Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Magic Number Of 48

It's possible that the best ending to a Princeton athletic event for the 2016-17 athletic year may have happened before Labor Day.

Come June, it's going to be hard to beat what happened Friday night when the women's soccer team played at Delaware.

Yeah, yeah. It was Game 3 of the season. No championship was on the line. It wasn't even a league game.

Still, Princeton did do something remarkable.

The Tigers and Blue Hens were scoreless until five minutes remained, when Delaware scored what figured to be the lone goal of the night. It certainly looked that way with four minutes left, three minutes left, two minutes left, one minute left, 30 seconds left.

Ah, but not so fast.

Junior Vanessa Gregoire, a first-team All-Ivy League selection a year ago, took the ball just outside the box as time was winding down and lifted one into the top left corner to tie it with just five seconds left. Her goal was a thing of beauty.

If you don't believe TigerBlog, you can see the highlight HERE.

That same clip continues a few seconds later with another beautiful goal, this time the game-winner by Tyler Lussi, with 2:57 left in the first OT.

Gregoire would also score again Sunday in the win over Howard that left Princeton at 4-0-0 on the young season.

Lussi scored two more goals in the game against Howard, giving her five on the season and giving her the magic number of 48 for her career.

What's so magical about it? Nobody who has ever played soccer at Princeton, male or female, has ever gotten there before.

The previous record at Princeton was 47, set in 2004 by Esmeralda Negron. Her 47th goal came in the NCAA quarterfinals and helped advance Princeton to the Final Four that year.

In fact, in the entire history of soccer at Princeton, only five players have ever reached 40 goals in a career - Lussi, Negron and Linda deBoer, who scored 41 before graduating in 1985, on the women's side and Steven Davidson (41, graduated in 1969) and Yuri Fishman (40, graduated in 1984).

For the women, deBoer's record stood for nine years. Negron's stood for 12. Davidson has had the men's record for 47 years now.

There are a lot of records at Princeton that have stood for a long time. Kevin Lowe has been the all-time leading scorer in men's lacrosse sine 1994. Crista Samaras has been the all-time leading scorer in women's lacrosse since 1999.

Sandi Bittler Leland has held the record for points in women's basketball since 1990. Of course, the men's record goes back even further, to Bill Bradley in 1965.

Negron still has the school record for points in a career with 112 - for now. Lussi is three back (two points for a goal, one for an assist in soccer) at 109.

How many goals can Lussi put up before the season ends?

The next big milestone is 50 goals, which only four Ivy League women's soccer players have ever reached. The all-time league record is 68, held by Harvard's Kelly Landry, from the 1980s. Can Lussi get that many? That would be asking a lot.

Lussi and Negron are similar players.

Both are lefties. Both have an incredible ability to turn nothing into something. Any ball in the box is a potential goal. Neither is the power shooter that Diana Matheson or Mimi Asom are, but Lussi and Negron just have the innate ability to put the ball into the net.

Princeton is home Friday night against Temple at 7. The Tigers won't be home again this month after that. In a scheduling oddity, Princeton will have played two home games in August and one in September.

The men will play four home games in September, including Thursday night, against St. John's.

The Ivy League opener for the women's team is Sept. 24 at Yale.

Princeton won the league championship last year with a 6-0-1 Ivy record and the defeated Boston College in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Lussi and Asom - who figures to make her own serious run at whatever number Lussi puts up - each scored twice in that game.

There's a long way to go between now and a possible return to the NCAA tournament for Princeton. Still, four games into the season, it's a good time to marvel at Tyler Lussi and her accomplishment.

It takes a special player to stand alone at the top of the record book at any sport at Princeton. To have scored more goals than any other player ever to play a sport at Princeton is extraordinary.

And that would be at the perfect word to describe Lussi's career at Princeton.


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