Friday, February 22, 2019

A Rare Opportunity

As a Princeton fan, you have the opportunity to do something each of the next two Saturdays that you've only been able to do once before.

Any guesses?

The last time was back on another Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. It didn't happen at all last year, and after tomorrow and a week from tomorrow, it won't happen again this year. Who knows about next year?

And so TigerBlog asks again. Any guesses?

Hmmm. Need another hint? It has to do with two already record-setting Princeton athletes.

Give up?

Okay. Tomorrow, and then a week from tomorrow, will be the second and third times that you'll be able to see Michael Sowers of the men's lacrosse team and Bella Alarie of the women's basketball team play at home on the same day. The only time it's happened before was two years ago, when they were both freshmen. It didn't happen at all last year, and next year's schedule isn't set yet.

The men's lacrosse team is home at noon tomorrow against Virginia in a matchup of nationally ranked teams. Then, at 5:30, you can see Princeton-Columbia women's basketball.

Sowers and then Alarie. You can even get a nosh in between.

Plus, if you're going to go to those two games, you might as well stay for the men's basketball game against Columbia as well. Tip on that one is at 8.

Or, if you prefer, you can do men's lacrosse, women's basketball and the final day of the Ivy League women's swimming and diving championships at DeNunzio Pool. You have plenty of choices.

Any opportunity to see Sowers and Alarie should be jumped at, of course.

Sowers already owns the top two single-season scoring totals in Princeton men's lacrosse history and the school record for assists in a season and is on pace to shatter the existing school record for career points, currently held by Kevin Lowe, who will be back for his 25th Reunion this June. Alarie already owns the Princeton records for points in game and career record for blocked shots, and she too may destroy the existing record for points in a career.

They are friends, the 6-4 Alarie and the 5-9 Sowers. And they are among the very best of the very best athletes TigerBlog has seen compete here.

Sowers opened his season with two goals and five assists in a 23-7 shelling of Monmouth. The game tomorrow figures to be much closer, against a UVa team that comes in smarting at 1-2 after losses to top-ranked Loyola and highly ranked High Point. Virginia is stocked with talent everywhere, and it would not shock TB to see the Cavs make it all the way to Lincoln Financial Field for the Final Four Memorial Day weekend, even after the slow start.

As for Sowers, just one game into his junior year he is already one of four Princeton players ever to reach 100 career assists. He's on pace to beat Lowe's scoring record by about 100 points.

And then there's Alarie, who is averaging 29.3 points per game in her Ivy games this season and who already has two 40+ point nights. Her scoring outburst has left her with 1,097 career points.

Will she get the record?

Sandi Bittler Leland is currently Princeton's all-time leading scorer in women's basketball with 1,683 career points. That puts her 586 ahead of Alarie as of right now.

If Alarie continues to score 29.3 points per league game, she'd get another 615 in just the next seven Ivy games and then the 14 next year. That doesn't count the Ivy tournament, any postseason and any non-conference for next year.

The men's lacrosse team and the women's basketball team are both about more than just their star players, and the games this weekend aren't just about how many points those two can get.

The men's lacrosse team is heading down one of the most difficult stretches TB can remember for an early season, with the UVa game followed by Johns Hopkins at home, consecutive trips to Navy, Rutgers and Penn and then home games against Yale, Denver and Brown to end March.

The women's basketball team is playing to get into the Ivy League tournament (pretty likely) and to win the regular-season championship (one game back of Penn heading into the weekend and then to the Palestra Tuesday).

The men's basketball team is also playing to get into the Ivy League tournament. As in the women's race, there is a two-game drop from fourth place to fifth, which is good if you're in the top four, which the Tigers are. It's even better when you're the Tigers and you're holding the tiebreaker against Penn, so your lead is more like three games.

TigerBlog will be doing the men's lacrosse/women's basketball/men's basketball tripleheader tomorrow. He'll have the basketball doubleheader tonight.

Is that a lot?

Hey, when you can see Michael Sowers and Bella Alarie on the same day, you have to take advantage of it.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Four Days, 35 Events

TigerBlog was cleaning the snow off his car yesterday a little after noon, which is when the University closed due to the storm, when he looked over at the person next to him. She was clearing her car as well.

"Softball sesaon," TB said.

The other person was softball assistant coach Christie Novatin, whose team is scheduled to open its season beginning tomorrow in Lynchburg, Va., where the Tigers are to play five games.

The snow yesterday was followed by rain and then a forecast for today of sunshine and a high of 58 in Princeton. It's late February, when the weather is always strange and the Princeton schedule is always full.

Between today and Sunday, there are 35 athletic events featuring Princeton teams, ranging from season openers like softball to home openers (men's lacrosse against Virginia, Saturday at noon on Sherrerd Field) to major stretch drives to teams competing for championships.

There will be at least three Ivy League championships won this weekend, in women's swimming and diving, which has its championships ongoing at DeNunzio Pool, and then in men's and women's indoor track and field, with the Heps championships at Harvard.

If you want all of the details of the Ivy women's swimming and diving championships, then click HERE for Craig Sachson's comprehensive look at what to expect, including schedules, start times and Princeton's top competitors.

As for the track and field championships, Princeton's men have won six straight overall Heps titles, with the two track and field titles in 2017, a Triple Crown in 2017-18 and then the cross country championship this past fall.

If you look just at indoor track and field, Princeton has won four straight, seven of the last nine and 14 of the last 21. Of the other seven that Princeton has not won since 1998, Cornell has won all seven.

Want to know the last time Princeton didn't finish first or second at the Ivy League Heps men's indoor track and field championships? It was 1993. Can you guess which two teams finished 1-2 that year?

Hint, it wasn't Cornell and Penn. Or Harvard and Yale. Or any Ivy schools, for that matter. It was Army and Navy, back when those two used to competed at Heps. In fact, it wasn't until 2004 that Heps became an eight-team event.

So yeah, that is an amazing record of consistent domination by the Princeton men.

Check out the complete schedule for the weekend HERE, and then go to the Princeton Athletics Daily stories on goprincetontigers.com for previews, video links, live stats and such. 

This is the last weekend of the ECAC women's hockey regular season and the second-to-last weekend of the men's hockey regular season.

With four league games to go, the men are mathematically out of hosting a first-round playoff series. If the season ended with the current standings, the defending champion Tigers would be at either Brown or Dartmouth for the first round.

Do you think either of those teams is dying to play Princeton in a best of three?

As for the women, they will definitely be home for the quarterfinals next weekend. The question is what happens after that.

In fact, the four host teams for the quarterfinals will be Princeton, Cornell, Clarkson and Colgate, regardless of what happens. The highest remaining seed will host the semifinals and finals next weekend.

Will that be Princeton?

Well, the Tigers are one point ahead of Cornell with two games left. The Big Red, and Colgate, are at RPI and Union this weekend.

Princeton, on the other hand, makes the big trip north, to Clarkson tomorrow night and St. Lawrence Saturday afternoon. Should Princeton sweep, it would host throughout the playoffs, regardless of what Cornell does.

Also, should Princeton finish in a tie with Cornell, the Tigers would be the No. 1 seed, by virtue of a 1-0-1 record over the Big Red. If you assume a Cornell sweep, that means that Princeton needs a win and tie this weekend.

It's been a great year for ECAC women's hockey, and the top four teams in the league standings are ranked in the top nine nationally. Princeton is currently sixth, one spot behind Clarkson, who is one spot behind Cornell. Colgate is ninth.

The league final four will be exciting. And figure on three of those four in the eight-team NCAA tournament.

By the way, Harvard, RPI, Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence are bunched together within one point of each other from fifth to eighth. Those four have all clinched playoff spots.

