Monday, November 9, 2015


This was a fairly busy weekend for Princeton Athletics.

Among other things, the field hockey team won the game it needed to to get an outright Ivy title and automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. In overtime, no less.

The women's soccer team completed an unbeaten Ivy season and now awaits its own NCAA tournament selection. Will the Tigers get rewarded by playing at home?

The women's volleyball team continued its charge to the finish line with two more wins, including a massive on over Yale. As a result, the Tigers - who once were 0-3 in the league - enter the final weekend at 8-4, one game back of Harvard.

The men's water polo team repeated as CWPA Southern Division champ. The final saw the Tigers beat Johns Hopkins 16-12.

It wasn't all wins, or in the case of women's soccer a tie.

The men's hockey team lost twice, both by a single goal, at Cornell in the final minute and then at Colgate. Princeton gives every indication of being much improved in Year 2 under Ron Fogarty.

The women's hockey team also lost in the final minute Friday night to Cornell. The Tigers then came back to beat Colgate Saturday night.

There were other teams who competed too.

Men's soccer won at Penn. Football had a tough loss at Penn. Men's and women's tennis competed in the South.

With all that, though, the biggest story of the weekend had to be sprint football.

Princeton played its final game of the 2015 season Friday night against Chestnut Hill. TigerBlog saw the first meeting between the teams, in Week 1, the first sprint football game in Chestnut Hill history. That game ended up CHC 48, Princeton 13.

Since then, Princeton played three other games, against established CSFL veterans Army, Cornell and Penn. The final scores were 86-0, 52-18 and 75-12.

So with Chestnut Hill at Princeton Friday night, it figured to be more of the same, right, especially with Chestnut Hill at 2-2 on its first season.

This night, though, would be much, much different.

The first score that TigerBlog saw on @putigers_live (that's a plug for the in-game Twitter feed of @putigers; oh wait, that's another one) was 14-0 Princeton. That wasn't what TB was expecting.

Neither, apparently, was anyone else.

TigerBlog's phone started buzzing shortly after that. And kept buzzing.

By the time Princeton stretched its lead to 36-20 early in the fourth quarter, TigerBlog had heard from 12 people who either work at Princeton or used to work at Princeton. Was this really happening, they all wanted to know?

It looked like it might be the night. Princeton had lost 105 straight CSFL games, dating back to 1999. Most of those games were blowouts. Some were close. One was overtime.

This time, though, it felt different. Princeton was in the lead. Every time Chestnut Hill made a move, Princeton had an answer.

And then it turned, in a heartbeat. Two touchdowns and two two-point conversions tied it at 36-36. Then, with less than two minutes left, a Princeton fumble as it was driving for the winning points turned into an 85-yard fumble recovery for the winning TD.

Final score: Chestnut Hill 44, Princeton 36.

TigerBlog was crushed for the players and coaches. To lose like this was almost cruel.

It's not easy playing sprint football at Princeton. There are any number of reasons why the team struggles, none of which are the players' fault. The bottom line, though, is that competing isn't easy.

And so losing, week after week after week, always takes its toll. But for Princeton sprint football, the defining characteristic has always been the unwavering belief that next week is going to be the one. From TigerBlog's view, they play with great optimism.

The person who most personifies this is Sean Morey, the head coach. When TigerBlog talks to him, he gets the sense that he's more mystified as to why his team didn't win last week or the week before rather than resolved to the fact that the next loss is inevitable. And they all follow his lead.

It's really inspirational, actually.

That's why it would have been so great for the team to get a win. That's why it was so crushing that they come oh-so-close before losing.

As the game wore on Friday, TigerBlog began to believe. Well, not believe so much.

It was more hope than anything else. Hope that this would in fact be the night.

Of course it wouldn't be.

There are so many sports cliches about overcoming adversity and winning even when you lose. They've been played out so much that they've become trite.

In the case of Princeton sprint football, though, they have value.

This is a team that has come back week after week, against the longest of odds. Had they won Friday night, it would have been a feeling none of them ever would have forgotten.

It wasn't to be.

What it was was heartbreaking.

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