Friday, August 23, 2019

One More Quiet Weekend

TigerBlog spent a little time going through Google analytics yesterday and learned some interesting things, as always.

In the last 12 months, there have been 111 pages on that have been viewed at least 10,000 times. That's pages, so it includes things like clicking on, say, the composite schedule or the main football page.

There were 202 pages that were viewed at least 5,000 times. There were 927 that were viewed at least 1,000 times, which would have been 928 if one more person had looked at the football roster.

For pages that were viewed at least 100 times, the number is 2,336. That's a lot, no? 

The most viewed actual story of the last 12 months? And the most viewed game story? Any guesses?

TB played this game with bios a few months ago. When he went back to look, he saw that there were two Princeton athletes whose bios were viewed at least 10,000 times. Those two are wrestler Patrick Glory (10,237) and men's lacrosse player Michael Sowers (10,190).

The top five athlete bios were those two, followed by John Lovett (not surprising), Bella Alarie (also not surprising) and Patrick Brucki (also not surprising). Matthew Kolodzik was sixth, leaving three wrestlers in the top six.

By the way, there were 341 athletes whose bios were viewed at least 1,000 times.

Oh, and the answers to the questions TB asked are the story when Carla Berube was hired as head women's basketball coach (9,453) and the Princeton's win over Penn to finish its first perfect football season in 54 years (4,517).

Anyway, that's some fun with analytics. 

What else do you want for today? It's the end of the quiet times.

Welcome to the last weekend without a Princeton athletic event for quite awhile. In fact, you're going to have to go all the way until January and the break for first semester exams to find another weekend that will have an empty schedule.

TigerBlog has spent his entire career, dating back in fact to when he was still in college, working on weekends. He has never, ever had a job where he had to be there at 9 and worked until 5, with an hour for lunch, Monday through Friday.

He doesn't know any different. There have been time where he's wondered what that would actually be like. He's even asked his friends who work what would be considered more traditional hours how that works, and he can't really imagine it.

There are games to cover, and they are played on the weekends for the most part. It's just how it is.

Princeton averages around 700 athletic events per year. That's a lot of events, with a lot of moving parts.

More than half of those are played away from Princeton, requiring buses or planes, hotels, meals and everything like that. The ones that are played at Princeton require all kinds of other things, like refs, facilities, fans, stats and everything like that.

Wherever they're played, they require uniforms, stories, athletic trainers, and, well, everything like that.

TB has told this story before, but when he first started out in the newspaper business (that was nearly 40 years ago already), he always said he'd do it for one more year and then get a "real" job. Then one year folded into another and another, and each time one began, he said the same thing. One more year, and then a real job.

Anyway, he's still doing it.

When any new year rolls around, there's always a sense of the excitement that comes with working in athletics. If that ever goes, you know you're in the wrong profession.

Event No. 1 for 2019-20 will be a women's soccer game a week from today at St. Joe's, followed two days later by the first home event of the year, against Boston College. That game a week from Sunday will be played on Sept. 1.


Speaking of September,  there will be 50 Princeton athletic events in the month. Yeah, there's no real easing into anything.

So enjoy the last weekend for awhile without any Princeton games. Do summer things.

After all, the next time there's one of these, it figures to be a lot colder.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


TigerBlog received a request from a media outlet yesterday for any pictures he has of the first football game.

This is not the first time this fall this request has been made, and it certainly won't be the last. Not with Princeton's role as one of the two "founding fathers" of the sport of football, along with Rutgers, who played the first game back on Nov. 6, 1869.

The 2019 season is the 150th anniversary season of college football, and since college football predates professional football by more than five decades, it's really the 150th anniversary of the formalization of what is America's most popular sport.

And it started with Princeton and Rutgers.

Princeton didn't have a coach back then. In fact, it would be nearly 30 years before an official coach would be listed.

For those first few years, Princeton was listed as having captains. The captain of the first team was named William Gummere.

If you don't know the name, here's a little bio information on him. First, how old was he when he captained that first Princeton team?

How about 17?

He graduated a year later at the age of 18 and then studied law - in his father's law office. From there he ended up spending nearly 40 years on the New Jersey Supreme Court, the last 32 of which he spent as Chief Justice.

At least that's what it says on Wikipedia, so it must be true, right?

One of the pictures that TB has in a folder entitled "First Football Game" is of Gummere at Princeton. Here is it:
When TB first saw that picture, it made him think of a recently graduated Princeton athlete:

They could be twins, right? Well, maybe not twins, since Gummere died in 1933, or 63 years before his doppelganger was born.

The Princeton athlete, by the way, is former men's lacrosse player Emmet Cordrey, who graduated this past June. Cordrey had a huge senior year, with 30 goals and 19 assists for 49 points, after having 13 points for his career prior to the 2019 season.

Meanwhile, back at Princeton football, today is reporting day for the 2019 team. Included will be individual pictures and filming for the videoboard.

The first practice for the team will be Saturday. Opening day is Sept. 21 against Butler, with kickoff at Princeton Stadium at 5.

This season is noteworthy because of the 150th piece, which is another example of the obsession with round numbers that Fort Wayne sportscaster John Nolan spoke about when he did some work for Princeton. The 2019 Tigers will play a game at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9 against Dartmouth as part of that 150th celebration. Dartmouth went 9-1 a year ago, with only a 14-9 loss to Princeton in an epic game.

By the way, you can go to (or click HERE) for much more on that game and the whole 150th celebration.

It's always good to be a major part of something this historic, and it's a great opportunity to celebrate the long history of a program that has won 28 national championships and 12 Ivy League titles.

At the same time, there's the matter of the season about to be played. It's still the same 10-game schedule, with the same goal as last year.

The 2018 Tigers went 10-0, as you might recall, giving Princeton its first perfect season in 54 years and its third Ivy League championship in six years. There are big questions for Princeton heading into 2019, such as who will take over for John Lovett, the two-time Bushnell Cup-winning quarterback, and Stephen Carlson and Jesper Horsted, the touchdown machines at wide receiver. All three of them are currently fighting for NFL roster spots.

Princeton was picked third in the Ivy League preseason poll, behind Yale and Dartmouth. There are some early dates to circle on the schedule, most notably the Oct. 5 home game against Columbia.
Despite probably having the most injuries of any team in the league, the Lions went 6-4 a year ago, tying with Penn and Yale for fourth place, behind Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard. The Ivy opener between Princeton and Columbia is huge for both.

Of course, that all seemed pretty far away Tuesday night, when Princeton head football coach Bob Surace hosted his annual a-few-days-before-it-all-starts picnic. As with every other year, it was warm, welcoming, fun and laid back, with a ton of food.

That picnic is definitely the calm before the storm.

The rest is about to kick off.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Live From The Levine Broadcast Center

TigerBlog did a summer podcast with Princeton head women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer yesterday.

Among the topics they discussed were how summer recruiting has changed, what it's like these days, how camps went, how emotional graduation was for her, what the incoming freshman class looks like, the 2019 fall schedule and the 2020 regular-season schedule. You know. The usual stuff you'd talk about on such a podcast.

They even talked about her recent vacation. Like TB, Chris does love the beach.

You can listen to it HERE.

Princeton graduated seven seniors from a team that went 16-4 and won the Ivy League championship for the sixth straight year. There was also an Ivy tournament title and two more NCAA wins before the season ended in the quarterfinals at Boston College.

The 2020 season is six months away. The start of school is not far off, which means the fall season will be beginning soon enough.

It was a good time to catch up on what's going on in the program.

TigerBlog will be back sometime in the fall with another podcast with Sailer, and then they'll be doing them weekly again during the season.

And were this any other podcast TB has ever done, that would be the end of the story and he'd be left trying to come up another 500 or so words. Ah, but this podcast was much different than any of the ones that have preceded it.

All of the other podcasts that TigerBlog has ever done were recorded in his office, at a little round table, with walls that weren't exactly built with sound quality in mind.

