Tuesday, April 2, 2019

An All-Time Great Comes Back

It's game night tonight for the Princeton women's lacrosse team, who hosts Villanova at 7.

Admission? What admission. It's free, as are all regular-season women's lacrosse home games.

Princeton is entering the busiest stretch of its season. After having played just three games in the last 23 days, tonight marks a stretch of seven in 25 days.

Princeton hasn't played on two of the last three Saturdays, which has to be a huge rarity in lacrosse. There was a game last Wednesday at No. 2 Maryland, so the Tigers definitely have an advantage in rest over Villanova, who played Saturday in Milwaukee, defeating Marquette 15-13 in the Big East opener.

The Tigers come into the game having lost two straight. The last time Princeton lost three straight in the same season? It was in 2010, which is a remarkable level of sustained excellence.

Before that? Princeton's last three-game losing streak was in 2003, when the Tigers lost to Loyola, Virginia and Duke to fall to 1-3.

Did that turn out to be a lost season, by the way? Uh, not quite. Princeton then ripped off 15 wins in is next 16 games, defeating Loyola and Virginia in the Final Four to win its second-straight NCAA title and third overall.

The game against Villanova is the third in the series, and Princeton has won both, back in 2012 and 2013. The head coaching matchup in those two games is the same as it will be in tonight's game, as Princeton is led by Chris Sailer and Villanova is led by Julie Young.

Perhaps the name Julie Young doesn't mean much to Princeton fans. Maybe the name Julie Shaner does?

The Villanova women's lacrosse coach was Julie Shaner when she was a soccer player and lacrosse player at Princeton. She was an All-Ivy League selection in both sports four times each, and she played in the NCAA tournament in both as well, including the lacrosse championship game her junior year and semifinal her senior year.

As a senior in lacrosse, she was a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, making her one of the five best players in the country that year. She graduated in 2001, sharing the C. Otto von Kienbusch Award that year as Princeton's top senior female athlete.

Going down a path TigerBlog has gone down several times before, it's pretty obvious that the three top male athletes in Princeton history are Hobey Baker, Dick Kazmaier and Bill Bradley. You can have about 20 different choices for the next person on the list, but TB is relatively sure that there would be near-unanimous agreement on the top three among those who come to read this every day.

The women, though, have never been as clear-cut, or at least they weren't for a long time. Maybe that changed when Ashleigh Johnson came here to play water polo, and anyone who wants to say she is the greatest female athlete ever to play here will get no argument from TigerBlog.

Julie Shaner Young isn't the best Princeton female athlete ever, but she's in the top 20 for sure, which is quite a statement, considering all the great women who have competed here.

By the way, TB is open to hear your feedback and opinions on this subject.

Speaking of the greatest female athletes in Princeton history, where will Bella Alarie eventually fit into the list?

Alarie yesterday became the third All-America in Princeton women's basketball history, joining Niveen Rasheed and Blake Dietrick in achieving that honor. Alarie's numbers for last season was astonishing, with 22.8 points and 10.6 rebounds, and of course she had her first two career games of more than 40 points with 45 against Columbia and 41 against Dartmouth.

What's most astonishing? She was an All-America despite missing the first nine games of the season with a broken wrist.

Alarie is just a junior. Assuming she stays healthy next year, who knows what numbers she can put up? If Princeton plays 28 games next year, then she'll need to average 13.7 per game to break the school record for career points of 1,683, set by Sandi Bittler Leland, who graduated in 1990.

If she gets there, only Bill Bradley will have ever scored more points in basketball at Princeton.

Alarie also figures to be a high WNBA pick when her Princeton career is over. She has all the tools - size, athletic ability and a very well-rounded game. The idea that she'll be working hard to improve between now and next season is somewhat scary.

When she's done, she'll immediately launch herself into the conversation as one of the very, very best, and maybe best, female athletes Princeton has seen.

Wonder how good she might have been at lacrosse, by the way.

Anyway, it's Princeton-Villanova tonight at 7. Should be a good one. 

No comments: