Friday, May 10, 2019

The Finalist

TigerBlog was all set to be annoyed.

He knew the Tewaaraton Foundation was going to be announcing the five finalists for the 2019 award last night, and he figured that if Princeton junior Michael Sowers was to be one of those five, then he would get some sort of advanced noticed. He also figured it would come during the day Wednesday.

But nope. Nothing. Not a peep.

TigerBlog thought it might be held against Sowers that Princeton did not reach the postseason and that Yale's TD Ierlan figured to be a finalist, which would mean two Ivy League players among the final five.

And this was going to leave him less than thrilled.

Why? Because for TB's money, Sowers is the best player in the country. And yes, he'll freely admit that perhaps he's a bit biased, but that doesn't really matter. Sowers is a player who's just on a whole different level.

And if he turned out not to be a Tewaaraton finalist? That would have been a major shame.

He thought about reaching out to his Loyola counterpart Ryan Eigenbrode to see if he'd heard anything, since the Greyhounds' Pat Spencer was a lock for one of the spots, and very likely will be the ultimate winner. Then he decided not to, figuring that when Ryan said he had, then TB's annoyance would start earlier.

Ah, but as it turned out, Ryan texted TB, asking him if he had heard anything yet. This gave him hope.

And then eventually, around 8 Wednesday night, TB got the email saying that Sowers was in fact a finalist.

The Tewaaraton Award finalists were then announced last night. On the men's side, they are Sowers, Ierlan, Spencer, Penn State's Grant Ament and Maryland's Jared Bernhardt.

In reality, there's no doubt that Sowers belongs in this field and there never was.

Sowers finished the season with 90 points on 37 goals and 53 assists, setting the school record for points in a season and breaking the 25-year-old school record for points in a career despite just finishing his junior year. In fact, he has the three highest single-season point totals in program history with 90, 83 and 82, which adds up to 255 and puts him on pace to fairly easily reach the top 10 in Division I history.

He currently is fifth all-time in Division I in both points per game (6.07) and assists per game (3.57), and those numbers are the best by any player in nearly 40 years.

Will he win the award? Probably not. The award has never gone to a player whose team did not reach the NCAA tournament. If TB had to guess, he'd go with either Spencer or Ament, whom TB first saw play in fifth grade, by the way, back when he was a club teammate of TigerBlog Jr.'s.

This weekend is a huge one in lacrosse. There are eight men's NCAA tournament games this weekend, four tomorrow and four Sunday.

There are 17 games in the women's tournament, of which three will be played on Sherrerd Field. It starts at 4 today, when Loyola takes on Richmond, followed by Princeton-Wagner at 7. The winners play Sunday at 1, and one of those four teams will move to the quarterfinals next weekend.

As for the men's tournament, TigerBlog has thought all year that Penn State is by far the best team, Virginia can play with anyone, Yale and Penn are going to be really tough outs and Spencer can carry a pretty balanced team with a strong goalie a long way. On the other hand, Johns Hopkins is playing really well right now too.

Penn and Yale both can't reach the Final Four, because they'd have to play each other in the quarterfinal round. Penn has two wins over Yale, by a goal each, and a face-off guy, Kyle Gallagher, who matches up really well with Ierlan.

On the other hand, beating Yale three times won't be easy. And that's if they both win this weekend.

TigerBlog loves the NCAA lacrosse tournaments. For him, they're way more interesting than the basketball ones, though he recognizes that his opinion might not be shared by the mainstream.

For this year, he'll take Penn State over Virginia (though getting past Towson in Round 2 won't be easy for the Cavs - if  Towson can get past Maryland in the first round) in the final. He has no idea what to make out of Penn-Yale III, but he thinks they'll both get through this weekend and that one of them will play Penn State in the semifinals. The fourth team? He'll take Hopkins. They've looked really good lately.

His hope is that Sowers and Princeton will be in the field next year.

In the meantime, he's glad Sowers will have his moment in the sun at the Tewaaraton ceremony on May 30.

Of course, knowing Sowers the way he does, TigerBlog can tell you that he'd trade that to still be playing this weekend in a heartbeat. 

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