The one yesterday was the first one done in the brand-new H.G. Levine Broadcast Center. The only word to describe the facility is this: "cool."

It's an extraordinarily impressive place, made possible by a gift from Steven Mayer of the Class of 1981 and his wife Laura. Construction began in the spring, as an old storage closet was converted into something that looks something like a cross between a TV truck and a flight simulator.

The heaviest lifting of the Levine Broadcast Center has been done by TB's colleagues Cody Chrusciel and John Bullis, who have set up all of the the equipment and made it operational.

The center will become the home for all of Princeton's video production efforts. It'll also be tested really soon, since the month of September alone will see more than 20 productions come out of there, including the first made-for-TV effort for the Princeton-Boston University women's soccer game on Sept. 5, which will be produced here and then shown live on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

TigerBlog won't even pretend for a minute that he knows how any of the fancy set-up actually works. He does know that it's obviously impressive.

The planning is already underway as to how to maximize the usage of the facility. The studio, for instance, will be used for the "Princeton Football Friday" shows that feature head coach Bob Surace.

TigerBlog remembers the earliest days of Princeton's video efforts, with a small budget for outsourcing some original productions and with the streaming of football and basketball games that were being produced for a local cable TV outlet called C-Tec. He's not sure if he ever envisioned what would be coming with streaming and video content and how much it has revolutionized what college athletic communications is about.

Through the years, Princeton Athletics has grown considerably in what it has produced - in quantity and quality - but it's never really had the facility that makes all of that much more efficient and streamlined. Now it has that.

And, for TB, yesterday's podcast was the first time he got to use the facility for himself.

He couldn't help but be impressed. It's light-years from the little round podcasting table in his office, even if in reality it's only a few feet away.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Striking Out

TigerBlog remembers a dinner he went to when the men's lacrosse team traveled to Costa Rica back in 2012.

It was just for the coaching staff and other non-players in the travel party, and it was at a restaurant that was either really close or really far from the hotel, depending on whether or not you were walking through an alley to get to it.

On the way there, in the daylight, cutting through the alley seemed easy enough. On the way back? It was night by then, and as the group took two steps or so down the path of the completely darkened alley, they heard a most disconcerting sound of growling dogs.

You could almost picture them just from the growling. They had to be big and vicious, right? Bravely the group started down the path, only to hear the growling get louder and louder.

Yeah. So instead of continuing, the group paused, looked at each other and basically turned and ran back to the main road. From there, instead of about 100 yards to the hotel, it was more than a mile to walk all the way around.

As TB thought about the most scared his ever been, the anticipation of being mauled by Costa Rican dogs was pretty far up there. Until he drove a car in England.

This is his last story about his recent trip. He promises.

As you know, cars in England have the steering wheel on the right side and drive on the left side. Everything becomes the opposite of what it is in the United States. If you've never driven a car like that, it takes awhile to acclimate to everything, including, for instance, which way you have to look before you merge, especially on right turns.

The other tough part is the fact that your eye's perspective needs to change. You're no longer keeping yourself on the left side of the lane when you drive; you need to be on the right side. TB smacked into the curb a few times before he got that down.

And that's it about England.

TigerBlog did something yesterday that he hasn't done all year prior. He looked at the Major League Baseball standings.

He had no idea that the Mets were making a postseason run, but there they were, just two games out of the last wild card spot. He knew the Yankees were having a big year, and it got him hoping that it would end up with a Mets-Yankees World Series, just because of Princeton men's soccer coach Jim Barlow (huge Mets fan) and Princeton head football coach Bob Surace (huge Yankees fan).

The best races by far are in the National League, where 10 teams have a legitimate shot at the postseason. In the American League, it's really only a six-team race - maybe seven, but that's only because the Red Sox are hard to count out - even before September rolls around.

Another reason to root for the Yankees besides Bob Surace is that two Princeton alums are part of the team.

David Hale, who is coming off a back injury this week, has pitched in 19 games so far this season, wall in relief, with a 3-0 record and two saves, along with a 2.89 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 22 strikeouts and six walks in 37 innings. 

Those are pretty solid numbers.

The other is Mike Ford, who at one point was the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year. Perhaps that came up in the discussion the other night when the Yankees were on the wrong end of a massive blowout against Cleveland, because into the game came Ford. To pitch.

It's always fun when a position player gets a chance to pitch. Yes, Ford gave up five runs in two innings, but he served the main function, which was allowing the pitching staff not to have to throw those two innings.

He also recorded a strikeout, which is something he'll always be able to say. He struck out someone in a Major League game.

That gave Princeton 23 strikeouts for the Yankees this year. 

As for his normal spot, Ford has four home runs in 81 at-bats, which translates to 30 in 500 at-bats. Yes, Ford has struck out 17 times in those 81 at-bats, but in Major League Baseball today, it's more about hitting the ball over the fence than anything else.

Anyway, it got TB to wondering how many position players this year - or in the last 10 - have hit at least one home run and gotten at least one strikeout.

It can't be many.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Summer Behind The Camera In Kenya

TigerBlog's plane was in line for about 35 minutes waiting to take-off out of Heathrow last week.

As his flight got close to the front, TB could see another plane to the left that was also waiting, this one at a 90-degree angle. Then that plane went in front of TB's and took off.

Since that plane was an Air New Zealand plane, TB thought the pilot of his flight might have just waved the other pilot in front, figuring that he was only going eight hours and the Air New Zealand flight was going nearly twice that. Well, not really.

TB would love to go to Australia or New Zealand, but he's not sure he would be able to sit on a plane for 15 or so hours. The flight across the Atlantic was long enough.

During his flight, TB watched four episodes of "Sons of Anarchy," the movie "Creed II," the map that shows where the plane is and the scenery out the window for the last two hours or so.

TB loved "Creed." He thought "Creed II" was pretty good, certainly a good way to pass two hours on a plane, but it was also one of the most predictable movies ever made. And you have to give credit to the "Rocky" franchise people for building on "Rocky IV," which wasn't exactly the best one in the series.

As for "Sons of Anarchy," he can never watch that enough. As for looking out the window, it always fascinates him to see the world from a plane. He always wants the window seat. 

And then he was back.

Speaking of long flights and movies, TB read the story on about how women's basketball player Lexi Weger is spending her summer.

Weger was part of a group that traveled to Kenya to work and study at the Mpala Research Centre. As part of the program, she produced a documentary. She and her group did everything for the movie, including writing the script, filming and editing.

From the story:
Weger and her group produced "Chasing Queens," a story about Pollinators and why they are necessary in our ecosystem and their contribution to food security.

You can read the whole story HERE.

According to Wikipedia, these are what Pollinators are:
A pollinator is the biotic agent (vector) that moves pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female stigma of a flower to accomplish fertilization or 'syngamy' of the female gametes in the ovule of the flower by the male gametes from the pollen grain. A pollinator is different from a pollenizer, which is a plant that is a source of pollen for the pollination process

Weger is a 6-3 rising sophomore from Fairfax, Va. Her best game last year was at Cornell, when she scored 13 points.

She's a graduate of Episcopal in Virginia, where she is the school's all-time leading scorer, with 1,458 points. She also holds school records for rebounds (744) and blocks (341).

TB has said this before, but one of the best parts of being a student at Princeton is the opportunity to see the world. There are so many chances to travel, and there are so many Princeton students - and athletes - who take advantage of them.

TB would love to be able to total up the number of miles that Princeton's athletes have traveled this summer. The answer is "a lot," he's guessing.

And the ones who flew around the globe to compete internationally are just a small sample. Princeton's athletes also did things like Weger, or went to Vietnam with Coach for College, or studied in countries throughout Europe or simply traveled for the sake of traveling.

The new school year is just around the corner. The first athletic event of the year is a week from Friday, if you can believe that, when the women's soccer team is at St. Joe's. The first home event is two days later, women's soccer against Boston College.