There's also a home basketball doubleheader tomorrow night (Cornell) and Saturday night (Columbia), and all four of those games are huge.

The last weekend in February is always this way. Very busy, with very, very big events.

This year is no different. 



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

That's 400

The first time TigerBlog saw Chris Sailer coach a game, it was 1) the 1980s and 2) not lacrosse.

It was 1989, so still technically the ’80s. It was on Gulick Field, which then was a pristine grass field above Lourie-Love Field and which today is Plummer Field, a turf practice field that's part of Myslik Stadium.

Back then, Gulick was the home of Princeton field hockey and women's lacrosse. It's unfathomable these days to consider that high level Division I field hockey was played on a grass field, but it was.

Also back then, Chris Sailer was an assistant field hockey coach as well as the head women's lacrosse coach, and TB was a sportswriter who covered a lot of women's sports. He's pretty sure that the first Princeton women's lacrosse game he covered was during the 1990 season, when he saw Princeton defeat Lehigh 18-5.

That was win No. 28 at Princeton for Chris Sailer.

TigerBlog was there Saturday, about 50 yards from where Gulick Field once sat up on a hill, at Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium, which long ago became the home for Princeton men's and women's lacrosse.

This time, Princeton defeated Temple 16-7 to open the 2019 season. The win was Chris Sailer's 400th.

The record book says that Sailer is the second Division I coach and the fifth overall to reach 400 wins in women's college lacrosse. The only women's coach in Division I with more wins than Sailer is Navy's Cindy Timchal, who won her 508th game this past Sunday.

The all-time record, by the way, is 514, held by Sharon Pfluger at the College of New Jersey. Fascinatingly, two of the five coaches to reach 400 wins have done so at Mercer County schools less than 10 miles apart.

Between the women and men, there are three Division I coaches, including Duke's John Danowski, who have gotten to 400 career wins. Sailer is the only one to get all 400 wins at one school.

Princeton was a combined 6-33 in the three years before Chris Sailer became the head coach, back in 1987. She went 3-9 her first year, including 1-5 in the Ivy League.

A year later, Bill Tierney would arrive at Princeton, also inheriting a lacrosse program that showed no signs of what was about to come. He too would have a tough first year, going 2-13.

Nearly 20 years later, Courtney Banghart would come to Princeton to take over a similarly struggling women's basketball team and go 7-23 in her first year.

Sailer and Banghart got to .500 in Year 2. Tierney got one win below .500 in Year 2. In Year 3? All three made the NCAA tournament. Sailer went one better, reaching the Final Four for her first time.

Today Sailer's resume includes three NCAA championships, 14 Ivy League championships (including five straight) and 25 NCAA tournaments. She's also in the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

TigerBlog has written this before, but his belief is that Chris Sailer is the best female coach in Princeton history. 

Princeton last year won the Ivy League championship, the Ivy League tournament championship (her unprecedented fourth) and a game against Syracuse in the NCAA tournament to reach 399 career wins. The 2018 season ended with an NCAA loss to Boston College, who would be the runner up.

That Sailer would get to 400 Saturday became pretty obvious when it got to be 3-0 early and 10-2 at halftime. From there, it become something of a Chris Sailer celebration, with t-shirts and Chris Sailer faces and a lot of loyal alums in attendance.

Afterwards, Sailer was typically humble when she talked to the media, in this case Bill Alden of Town Topics and Joe O'Gorman of the Trentonian, who both also have been there for a lot of Sailer's wins.

She talked about the great players and shared the credit with all of her assistant coaches. She talked about the University and how honored she's been to represent it all of these years. She mentioned how much she's enjoying her current team.

That was outside the team rooms at the far end of the facility. Then she walked back towards where the current team and parents, and her alums and fans, were still waiting for her.

TB walked with her for those 100 or so yards. He could tell how happy she was.

Even if he couldn't, the huge smile gave her away. Getting to 400 is special. Getting all 400 at Princeton is even more so.

She had every right to be beaming.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

41 Yes. 45 Yes. 58 Maybe.

When TigerBlog saw "41" Saturday night, it immediately made him think of "58."

If you are a serious Princeton basketball fan, then you know where TB is going with this already.

He'll give a hint to get you started: The "41" refers to the number of points that Bella Alarie scored against Dartmouth Saturday night.

It was a very good weekend for the Princeton women's basketball team, who won on the road at Harvard and Dartmouth and got some help from Harvard, who beat Penn, to completely change the Ivy League race. Princeton entered the weekend two games back of an unbeaten Penn team. Now, the Tigers trail by one, knowing that there is a meeting between the teams at the Palestra one week from tonight.

As of right now, the Ivy women's standings go like this:
Penn 6-1
Princeton 5-2
Harvard/Yale 5-3
Dartmouth/Cornell/Columbia 3-5
Brown 1-7

Princeton and Penn host Cornell and Columbia this weekend. Those are actually doubleheaders, by the way, with the women and men home.

By the way, should Princeton and Penn sweep, the Harvard/Yale winner go 2-0 and the Harvard/Yale loser go 1-1, then still nobody would have clinched an Ivy League tournament spot, though there'd be some very serious separation with what would then be two weekends left.

On the other hand, if you get the opposite of those results, then you'd have total chaos in the league. For right now, though, with three weekends left, there's a two-game drop from fourth to fifth, and that's very significant.

Also, if you look at the top four teams, here are there records against each other:
Penn 2-1
Yale 2-1
Princeton 1-2
Harvard 1-2

Of those games, none have been by double figures, all but two were by four points or fewer and two went OT. Should the league tournament involve those four teams, it's really anybody's to take.


Ah, but there's plenty of time for that discussion later. For now, TB wants to get back to Bella Alarie.

So where to start?

Alarie put up 45 points against Columbia earlier this year, setting an Ivy League record for points in a game by a women's player. She came back with 41 more against Dartmouth Saturday night, making her the second Ivy player ever (Penn's Diana Caramanico is the other) to have two 40-point games in a game.

Of course, Alarie is just a junior. More accurately, she's just a junior who is absolutely destroying the Ivy League.

Here are her point totals for the first seven Ivy games: 21, 45, 21, 38, 20, 19, 41. If you don't want to do the math, that's 29.3 points per game, and if you don't want to look on the Ivy League website, that's 10.5 points per game more than anyone else.

Also if you don't want to look on the Ivy website, the record for points per game in a league season is 27.8, by Harvard's Allison Feaster back in 1997-98.

It's also not like Alarie is shooting the ball recklessly to get all these points. Alarie is second in the league at 51.9 percent from the field.

She's also leading the league in rebounding at 13.1 per game, in a conference in which nobody else is even in double figures. She's second in blocks and just for fun, she's also seventh in steals and even eighth in assists.

As TB wrote after the 45-point game and repeated on the radio this past weekend, Alarie is the most complete basketball player - male or female - that he has ever seen in this league.

So that's the "41." What's the "58?"

Well, for that, TB now takes you to the "Bella Alarie/Bill Bradley comparison" portion of your day.

Bill Bradley is the only other Princeton basketball player other than Alarie ever to have 40 points in a game, something he did 11 times.

Oh, and speaking of Bradley, for his entire career, his career low was 16 points. In other words, he scored at least 16 points in every game of his career, which is probably as astonishing as anything else he did her.

Bella Alarie's season low in any game? So far it's 16.

Of course, Bradley's career high was 58, which he scored in the 1965 NCAA consolation game against Wichita State. Those 58 points are still the record for a Final Four game.

In all the years that he's been watching Princeton basketball, TB has never seen a player he thought would ever even remotely approach 58 points in a game. And there's a big jump from 41 and 45 to 58.

Still, would it be that shocking? 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Making It Through The Weekend

TigerBlog was on the radio with Patrick McCarthy Friday night when someone came up and asked TB if his father was the Phillies guy.

