Monday, November 16, 2015

As The Princeton Women Make History

As Princeton women's athletics continues its historic run through the autumn of 2015, TigerBlog would like to start with a hunch of his.

TB has a hunch that come the end of the current academic year, a pretty strong case will be able to be made that the best player across every sport in the Ivy League not to earn first-team All-Ivy honors in his or her sport will be Mimi Asom.

Or a shortstick defensive middie in men's lacrosse, but that's another story.

Let's get back to Asom, a freshman on the Princeton women's soccer team.

Asom was the unanimous Ivy League Rookie of the Year but was just a second-team All-Ivy selection this fall, despite being a must-see, dominate-the-competition, relentless force for the undefeated Ivy champion. Perhaps there could have been another award, something like "most likely to simply overwhelm the other team" award.

Of course, for that one, she might have had to share it with Tyler Lussi, her teammate.

Lussi and Asom are a remarkable duo for the Princeton women's soccer team. They have given the Tigers two legitimate, consistent finishers in a sport where a team with one can go a long way.

As such, the women's soccer season continues, after Asom and Lussi both scored twice each to lead Princeton past Boston College 4-2 Saturday night in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Princeton, now 14-3-1, was simply the better team, better than its opponent from the ACC, which has six of the top 20 teams in the country, including four of the top eight.

The win by the women's soccer team was part of a remarkable weekend for Princeton's fall women's teams, who are putting together one of the greatest seasons in Ivy history.

There are four Ivy League fall sports for women - cross country, soccer, field hockey and volleyball. Princeton has won the championship in all four.

That has never happened before. No other Ivy school has ever swept the league titles for one gender in one season.

Until this past weekend, that is.

Princeton had already, well, "run" away from the league in women's cross country, winning Heps by 23 points. Then the women's soccer team clinched its championship. Then the field hockey team did.

Like the women's soccer team, Princeton wasn't content just to be there in field hockey or cross country either.

The field hockey team was a big underdog Saturday to Maryland in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, but that didn't matter. Princeton was led by another dynamic freshman, Sophia Tornetta, who scored twice as the Tigers advanced with a 3-1 win.

Princeton had lost five straight to Maryland, including a 3-0 game earlier this season. So what. This one was all Tigers, who led 2-0 at the half and 3-0 before a late Terps goal.

And even after the 5-0 loss to Syracuse yesterday, Princeton's field hockey season ended with a 7-0 Ivy record and spot in the NCAA quarterfinals. In other words, it was a fairly typical season - one that pretty much every other school in the league would dream about, but something that Princeton does more often than not (literally, as Princeton made its 14th trip to the quarterfinals).

Even the women's cross country team won Saturday, without even competing. Princeton, who had finished third in a windy NCAA regional on West Windsor fields Friday, earned one of the 13 at-large bids to the NCAA championships in Louisville this coming weekend, joining the 18 automatic qualifiers who finished first or second in the nine regions.

Princeton's Emily de La Bruyere and Lizzie Bird had finished 2-3 individually in Friday's race.

And then there was the women's volleyball team.

If the other three fall champions dominated from start to finish this season, the women's volleyball team did it the hard way.

The Tigers started the season 0-3 in the league and then became the first team to climb out of such a hole to win an Ivy League championship. That would be in any sport, any gender.

Princeton won eight of its next nine after the 0-3 start to get to 8-4 heading into the weekend, one back of Harvard. The Tigers knew the likeliest path to the championship involved a sweep at Cornell and Columbia and a Harvard loss at Yale Friday night.

A win at Cornell? Check. A Harvard loss at Yale? Check.

That left Princeton needing a win over Columbia Saturday night to guarantee at least a share. Complicating the matter was Dartmouth, who was also tied with Princeton and Harvard.

What happened during the next two hours was fairly dramatic. Princeton and Harvard won Game 1. Dartmouth lost Game 1 at Yale, who would have created a four-way tie with a win and losses by Princeton and Harvard.

Then Princeton and Harvard lost Game 2 (Harvard was at Brown) while Dartmouth won. What next?

Harvard won Games 3 and 4, eliminating Yale and clinching at least a share of the title. Would it be an outright title? A shared title, and if so, would it be two teams or three?

Princeton won Game 3 as well, though it wasn't easy. The Tigers led 23-16, only to see Columbia storm back to tie it at 24-24. Then it went back and forth, until Princeton won 29-27.

Then it was Game 4. Princeton led. Columbia led. Princeton led. Columbia led. Columbia had a game ball. Princeton came back, saved that, and closed out the match with a 26-24 win.

Dartmouth would lose 15-13 in Game 5 to Yale, leaving Princeton and Harvard as co-champions. They will meet in a playoff this coming weekend to determine who gets the automatic NCAA bid.

No matter what happens there, Princeton women's volleyball has had an amazing last few weeks. As recently as Oct. 17, Princeton was 3-4 in the league.

Then it was a 7-0 sprint through the league the second time around, avenging all four losses along the way.

And giving Princeton women their sweep of the four Ivy League championships.

And as a salute to the Tigers, TigerBlog asks you to click HERE


Anonymous said...

Nice read. Good for you. Nice touch with tribute And at 4:30AM+ yet!

Anonymous said...

Basketball fans like to analyze the sources of home court advantage. Surely the most important is the subjective nature of basketball officiating, headlined by the critical blocking/charging decision. The second most important is probably the familiarity of the home team with the shooting background behind the baskets. No team in college basketball benefits from this phenomenon more than Princeton, as evidenced by the sharply lower shooting percentages of our opponents at Jadwin compared to when they play at home.

Given that preamble, it's a little surprising to observe that volleyball exhibits such a strong home court advantage with no personal fouls or shooting backgrounds. This year, Yale was 7-0 at home and 2-5 on the road. Princeton was 6-1 at home and 4-3 on the road. TB, do you know what tie-breaker rule situated the playoff match at Harvard?

In any event, Princeton can take some comfort from 2014, when co-champion Harvard swept Yale during the regular season. Then the Bulldogs traveled to Cambridge for the playoff and won 3-0.

TigerBlog said...

TB believes that it came down to game scores against Dartmouth as the tiebreaker. Princeton's loss was 3-2. Harvard's loss was 3-1.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to mention earlier, nice job finding an old video of Kristen Holmes-Winn singing "I Am Woman."