All of Princeton's fall athletes will be returning to campus very shortly. The rest will be back shortly after that.

The travels of summer will give way to another academic year and everything that comes with it.

In the end, though, those travels will be remembered as a big part of the overall Princeton experience that these athletes have in their four years.

TB is guessing Lexi Weger would agree with that statement.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Guest TB: Thank You Dillon Gym

TigerBlog got an email from Sam Shweisky, the men's volleyball coach, raving about a blog entry written by one his recently graduated seniors, Corry Short.

As soon as he read it, TB wanted to share it here, and so he is, with Corry's permission.

Corry Short, by the way, is from Lighthouse Point, Fla. He and his Princeton teammates won the EIVB regular-season and tournament championships and then won their opening match in the NCAA tournament before falling in five sets to No. 3 Pepperdine.

Looking back on my four years at this amazing university, I have gained knowledge in and outside the classroom, created friendships that will last a lifetime, and made memories that I will absolutely never forget. Princeton’s campus offers a wide range of opportunities for students to connect with each other. Whether it’s at an eating club, a dorm common room or a restaurant on Nassau, all Princeton students have ample opportunity to create experiences and memories on campus.

Consequently, graduates from Princeton will reminisce upon their time spent here and have fond memories of one or two places in particular.

The first place I’ll think about is Dillon Gym.

Herbert Lowell Dillon Gymnasium, Princeton University
Dillon Gym lies at the heart of Princeton’s campus; from IM sports, to Stephens Fitness Center, to career fairs, hundreds flow in and out of its doors every day. It functions as a welcoming escape from the day-to-day rigors that Princeton students face. However, as a varsity athlete, my sentiment towards the building is slightly different. Dillon is the home of the men’s and women’s volleyball teams at Princeton, which has led me to spend countless hours in its facilities. I’ve endured 7:00am practices, film sessions, team meetings, and enough physical therapy for two lifetimes within its walls. But before I had the opportunity to do any of these things, I was just an undersized outside hitter from South Florida.
The first time I visited campus as a recruit was in October of 2014. Women’s season was in full swing, and the first time I saw a match played in Dillon was Princeton vs. Cornell. The Tigers crushed the Big Red 3-0. It was awesome seeing them compete on the court, and that night taught me a lot about the special connection between the men’s and women’s teams. For those who don’t know, the men’s team works all of the women’s home matches and vice versa. From ball rolling to scoreboard operation to social media, the out-of-season team is right there cheering on the in-season team consistently. This is one of the many bonds that keeps the two teams so close and makes this program so unique.
I visited a second time in April of 2015, much to the dismay of the the team who was required to take care of one extra recruit that weekend, and saw the men’s team in action for the first time. It was Penn State weekend – if you’ve followed the Princeton Men’s Volleyball team at all in the past decade, you know that this is always the biggest home game of the year. The bleachers are rearranged to manage the 1,500+ that are consistently in attendance, and the atmosphere is electric. Semi-drunken students show up by the hundreds to cheer on the Tigers and heckle the Nittany Lions on an annual basis – and they never disappoint.
The Tigers came out in full force, but unfortunately fell to Penn State 3-1. Although it wasn’t the outcome that I and everyone else in the stands hoped for, it made me realize a couple of things. The first is how fervently the student body and community of this university supports its athletic teams. It also gave me a glimpse of how this team fights; the energy and spirit that the players on the court and bench had throughout the entirety of the match was something I had never witnessed before. I came to understand that these traits are PrincetonVolley staples, and I was incredibly excited for it to finally be my turn.

2014 team celebrating after beating Penn State 3-2 in Dillon Gym. Photo: Beverly Schaefer Photography.
The summer before I arrived on campus was a hectic one for me to say the least. It was one of the most volleyball-intensive summers of my life, epitomized by leaving Florida hours after my high school graduation for a volleyball tournament. After most of my volleyball for the summer was done, my family moved from my home of 7 years, Fort Lauderdale, up to the New Jersey where my Dad had already been working for a year and a half. I’m still extremely grateful for the sacrifice that they made by allowing me to finish out my high school career in Florida (thanks again, Mom and Dad!). Our home base is the Jersey Shore now, and being so close to home has definitely had its benefits.
The first opportunity my family’s close proximity to campus provided me was the chance to attend my first of many Princeton Volleyball summer camps. It was the first time that I learned how unrelenting Dillon’s lack of air conditioning was; playing for hours in that hotbox gave me a lot more respect for the women’s team who has preseason two-a-days during the hottest months of the year. Camp is brutal – both as a player and coach – but is always a ton of fun. I’ve made so many great friends at PrincetonVolley summer camps and will always look fondly upon those memories.

September rolled around, and I was thrown into a whirlwind when I arrived on campus in the fall. From academics to making friends to navigating campus, I felt like I couldn’t find stability in a single aspect of my new life – until volleyball season started. We had early morning practices and lifts everyday in the fall, and I tried to be the first one there everyday. I wanted to do pay my freshman dues by setting up the nets, getting the ball carts out and mopping the floor, hoping that I could earn the respect of my upperclassmen and coaches and establish a reputation of being a hard worker. Grinding with my teammates in Dillon Gym every morning, though taxing both mentally and physically, provided me with that stability I was seeking.
Our season my freshman year ultimately did not turn out so great. We had a poor record, largely due to the loss of the 2015 class, which included PrincetonVolley legends such as Cody Kessel, Will Siroky and Tony Ensbury, and failed to make the playoffs. Although the season was unsuccessful, it sparked a fire that was much needed and strongly desired by the group that would be returning in 2016. At the start of my sophomore year, we saw the potential that the new group had. With a nationally ranked recruiting class now onboard, we had the physicality and talent to disrupt the EIVA.
Sophomore year was a series of ups and downs for the team. Acclimating the new group of freshmen to Princeton Volleyball and creating a new core of leadership was challenging, but the team took steps in the right direction. We pushed Ball State to 5 in the Hawaii Outrigger Invitational, split matches with Grand Canyon on the road, and ended up sealing our spot in the playoffs with some big wins towards the end of the season over George Mason and Harvard. The season ended at Penn State where we were swept in three close sets. However, I think this was an inflection point for our team. We knew that we had what we needed to be contenders in the conference and on the national stage, but it was going to take some work. We knew that if we wanted to do great things, we would have to work hard over the summer and revisit the drawing board at the start of my junior year.

2017-2018 team outside the Galen Center before match against USC.
Junior year turned out to be an absolutely chaotic season. We took down #8 Stanford in the first tournament of the season in Santa Barbara, giving us a hopeful outlook for the remainder of the year. Little did we know that we were going to have one of the worst starts a Princeton team has had to a season – 1-11 to be exact. We couldn’t figure out what we were doing wrong. And on top of it all, I had torn my meniscus in mid-January upon return from our California trip and was out for about five weeks in recovery post-surgery.
When I returned to play, the team had improved and we were finally trending upwards. We turned things around at our Sacred Heart road game, and went 8-1 in our next nine games. During this winning streak, we took down #10 ranked Penn State at home in a five set thriller in front of the 1998 EIVA Championship team who was being honored that evening. It was one of my favorite games that I had as a Tiger (click here to relive that epic match:

