Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Record-Setting Michael Sowers

TigerBlog thought it would be hard for Michael Sowers to top the assist he had to Phillip Robertson in the game against Monmouth Saturday.

Then he saw this play in Princeton's 20-11 win over Colgate last night:

Which of his assists is your favorite so far this season? You have a lot of choices.

Sowers has an extraordinary 18 assists in two games, to go along with seven goals for an even more extraordinary 25 points.

His game last night was one for the ages, without a doubt the single best individual game in Princeton men's lacrosse history. Sowers put up 14 points on three goals and 11 assists, and when the dust had settled, he had the Ivy League record for points in a game and the Princeton record for assists in a game.

In fact he could have gotten the NCAA assists record with one more, but he didn't play the final 9:23 of the game. He was also two away from the NCAA record for points in a game, and the way he was playing last night, there's little doubt he would have gotten both.

As it was, he settled for becoming the seventh player to have at least 14 points in a game and the second in the last 23 years, along with Albany's Miles Thompson in 2013.

He's also the fifth player in Division I history with at least 11 assists in a game, and the first to reach that number since 1992.

Sowers destroyed the Princeton record book in his first three seasons, with the three-highest single-season totals in program history, which added together made him the all-time leader in points in a career before his senior year even began.

This year, every point he scores puts more distance between him and everyone else who has ever played at Princeton. TB got a text yesterday asking if Sowers was the closest comparison to Bill Bradley in terms of dominating a team's record book, and the answer is a resounding "yes."

Bradley, 55 years after graduation, stands as the all-time leader in scoring in men's basketball by a wide margin. Come back in 2075 and see where Sowers stands in the record book; TB is pretty sure he'll still be No. 1 by a large margin.

So what's the most amazing thing about Sowers?

Is it his vision? The way he keeps his head up at all times? The way he makes everything so simple? Is it his explosive first step? Is it his change of direction?

It's all of those things.

He makes it so easy to be the official scorer at his games, since none of his assists is ever remotely debatable. He makes the pass, and his teammates finish the layup or catch and shoot the outside shot. Nobody ever has to do anything other than finish after catching the pass.

Against Colgate, Sowers had assists to seven different teammates. That's crazy.

Even crazier is what he did during the deciding 10-0 run in the third quarter into the fourth quarter. Princeton led 8-6 at the break, but Colgate scored off the second half face-off to make it a one-goal game.

Then Princeton scored the next 10. During that stretch, Sowers had a goal and seven assists.

Yes, that's crazier.

Sowers now has 280 career points, which ranks him 23rd all-time in NCAA history. He's 11th in NCAA history with 168 career assists.

His per game averages for his career in assists and points are better than any players in the last 38 years.

Next up for Princeton is defending NCAA champion Virginia in Charlottesville Saturday. It'll be a huge test for Sowers and the Tigers, who have played two very good games against UVa the last two years, including an OT loss a year ago.

TigerBlog wrote a feature story about Sowers in the fall in which he called him the best lacrosse player he's ever seen.

He stands by that. After what Sowers has done the first two games this year, why would he think any differently?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Long Time No See

When TigerBlog first saw that Princeton was playing Colgate in men's lacrosse this season, he tried to remember back to the last time the teams had played.

At first he tried to remember if he'd ever been at a Princeton-Colgate game, and he was pretty sure he hadn't. As it turns out, he was right about that.

Princeton and Colgate meet tonight at 6 on Sherrerd Field, and it's not exactly a rivalry with a ton of history. And what history there is could be best described as "ancient."

In fact, it's pretty unlikely that anyone at tonight's game was at the last meeting, since it was 91 years ago.

The game tonight is just the second between the two. The other two meetings were in 1922 and 1929. So yeah, there's not much there.

Princeton first started playing men's lacrosse in 1881, but the sport was dropped in 1894 because of, and TB quotes a book on 19th century Princeton athletics directly: "due to lack of sufficient interest and the deterioration of the quality of the team."

What in the world must 19th century lacrosse have looked like, by the way?

Anyway, Princeton brought its team back in 1921 with three games against club teams and then a college schedule in 1922. Colgate first started playing the sport in 1921, and the teams met in Princeton in 1922, a game the Tigers won 11-3 (or 10-3 according to Colgate's record book).

Interestingly, both teams played a touring team from Oxford-Cambridge that year as well. 

The next meeting was in 1929. Princeton won that one 7-3.