TB thought for a second about what he meant and then he realized he was talking about Patrick's father, Tom McCarthy, the former Princeton play-by-play man who is now "the Phillies guy." FatherBlog, conversely, is 83 and hasn't been in Philadelphia in a long time.

It was good to see Patrick back in Jadwin Gym this weekend. It was good to see Patrick anywhere, after he had a really bad skiing accident nearly three weeks ago.

Despite four broken ribs and two broken vertebrae, as well as a lung that needed to be reinflated, Patrick looked fine and sounded like his normal strong self as he called the men's basketball games against Harvard Friday night and Dartmouth Saturday night.

He also mentioned that he'd go skiing again, even though the accident came on the first time he'd gone. For his part, TB went skiing once, and it's not his thing at all.

The games that Patrick called this weekend were both tough ones, but then again it seems like every Ivy League men's basketball game this year has been a tough one. It seems like game after game is tight, with only a possession here or there to separate the teams until someone pulls it out at the end.

As TB and Patrick gave updates Friday and Saturday, every game was close at all times. In fact, at times both nights, all four games were withing three points past the midway point of the second half. TB can't remember a year quite like that.

Princeton, for its part, made it through the weekend in pretty good shape as it relates to the Ivy League tournament, which is not that far in the future now.

As TB said Friday, it's like former coach John Thompson III said about how Ivy League basketball works. Get through each weekend and see where you are. If you're in the right spot, then don't worry about how you got there.

Princeton began its weekend with a 78-69 loss to Harvard, on the same night that Dartmouth fell to Penn 80-79 in overtime. The big question then heading into Saturday's game between the Tigers and Big Green was which team would have any energy after the tough Friday losses.

The answer turned out to be both, and the result was a very exciting, very well-contested, very hard-fought matchup that ended 69-68 Princeton.

TigerBlog thought that Saturday night was going to be huge for Princeton in terms of the big picture of the league race. Harvard was taking on Penn at the same time as the Tigers and Big Green, and the results of those two games were going to have a major impact on the standings.

Whatever the outcomes, the impact on the league standings was going to be substantial. A Penn win and a Princeton loss would have tied those two for fourth place. A Princeton win and a Penn loss would mean a two-game separation between the teams, which in this case is really a three-game separation, since Princeton holds the tiebreaker over Penn due to its season sweep.

As the games made their way down the stretch, those outcomes swung back and forth like a seesaw. First it was Penn and Dartmouth up. Then it was Princeton. Then it was Dartmouth again. Then Harvard. Then Penn. Then overtime in Philly.

Finally, it worked out perfectly for the Tigers. Princeton had too much Richmond Aririguzoh for the Big Green, and Harvard pulled away in the OT after a big last-minute rally to tie it in regulation.

Before TB gets back to the Ivy standings, he should say a word about the Tigers' junior center, who is shooting 75 percent from the field in Ivy League games. The second best number in the league? That's .552.

Overall, Aririguzoh is at .701 for the year. The program record for a season is .703, held by Alan Williams, set in the 1986-87 season.

Aririguzoh has become a force in the low post this year, an unstoppable one at times, with a full arsenal of moves. He had the two biggest plays of the night against Dartmouth, a tip-in to beat the first half buzzer in which he elevated over Dartmouth's 6-9 Will Emery (TB is almost positive he's the grandson of former Princeton football great John Emery, the 1952 Roper Trophy winner) and then a powerful finish with 1:08 to go to make it a two-possession game at 68-64.

So where does it all stand? Sort of where it did before the weekend, with a two-game gap from fourth to fifth, only with one more weekend gone.

Yale is 7-1. Harvard is 6-2. Princeton and Cornell are 5-3. Then it's down to 3-5 Penn and Brown, 2-6 Dartmouth and 1-7 Columbia.

There are three league weekends left, with the Tigers at home this coming weekend against Cornell and Columbia (doubleheaders with the women, and TB will have more on them tomorrow).

Is anything settled yet? Nope. There's a long way to go.

In short, though, Princeton did what JT3 always said to do - make it through each weekend in an advantageous position.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Weekend In Hoops

TigerBlog starts your Friday with a congratulations to Sydney Jordan.

A senior on the women's basketball team, Jordan yesterday was named one of the co-winners of the Pyne Prize, the highest undergraduate honor at Princeton. It's an extraordinary recognition of an extraordinary person, one who embodies the very best of being a student and an athlete.

The list of athletes who have won the Pyne Prize is not a long one. Take a few minutes and click HERE to read all about Jordan and why she won.

Jordan was on the bus to Harvard with her Princeton teammates when she found out she had won. TB imagines there was quite a bit of excitement at the news.

Congrats to Sydney Jordan.

Next up TB would like to talk about Pete Hegseth, a former Princeton men's basketball player who went on to a distinguished military career and who is now a noted political commentator. In his current role, Hegseth often takes controversial positions, but he made his biggest stir ever in something that was not political.

TB actually saw that Hegseth was trending on Twitter a few days ago, and he didn't quite understand why until he saw the news story. Hegseth said that he hadn't washed his hands in 10 years because germs are overrated.

Egads, TB thought. He's shaken Hegseth's hand before, and, well, no hand-washing in 10 years? That's something TB can't handle.

Hegseth also made fun of people who carry hand sanitizer with them, people like TigerBlog for instance.

Fortunately, TB didn't take it all that seriously. And neither did Hegseth, who came out later to clarify that he was not serious about the no hand-washing thing.

Hegseth, by the way, is a 2003 grad who was a great three-point shooter and who made some big shots down the stretch of a game against Columbia his senior year. TB liked him from Day 1, and he knew he was kidding around about the germ stuff.

It's a huge weekend for both basketball teams, but then again, every weekend from now on will be. The men are finally playing home Ivy games again, for the first time since they took on Penn way back on Jan. 5.

As is the case for Princeton home games, TB will be on the radio with Patrick McCarthy, and TB would like to also say how happy he is that Patrick will be there this weekend. Why? Because two weekends ago Patrick had a really bad skiing accident that left him with some broken bones and a new appreciation for TB's level of empathy after he asked him if there was video of it.

Both the men and women play Harvard tonight and Dartmouth tomorrow. TB will start with the women.

Princeton is 3-2 in the league, even with Yale and Harvard with two losses each, while Dartmouth is 3-3. It's too early in the league race to call games critical, but it is a good time to start to think about what Hegseth's coach at Princeton, John Thompson III, always would say.

Back when he was the Tiger coach, Thompson would say that the goal was to be in the first place at the end of each weekend. In the days of the Ivy tournament, it might still be the goal to be in first place, but there's also a goal of reaching the postseason, which means being in the top four, which means being in the top four at the end of each weekend.

The men's team is 4-2, which isn't bad considering that five of those six games have been on the road and that the rest of the schedule is loaded with home weekends. The Tigers trail Yale, who is 5-1, and they are tied with Cornell and Harvard, both 4-2.

There's a two-game drop from the top four to the next three, with Penn, Brown and Dartmouth all at 2-4. Do not let that fool you into thinking that the four teams who will meet in New Haven next month are etched in stone.

For starters, Penn is the defending champ and already is the 2019 Big Five champ. For another, Brown beat Princeton a week ago. And for another, Dartmouth has beaten Harvard.

This weekend will do a little more to see if there actually is separation from top to bottom in the league race. Each game is fascinating.

For Princeton, the women play at 7 tonight and 5 tomorrow at Dartmouth. For the men, it's a 7 pm tip both nights.

Another thing that JT3 used to say is to not look at the big picture. Instead, he'd say, look at each possession and then worry about the big picture later.

