Friday, December 30, 2016

The Top Stories Of 2016 - And Wishes For A Great 2017

Welcome to the final entry of 2016.

This would be the 255th TigerBlog of the year. A year ago, there were 254. The year before that was 253. Going back to 2010, there have been two years with 255, three with 254 and two with 253.

As TigerBlog writes every business day, he figured that there had to be more business days in 2016 and 2011. Why? Because Christmas was a Sunday, which made Christmas Eve a Saturday, which made more business days.

Of course, that doesn't explain why 2012, a leap year, had two fewer blogs than 2011. TigerBlog can assure you he did not miss a day in 2012, or any other year, going back to 2008.

The record for blogs in a year belongs to 2009, with what figures to be an unbreakable 272. Why? Because those were the early days, when TB wasn't the only contributor, and there were a few days in there with multiple entries, as well as a few on Saturdays and Sundays.

Back then, TigerBlog's Office of Athletic Communications colleagues wrote a few of the entries themselves, often referring to themselves as "TigerBlog" as well. It got very confusing, and TB didn't want them to have to take on extra work anyway, so he just started doing the overwhelming majority himself. And even when someone else writes a guest entry these days, they write in the first person.

Speaking of 2011, TigerBlog went back to the last entry of that year to see what he'd written. At that time, TB was the interim women's basketball contact, and the Tigers had a game at Hofstra that he'd driven to the night before.

As he read the first few paragraphs, he remembered very clearly the drive up Route 1 and how awful the traffic was. Was that really five years ago? Can five years seem to zoom by so quickly?

That was five years ago. Five years from now? Miss TigerBlog will be a senior in college. Is that an eternity from now, or will it fly by? Or both?

Okay, philosophical thoughts aside, this is also Part II of the top stories of 2016 in Princeton Athletics. If you missed Part I, you can read it HERE.

Or, if you like, TigerBlog can summarize it for you:
* The No. 1 story of the year is Ashleigh Johnson's gold medal in water polo at the Rio Olympics, unless it doesn't count because Johnson's accomplishment wasn't a Princeton accomplishment. On the other hand, Johnson is a current Princeton athlete, so maybe it does. As TB said yesterday, Johnson is the second Princeton undergrad, along with Bill Bradley, to return to Princeton to compete after winning an Olympic gold medal. Decide for yourself if this should count on the Princeton list for 2016.
* Because of that, TigerBlog has either a top 10 or top 11 for this year
* TB went through the first five on that list yesterday, and here they were;
No. 11/10 (depending on if Johnson counts) - women's rowing wins Ivy title
No. 10/9 - softball wins Ivy championship series on the road
No. 9/8 - women's hockey wins the Ivy title and gets at NCAA at-large bid
No. 8/7 - the men's hockey team begins to turn it around
No. 7/6 - the wrestling team has a big year, indoors and outdoors

And that leaves the top five, or possibly numbers six through two, either way.

The interesting thing about these five stories is that they can really be ranked in any order. If TigerBlog asked 100 Princeton fans to vote on which of these would be the top of the list, he'd probably get a pretty even split, something that is pretty unique about this year's top stories.

Actually, TigerBlog put this to a test of sorts, asking his six OAC colleagues and Executive Associate AD Anthony Archbald to rank them. He found, as he suspected, little consensus. 

Anyway, here's the order that TigerBlog puts them in:

6/5 Peter Farrell, Susan Teeter announce their retirements
Peter Farrell and Susan Teeter? That's 72 years and 44 Ivy League championships won between them. Teeter, the longtime women's swimming and diving coach, announced her retirement effective at the end of the 2017 season, but she announced it earlier this month, which makes it a 2016 story. Teeter has led Princeton to 17 Ivy titles in her 33 years at Princeton, and she's also coached 22 All-Americas. Farrell announced his retirement in the spring after spending 39 years as the head coach of women's track and field and cross country. During that time, he won 27 Ivy titles and coached 55 All-Americas and 182 individual Ivy champs. More than their coaching resumes, Teeter and Farrell have influenced a few thousand or so athletes who have competed for them, and they have been legendary ambassadors of Princeton Athletics. 

