Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Best Ever

So the academic year has ended, and the Class of 2017 has scattered.

Princeton's campus is quiet, or at least quieter, for the summer.

TigerBlog is frequently asked whether he has to work in the summer. The answer is yes. There is always something to do.

In fact, come August, when the events start up again - August 25 is the first athletic event, a women's soccer game at home against Monmouth - TigerBlog will again be amazed by how another summer has flown by and how many things there were to get done along the way.

And that he came up with something to write about every day. 

Of course, it's a tad too early to be looking ahead to the coming fall season.

When TigerBlog thinks back to the 2016-17 athletic year, he's going to think of the 11 Ivy League championship teams. He'll think of the field hockey run to the Final Four. He'll think of the different teams that were impacted by freshmen who made an immediate impact on Princeton Athletics  - especially Michael Sowers with men's lacrosse (not to mention the extraordinary seasons of seniors Gavin McBride and Zach Currier) and Matthew Kolodzik with wrestling.

He'll think about the extraordinary accomplishment of the men's basketball team, which was asked to do something no other team in Ivy League history ever had to do - go 16-0 to get to the NCAA tournament.

And the football team, the Ivy League champ with the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense. And the ridiculous year of John Lovett, who put up a season (like Currier) that will never be matched. Remember his numbers: 20 rushing touchdowns, 10 passing touchdowns, 26 receptions. Who will ever do that again?

TB will remember the men's hockey team's ECAC opening round series against Colgate, which Princeton won two games to one. He'll especially remember Game 2 of that series, when Princeton, after losing Game 1, avoided elimination by tying it with one second left and then winning it in OT.

It's one of the best games TB has ever seen. And then Game 3, which was another epic day from this past year, when Princeton gave up the first goal and then came back to win the game and series 2-1.

He'll also keep in mind the women's lacrosse team, especially its NCAA win over Cornell, its third straight over the Big Red, this time accomplishing it as torrential rain fell in a surreal way as the winning goal was scored. 

There were other big moments from the past year as well. There always are. It's one of the best parts of being at Princeton.

More than anything else, though, TigerBlog will remember 2016-17 as the year of the most loaded von Kienbusch Award ever.

As you know, Princeton had 10 finalists for the top female senior athlete. All 10 are among the most elite - or are the most elite - athletes ever to play their sport at Princeton.

It began to become obvious to TB and his Office of Athletic Communications colleagues a few years ago that this year was going to be unique. Each year, the OAC group talks about future Roper Trophy and von Kienbusch fields (who says athletic communications people aren't super cool?), and it was obvious that 2017 had some big potential.

First, there were the original members of the Class of 2017. Then there were three who took off to train for the Olympics who would come back as members of the Class of 2017.

The result was what you saw at the banquet before Reunions. That would be the best von Kienbusch field ever.

TigerBlog has always thought that the three greatest male athletes in Princeton history are Hobey Baker, Dick Kazmaier and Bill Bradley. He'd go in this order, by the way: Bradley, Baker, Kazmaier.

As for the women, it's been a bit more uncertain.

He's mentioned Caroline Lind, the two-time Olympic gold medal winning rower. He's mentioned Rachael Becker, from field hockey and lacrosse. Maybe Niveen Rasheed from basketball can be in the conversation. There are certainly others. TigerBlog does not mean to slight anyone.

If you wanted to make a top 25 - hey, maybe that's a summer project? - the Class of 2017 would be well represented.

If you wanted to make a top 1?

Well, TigerBlog would have to go with Ashleigh Johnson.

And yes, maybe she's getting extra credit for her gold medal at the Olympics and the two times she was named the top player in the world at her sport. Or maybe it's just about the eye test.

If you've ever seen Johnson play - at Princeton or in the Olympics or anywhere - you probably could sum her up in one word: "wow."

As in "wow, how can she tread water like that and then explode to get a ball that's rocketing to the top corner of the goal?"

When you're in athletic communications, you don't always want to deal in superlatives. For starters, you don't want to overlook anyone. As TB says, he never means to slight anyone.

In Johnson's case, though, it's a little different. She is so extraordinary that, as TB wrote, her win in this incredible von Kienbusch field surprised no one.

So it's TB's opinion, and not an official Princeton position, that she is the greatest female athlete Princeton has ever seen.

And when you see the greatest, it's okay to point it out.

1 comment:

Paul Levy said...

Maybe she is good, but remember Emily Goodfellow '76 who won more varsity letters (12) than any other athlete in Princeton history, male or female? Or Bill Bradley or Dick Kazmaier??