That's four games this weekend for Princeton basketball. That's a lot of possessions - and a chance to look up Saturday night and see where the big picture is then. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Making Points

TigerBlog did three podcasts in three hours yesterday.

First he spoke to Courtney Banghart, the head women's basketball coach. Then it was Matt Madalon, who did his first podcast of 2019 in advance of the opening game of his men's lacrosse team's season. And lastly, there was Chris Sailer, whose women's lacrosse team also opens its season this Saturday.

Good thing TB likes to hear his own voice.

As TB said, even if you didn't realize it, lacrosse season is here. The men open their season at Monmouth Saturday at 1, while the women are home against Temple at the same time.

Meanwhile, TB is a big fan of the podcasts. They're easy to do, and they are a really good way for fans of a team to get to hear directly from the coach.

When TB asks questions, he's trying to get into the psyche of coaching and see how it differs from that of a fan. How do coaches see things? What are they thinking?

They've certainly been well-received, and not just the ones that TB has been doing. There have also been ones in wrestling, football and men's basketball.

After TB and Courtney finished talking yesterday, she asked him how far away Bella was from the record. TB knew what she meant.

How far away was Bella Alarie from the school record for points in a career?

This was in contrast to when she asked TB Monday how far Bella was from the record. That record was most Ivy Player of the Week awards in a career.

For that, Alarie is currently tied for second all-time in Ivy women's basketball history with Princeton's Niveen Rasheed with 14 selections, trailing only Allison Feaster of Harvard, who had 21 before graduating in 1998.

When TB finished talking with Chris Sailer, it dawned on him that the three coaches he had just interviewed were all running programs who have current athletes who are going to make serious runs at the existing records for career points. In fact two of them are on a pace to destroy the existing records.

Beyond that, two of the three teams have all-time records that have stood the test of time.

Let's start with Bella Alarie. The record for points in a career for women's basketball is currently 29 years old, having been set by Sandi Bittler (now Leland) in 1990. Bittler, one of the best three-point shooters in Ivy League history, scored 1,683 points in her career.

Alarie, who has been on an insane scoring pace of late, has 1,037 points for her career, which leaves her 646 away from Bittler. Princeton has nine regular season games remaining this year and then 28 more next year, so if you use those 37 games, then Alarie would need to average 17.5 per game to catch Bittler.

If you throw in a few Ivy tournament games and a postseason game or two, then that number drops a bit.

Will Alarie get there? Well, she's averaging 29.0 points per game in the league so far and has been borderline unstoppable of late. The record for average points per game in an Ivy season, by the way, is 27.8, set by Feaster in 1998.

Then there are the lacrosse teams.

The records for career points in men's and women's lacrosse have stood for a combined 27 years. That's 25 years for Kevin Lowe on the men's side and two for Olivia Hompe on the women's.

Hompe had 282 points in her career before graduating two years ago. Sophomore Kyla Sears had 83 points last year as a freshman, which, if she does three more times, would give her 332, or 50 more than Hompe had.

Sears is also on pace for 256 goals. Hompe has the record for that too, with 1995.

Should Sears get to 256 goals, that would give her more goals than any Princeton men's lacrosse player has ever had points. Think about that. For all of the great men's lacrosse players Princeton has had, nobody has ever had more points than she would have goals. That's extraordinary.

Of course, that doesn't take into account the probability that there is someone who is chasing down the men's record that has stood all this time. Kevin Lowe, a US Lacrosse Hall of Famer, finished his career with 247 points, the final one on a goal in overtime in the 1994 NCAA championship game against Virginia.

Again, for all of the great players at Princeton in the last 25 years, the closest anyone else has come has been Ryan Boyle with 232.

Now, though, is the start of the junior year for Michael Sowers, who had a school-record 82 as a freshman and then another school-record 83 as a sophomore. That's 165 after two years, which leaves him, hmmm, 82 away from tying Lowe and 83 away from beating him.

And that's this year. If you double the 165, that takes you to 330.

Alarie, of course, missed nine games this year due to injury. If that happens to Sowers or Sears, then that changes the equation and all.

On the other hand, if they all stay healthy, Alarie continues to score like she has of late and Sowers and Sears continue to score like they have their whole careers?

Well, you can say that those three may just do a bit of a Bill Bradley type of thing on their own team's record books. 


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Remembering Lorin, 10 Years Later


TigerBlog recently asked his colleague Kim Meszaros if she knew how many people have worked in the Department of Athletics for at least 10 years.

Her answer was that it's fewer than 50.

If that's the case, then fewer than 50 people who still work here woke up to news 10 years ago today that they still can't believe is true. And, like TigerBlog, they can still feel all of the emotions that they felt in that moment.

It was 10 years ago this morning that TigerBlog, and everyone else at Princeton, awoke to the unfathomable news that Lorin Maurer had died in a plane crash late the night before. Lorin, who oversaw the relationship between the Department and its Friends' Groups, had just turned 30.

TigerBlog still gets an eerie feeling when he thinks back to that morning 10 years ago. He woke up like any other morning, and within minutes he was struck by an email that said that Lorin had passed away.

How was that possible? Even now, writing the words, it hardly seems possible.

TigerBlog last saw Lorin in the late afternoon of Feb. 12, 2009. The two of them, and several others, had been in a meeting, and Lorin had mentioned how she had to get to the airport. She was flying to Buffalo for her boyfriend's brother's wedding.

She had said she was in a bit of rush to get there when the meeting ended, and then about 10 minutes later, she was walking down the mezzanine in Jadwin, where TB's office used to be. As she hurried past, she stopped, looked in and smiled. She never said a word, but she didn't have to.

She'd do that often. Stop, smile, and keep walking. TB smiled back at her and gave her no other thought until the next morning.

At first he refused to accept the news. It made no sense. She'd just been there the day before. It was a normal day. There was nothing wrong with any of it.

And now she was gone? No way. No chance. TB sat glued to the TV, looking at the news coverage of the plane crash, one that took Lorin and 49 others on the plane and one more on the ground.

On that morning, TB was in a state of shock like he's never been at any other time of his life. Shock.

And then the shock wore off, and all that was left was the sadness, the terrible sadness of a young friend, gone so young, with so much to live for. The rest of that day is also still so vivid, with a home basketball game, lots of media wanting to know about her and then a moment of silence that left PA announcer Bill Bromberg choked up and barely able to get through it.

TB has remembered her this time of year every time, because he wants people to know who Lorin Maurer was, how tragic it is that she was cheated out of so much life and how those who knew her will never forget her.

She had a good job. She was really close with her family. She had great friends, some of whom - like Kellie Staples, Kelly Widener, Jon Kurian and Chris Brock - still work here with TB. And she had found love.

And then she was yanked away, in a blink of an eye.

Lorin was sweet and funny and happy. She smiled a lot. She laughed a lot. She liked to have fun. She was easy-going. She had so much going for her.

She worked hard, often doing things that weren't really her responsibility but then hey, somebody had to do it.

TB remembers vividly a few days before her death when he helped her set up tables for an event in the Jadwin lobby. It was supposed to be done for her, but it hadn't been, so she walked in to find a bunch of tables stacked next to each other against the wall. Did she curse? Did she call someone? Nope. She just set them up.

Now it's 10 years later.

Today TigerBlog can still feel all of the emotions of that morning exactly 10 years ago, the morning he found out that someone so full of life had met a tragic, horrific and wildly premature death. He can't type the words without shaking his head at how unfair it all is.

Lorin Maurer has been gone for 10 years. TB can still see her face and hear her voice, as can anyone else who ever met her.

TB hopes that never goes away.

Lorin was one of the good guys. Time hasn't made it any easier to deal with what happened, even 10 years later.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Feeding Frenzy

Sarah Fillier is one of three players in Division I women's hockey who has more assists than games played.

Well, there's probably someone who played two games and has three assists and all. TigerBlog is talking about players who have played enough games to be included among national leaders.

Fillier is third in Division I in total assists with 30, trailing Clarkson's Elizabeth Giguere (35) and Boston University's Jesse Compher (34).

At the same time, Giguere has played 30 games, while Compher has played in 29. Fillier? She has her 30 assists in just 21 games.

In other words, Fillier leads Division I in assists per game (1.43) and does so by a large margin, with Compher next at 1.17. Fillier could go without an assist in each of Princeton's last four regular season games and still be averaging 1.2 heading into the ECAC playoffs.

On the men's side, Max Veronneau is 17th in Division I in total assists with 21, which also doesn't tell his full story. Veronneau has 21 assists in 23 games,and his .913 assists per game are fourth in Division I.

The Princeton records for career assists are 118 on the men's side (John Messuri, 1985-89) and 122 on the women's side (Kathy Issel, 1991-95). Veronneau is second all-time for the men with 89, and he will almost surely finish his career there (he'd have to average 3.7 for the final six regular season games and two ECAC playoff games to get to 118; should Princeton make a run in the postseason, that number would go down slightly but it's not realistic to think he'll get 29 more).

As for Fillier, she does figure to make a real run at Issel in her four years.

Often times in hockey, goals end up as the result of scrambles in front of the net, with the actual finish itself not the part of the play that is most impressive. The ability to see the ice, though, and put the puck on someone's stick in the right place at the right time is rare.

Pete Carril, Princeton's Hall of Fame men's basketball coach, used to talk about how he needed players who could "see it." TB can still remember pretty much word for word when Carril barked at a freshman in practice once after a bad pass:
"Can't see it? I had a guy once who couldn't see it. Couldn't do much with him. Had to get rid of him."

TB won't say who the player was, other than that he became a three-time All-Ivy League selection, including a first-team selection.

Carril's point is that the best players are the ones whose eyes can see everything going on during the play - before the play actually - and make the right pass at the right moment. If you read "A Sense Of Where You Are," John McPhee's first book, the one that chronicled Bill Bradley as a player at Princeton, you know that he wrote about Bradley's peripheral vision, which was unusually strong.

TigerBlog's favorite part of watching either Princeton hockey team is seeing how Fillier and Veronneau can, well, see it. They pass the puck differently, and it's a direct result of their on-ice vision.

Through the years, TB has seen great Princeton players whose biggest strength was their vision. Diana Matheson from women's soccer leaps to mind. So does Nate Walton in basketball.

And current head men's basketball coach Mitch Henderson, who was an incredible passer when he played here. Henderson was so quick and precise in his passes that the defense hardly even knew he'd thrown one before it was in a teammate's hands for another easy layup. There haven't been more aesthetic moments in all the years of watching Princeton basketball for TB than watching Henderson throw one-handed bounce passes.

These days, Princeton is fortunate to have more than its share of great feeders. In addition to the two hockey players, there's also freshman men's basketball player Jaelin Llewellyn, who has already shown that he clearly sees it. So does Carlie Littlefield on the women's team. Juliana Tornetta in field hockey is the same kind of player.

And of course, this week is opening weekend for lacrosse season. Princeton has had legendary, Hall-of-Fame feeders here in the 30 years that TB has been watching the team play, such as Kevin Lowe (already in the Hall of Fame), Ryan Boyle (will be there soon), Jon Hess (also should be there) and Tom Schreiber (the best passing middie ever and a Hall of Fame lock too).

This weekend's game at Monmouth (Saturday at 1) starts the junior year of the best feeder TB has ever seen in lacrosse, Michael Sowers. And that's with a full understanding of just how great Lowe, Boyle and Hess were when they played here.

Sowers is already fifth all-time at Princeton in assists (and in fact has more than Schreiber had for his career). Sowers led Division I last year in assists per game and set the Princeton single-season record for a season with 56, and he is on pace to shatter Lowe's records for assists and points at Princeton.

Sowers is a bit like Henderson was in basketball. His passes are quick and aesthetic, and they often result in layups.

The best passes, by the way, are simple. They're not the wild behind-the-back, no-look ones, though those are great to watch. No, the simple ones are the best. They're the ones that demoralize a defense and leave everyone watching to think "wait, did you see that? I missed it."

Princeton has had more than its share of those kinds of players through the years, and up through the present.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Weekend On Ice

TigerBlog starts out today by congratulating Cornell on its 17th straight Ivy League wrestling title and for running its league winning streak to 88 straight after its win over Princeton Saturday.

As you read Friday, TigerBlog was excited for the Tigers, who put themselves in position to challenge for the league championship, and for head coach Chris Ayres, whose endless optimism and energy have driven the Princeton wrestling resurgence. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Cornell was too strong up in Ithaca.

Princeton wrestling still has a long way to go in 2019, with matches at Penn and Drexel to end the regular season and then the EIWA (March 8-9 at Binghamton) and NCAA championships (two weeks later in Pittsburgh) on the horizon. Princeton will have a real chance at multiple All-Americas and perhaps even an NCAA champion or two.

One day, Cornell's streaks will end. Streaks always do. And on that day, TB hopes it's Ayres and Princeton who are the ones who make it happen. For now, though, it's congrats to the Big Red, again.

Also, TB would like to call your attention to a really good video piece done on men's hockey player Neil Doef, who suffered a spinal cord injury before coming to Princeton but who has still become a valuable member of the program. You can watch it here:
Speaking of the men's hockey team, the Tigers are still the defending ECAC champion, and here's a question you could ask the rest of the league: Would you want to play Princeton in the playoffs this year?

Princeton has struggled through much of the regular season, but the Tigers looked really good Saturday night in a 4-1 win over Yale at Hobey Baker Rink. Ryan Kuffner, the all-time leading goal scorer for Princeton men's hockey, scored twice in the game, making him the first Tiger to reach 70 for his career. Even more impressive is the fact that 11 different players, representing four different lines, had at least one point in the game.

Could that be a turning point?

There are three weekends and six games left in the men's hockey regular season, and Princeton is four points out of eighth place in the race for a home playoff series. Home or away, though, Princeton has the look of a team that can get hot quickly, and the rest of the league knows it. It'll be very interesting to see if Princeton can get on a roll like it did last year, when it went from seventh place all the way to the NCAA tournament.

Up next for Princeton is a trip to RPI and Union this weekend. Somewhat confusingly, the women are home next weekend, but it'll be Union Friday night and RPI Saturday. Why would that be?

There are two weekends left in the women's ECAC race, and Princeton is putting itself in position for its first regular season championship, though there is a long way to go. On the other hand, this past weekend went about as well for Princeton as it could have.

First, the Tigers took care of their business, sweeping Brown and Yale on the road by a combined score of 12-4. Those two wins did a bunch of things for Princeton, not the least of which was win an outright Ivy League championship.

In fact, Princeton finished its Ivy League schedule at 8-0-2.
Second, those four ECAC points clinched at least a home first-round playoff series, so the Tigers will be at Hobey Baker Rink the first weekend of March for the quarterfinals. And beyond that? 

Third, Princeton is now ahead by three points in the standings. The weekend began with a tie between Princeton and Cornell, both of whom were one point ahead of Clarkson, and the results helped Princeton immeasurably.

First, Clarkson beat Cornell Friday night. Then Cornell tied St. Lawrence while Colgate beat Clarkson.

As a result, the standings now have Princeton with 31 points, followed by Clarkson and Cornell with 28 each. Princeton finishes its regular season with a trip to Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

Princeton enters this last two weekends with a long way to go - literally the trip to Clarkson/St. Lawrence and figuratively to try to close out an ECAC championship. On the other hand Princeton has a little margin of error to play with here.