Why didn't the teams ever play again? Who knows.

Colgate has been in the Patriot League for a long time. Princeton, though it has played a lot of Patriot League football and men's and women's basketball games, has not done in men's lacrosse. In fact, other than a handful of games against Lehigh and one last year against Navy, Princeton hasn't done much scheduling in the Patriot League.

Anyway, don't expect Princeton to have much momentum tonight off of its other two wins in the series. Or to have Colgate burning for revenge.

Both teams are in the very early stages of seasons that they hope will take them into the conference tournaments and then hopefully beyond. Colgate is 0-2 after opening with losses at North Carolina and Syracuse, a pair of teams in the top 10.

Princeton is 1-0 on the year after a 20-9 win over Monmouth Saturday in its opener. It was a win that didn't move Princeton into the Top 20 nationally, but TB doesn't care at all about that right now. Princeton will have every opportunity this year to show whether or not it belongs.

Princeton's schedule still includes three games against teams in this week's top eight and five against teams in the top 15. Of those five games, four will be in the five Princeton plays immediately after the one against Colgate, beginning Saturday at defending NCAA champion Virginia.

After that, it's a run of games at home against Johns Hopkins (No. 15), Rutgers (was ranked until it lost to Army West Point this week) and Penn (No. 8) and then at Yale (No. 3). It doesn't get much easier after that either, by the way, with the rest of the stacked Ivy League, including a regular-season ending game against No. 11 Cornell.

As TB said, if Princeton deserves to be ranked, it has every chance to show it.

Also having said that, TB is pretty sure there are not 20 teams in the country better than Princeton. The team is a good spot, though, with the spotlight way off of it.

For tonight, it's Colgate. The Raiders come to Princeton not having played in 10 days, so the they have had a chance to sort out some early-season issues. Expect this game to be very competitive.

And there. TB just gave you a whole Princeton men's lacrosse piece without every mentioning Michael Sowers.

Oh wait. He just did.

Well, as long as he brought him up, check out this video from the Monmouth game. The recipient of the pass is Phillip Robertson, who now has 60 career goals, 28 of them assisted by Sowers.


The job Robertson does in getting open, catching the ball and finishing is incredible enough, let alone the move from Sowers to get free, the vision to find Robertson and the courage to make the pass.

It looks really simple, but it isn't.

Anyway, Princeton-Colgate tonight.

Show your ticket stub from the last meeting between the teams and get in free.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Weekend In Hoops

TigerBlog saw a story the other day that said that 181 million people had bought Valentine's Day gifts for their sweethearts.

Women, by the way, were twice as likely to make a Valentine's Day gift than men were. Add up all the spending, and it comes to $19 billion on gifts, and that's nothing compared to the $31 billion spent on going out for the holiday.

The most interesting part of the story that TB read was that even with all of that, nine percent of women adamantly do NOT want a Valentine's Day gift and would prefer to have their partner give them the same gift on a different day.

That number seemed a bit high.

Just short of 8,000 people spent their Valentine's Day evening watching Ivy League basketball Friday night. Does anything say "romantic" more than that?

There were 551 in New Haven to see the Princeton women take on Yale in a game that had a huge impact on the Ivy standings.

Princeton came into the game unbeaten in the league. Yale came into the game with just a single league loss.

This was one of those "the math is obvious" games.

There was more math too. Yale came in as the top-ranked scoring offense team in the league, at nearly 75 points per game. Princeton came in leading Division I scoring defense, at fewer than 48 per game.

So what happened?

Well, if your Valentine's Day dinner kept you from getting there for tip-off and you didn't arrive until seven minutes or so had elapsed, then you saw 1) a score of 12-0 Yale and 2) a home team that was dripping with confidence at that point.

TB was watching the game on ESPN+, and he wasn't particularly concerned that this was about to become a blowout. Even someone as confident as TB, though, couldn't have guessed the exact path the game would take.

Why didn't TB think this was going to be one of those nights for Princeton? Because when you defend like Princeton can, you'll never be out of a game.

And if TB had any doubts at all, they were erased on the possession when Yale held an 18-13 lead. Princeton swarmed the Bulldogs everywhere, and Yale was forced to take a difficult shot as the shot clock was about to expire.

Princeton took its first lead at 20-19 with a little more than two minutes left in the half. It was 29-21 Tigers at the break, and the final would be 55-39 Princeton.

The win was big against a good team, and it gave Princeton a two-game lead in the loss column.

Princeton followed that up by taking down Brown 85-48 Saturday night in Providence. The sweep left Princeton at 19-1 overall and 7-0 in the Ivy League, followed by Penn at 5-2 and then every other team with at least three losses after the Quakers won at Yale Saturday as well.

Next weekend starts a run of five games in eight days for the women, all at home, against Harvard and Dartmouth Friday and Saturday, against Penn the following Tuesday and then another weekend against Brown and Yale.

As for the men, Friday night didn't go so well, as Yale defeated the Tigers 88-64 at Jadwin in a matchup of teams who were tied for first place in the league.

What did Princeton do 24 hours later? It did what good teams have to do - put that loss aside and bounce back in a big way.

Princeton defeated Brown 73-54 behind a career-high 21 from Ethan Wright, who was 8 for 9 on the night, 3 for 4 from three-point range.

The Tigers came out sizzling and built a 13-point lead, never letting Brown get into the game. This was a Brown team, by the way, that would have been tied for first place in the league with a win, a Brown team that defeated Penn Friday night.

So where do the Ivy standings sit right now?

Princeton and Yale are tied for first at 6-2. Brown, Penn and Harvard are all 5-3. This is a great race for the championship and for the Ivy League tournament spots, which go to the top four teams.

And that was the weekend in hoops for Princeton.

As former men's head coach John Thompson used to say, the goal at the end of the weekend is to be in first place. Both the men and the women have achieved that goal for another weekend. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

TigerBlog starts your Friday with something cute from Twitter yesterday:

Cute, right? TB wasn't kidding about that.

Did you read the letter? That's good stuff from Kennedi.

If you didn't read the letter, Kennedi is a third-grader in Kentucky who loves to play basketball. TigerBlog can't remember what he wanted to be when he was in third grade. In fact, if he had to guess, he probably didn't have any specific career in mind at that age.

Or, for that matter, any age, that he can remember. He always liked sports, and he very clearly remembers his mother's go-to line of "you can't make a living in sports."

At one point he considered being a lawyer, and he went to Penn thinking he'd end up going that route. Then he got detoured as a junior when he started covering high school football, and, well, you know the rest.

What percentage of people know what they want to do at a very, very young age and go on to do that? 
TB has no way of knowing. He's trying to think of people he knows and if they knew exactly what they wanted to do when they were Kennedi's age who actually went on to do so? He does remember when a cousin of TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog's used to say when she was 10 or so that she wanted to grow up, attend the Naval Academy, learn to fly and be a pilot. She has since gone on to attend the Naval Academy, learn to fly and become a pilot.

For the most part though, TB isn't sure how people end up doing the things they do. In his case, it was a combination of randomness (meeting someone in college whose brother was a local sportswriter) and aptitude (he's sort of wired for this he guesses). Maybe that's how it works for a lot of people?

Maybe Kennedi will be a teacher. And a college basketball player.

It's a big weekend for the Princeton version of her favorite sport, and for a lot of Princeton sports.

Starting with women's basketball, the Tigers are at Yale tonight at 6. The Tigers, ranked 25th in the national coaches' poll this week, are 5-0 in the league, followed by Yale at 5-1. The Bulldogs, who lost to Harvard last Friday, also own a win over North Carolina earlier this year.

The league reaches its halfway point this weekend, so there's obviously a long way to go. Still, there is a two-game drop from the top four to the next four in the league, which makes it seem like the four teams in the Ivy tournament are starting to become clear.

As far as the league race goes, the game tonight in New Haven is huge. Should Princeton win, it would have no losses and every other team would have at least two (Penn and Harvard have two now). Should Yale win, the Bulldogs would be 6-1, compared to Princeton's 5-1.

This game matches the highest scoring team in the league (Yale averages 73.6 points per game) and No. 1 scoring defense team in the league - and in all of Division I (Princeton allows 48.1 per game).

The men are home against Yale tonight and Brown tomorrow night, with tipoff tonight at 7 and tomorrow at 6.

Unlike the women, there are five men's teams fairly closely bunched, with Princeton and Yale at the top at 5-1, with Penn and Brown next at 4-2 and Harvard at 3-3.