5/4 The field hockey team reaches the Final Four
The field hockey season seemed to be over after back-to-back overtime losses to Harvard and Cornell late in the year. In fact, as it turned out, it hadn't even begun yet. First, Princeton finished the regular season with a big win over Penn. Then the Tigers got a second chance, with an NCAA tournament at-large bid, accomplished because of a strong non-league schedule and some big wins, including over Delaware. Princeton then made the most of this chance, defeating Penn State 2-1 at Penn State in the first round and then knocking off Virginia 3-2 on a goal with one second to play to reach the Final Four. Princeton's run ended with a 3-2 loss to Delaware on another late goal, and Delaware would then win the championship game as well. For Princeton, it was a tremendous way to end Year 1 under new head coach Carla Tagliente and top assistant Dina Rizzo.

4/3 The baseball team goes from seven wins to an Ivy title and the NCAA regionals
Princeton won seven games for the entire 2015 baseball season, which was the fewest in Division I. The 2016 Tigers won nearly twice that many in the Ivy league alone, going 13-7 to win the Gehrig Division by three games and to earn the host role in the Ivy League Championship Series. Princeton had to wait an extra week to play, as Dartmouth and Yale had to have a playoff to see who would be the Rolfe Division champ, which would turn out to be Yale. The Tigers and Bulldogs then split the first two games, and Princeton would fall behind 1-0 in the top of the first in Game 3. The game stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth, when Princeton scored two runs - on a single, a walk, a wild pitch, back-to-back hit batters, a strikeout and a wild pitch. Final score, 2-1 Princeton. With the Ivy League title salted away, Princeton then earned a spot in the NCAA regional at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

3/2 The women's basketball team again makes history
Princeton has accomplished a lot in women's basketball in recent years, with five Ivy League championships since 2010 and a perfect regular season and the first NCAA tournament win in program history in 2014-15. The 2015-16 Princeton women's basketball team still found a way to do something that had never been done before, not by Princeton or any other Ivy League team. Princeton finished an excruciating second in the league, losing a pair of two-point games to Ivy champ Penn, but none of that really mattered come the NCAA tournament selections, when Princeton earned an at-large bid. It was the first at-large bid in Ivy League basketball history - men's or women's - and as such it marked the first time ever that the Ivy League would get two bids to one NCAA basketball tournament, in either gender. For Princeton, it was the sixth NCAA tournament appearance in the last seven years.

2/1 An Ivy championship in football
It has long been TigerBlog's contention that there aren't too many more exciting football teams to watch than Princeton, with its innovative offense of using multiple quarterbacks and its head coach's willingness to take chances others don't. The 2016 Tigers took that to another level, adjusting the offense in new directions and coupling it with one of the best defenses the program has had in a long time. The result? An Ivy League championship. Princeton went 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the league to earn a share of the championship with Penn. For those who forgot, Princeton defeated Penn 28-0 in a completely dominating performance. The Tigers finished the season as the highest scoring Ivy team as well as the Ivy team that allowed the fewest points, in league games and all games. In Ivy games alone, Princeton scored 48 more points than the next best team and allowed 43 fewer points than the next best. In fact, the last time an Ivy team scored at least 250 points and allowed fewer than 75 (as Princeton did this year with 252 for and 74 against) was in 2002; the time before that was never. Princeton would have six first-team All-Ivy selections 18 total All-Ivy selections, two Bushnell Cup finalists, one Bushnell Cup winner, two All-Americas and one first-team All-America. 

1/Doesn't count - Ashleigh Johnson

And that's the list for this year. What will be on the list for next year? That's for 12 months from now.

In the meantime, have a very very happy, and safe, new year.

1 comment:

Glenn Adams '63 said...

Very much liked your rankings list of top Princeton sports stories of 2017. My only quibble would have been to place the field hockey finish above the football finish and thus move field hockey from 5/4 up to 2/1, behind only Ashleigh Johnson. My rationale is that a Final Four finish in a major sport is much more significant than an Ivy championship in any sport, even football. Glenn Adams '63