And, of course, it'll be very exciting to see how it all plays out on ice, for both the Princeton women and men.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Wrestling For A Championship

The wrestling room and the Office of Athletic Communications are located next to each other on E level of Jadwin Gym.

At one point yesterday, TigerBlog walked into the outer area of the OAC just as Chris Ayres, the head wrestling coach, was walking down the hallway. As they saw each other through a glass window, they nodded to each other.

Ayres was thinking "hi." TB was thinking "if anyone ever has deserved a win, it's that guy this weekend."

Ayres and the Tigers are on the road this weekend, at Cornell tomorrow and then at Columbia Sunday. Cornell is home today with Penn.

Princeton is ranked 19th nationally. Cornell is ranked 10th.

Oh, and then there's that other thing. Cornell has won 16 straight Ivy League championships and 86 straight Ivy League matches. Both of those streaks date back to the 2001-02 season.

When Ayres came to Princeton, having a shot at ending those streaks was at once both the furthest thing on his mind (as he started to rebuild the program) and the biggest thing on his mind (since he's been thinking big since Day 1). And now he has what might be the best chance any team has had in all the time that Cornell has been on this long winning streak.

It won't be easy. Cornell is still the favorite.

And yes, there's something incredible about what Ayres has done with Princeton wrestling. Just having the team in the national top 20 and have legitimate NCAA championship contenders is extraordinary enough, especially to those like TB who remember where the program was.

But to have a shot at Cornell? Princeton, Cornell and Penn are all unbeaten in the league so far, and Princeton and Penn wrestle next Saturday in Philadelphia. There are mathematical possibilities that give each of the three at least a share of the title, and should Cornell sweep, that would mean a 17th straight outright championship and perfect league season.

Ayres has taken his team around the country to wrestle the best, and he's brought some of the best to Princeton to wrestle his team. Now his challenge is Cornell, and, well, TB doesn't really have to say much else about that right now.

Other than to say good luck to the Tigers. And to say that he's pulling really hard for Ayres and his team.

The Princeton-Cornell wrestling match is not the only big event for a Princeton team this weekend. There are three other teams, for that matter, who are competing directly for Ivy League titles.

The men's and women's fencing teams are at the Ivy League round robin this weekend at Yale. The Ivy League champions for men and women will be crowned Sunday afternoon, after each team has fenced against each other team, all in a two-day span.

The women's hockey team is also playing this weekend for an Ivy League championship, as the Tigers are at Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow night. One win in either game clinches an outright Ivy title, and even one tie will mean at least a share of the championship.

Also, as TB wrote yesterday, there is also the ECAC race that, with each team with six games to play, has Princeton, Cornell and Clarkson separated by one point.

There is also home men's hockey this weekend as Brown and Yale come to Baker Rink. In fact, you can see everything from this very busy weekend HERE.

Finally, there is the weekend in basketball.

The men's basketball team is the only Ivy unbeaten after each team has played just four games, followed by 3-1 Yale and 3-1 Harvard. The Tigers begin their weekend in New Haven to take on the Bulldogs before heading to Brown tomorrow.

It's a little early in the race to be thinking about Ivy titles and the Ivy tournament. Maybe after the first run through the Ivy weekends, which for Princeton means home games next weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth.

On the women's side, Penn is the only unbeaten at 3-0, while Princeton, Yale and Harvard all have one league loss. The other four teams are all 1-3.

It's too early to say that the Ivy tournament field is set, of course. Princeton is home tonight with Yale (6 tip) and tomorrow at 5 with Brown, and right now it's about getting wins and not worrying about the standings.

Also, there are other reasons to come to Jadwin this weekend for women's hoops. First, it's the alumni weekend for the team, including many members of the 30-0 team from 2015 who will be among those honored tomorrow. Second, it's National Girls and Women In Sports Day, with the pregame clinic set for 4.

Third, it's a chance to see Bella Alarie, who put up 66 points in two games last weekend, including 45 against Columbia last Friday night.

Who wouldn't take advantage of that opportunity?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Chasing Championships

As league races for Princeton teams go, TigerBlog hasn't seen too many ever that match up to what's going on in the ECAC women's hockey standings right now.

It'll be a great stretch drive involving three, or possibly four, teams. And yes, TB has seen that many times in many different sports involving Princeton through the years.

What makes this one different is that all four teams are ranked in the top 10 nationally. And the three who are sort of wedged together at the top - three teams separated by one point - are also ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in this weeks' poll.

It's certainly going to be a fascinating three weeks on the women's side, where each team has six league games left to play.

The current standings have a tie for first between Princeton and Cornell with 27 points (out of a possible 32, by the way), followed by Clarkson with 26. In the national rankings this week, Clarkson is fourth, Princeton is fifth and Cornell is sixth.

There are huge incentives to finishing first in the regular season, since, if you can then get past the first round of the playoffs, you get to host the semifinals and final. That's something Princeton has never done.

Presumably, the other benefit to finishing first would be having the other two play in the semifinals, avoiding them until the championship game. On the other hand, the fourth place team is Colgate, with 22 points, and Colgate just happens to be ranked 10th in the country, not to mention is last year's national runner up.

Princeton had its 20-game unbeaten streak snapped last weekend against Clarkson, falling 3-1 after a thrilling 5-4 win in overtime against St. Lawrence Friday night. Princeton had a late lead get away in the final two minutes before Maggie Connors won it with three seconds left in the OT.

As TB said, the women's hockey team has three regular season weekends to go. This weekend is a trip to Brown and Yale, followed by a home weekend against Union and RPI and then a trip to Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

Clarkson hosts Cornell and Colgate this weekend, so there are still plenty of head-to-head matchups to go before the end of February. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Princeton holds over Cornell but cannot hold against Clarkson, where a win in the rematch would mean a season split. The second tiebreaker, then, would be league wins, of which Cornell and Clarkson both have 13 right now while Princeton has 12.

The big prizes are the ECAC title and then the NCAA tournament, but there's another one out there for the Tigers as well.

The Ivy League crowns a champion in men's and women's hockey, and it uses the games the league teams play against each other to create separate Ivy standings. Princeton heads into this weekend in  control of the Ivy race.

Because there are six Ivy schools who play hockey, there are 10 games that count towards the standings. Princeton is now 6-0-2, with 14 points. Cornell, at 5-2-1, has 11 points, and both have two league games remaining (against Yale and Brown).

Should Princeton get a win in either game, then it would have the outright championship. If Princeton goes 0-1-1 in those games, then it gets no worse than a tie.

Of course, no game is a gimme, and Princeton finds itself in the situation it does in the Ivy League in part because of Cornell's 4-3 loss to Brown earlier this year. Yale is tied with Quinnipiac for eighth place in the ECAC with 13 points, one point behind seventh place Harvard, as those teams chase the final playoffs spots. Unlike the men, only eight teams reach the ECAC women's playoffs.

Also unlike the men, the women's NCAA tournament is only an eight-team event. TB figures three ECAC teams will make it, but you never know with a field that small.

For now it's all about the last three weekends of the regular season. Princeton has put together a great year so far, and it's no fluke. The Tigers are fast, deep and relentless, and they have genuine stars, including their dynamic freshmen Connors and Sarah Fillier.

It's been fun to watch this team play so far. And it's all led up to where the team now finds itself, and that's doing what any team wants to be doing when it gets to this point of a season - chasing championships, with one on the line this weekend.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Belated Anniversary

Well, TigerBlog completely missed a pretty big anniversary.

Back in 2008, TB's then-colleague Yariv Amir told him that he'd created a blog for Princeton Athletics, though nobody was quite sure what to do with such a blog.

The very first blog entry was on Aug. 28, 2008. Where were you that day?