2017-2018 team celebrating after a big point in victory over Penn State. Photo: Beverly Schaefer Photography.
Unfortunately, the following weekend I sustained another serious injury in the “Battle of the Garden State” at NJIT. I dislocated my left shoulder three times in the match and ended up tearing my labrum, which is still torn to this day. I was out for another month and change following the injury, but I was able to return in time for our road match against Penn State. The Princeton Band took a four hour road trip to follow us to this match; I don’t think the Band has ever traveled for a regular season PrincetonVolley match in program history – thank you guys for always being our biggest fans! For some reason, we came out that night with a vendetta and played some of the best ball we’d played all year. For the first time in program history, we beat Penn State on the road, and to top it off, we SWEPT them 25-23, 25-17, 25-17. It was an absolutely dominant performance, and I personally had some of the best serve receive and defense that I’d played my whole career. The Creamery was packed with Princeton Tigers that night…
We had some momentum moving into the playoffs and were scheduled to face George Mason, the top ranked team in the EIVA. We came out in dominant fashion and had one of the best blocking performances as a team that I’d ever seen. We upset them 3-1 and faced Harvard in the EIVA finals – the first ever all-Ivy finals. Unfortunately, the Crimson had a hell of a night, and we lost 1-3 in sets that all could’ve gone either way. It was a heartbreaker to say the least. We came into the 2019 season with this chip on our shoulder as the driving force towards my final season as a Tiger.
Senior year’s conference play started out with a bang. We went 13-1, winning huge matches on the road against NJIT, Penn State, George Mason and Harvard. It was like we couldn’t lose. So many sets and matches were decided by one or two points, and the ball just seemed to bounce in our favor all season long. Since we were the #1 seed in conference, we had the opportunity to host the EIVA Playoffs for the first time ever in Dillon Gym. We took down St. Francis in the opening round in a 3-0 sweep, giving us the last bit of momentum we needed before the EIVA Finals against – you guessed it – Penn State.

My final match in Dillon. It was incredibly emotional and ended up being the favorite game of volleyball I have played in my whole life. The match’s momentum ebbed and flowed in an endless cycle. We would have a two or three point service run, and they would respond with aggressive serving and great plays in transition. We split sets 2-2, and the EIVA Championship would be decided by a fifth set tiebreaker.
We went up 8-7 at the switch off of a stuff block from All-Americans Parker Dixon and George Huhmann, and the roar from the crowd was absolutely incredible when we changed sides. The entire gym was at the edge of their seats, and we came out with everything we had. Kendall Ratter gave us a transition kill, and Greg Luck brought the crowd to their feet with a HUGE solo stuff block out of the middle to put us up 10-7. Some chaotic rallies ensued, and Ratter again gives us another huge kill putting him at the service line…he then serves an ace to put us up 14-11. We now have match point of the EIVA Championship in Dillon Gym. At this point, rotated out and have tears in my eyes just looking at the stands and seeing family, friends and alumni all on their feet, filling the gym with the wholehearted love and support for this team. Penn State sides out and gets an ace, making the score 14-13.
Pass from Greg Luck, set from Joe Kelly, and kill by George Huhmann to win the match 15-13. The Princeton Tigers have won the EIVA Championship at home in Dillon Gym. To this day, I get chills every time I think of that night. It was the culmination of years of hard work and could not have been accomplished without each and every member of this special group.

Of all the time that I’ve spent within Dillon’s walls, the feeling I will miss the most is competing for Princeton University and Princeton Volleyball. It is an incredibly special feeling that only few will have the opportunity to experience. When you step onto that court ready to battle against your opponent across the net and hear Jenna Venturi belt out a beautiful national anthem, the deep roots of the program’s tradition and legacy are overwhelming – you can’t help but feel proud and grateful to wear Princeton across your chest.

We go on to beat Barton in the first round of the the NCAA tournament and push #3 in the nation Pepperdine to five sets in a nail-biter but fall short of the Final Four. And just like that, it’s over. A historic end to a volleyball career that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
During my four years playing in Dillon, I’ve gotten to know the place. I know the spots where the hardwood floor creaks from a sneaker’s step, I know where volleyballs like to hide when we’re doing our ball count at the end of practice, I know how many stairs lead from the gym floor to the Dillon Tower conference room (44) where we do our pre-match scouting meetings…I know what makes it tick. But during my four years here, I’ve come to learn who is responsible for its upkeep and operations.
The staff at Dillon Gym does an incredible job of making it feel like a second home to all who enter. Dan Bennett oversees the facility’s operations and has been a huge supporter of the Princeton Volleyball program. Thank you, Dan, for consistently being one of this team’s unsung heroes. Elysee Nicolas a.k.a Nicki a.k.a. the grandfather of PrincetonVolley has been a confidant, mentor and friend to every generation of athletes to go through this program. Every time you see him, he puts a smile on your face, and he is someone that has impacted my time in Dillon significantly. Thanks for everything, Nick. I’m gonna miss you! To everyone else at Dillon that has helped me or the Princeton Volleyball teams in one way or another – namely, Mike Mix, Jenna Mayer, Mike Halbiger, and Matt Maul, among many others – thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for the volleyball teams and the greater Princeton community.

Nicki and I on a California team trip, and Dan Bennett and I at graduation.
I want to thank several people who have been integral to my success at Princeton and the success of Princeton Volleyball:
  • First and foremost, I’d like to thank Coach Sam Shweisky for recruiting me to play at this incredible university. Years ago I promised you I’d put a number up on that banner before I graduated…well, we did it. You’ve done so much to develop me as a player and as a human being. Thank you for everything.
  • To my teammates past and present, thank you for the laughs and the memories. You made my experience in this program what it was, and I am so grateful to have had you all in my life.
  • Coach Pat Shawaryn, thank you for the incredible amount of value you’ve added to this program and for the many laughs on the bus and sidelines. I and the rest of the team truly hope that you remain core member of this program in the years to come. Looking forward to grabbing several more beers with you at reunions!
  • To the WVB team, namely Alexa, Caroline, Claire, Nnenna, Smitty, and everyone that overlapped with me during my four years, thank you for making my PrincetonVolley experience so amazing. I will look back on our volleyvolley events as some of my favorite memories at Princeton.
  • To PrincetonVolley alumni: you are an absolutely incredible group of people, and I am so happy to have met so many of you. Your support of this program is invaluable and there is no way to express how much gratitude we have for you. Thank you all for your constant love and support. I’m looking forward to meeting many more of you in the years to come as a fellow alum.
  • To Lou: I love you man!! Thank you SO much for everything you do for this team. All the best to you and your family in the future.
  • To the athletic medicine staff – namely, Johnny Furtado, Deirdre Chatlos and Sophia Gonzalez – thank you for dealing with my seemingly endless injuries, for getting me back on the court faster than I would have otherwise, and for making my countless time spent in the athletic training room so enjoyable.
  • To assistant coaches of the program – Mike Vajo, Mike Adams, Pawel Kadlubowski and Steve Carlat – thank you for your contributions to of this team and unwavering support of this program.
  • To my many strength coaches over the years – Keith, Dan, Phil, Sam – thank you for helping me and this team achieve success.
  • To Sabrina King (and Abel & Lyla!), Tyler Hagstrom and the legend Glenn Nelson, thank you for welcoming me into the PrincetonVolley family with such love.
  • To Allison Rich, Anthony Archbald, Mollie Marcoux Samaan and President Eisgruber, thank you all for enabling our team and Princeton Athletics to be so successful. Your support means the world to us.
  • To the EIVA, its staff, and its coaches – namely, Jay Hosack, Danny Goncalves, Mark Pavlik, Colin McMillan, Mike Rumbaugh, and Brian Baise ’95 – it has been a pleasure competing against you and your respective teams over the years. All the best in the future…but Go Tigers!
  • To Craig Sachson, our team’s former Sports Information Director, and the rest of the staff that helps make our matches run smoothly, thank you for all of the work that you’ve done with this team over the years, and best of luck in whatever your future holds in store.
  • To Mike Thibault, thank you so much for all you do for our team. I can’t wait to hear about all the whiteboard debates that you and the team have throughout this upcoming year. All the best to you and your family. #TheEarthIsFlat
  • To our many faculty fellows, especially Andrej Košmrlj, Kelly Noonan, Corina Tarnita, Shawn Maxam, Rob Pringle and Michael Mueller, that have helped Princeton MVB student-athletes over the years, thank you for all that you do and for your support of this team.
  • To Mike Zarate, Ocean Bay Volleyball and Cardinal Gibbons High School, thank you for providing me with the knowledge and opportunities to pursue my dreams on and off the court.
  • To the many people that I haven’t thanked, but have in some way contributed to the success of this team and program, we are so appreciative of your support.
And last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank my #1 fans for all that they’ve done for me and this team. Mom, Dad, Michael, Mary Kate and Grannie, the JC Short family and the Young family, I love you all so much. I wouldn’t have made it to or through Princeton without you all.