By the way, Princeton's three leading scorers are Jaelin Llewellyn (14.3), Richmond Aririguzoh (13.4) and Ryan Schweiger (12.6). The last time Princeton had its third-leading scorer average at least 12.6 per game was in 2011, when the three leaders were Kareem Maddox (13.8), Ian Hummer (also 13.8) and Dan Mavraides (12.7). That team won the Ivy League title and lost by two to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.

If TB is counting correctly, then 17 Princeton teams will compete in 29 events this weekend.

The wrestling team is home against Penn tomorrow at noon in a match that would either give Princeton the outright Ivy League title with a win or a co-championship with Cornell with a Penn win.

The women's tennis team, ranked ninth in the country (that's the Tigers' highest ranking ever), is home for matches tomorrow against Towson and FDU, and there is home men's hockey against St. Lawrence and Clarkson. The whole schedule is HERE.

Oh, and it's also opening weekend for lacrosse season. The men are home against Monmouth tomorrow at 1, and the women are at Temple at the same time.

Lacrosse season already. TB almost forgot all about that.

Well, no, not really.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Guest TigerBlog - Craig Sachson On Chris Ayres

TigerBlog remembers a head coaches' meeting a long time ago when Chris Ayres talked about the day his team would be the one that ended Cornell's run as Ivy League wrestling champion.

He was either so sure that the day would come eventually or he was fooling himself into thinking it. Either way, it seemed so far in the future that day at that meeting.

The day finally arrived Sunday, when Ayres led his Tigers to a 19-13 win over Cornell at a rowdy Jadwin Gym. It was the Ivy title that resulted in the #Princeton500, and it was also the Ivy title that no coach ever deserved more.

The celebration was extraordinary. For TB, who observed it from the side, the highlight was the hug between Ayres and Craig Sachson, who was the Office of Athletics Communications wrestling contact for the first 13 of Ayres' Princeton seasons, before Craig left a year ago.

As TB said earlier this week, Craig would be offering his thoughts on his time with Ayres and what Sunday meant in that context. Today the floor belongs to Craig:

Early in Chris Ayres era, Princeton had a consistent presence in the lineup who had the versatility to wrestle at almost any weight (and sometimes at multiple weights in the same match!). Somehow he managed to extend his stay in Orange and Black beyond the traditional four years.

His name? Johnny Forfeit.

I worked with Chris for the first 13 years of his Princeton tenure, which likely aged like dog years for somebody whose entire collegiate wrestling experience happened at Lehigh, a perennial national power. When I would ask him for his weekend probables during those first few years, good ol’ Johnny almost always made an appearance.

For whatever reason, that line always made me smile. It even made Chris laugh now and then, even if those fleeting moments of humor likely came between soul-searching questions about the decision to take on the greatest challenge in collegiate wrestling. I can’t imagine he didn’t have moments of regret, but they seemed to pass quickly. Day after day, following loss after loss, Chris walked down to the bowels of Jadwin with the same positive spirit and tried to get one step closer to the impossible dream.

There have already been other goals — all of which also seemed laughable about a decade ago — that Ayres and this program have checked off the list. All-Americans? Several. EIWA champions? A bunch (even one at Jadwin, which Ayres fought to have host the championships twice). Midlands champions? Done. Top-3 EIWA finishes? Twice. Top-15 NCAA finishes? Last year? Top-10 or Top-5? Stay tuned.

But on this campus, winning an Ivy League championship matters. Princeton teams had won 499 of them before the Tigers took the mat against a Cornell team that had outscored them 248-3 in the first five dual matches of the Ayres era (Johnny Forfeit struggled to an 0-7 record in those matches). It’s been one of the burning goals for Ayres. He wanted wrestling to win the Princeton title party, and he wanted to be the team that ended Cornell’s long reign.

That reign may have ended Sunday in thrilling fashion, but it was every small step that Ayres (and the best coaching staff in the country, at least in my opinion) took from 2006 through the past weekend that made it all possible. It was his relentless spirit, his unwillingness to lower his standards, and his refusal to let the losing break him that steered (and then burned) the ship. I can remember two times in 13 years when I thought he looked or sounded close enough to broken that I shared some added encouragement, but both times he bounced back quickly and decisively.

And then he did what he’s always done. He took the next step. He took it with determination to turn this around, with pride in where the program had come, and with an absolute belief that a day like Sunday would, eventually, arrive.

