Friday, May 12, 2017

Ivy Titles, And Some Other Thoughts

TigerBlog has a lot on his mind these days.

He can share some of it with you now.

* Double figures again

If you ask TigerBlog before each academic year what he'd like to see out of Princeton Athletics, it's to reach double figures in Ivy League championships. This is something that only two schools - Princeton and Harvard - have ever done, and Princeton had done it 23 times prior to the start of this academic season, to 10 for Harvard.

You can add one to each for 2016-17. That makes the all-time score Princeton 24, Harvard 11, everyone else 0. The all-time total number of Ivy League championships right now sits at Princeton 462, Harvard 412, nobody else more than 228.

Princeton's 10 Ivy League champions for the academic year are: football, women's volleyball, men's fencing, women's fencing, men's basketball, men's indoor track and field, women's golf, women's lacrosse, men's outdoor track and field and softball.

* More on double figures

As a follow-up to the first item, the 10 Ivy titles that Princeton has won this year includes both football and men's basketball. TigerBlog has often wondered what the average Princeton Athletics fan thinks. Would they rather have double figures in Ivy titles or five Ivy title if two of them were football and men's basketball.

TigerBlog loves the concept of broad-based athletic participation. It's one of the things that has kept him at Princeton all these years. He loves having 37 teams, all different kinds of athletes, all different kind of team sub-cultures.

At the same time, he recognizes - and has heard directly - that many people value championships in men's basketball and football over quantity.

Well, this is the academic year for everyone, then. This is the first time Princeton has ever won football and men's basketball and reached double figures in Ivy titles in the same year.

* The last three Ivy titles

There are 33 official Ivy League sports, and 30 of them have awarded championships for the 2016-17 academic year. The last three will be earned Sunday, as the men's heavyweight and lightweight rowing teams compete at the Eastern Sprints in Worcester and the women's open rows at the Ivy championships in Pennsauken.

* Weapons of Mass Construction

If you didn't see the Weapons of Mass Construction video on the website, you can see it HERE. A special mention goes to TigerBlog's colleague John Bullis, who filmed the video - and also participated in the project when not filming.

It's easy to stand there with a camera and point it at the people who are working hard. It's a little different to put down the camera at one point and pick up a sledgehammer.

* Olivia Hompe is a Tewaaraton finalist

Olivia Hompe is one of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given annually to the top player in college lacrosse. Hompe has had a ridiculous year,  setting the Princeton single-season record for points and goals and breaking the career records for points and goals.

Hompe is the fifth Princeton player to be a finalist. Can you name the other four? One of them won it, and she was a finalist twice. The others were finalists once. TB will give you the answer shortly.

* NCAA women's lacrosse at Princeton this weekend

In case you forgot, it will be Notre Dame against Cornell tonight at 7 on Sherrerd Field in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Princeton, who received a first-round bye as the No. 5 seed in the tournament, will take on the winner Sunday at 1.

Princeton is 18-3 all-time in NCAA tournament games in Princeton. This one will not be easy, no matter who wins tonight. Cornell has already lost twice to Princeton this year, and it's always difficult to beat a team three times in a season. 

Notre Dame lost to Princeton at Princeton earlier this season, which means that Notre Dame 1) is familiar with this trip, 2) knows what to expect from the Tigers should they play them again and 3) would be, like Cornell, happy to have another shot at a team to whom it has already lost.

* TB was right

TigerBlog was right. Neither Zach Currier nor Michael Sowers made the list of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy on the men's side. Both were on the list of 25 players that was trimmed to five yesterday.

TB is also right that Currier is the best player in college lacrosse right now. Finalist or not. 

This isn't a knock on the finalists. They're all great players. TigerBlog has liked Yale's Ben Reeves from Day 1. Reeves is like a lefthanded Kevin Lowe, the all-time scoring leader at Princeton, and that's saying a lot. TigerBlog has nothing bad to say about any of the other four - Connor Fields of Albany, Trevor Baptiste of Denver, Matt Rambo of Maryland, Pat Spencer of Loyola.

And he understands that Princeton didn't reach the NCAA tournament, which worked against Currier. It's why TB was so sure that neither Princeton player would be among the final five.

Still, TigerBlog is pretty sure that nobody will ever match the season that Currier just had.

And if you're going to give an award for someone who had the best season in college lacrosse in 2017, well, then TigerBlog will forever believe that the winner should have been Zach Currier, by whatever definition you want to use - best player, most valuable player, best season.

It's not even close.

* By the way

TigerBlog thought before he saw the NCAA draw that this was the year Maryland would end its long NCAA men's lacrosse championship drought. Then he saw two things - the draw and Ohio State. Now he's not as certain.

If he had to pick one team that is the surest thing to get to the Final Four, it would be Ohio State. He also thinks Denver will be there. He thinks Syracuse is vulnerable but will figure out a way to win two close games to get to Foxboro. And that leaves the Maryland-North Carolina-Albany group. TigerBlog could see any of those three getting through and going all the way for that matter.

Ask him to pick one of those three, and he'll still go with Maryland. The Terps are the most complete team, and the most experienced.

For the final, he'll go with Maryland-Ohio State. For the winner, he'll go with Ohio State. No. Maryland. No. Ohio State. Hmmm.

* Trivia answer

Olivia Hompe is actually Princeton's first Tewaaraton finalist since 2005, when Lindsey Biles made the list. Princeton's other finalists were: Julie Shaner in 2001 (the first year of the trophy), Rachael Becker in 2002 and 2003 (she was the winner in 2003) and Theresa Sherry in 2004.

* And finally ...

As you may have heard, this Sunday is Mothers' Day. TigerBlog would like to wish the best to moms of Tigers everywhere.

TigerBlog has seen mothers at sporting events from the littlest of little kids all the way through college. Some, of course, have been overbearing helicopter moms. Most are just nice and friendly and very supportive of their kids, their kids' teammates, their kids' coaches, everything.

They are a vital part of what goes on at Princeton. They do a lot of the behind-the-scenes things that you don't always see. They bring a lot of foundation to the programs.

And, much like their kids, they also make friendships that start here for four years and then last a lifetime.

So the best to all of you out there come Sunday. And thanks for all you do.

As for TigerBlog, this will be the 23rd Mothers' Day to go by since MotherBlog passed away. He'll be thinking about her, as he does every day, wondering what she would have been like at age 77, what kind of grandmother she'd have made, what direction her life would have taken had she lived.

As he typed that last paragraph, he smiled and felt sad, both at the same time.

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