The Short Family post semifinal win against SFU before winning EIVA Championship.
My memories of Princeton will be great, but my memories of Dillon Gym will be phenomenal. It’s been one hell of a ride – thanks for everything, Princeton.
– Corry G. Short ’19

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Princeton At Army In 2020

TigerBlog has been lucky in his life in that he's gotten to see a lot of the world.

Okay, maybe he hasn't seen as much as some others, like FatherBlog for instance, but he's still been very fortunate to have spent time in places like Europe, the Caribbean, Hawaii, South America.

For all of the places he's been, his favorite - his new favorite - is the southern coast of England.

It's just a beautiful area - quiet, with amazing beaches that offer incredible views of the coastline and the English Channel, great places to ride your bike, charming pubs with awesome menus and above all some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet anywhere.

Pretty much any time TigerBlog has known anyone to have gone to England, they always talk about staying in London. TigerBlog stayed in London for one day, enough time to get a feel for it, see a show ("Fiddler on the Roof") and check out Buckingham Palace.

That was plenty of city time for him.

He's spent the last six days along the southern coast, after his short trip to France and the Normandy beaches. If you ever go to England, make sure you head south.

TB has had great luck with the weather. The forecast every day has been for steady rain and cold, and except for some of yesterday, it's been partly cloudy and in the upper 60s or low 70s.

He wanted to get to see the Bournemouth-Sheffield Premiere League game last Saturday, but he's learned that tickets are impossible to get. As in completely impossible.

Bournemouth is the largest town (or small city) in the area in which he has been staying. Bournemouth's EPL team, the Cherries, wasn't that long ago in the Fourth Division, so its climb to the elite of professional soccer has been impressive.

At the same time, Bournemouth plays in a tiny stadium, Vitality Stadium, which has seating for 11,364, making it less than half the size of Princeton Stadium. It is by far the smallest venue in the EPL, and in fact, it is the smallest by far of any of the 59 stadiums that have ever been the home for an EPL team.

There is talk of building a new stadium. Then again, there's talk of pretty much anything to do with the EPL in these parts.

TigerBlog read a newspaper called "The I" the last few days. In Tuesday's paper alone, there were 20 bylined stories about English Premiere League soccer.

Of course there's no such thing as ever getting completely away from Princeton Athletics. The big news yesterday was the coming football game in 2020 between the Tigers and Army West Point.

When TB saw that the teams were playing again, the first thing he did was research the series history. He thought they must have played a lot in the early days, but there have only been 13 prior matchups between the two.

There were two in 1981 and 1982, both won by Army, which are the only games the teams have played in the last 77 years. There were also four in the 1800s and four more between 1900 and 1908.

TigerBlog doubts that the 2020 game will repeat some of the scores of the first few games in the series. Those were:
Princeton 36, Army 4 in 1893
Princeton 11, Army 0 in 1896
Princeton 5, Army 5 in 1898

It's possible that touchdowns counted for five points back then. Or that there were a lot of safeties.

Princeton and Army were a combined 21-2 a year ago, which is fairly impressive. Army lost its 2018 opener to Duke, and from that points, its only loss was 28-21 in overtime to Oklahoma. Yes, Oklahoma, the one that made the College Football Playoffs and had the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, Kyler Murray.

Army then dismantled Houston 70-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl. TB remembers Army won; he didn't remember it was 70-14.

Princeton, for its part, went 10-0 a year ago, winning its third Ivy League title in six years.

Of course, there's the whole 2019 season to worry about before that game comes up. This is the 150th anniversary season, complete with a Yankee Stadium game against Dartmouth on Nov. 9. Practice begins shortly.

So for now, just tuck Princeton-Army away, but remember to be there in October 2020. If you've never seen a service academy game, they're tremendous. If you've never seen a game of any kind at Michie Stadium, they're also incredible.

Anyway, that game is 14 months or so away. More immediately, TB flies home this evening.

He'll have to load up on fish and chips before he goes.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Two Days At The Beach

The scenes could have been straight from any beach anywhere, especially the Jersey Shore.

There were families who were finishing their day trips. There was a group playing soccer. There were signs of picnics, and little kids digging in the sand, and dogs running into the water.

As TigerBlog said, it could have been any beach on any summer day. It wasn't, though.

This beach is like no other beach anywhere in the world.

This was Omaha Beach.

TigerBlog hasn't been touched by any place he's ever been to the way he was when he visited Normandy last week. The enormity of it all smashes you in the face from the first time you see any part of the region, understanding what went on there 75 years ago and how incredibly brave the people who made it happen were.

And after seeing the town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, where American paratroopers landed to secure the N13, the vital road out of Normandy that runs to Cherbourg, and then the simply jaw-dropping American cemetery, TB was confused, or concerned, or displeased by the fact that today Omaha Beach is just an ordinary public beach.

This is, after all, a beach where on June 6, 1944, more than 2,000 American soldiers died in a 12-hour span. And now it was just a public beach? At first, he didn't get it.

TigerBlog took the ferry across the Channel to Cherbourg and then headed towards the Normandy beaches, which he didn't realize would take him straight through Sainte-Mere-Eglise. Instead, he found himself driving right through the heart of the town, which, if you've seen "The Longest Day," you would recognize immediately.

Sainte-Mere-Eglise is the town where American paratroopers landed, falling in some cases directly on top of the German soldiers in the town square, the same town square, where on the rainy morning that TB was there, was home to a market that had fruit, bread, breakfast dishes, sausage sandwiches and any number of other things for sale. 

If you looked up to the church next to the square, you'd see what at first glance seemed like a construction project, with plastic tarp covering a scaffold. When you looked closer, you'd see that it was actually a parachute, with a statue of a soldier who hangs from the building. Again, if you saw "The Longest Day," then you remember that scene with Red Buttons.

TB spent two hours in the fascinating D-Day museum at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, and were it not for the places he'd be going later that day and then the next morning, those two hours by themselves would have been a completely chilling experience.

A few hours later, after the rain ended and the sun came out, he found himself walking on a beach, a quiet, peaceful beach, where he was one of maybe 10 people out there. He didn't realize it at the time, but that piece of beach was part of Juno Beach, where the Canadian soldiers landed, between Sword and Gold, where the British landed.

There are still, to this day, remains of German defense barriers visible in the water off the shore. Walking on that beach when it was so peaceful was downright eerie, considering what went on there.

After that it was off to Omaha Beach, but first to the American cemetery. This is the where, as he said, your jaw simply hits the ground.

To see row after row of crosses and Stars of David, stretching out as far as your eye can process, and to understand that these were all Americans who were killed in the earliest hours of the liberation of Europe, well, it simply takes your breath away. The people buried there were mostly 18-22 year olds, much like the people who compete at Princeton University these days.

TigerBlog tried to find some record of Princeton's participation on D-Day, to see if any Princetonians were among those who were buried in that cemetery. He found THIS STORY by Brett Tomlinson of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of D-Day this past June.

If you don't want to read through the whole story, there is this:
The Aug. 11, 1944, issue carried news of a casualty in the Normandy invasion: “On D-Day, June 6, 1st Lt. Jerry Schaefer [’40] was killed in action in France. Jerry was a member of an airborne artillery outfit and had previously seen action in Sicily and in the Allied landings in Italy. To his parents and to his widow, Mrs. Margaret Schaefer, we extend our sincere sympathy.” Schaefer is one of 355 alumni who died in the war. His place of death is listed as Sainte-Mère-Église, France, which is now home to the Airborne Museum, dedicated to the memory the U.S. Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. 