He didn’t do it alone, and he’ll be the first to make that message clear. His guys won the match. His guys won matches before the match — some weeks before, some months before, some years before — that helped set the culture for an eventual championship program. His staff recruited relentlessly, worked tirelessly, and laughed endlessly in a coaching office with more chemistry than any I have experienced in college athletics.

Every bit of it mattered, but every bit of it started with Chris Ayres.

Johnny Forfeit couldn’t make it to Jadwin Sunday. His time, mercifully, has ended.

Johnny Championship? He arrived in Orange and Black glory, in the middle of a celebration that might still be ongoing for alumni, family and supporters of the program.

For Chris, that celebration was Sunday. He’s taken more steps since then.

His journey continues, and we are lucky to follow his lead.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Remembering Lorin, Again

The euphoria of Princeton's 500th all-time Ivy League championship seemed to touch everyone connected with the athletic department.

There were celebrations, pictures and social media posts as far as the eye could see around here the last few days. The milestone deserved to be celebrated, and it certainly has been.

It was a time for smiles from anyone and everyone Princeton.


When TigerBlog thinks about Lorin Maurer, still all these years later the first thing he thinks about is her smile.

Had Lorin, who worked as the coordinator of Princeton's Athletic Friends Groups, been in Jadwin the last few days, she most certainly would have been smiling. She always was, it seemed.

The last time TigerBlog ever saw her, it was in Jadwin Gym, 11 years ago today. And the last thing she ever did before she disappeared past TB's door for what neither of them could have fathomed was the last time was smile.

TB can still see it.

And he can still feel the shock, the numbness, the disbelief, the sadness - all combined into one horrific realization - that he felt when the woke up to the news that his colleague and friend had been killed in a plane crash on her way to Buffalo.

It seemed so impossible at the time. As he thinks back to it, he remembers every detail.

It started with a meeting in Jadwin on Feb. 12, 2009. TB remembers that Lorin was late and had to catch her plane, as she was headed to a wedding in Buffalo with her boyfriend. She was barely 30 years old, in love, happy and very, very, very full of life.

TB remembers being surprised to see her walk down the hall past his open door after the meeting, because he knew she was running late. TB glanced up at her from his computer and waved, and she poked her head in the door and didn't say a word. She just smile and kept going.

TB gave it no more thought. He went home, went to bed eventually and woke up the next morning to an email from then-Director of Athletics Gary Walters, who broke the news to the department.

It was too hard to believe that it might be true. TB turned on his TV and just stared at the coverage of the plane crash, which took 51 lives - the 50 people on the plane and one on the ground.

He's not sure how long he stared at the TV, completely unable to process the news. It seemed like forever, though he eventually made it into Jadwin, where he found a building filled with people who were in the same emotional state that he was.

There was also a men's basketball game to be played here that night. TB remembers the news media that came to talk to people about Lorin, and he remembers how public address announcer Bill Bromberg broke down while reading the moment of silence in Lorin's memory.

Now it's 11 years later.

There is a dwindling group of people who still work here who knew Lorin, though a few who were very close to her still do, including Chris Brock, Jon Kurian, Kellie Staples and Kelly Widener, among others. They can tell you much more about their time with Lorin that TB can, but TB did know her well enough to know what kind of person she was.

Lorin Maurer was a kind person. She was helpful, and TB saw her repeatedly doing tasks, like setting up tables and cleaning up events, that weren't in her job description.

She was family oriented. She loved her friends. She had a strong sense of humor and laughed easily.

She was in a really good place in life, with her best times seemingly right in front of her.

And then she was gone, just like that.

Now it's 11 years later, and yet the images of her are still very vivid.

Lorin Maurer. And her smile.

TB has written about her each year since on the anniversary of her death. He does this because she deserves it. He does this because her spirit touched the people with whom she worked, and that spirit will never be forgotten by those who knew her.

For those who didn't know her, you missed out on someone special.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

More #Princeton500

If you were in the Jadwin Gym lobby yesterday afternoon, you would have noticed the Tiger, the t-shirts, the athletes, the coaches and the general mood of festivity.

The occasion was the day-after celebration of the #Princeton500, the milestone of having reached 500 Ivy League championships in program history. There was a backdrop set up for pictures, and Princeton Athletics social media continued to be the place to be to see it all.

Of all the pictures that TB saw yesterday, the best was the one with sophomore wrestler Travis Stefanik, all smiles, with a t-shirt. And why wouldn't he be smiling? It was his win Sunday against Cornell that provided the deciding team points and gave Princeton that 500th win.