Here's what it said:
The new Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium hosted its first event on Thursday as members of the media were introduced to the new home of Princeton soccer. Head coaches Jim Barlow and Julie Shackford and members of both teams met reporters from area newspaper and television outlets. Look for articles in the upcoming issues of the Princeton Packet and Town Topics and on WZBN News. 

That was it.

The second entry was a day later. This was what it said:
It appears that Princeton two-sport star Will Venable will make his Major League Baseball debut tonight for the San Diego Padres against Colorado. Venable was a healthy scratch from his game last night in AAA, while current Padre outfielder Scott Hairston is headed to the DL with a thumb injury. 

Again, that was it.

The idea at first was to use the blog for those sort of small announcements, though that didn't really pan out. Then, next, it was used for in-game blogging, mostly for football and men's and women's basketball, which also caused a few problems.

First, if you want to do in-game blogging, you have to be funny and colorful, and that wasn't really what figured to be okay in the early days of TigerBlog. Second, the livestats option was accomplishing the same thing as the in-game blogging. Third, it wasn't really fair to do it for just three sports.

For most of the earliest days of the blog, it was a site for in-game updates and those little notes like the first two, as well as small entries, like 100 words or fewer, that told a funny story or an interesting fact. There were weekends where the entry was constantly updated with in-game results

And that's how it went along in those first few months.

With one tiny issue: nobody was reading.

 Like, nobody. Like 30 people a day. It hardly seemed worth it.

Oh, there was one big thing that happened in 2008. It was on Election Day actually.

For the first few months, any references to the writer of the blog used the pronoun "we" to represent the entire Office of Athletic Communications. On Election Day, though, that changed a bit, as instead of writing "We endorse voting," it read "TigerBlog endorses voting."

From then on, TB became a third-person experience.

It wasn't until January of 2009 that things started to change a little, or a lot, actually. There was still in-game blogging, but that started to fade away, replaced gradually by what it came to resemble.

This led TigerBlog to notice something. When the subject wasn't just in-game blogging and when it was a little bit more than just a few paragraphs, the audience started to grow.

Back in those days, TB wrote most, but not all, of the entries. In fact, in OAC meetings, there would be discussions about who would write the entry on any given day, planning out the entire week. In fact, there would be days where there would be more than one entry.

Eventually, TB decided two things. First, he didn't want to dump more work on the people in his office. Second, the blog had to have a new entry to continue to build the audience.

Every day. As in every business day, every single one. It had to become a habit for people to read it, and readers had to know that each day there'd be another one.

And so, with that as a foundation, TB took over the writing responsibilities. And he made a commitment to doing it every day - at least until the summer of 2009, when he figured he'd do it three days a week because he'd have nothing to write about without any athletic events.

Then, when the summer rolled around, he figured he'd just keep writing and see where it went. So he did.

Through the years, TB has used the blog as a way to tell stories of his experiences covering Princeton sports, to promote upcoming events, to give a little flavor to what goes into running a highly successful Ivy League athletic department. He's written about politics, pop culture, youth sports, his kids, movies and TV, pro sports, international sports, his time as a Quaker, anything and everything - always relating it back to Princeton and its athletic teams.

Today is entry number 2,705. There have been nearly 1.4 million page views all time, and average readership these days is well into the thousands per day. TigerBlog has met a lot of people who have emailed him or come up to him to say that they read it and enjoy it, which is, of course, the whole point.

The anniversary he missed was on Jan. 22, a little more than two weeks ago. On that day, TigerBlog reached the 10-year mark of never having missed a business day. Not once.

There have been guest entries, and those are always welcome. There have been a few entries from OAC staffers. Over 99 percent of the entries, though, have come from TB.

It hasn't mattered the season. It hasn't mattered what's been going on at Princeton. TB has come up with something new to write about every business day in all that time.

Of everything he's ever done in his professional career, that fact is way up there in things that he's proud of, by the way. And he'd be remiss if he didn't thank the two Ford Family Directors of Athletics, Mollie Marcoux Samaan and her predecessor Gary Walters, who allowed him to do something a little bit different all these years.

He's written after surgeries, when he's been sick, even when he was in foreign countries. Every day.

One day, he'll stop. It won't be tomorrow.

Thanks for reading everyone.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

More History

TigerBlog's Super Bowl predictions were pretty close.

The Patriots won by double figures, though not exactly with as many points scored in the game that TB figured. And the commercials were nothing special, with most of them just flat out awful.

The only remotely good one was the one with the old NFL stars in it, and that was an NFL production. How hard is it to make a great commercial? Take your product, have a few cute dogs get involved, add some sentimental music and you're done.

Also, the halftime show? In a word - yuck.

And the broadcast? Tony Romo continues to be great. And Tracy Wolfson, the sideline reporter, got her start at a small station in Mercer County, where she covered a lot of Princeton events way back when.

Lastly, nobody likes the Patriots unless they live in the Boston area, with the possible exception of someone with whom TB rides his bike, who wore his Patriots socks while they were riding Sunday afternoon.

And with that, the worst Super Bowl ever played is in the past. It's not that the fact that it was 3-0 for most of the game and that there was only one touchdown scored that made it bad. It's that it was just ugly to watch, boring for the most part. It wasn't two great pitchers matching zeroes. It was, well, dull.

Contrast that with the Princeton-Dartmouth football game this past fall, which was a low-scoring, defense-dominated game that was a thriller from start to the finish. Each possession had drama to it, whereas that just seemed to be lacking in the Super Bowl.

That game was three months ago already, by the way.

Meanwhile, in more recent Princeton news, this past weekend featured a lot of history made by two Princeton athletes. TB talked yesterday about the extraordinary Bella Alarie and her 45-point night at Columbia.

If you missed it, you can read it HERE.

The other Princeton history also came in the state of New York, though about as far away from Columbia as you can get. Also, both of their accomplishments put them in the company only of athletes who competed here back in the 1960s.

In Alarie's case, her 45 points made her only the second Princeton basketball player to reach that many in a game, along with the great Bill Bradley, who did it five times in the 1960s.

The other record that was set was set on ice, and it was done by men's hockey senior player Ryan Kuffner.

The Princeton record for goals in a career in men's hockey for the last 56 years has been 67, set by John Cook, who graduated in 1963.

Kuffner went into the weekend with 66 and tied the record with a goal against St. Lawrence Friday night. He then broke the record Saturday night, with one against Clarkson just 1:28 into the game.

Interestingly, to TB at least, there have been 12 Princeton women's hockey players who have scored more than 68 goals in their careers, including three who have more than 100. One of those three is the current Ford Family Director of Athletics - Mollie Marcoux Samaan scored 120, one off the all-time record of 121, set by Kelly O'Dell, a 1984 grad.

As for Kuffner's record, think of all the men's hockey players - even a bunch of guys who played in the NHL, who couldn't do it. There have been five men's players who got to 60 since Cook set the record, but for 56 years nobody could chase down 67 until Kuffner did it.

It was fitting that the record-setting goal was assisted by Max Veronneau, who has now assisted on a remarkable 43 of them. Veronneau and Kuffner, by the way, are two of the 10 current players in Division I who have reached 100 career points.

Kuffner and Veronneau rank 4-5 all-time at Princeton in points in a career with 137 and 133, and they both have a real chance to catch Jeff Halpern, who is third with 142. Veronneau, whose 55 points last year were the program single-season record, is also tied (with former NHL player Andre Faust) for second all-time in assists at Princeton with 87, though the record of 118 (set by John Messuri, a 1989 grad) is out of reach.

The 87 assists, of course, mean that just short of half of his career assists have come to Kuffner. TB wishes he had an easy way, or any way, to look up what the records (Princeton, ECAC, NCAA) are for most assists from one player to one other player, but those two have to be way up there.

