013

Finding Consolation

TigerBlog turned on the women's lacrosse videostream Friday evening just in time to see a disallowed Princeton goal and an over-the-back call on a draw control that took possession away from the Tigers when they needed it most.

TB isn't saying either was a bad call. Far from it.

What he's saying is that Princeton's 10-9 loss to Duke in the opening round of the NCAA tournament was obviously a tough one, and the finality of such a loss in the postseason is always cruel.

Almost nothing separated Princeton and Duke Friday night, other than the fact Duke got to move on and Princeton had its season ended abruptly after the charging call on the Princeton non-goal in the first OT and then the turnover on the draw control that led to the only possession of the sudden-death part of overtime, as the Blue Devils cashed it in for the game-winner.

Duke is still playing, after having doubled-up Navy 10-5 in the second round to advance to a quarterfinal meeting with No. 1 Maryland. Princeton, clearly Duke's equal, got to come home after the loss.

It's not an easy way for a season to come to a close. In fact it's downright harsh.

It's also the reality of the NCAA tournament, and TB has seen it so many times, from both sides.

TigerBog has been in both lockerrooms at those moments, and the 180-degree change in emotions stems from a 1-degree separation between the teams during the game. It comes as little consolation at that moment that it was a great game or that it was a great season. In the moment, it just stings.

Another Princeton team that lost in the NCAA tournament Friday had a wildly different emotional experience.

TigerBlog can't think of any other NCAA tournament that has a consolation round other than the water polo tournaments. In the case of the Princeton women's water polo team this weekend, there was all kinds of consolation after losing the first game.

Princeton played a close game against third-seeded UCLA Friday in the quarterfinal round before falling 8-6. After that, it was a win over Iona in the first consolation game and then an OT win over fifth-seeded UC San Diego yesterday for fifth place.

Princeton's Ashleigh Johnson broke the tournament record for saves with 38, including 14 yesterday in the win over UC San Diego.

USC won the title 10-9 over Stanford in the longest game in NCAA championship history, as it went through the two play-it-out overtimes and then into the third sudden death overtime.

TB also doesn't understand why the team that won its first game and lost its next two gets to be fourth and the team that loses its first and wins its next two gets to be fifth.

Still, Princeton came home with a 2-1 record in an eight-team field that included five teams from California plus one from Hawaii.

Princeton water polo, both the men and women (both coached by Luis Nicoloa and Derek Ellingson), is on a tremendous run in the last few years, and their best moments have come in the consolation rounds, which don't exist in other sports. The men have twice finished third, while the women have now gone 3-1 in the consolation rounds the last two years.

The golf championships don't quite have consolation rounds per se, but they do have a format that allows individuals to continue to advance beyond when their team is eliminated. That's something of a consolation, no?

Princeton's Kelly Shon, the Ivy League champion, played three rounds at Auburn this weekend knowing that if she finished among the top two individuals after the players from the eight teams that would advance that she would earn a spot in the NCAA finals May 21-24 at Georgia.

It's a tough way to play, because it's hard to know who the competition is from minute to minute, unless it's clear that the players nearest to you are also there as individuals.

Shon shot a 71-68-70 to go seven-under and finish second overall, eliminating any of the suspense. Shon's bid to the NCAA finals is Princeton's second and first since Mary Moan in 1997.

It's a huge accomplishment for Shon and for the Princeton program.

And those were some of the headlines from Princeton's weekend.

Consolation for some.

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