Three-hundred-fifty-five alums died in the war? TB wouldn't have guessed that.

He does know the story of Tyler Campbell, Class of 1943 and a member of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame, who died in September of 1944 in Southern France. TB looked up the town where Campbell died and found that it was 200 miles away from where he was in Normandy.

The next day TB went to Ponte Du Hoc, a cliff halfway between Omaha and Utah Beaches. It was critically important that the Americans capture the cliff, since it offered access to both of those beaches and the troops off-shore. It's a cliff, 100 feet straight up, and 255 Army Rangers started out at the bottom. Only 90 of them made it to the top, the rest gunned down, or killed when the Germans cut their ropes as they advanced to the ridge.

When you spend time at these locations, you have to close your eyes and see it, hear it - and more than anything else, appreciate it. TigerBlog certainly did. The only other places he's ever been that can even remotely compare were the Dachau concentration camp in Germany and Gettysburg's battlefield.

And maybe that's why, at first, he was so taken aback at the thought of families who were enjoying Omaha Beach. It just didn't seem right to him.

Then, when he considered what it was that all those soldiers fought for and a lot of them died for, it came to him. It was all about giving back freedom to French families to enjoy that beach.

And suddenly he was okay with it.

It wasn't disrespectful to those who died there.

It was the whole point of it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Keeping In Touch From England

TigerBlog hopes you enjoyed last week's five-piece series, answering the questions he was asked about some of the emotions he's felt with Princeton Athletics through the decades.

He did something with those five entries that he hasn't done in the 11 years that he's been writing this every day. He wrote all five of them in advance, which meant he didn't have to write at all last week.

Then he asked Jim Barlow to write a guest blog yesterday, and as always Jim's piece was tremendous and got great feedback. 

Why did he do this?

He's been away for the last week, in England and France to be specific. Actually he's still there, in England, along the southern coast.

It's been a long time since he's had such a vacation. In fact, the last five times prior to this that he has left the United States, it's been with a Princeton team.

Before this trip, he'd been to 16 different European countries, though never to England or France, unless you count a one-hour stopover in the Paris airport in 1974. He's seen a lot in the last week, starting in London, where he went to see, of all things, "Fiddler on the Roof" on the West End.

He's spent he last few days in the southern coast, near the towns of Poole and Bournemouth. He's seen some spectacular beaches on the English Channel, with views to the Isle of Wight to the East. He's stumbled on a seafood festival. He's seen Buckingham and Windsor Castles.

He's also ridden a bicycle that he's rented.

What people in the United States immediately think of when they think of England is that they drive on the other side - the wrong side? - of the road here, with a steering wheel on the other side - wrong side? - of the car. The impact of this goes way beyond mild curiosity.

If you're used to driving on the right side, then you're also used to looking certain ways when you get to intersections. Over here, everything is reversed.

It's even more pronounced when you're on a bike, as TB has learned. He's constantly found himself unsure of which way to look when he gets to intersections, of which there aren't that many, since the English seem to love roundabouts, which can also be confusing.

He's done well though, other than a minor incident with a double-decker bus, which was sort of his fault anyway.

England is a very charming, very welcoming country. The people here have been beyond friendly and very laid back, even in London. They joke about most things, and they speak in very flowery language that enhances the charm.

Even while he's been away, he's still kept in touch with what's been going on at Princeton. The biggest news has been the great success that Princeton has had at the Pan Am Games, which recently concluded in Brazil.

If you went to yesterday, you noticed that four of the top six stories were about Pan Am medalists, and that doesn't include the gold that Kareen Maddox won in 3x3 basketball last week.

Bella Alarie helped the USA women's basketball team to a silver medal, falling 79-73 to Brazil in the final after being unbeaten to that point. Alarie, the rising senior, averaged 6.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals in the tournament.

Princeton had two alums win field hockey medals: Elise Wong helped Canada to the silver, while Kathleen Sharkey helped the USA to the bronze. Argentina won the gold to automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games, but the U.S. and Canada will still be able to compete in Olympic qualifying later in the year.

Sharkey, by the way, was the flag bearer for the U.S. team in the opening ceremonies, you might recall.

Then there were the gold medalists.

Ashleigh Johnson was the U.S. goalie in women's water polo, and not surprisingly, the U.S. cruised through the tournament unbeaten while outscoring its six opponents 142-24. The U.S. simply dominates women's water polo internationally, and Johnson's resume now includes an Olympic gold medal, a Pan Am Games gold medal, numerous world championships and numerous world player of the year awards.

In women's fencing, four Princetonians combined to win six gold medals, including two each for alums Kat Holmes (epee) and Eliza Stone (saber). The two then were part of team gold medals in their events, and those teams included current Princeton fencers Kasia Nixon (epee) and Chloe Fox-Gitomer (saber).

Todd Harrity also won gold, in doubles squash, which made its Pan Am Games debut.

So what is that, nine gold medals? And two more silver and one bronze?

That's not a bad two weeks in Peru.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Guest TigerBlog - Thoughts As Preseason Is About To Begin

TigerBlog has a standing offer to anyone who would like to share this space to say something about Princeton Athletics and what it means to him or her. 

The person who has taken him up on this the most is Princeton's men's soccer coach Jim Barlow, who led his team to the Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament a year ago. TB asked Barlow if he would write something about what a coach is thinking in the days before preseason begins.  

What he got back is hardly what he expected. In typical Jim Barlow fashion, it is well worth reading:

It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over. The tell-tale signs are usually when the English Premier League starts (it kicked off this weekend, Go Liverpool!), my Mets have been all but officially eliminated from playoff contention (not this year, thankfully), and my inbox becomes flooded with email reminders about things to do to prepare for the upcoming season. One email that came out of the blue this week was from from Tiger Blog, who asked me if I would like to write a guest blog about what the last few days before preseason are like.

Usually, it’s the best time of the year. The excitement of finally getting to be with the team again, the curiosity to see who improved over the summer, what the incoming class looks like and how the pieces may fit together all contribute to the positive energy and mood of the group. And, it’s the start of a two-week period (yes, two weeks) where the entire focus of the job is on building a team. It’s the real work that drew me into coaching in the first place. This means creating a culture, establishing responsibilities, and challenging and pushing some great student athletes to be better. It’s incredibly fun.

This year, however, the joy of the days leading up to preseason have been tempered a bit.

Last Monday, Princeton lost one of its most gifted and creative artists of all time when Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison died. I haven’t read much Morrison, but the news of her death quickly brought me back to a memorial service that Princeton held just days after the September 11th attack in 2001. Toni Morrison read her poem “The Dead of September 11th” (click HERE to read it; it’s amazing) at a packed Cannon Green, and her words stayed with me as I kept them taped to my desk in the soccer office for some time. I even quoted them when I spoke at my former assistant coach and close friend Rob Myslik’s ’90 funeral in 2003 after Rob was killed in a car accident.

Today, however, as Princeton and the world mourn Morrison’s death, I cannot help but think how her powerful poem from 2001 could instead be titled, “The Dead of August 2019” in memory of those killed in Dayton and El Paso last weekend. 

Word of those tragedies triggered memories of April 1999, when I was setting up cones for a spring workout. Our captain Chad Adams ’00 came out to the field and told me that a shooting in Columbine High School had just occurred. I remember the shock and disbelief among the players and coaches, and the overwhelming sadness that enveloped the field and the country that day. It seemed no one knew what to say.

I must be steady and I must be clear, knowing all the time that I have nothing to say (Morrison, “The Dead of September 11th)

What helped me, however, and many others, during those dark days in April 1999 following the Columbine shooting, and after September 11th, 2001, and after January, 2003, when Rob died, and after many other national and personal tragedies over the years (including April, 2008, when Princeton soccer assistant coach Arron Lujan and his wife Heather lost their two-year-old son Vaughn to meningitis) was the Princeton Soccer family. 