So congratulations to Ryan Kuffner on a remarkable achievement.

To be the best at anything for a program that goes back 119 years is extraordinary.

Monday, February 4, 2019

45 For Bella Buckets

The best part of working in athletics at Princeton University is the opportunity to meet, work with and see the development of the young people who compete here.

They're an extraordinary group, and it's been that way since Day 1 for TigerBlog. The wins and championships are great. It's the athletes who make all the difference.

For TigerBlog, that's always been the best part of Princeton Athletics.

The best part of sports in general, though, is a little different. For someone whose career has revolved around going to games, the best part is never knowing when you're going to stumble onto something special.

Even Super Bowls aren't always all that memorable, as everyone had reinforced for them by yesterday's forgettable display.

TB has seen nearly 25 NCAA men's lacrosse championship games, for instance. Some of them are just a blur. Others, especially the four that Princeton won in overtime, are indelibly seared into TB memory.

Most games do not have any such historical significance to them, and once they're over, it's a win or a loss and on to the next one. Ah, but you have no way of knowing that when they start.

For instance, on that night nearly 20 years ago, nobody had any idea walking into the Palestra that the men's basketball game about to be played between Princeton and Penn would be talked about forever. TB will have more on that one as the actual anniversary approaches.

All of this, of course, brings TB to the this past Friday afternoon at Columbia's Levien Gym. To those who were there, it figured to be just another Ivy League women's basketball game, this one between Princeton and Columbia.

It wasn't.

Princeton was playing for the first time in 27 days, not since an Ivy-opening loss to Penn on Jan. 5. The long exam break ended with a weekend trip to Columbia and Cornell, and the Tigers could not afford a sluggish start against the Lions. There would be no time to shake off any rust.

TigerBlog was not there. He was watching on ESPN+. The first Princeton possession went inside to Bella Alarie, who flipped it into the basket.

From in front of his computer, TB thought "that was easy."

The game would end 79-64 in favor of the Tigers. By the time it was over, Alarie would:

* score 45 points, the most ever by an Ivy League women's basketball player in any game
* make 20 field goals, also an Ivy League record and the most by any player in women's college basketball this season
* score 20 points in the first half and then add 25 more after intermission
* break the Princeton career record for blocked shots

As individual performances go, Alarie's effort against Columbia got TB thinking about where it ranks in Princeton history, across any sport. That's how good it was.

When it was over, TB texted Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart to remind her that he had said on one of their podcasts that Bella's 40-point game was coming at some point.

Speaking of scoring 40 points or more in a game at Princeton, the only player who had ever done it prior to Friday night was Bill Bradley, who had done it 11 times in his three varsity seasons. Bradley also reached 45 or more points five times.

So that's what you're left with for this conversation. You have Bill Bradley and you have Bella Alarie, and when you've done something that only Bill Bradley has ever done at Princeton, you're talking about something incredible.

Before this year - and before she missed the first nine games due to a hand injury - Alarie was already in the conversation for being possible the best Princeton or even Ivy League women's basketball player ever. Now she's raised her game to an even higher level.

She's certainly the most complete basketball player TB has ever seen in the league, male or female. There's nothing she can't do and do well - score inside facing the basket, post up, drive to the basket, shoot threes, rebound, block shots, dribble, pass, beat a press by herself, anything you need.

She followed up her 45-point, 14-rebound, four-blocks performance against Columbia with 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in a 75-46 win over Cornell Saturday. That was while playing just 27 minutes.

For the weekend, it was 66 points, 24 rebounds and six blocked shots. That's ridiculous.

Princeton needed to get a pair of wins this weekend to get back on the court and back in the league race. It did just that.

Alarie made it more than just two wins, though. She made it what sports is all about.

History. You never know when you're going to see it.

Friday, February 1, 2019

It's February

TigerBlog was talking to a friend yesterday who said that it felt like spring would be here soon.

That made TB laugh a bit. 

He pointed out that it was still January and that the temperature was tryng its best to reach double figures. Still, he's okay with the idea that spring isn't that far away.

And hey, it's February 1st.

You know what that means. The shortest, and busiest, month of the year is here.

Tomorrow, of course, would be Groundhog Day, and as TB has said many, many times, 1) the movie is great and 2) if it's six more weeks of winter then that takes you to March 16, which is still before the official start of spring. 

If it's not exactly spring, it is Day 1 of spring sports practices. For that matter, it's Week 1 for the college lacrosse season, which actually has genuine regular season games this weekend.

In fact, it's opening day today, with the first Division I game of the year to be played, somewhat historically, when Vermont is at Utah in the debut for the Utes.

There are 10 more men's games tomorrow, while opening day for women's lacrosse is a week away and opening day for the Princeton men and women is two weeks away.

Two weeks? Amazing.

In the meantime, this weekend features 37 Princeton athletic events. That's insane. There are 19 alone tomorrow. Nineteen? Seriously. Nineteen, in one day.

HERE. You can count them for yourselves. 

And it's not even the busy part of the month yet.

If you're in the Princeton area, there aren't many of those events that are on campus, but the ones that are will be pretty good ones.

There are four home squash matches as the men's and women's teams host Harvard tomorrow and Dartmouth Sunday. The highlight is the matchup between the top two women's teams, unbeaten Princeton and unbeaten Harvard.

The 20th-ranked wrestling team has a busy weekend, with three matches, including the first two in the league, both of which are tomorrow. The wrestling weekend begins at 1 tomorrow at Dillon Gym against Harvard, and then it'll be Princeton-Brown at 5.

Those two matches are followed Sunday by a match at Rutgers in another Top 20 date for the Tigers, as the Scarlet Knights are at No. 18 this week. Rutgers, by the way, may be ranked 18th in Division I, but that only leaves Princeton's local rival as the eighth-highest ranked Big Ten team.

There are actually 10 Big Ten teams in the top 25, which makes that league 40 percent of the national rankings. There are four ECAC teams in the women's hockey top 10, which is the same 40 percent. 

The highest ranked of those four teams is fourth-ranked Princeton, followed by No. 5 Clarkson, No. 6 Cornell and No. 10 Colgate.

Princeton went 2-0-2 against Cornell and Colgate, but it still has two games against Clarkson, including one tomorrow afternoon (3), after the Tigers host St. Lawrence tonight (6). Princeton has a two-point lead over Cornell and a three-point lead over Clarkson as the weekend begins.

If you're in New York City today, you might want to head up to Morningside Heights and see the Princeton-Columbia basketball doubleheader.

If you look at the rest of Division I, every team in every league other than the Big West has played at least six conference games, and the Big West teams have played five. The average at this point for Division I is eight conference games. There are teams that have already played 10.

The Ivy League? Every team has played two, except for the Princeton and Penn women, who have played one each.

In fact, the Princeton women have not played a game since Jan. 5. Think about that. That's four weeks already. It seems like even longer.

The Princeton women get back on the court at 4 this afternoon at Columbia, followed by the men's game at 7. Tomorrow the teams are in Ithaca to take on Cornell, with the women at 5 and the men at 7:30ish.

The men's team played Division III Wesley College last Sunday to shake off the post-exam rust. The women's team did not, so it'll be interesting to see the first seven minutes or so of that game to see how long it takes the Tigers to get their legs back.

As a subplot, the Columbia women are coached by former Courtney Banghart assistant coach Meg Griffith.

The basketball games this weekend start the sprint through the league schedule, one that will be over in a blink. All of the events in general start the month of February, which packs a lot into just 28 days.

Oh, and the Super Bowl Sunday? Two predicitons: 1) TB will go with New England 35, Los Angeles 17, and 2) the commercials will again be overdone and not funny.