And, as I think about the days leading up to preseason and what they are like, I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful that in just another week that family will be back together. In a world that seems so depressing and hopeless lately, this group is inspiring and uplifting, on and off the field, and gives me reason to be optimistic about the future. Our team is made up of players from different races, religions, geographic backgrounds, income levels, sexual orientations, political leanings, and academic interests, and yet, somehow, they all get along, treat each other as equals, work together to solve problems and succeed, comfort each other during tough times, and have a ton of fun. And they’re a pretty good soccer team, too. The glue that keeps it all together is how much they care about the team and each other, in good times and bad. After observing how some of our media and politicians have responded to our recent tragedies, I think our team has much to teach our country.

It's the Princeton Soccer family who rallied together to support Rob Myslik’s family and wife Sue after Rob’s accident and who pays tribute to Rob every time they step on the field named in his memory. It’s the Princeton Soccer family who traveled with the Lujan family to a funeral for Vaughn in Richmond, Virginia, and who decided to get team uniforms with Vaughn Lujan’s name on them to wear to his memorial service in the Princeton Chapel. It’s that same family who rallied around current Associate Head Coach Steve Totten and his wife Liz when Liz was faced with a terrible diagnosis two years ago, and who continue to support them as Liz works incredibly hard to recover. And, as national tragedies are becoming more and more commonplace, it will be the Princeton Soccer Family who pulls together and provides support and hope for each other during these difficult days in our country.

I can’t wait for the guys to arrive to start the work of defending an Ivy title and begin anew the process of becoming a special team. It will be great to have the family back on campus.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Question No. 5.2.0

Well, it's now three weeks until the first athletic event of 2019-20.

Yes. Three weeks from today. It'll be Princeton at St. Joe's in women's soccer.

Of course, if you're a St. Joe's fan, you can up that by a week. It's only two weeks until the Hawks open their season, with games at Drexel two weeks from today and then at Villanova two weeks from Sunday.

Also, by the time Princeton plays its first women's soccer game of the year, there will already have been 17 regular season college football games played. Yes. Fall is almost here.

Of course, it's still quiet around Princeton now and has been all week. TigerBlog has been answering the five questions he received asking him about some of his Princeton athletics memories, and it's been a fun exercise.

Today is Day 5, with one question left:
Most extreme emotions other than happy, sad or nervous (For instance, I think that arguably your best column ever was describing what went through your mind when you inputted the official scorer's entry for your daughter's ground ball. As another example, when I attended Princeton Stadium's 1998 inaugural game against Cornell, the pre-game festivities included football alumni marching onto the field beneath their class banners. Watching the history unfold in front of me, I started to tear up. My girlfriend at the time, a gritty street-smart New Yorker, saw me getting choked up and looked at me quizzically. I felt the need to explain myself and quietly said, "This makes me feel part of something bigger than myself." Within a month, we broke up. I think she literally thought to herself, "Any man who would come close to crying at a football game is not a good long-term match for me.") 

First, TB does have to say that it was the old girlfriend's loss if she couldn't appreciate the moment.

Okay, having said that, this one is the toughest question, because the question is asking about which emotions there are, not just about events or anything like that. And it can't be happy, sad or nervous.

And it's not asking for just emotions. It's asking for extreme emotions.

Hmmm. Where to start?

This question got TigerBlog to thinking about the things he's been a part of at Princeton that have brought out the most emotion in him. Certainly, as the question says, it was at its peak when he saw Miss TigerBlog ’22 play as a Princeton Tiger and be part of an Ivy League champion and Ivy League tournament champion.

But what about beyond that?

It got him to thinking less about events and games and individual honors and more about the people here, the ones he's worked with and the ones he's seen play and coach here. And it's really the day-to-day stuff, seeing how it all comes together to be the successful athletic program that you see here.

And it's the special occasions. The banquets. The retirement parties. The recognitions. The press conferences.

He likes to think that in his way, and in a small way, he's made contributions that have helped that success. It's part of what has kept him here for so long.

TB often jokes about the amount of stuff he owns that says "Princeton" on it. In reality, it's more than just free gear that he's been given through the years.

It's a symbol of what it means to part of Princeton Athletics.

The emotion that he's getting at is the same, he suspects, as the one that the commenter had when he saw the first game at Princeton Stadium.

It's pride.

It's a sense of pride in the entity that is Princeton Athletics. It's been something great to have been a part of all of this time.

Anyway, that's the last of the questions for the week. TigerBlog enjoyed the exercise, and he's appreciative of whoever it was who posed the questions.

Have another great summer weekend.

And get ready. Opening kickoff is rapidly approaching once again.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Question No. 4.2.0

When TigerBlog first started in the newspaper business, Rule No. 1 was simple

No cheering in the press box.

That sort of still stands these days, though the line is a bit blurrier than it used to be. SAT flashback: the sound of cheering in the press box is to TigerBlog as fingernails on a chalkboard are to most people.

Because of that, TigerBlog learned long, long, long ago - like more than 35 years ago - never to show emotion at games he was covering. It didn't matter if it was a national championship in lacrosse or an NCAA basketball win or anything else.

If you've ever noticed TigerBlog at a game, you've noticed that he's somewhat emotionless, no matter what is happening. This even extended to all the games his kids have played, during which he simply stood at watched from the sideline.

He has, of course, had certain reactions to certain events, such as shots that hit the pipe or miraculous catches and such. But those are of the "oooooh" variety, as opposed to the "yessss!!!!!" variety. TB is not an exclamation point kind of guy.

Also, because he's been to so many games in so many situations and seen so many victories, he doesn't really get all that nervous at any one event.

He remembers vividly, for instance, the end of the 2001 NCAA men's lacrosse championship game. Princeton was up a goal as Syracuse gave the ball to Mikey Powell out of a timeout, and Powell scored all by himself with 16 seconds left to force overtime. It looked all the world that Syracuse had the momentum during the four-minute break.

TB was confident that Princeton would win, though. It was all just part of the drama. And Princeton did win.

So the fourth question of the week is this: What are the most nervous moments you've had, in-game or otherwise?

This is not one where he has a lot to choose from, as he said.

He does have an answer though. He remember how extraordinarily nervous he was for one particular game, back in 2009.

It was a men's basketball game at Jadwin against Cornell. Princeton won 61-41, as four Tigers were in double figures. Want to guess who?

That, by the way, was the middle season of Cornell's run of three straight Ivy titles. The Big Red won that year with an 11-3 record.

And the four Tigers in double figures in that game were: Pawel Buczak (15), Dan Mavraides (12), Kareem Maddox (11) and Marcus Schroeder (10).

It was a nice win for Princeton, who would finish second in the league that year. It was hardly a major moment though.

So why was TB so nervous? It was because of something that happened before the game was ever played.

TigerBlog Jr. was 11 years old in 2009. He was already very into sports, and he was also a saxophone and bassoon player.

He and his friend Matthew - who also is a recent college graduate and who was a four-year lacrosse starter and a captain this past year at Chestnut Hill College - were ball boys for Princeton basketball for a few years. They're still best buds to this day, by the way.

Anyway, TBJ wanted to combine his two interests and play the national anthem on his saxophone before a Princeton basketball game. As it turned out, the game against Cornell was the only one on the schedule that didn't already have an anthem performer, so he got the job.

Now TBJ was hardly a concert-ready musician. But he was determined. He practiced and practiced the anthem until he felt he was ready to go - even if his rate of playing it perfectly was about 50-50.

And now he was going to stand out there, at center court, by himself, and play it before the game.

So yeah. TigerBlog was extraordinarily nervous.

TBJ was usually better at the first half of the song, so he got off to a pretty good start. There were tougher notes to get to in the second half, but he got through those fine too.

Then there was the part TB forgot to warn his son about. During the anthem, Cornell fans always yell "RED" when it gets to "the rocket's red glare." When they did so, it startled TB - but not TBJ, who remained focused all the way through the end, never missing a note.

Jeff Taylor, today a very successful documentary filmmaker, did video for Princeton back then, and he made a recording of TBJ's version of the anthem. TigerBlog has watched in many times through the years.

At one point, he zooms in on TigerBlog, who was courtside with John Sadak ready to go on the radio. You can't tell by looking at him, because he looks emotionless, but TB was really, really nervous.

The most nervous he's ever been at a Princeton game, for that matter.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Question No. 3.2.0

TigerBlog has been fortunate in that his team's have won so much more than they've lost in the 30 years he's been covering Princeton sports.

It goes way beyond that, of course.

TigerBlog has been a part of NCAA championships, Ivy League championships, individual championships of all sorts. He always says he's had way more than his share of big victories, so he can't really complain much about losses.

He's also not taking credit for the wins, obviously. 

That's not to say that he doesn't. Or that certain losses have stung more than others.

So today is Day 3 of a week of TB's memories, inspired by a comment last month asking about very specific games, emotions and such. Today's question is:

What is the saddest or most bitter you've been due to Princeton sports?

Sad and bitter? Those are pretty intense emotions.

This isn't the same as being disappointed that Princeton lost. There have been a lot of those games, where Princeton lost and it's been a disappointment.

As TB said above, he's lucky that the wins have far outweighed the losses.

When he thinks of games that have disappointed him, he usually comes back to ones where he felt like Princeton might have been the better team but didn't play well or dug itself too big an early hole and couldn't climb out.

There have been a lot of the first kind. Well, not a ton. But enough.

You want an example of the second? The 2002 NCAA men's lacrosse championship game, where Princeton lost to Syracuse 13-12 after falling behind big early. Syracuse was probably the better team that year, but Princeton could have won had it not started out so slowly.

But that didn't make him bitter. Just disappointed.

So do most losses. Even the ones that really sting. They don't really lead to bitterness.

That's why this is such a good question. It's digging much deeper.

Bitterness. Hmmm.

His first thought about this one left him with two games. Both were men's basketball games. Both were in the NCAA tournament.

Is he missing any other obvious ones? Football? Maybe the 1993 game at Penn, a 30-14 loss in a game in which the Tigers never really could get themselves going. As TB thinks about it more, that was more of the first kind he mentioned before.

Lacrosse? Maybe the 2009 NCAA quarterfinal loss to Cornell in a 6-4 defensive battle. But again, that wasn't really bitterness. That was the third kind of tough loss, the one where there are two pretty even teams and one had to win - and it turned out not to be Princeton.

It was also Bill Tierney's last game as Princeton head coach, something TB didn't realize at the time. Maybe if he had he would have been more bitter about it. 

No, for actual bitterness, he'll have to go with those two men's basketball games.

One was in the opening round of the 1991 tournament, at Syracuse against Villanova. Princeton lost that one 50-48 as Lance Miller hit a floater in the lane with two seconds left.

TigerBlog was still in the newspaper business then. In fact, he was in the Carrier Dome football press box, not courtside, as Miller hit his floater, because he needed to be near a phone to be able to send his story to the paper the second the game ended as deadline approached.

You can imagine how far away he was. And he was bitter. Even if he didn't at Princeton yet, he really wanted to win that one, mostly because he wanted Kit Mueller to get an NCAA tournament win.

Mueller, by the way, played 40 minutes in that game and had 14 points and eight assists without a turnover.

Then there was the 1998 second round loss to Michigan State. This had elements of the second kind of loss, since Princeton fell behind 10-0 to the Spartans.

Princeton came all the way back to tie it on a long two-pointer by James Mastaglio late, but Mateen Cleaves came back and drilled a three to put the Spartans ahead for good. The final was 63-56.

TB remembers sitting with Steve Goodrich in the interview area waiting for Michigan State to get finished and being able to hear what the Spartan players were saying. They were being super complimentary, and each time they said something nice, TB and Goodrich both said "grrrrrr" somewhat audibly.

That year, of course, was when Princeton went 27-2. TB really, really wanted that team to get to the Sweet 16, which would have meant a game against North Carolina (the only team to beat Princeton during the regular season) at Kentucky.

All these years later, TB can still see Miller's floater (from so far away) and Cleaves' three-pointer (he was directly behind the basket at which Cleaves shot), and he still says "grrrr" every time he thinks about it.

Now that's bitterness.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Question No. 2.2.0

TigerBlog answered the first question yesterday about the greatest games and events he's seen at Princeton, with the caveat that historical significance had to be factored into the equation.

For today, the question is this: Most improbable team or individual achievements (other than comebacks, which we covered)

When TB first saw this one, he thought of one team that rose above all others when it comes to improbability. As for an individual? There were a lot of them, but he settled on one.

Unlike yesterday, TB will cut right to the chase with these two.

He'll start with the team. It's the men's basketball team from 2000-01.

The 1999-2000 Tigers included head coach Bill Carmody and top assistant Joe Scott, both of whom left after that season. Scott became the Air Force head coach in the spring, and Carmody left in early September to take over at Northwestern.

With very little time between then and when practice began, John Thompson III became the Princeton head coach. He had previously been the second assistant coach.

This was Thompson's head coaching debut, and the team he was coaching was also hit hard by circumstance.

The biggest circumstance actually happened 21 years earlier, when Chris Young was born in late May instead of after June 1. Because of that technicality, Young was eligible for the Major League Baseball draft in 2000, after his sophomore year, and by Ivy League rules he could not longer play basketball once he was a professional in baseball.

As a result, Princeton no longer had the man who was going to be as dominant a center as there would be in college basketball that year. 

Then there was Spencer Gloger, who transferred from Princeton to UCLA. In all pretty much the entire projected starting lineup was gone for one reason or another.

Out of this uncertainty grew a team that won an Ivy League championship and reached the NCAA tournament. It did so as Thompson learned on the fly as a head coach, growing quickly into someone who was a genius at managing games and building a team culture.

And the team itself was still led by its center, Nate Walton. In addition to being one of the five best passers TB has seen play at Princeton and a reliable scorer as well, Walton had a personality that galvanized his team. His leadership that year was as good as any TB has seen from a Princeton athlete.

Walton was joined by a solid cast - including Kyle Wente, Andre Logan, Ed Persia, Ahmed El-Nokali, C.J. Chapman and Mike Bechtold - that played extremely well together. The Tigers, with their coach's philosophy of "be in first place at the end of each weekend," went 11-3 in the league but won the championship by two games over Penn and Brown.

Walton should have been the Ivy Player of the Year that year, by the way.

As for the individual, there are a lot of them, but TigerBlog will go with the performance of men's lacrosse player Seamus Grooms in the 1998 NCAA semifinals against Syracuse.

Princeton had won the 1996 and 1997 NCAA titles. The focal point of those two titles, and the run at the third, was the attack trio of Jesse Hubbard, Jon Hess and Chris Massey, who'd finish their careers with 618 points in 60 games and 121 points in 11 NCAA tournament games.

Their legacy is as the greatest attack unit in college lacrosse history (depending who is making the statement but in the top three no matter who is), but that wouldn't have been the case had the Tigers not won again in 1998.

Princeton trailed Duke 8-4 in the third quarter of the quarterfinals and then came back to win 11-9. Then, in the semifinals against Syracuse, it was another 8-4 deficit in the third quarter, and this time Princeton rallied for an 11-10 victory. The final would be a 15-5 romp over Maryland.

And who was the hero of the semifinal comeback? It was none other than Seamus Grooms, who was the fourth roommate of Hess, Hubbard and Massey.

Grooms scored two fourth quarter goals in that Syracuse game, and without him, there would have been no win that day, which would have meant no third straight title, which would have meant not quite the same legacy.

Grooms finished his career with 19 goals. He chose the right moment to score twice.