TB is pretty sure that's Stefanik.

TigerBlog wrote yesterday that Chris Ayres had built the Princeton wrestling program from the ground up.

His dear friend and former 10-time Heptagonal track champion John Mack gave him the line he should have used. Ayres, Mack said, built his team from the basement up.

That's much better. The basement to which Mack refers is the Jadwin Gym basement, the one that has the wrestling room, which shares a wall with the Office of Athletic Communications. It was in that room into which Ayres walked in before the 2006-07 season.

Back then, Cornell was in the early stages of what would grow to be a 17-year run as Ivy League champion. Also at the time, Princeton Wrestling was in need of a rebirth, and Ayres had the drive to make that happen.

There have been amazing rebuilding jobs at Princeton before. What Ayres has done is up there with anything anyone here has ever done.

After two years, he was 0-35. He lost his first 15 Ivy League matches, which ran the program's league run to 33 straight. Then things started to change.

And Sunday, he got his Tigers to the top, with a lot of help from his staff of Sean Gray, Joe Dubuque and Nate Jackson. It was Sunday at Jadwin where Princeton defeated Cornell 19-13, ending that long Cornell Ivy title run, as well as the Big Red's long Ivy winning streak (92 straight).

It was way up there with anything TB has ever seen at Princeton. It would have stood on its own merit, but it become even more dramatic when you factored in that it was the 500th title.

TB also got this from John Mack yesterday about the video of Stefanik's dramatic win in the final 10 seconds that gave Princeton those clinching points: "I have never wrestled a day in my life and I haven't worn a Princeton uniform in 20 years. But scenes like that still make me emotional."

There is so much that could be said about the wrestling team, and TB is going to let his former colleague and also dear friend Craig Sachson tell you about it later in the week. Craig has asked to share his thoughts about his time with Ayres and the wrestling program, and the floor will be his to do so.

In the meantime, TB offers another round of congratulations to the entire wrestling program.

The wrestling title and the 500th win weren't the only big stories this weekend.

There was also a matter of the women's tennis team, which improved to 5-1 by winning two of three matches at the ITA National Indoor Championships in Chicago this weekend. Princeton, ranked 17th in the country, lost to No. 7 North Carolina State before bouncing back to take out Arizona State and then sixth-ranked Pepperdine.

Princeton reached the final rounds in Chicago after beating two other Top 20 teams - Washington and USC - earlier.

The highlight of the weekend came at No. 1 singles in the match against Pepperdine, where Princeton's Brianna Shvets defeated Ashley Lahey, who happens to be the No. 1-ranked player in the country.

That's pretty impressive stuff as well.

There was more, including a sweep by the women's hockey team and another by the women's basketball team. That women's sweep included the 400th career win for head coach Carla Berube, who won 383 of those games in 17 years at Tufts.

Mostly, though, this weekend was about the 500th and the celebration that followed. As TB said, all of Princeton's social media was buzzing over it, as it should have been.

And now it's time to move ahead. There are other championships to chase, including for the wrestling team, which still needs to beat Penn this weekend to win an outright title, not to mention seven competitive Ivy rivals who are looking for their own celebrations.

No matter what, though, the wrestling story will always be a great one.

And Craig will be able to tell it best.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Princeton 500

Something really, really special happened in Jadwin Gym yesterday afternoon.

You know. Up there with anything TigerBlog has seen in all the time he's worked at Princeton.

It was the wrestling match against Cornell. The background is pretty much all you need:

* Cornell had won the Ivy title 17 straight times and had won 92 straight Ivy matches
* If Cornell won, it would make that 18 straight
* If Princeton won, it would earn at least a share of the title
* Chris Ayres and his staff have built Princeton wrestling up from basically the ground floor
* Princeton had won 499 all-time Ivy League championships prior to yesterday

That's a lot, right?

Add in a huge Jadwin crowd that essentially filled the entire lower bowl, and you get the picture.

Trailing 10-4, Princeton then won five straight matches, clinching it when Travis Stefanik went from down 4-3 with a minute to go to up 6-4 with a takedown with 10 seconds left and then finally 10-4 at the end with back points.

It was Stefanik's dramatic match that sealed it for the Tigers, and it set off a huge roar in Jadwin when the dream became reality. The final was 19-15 Princeton, and the wrestling team had itself some history.

Actually, a lot of it.

TigerBlog will have more on the wrestling team tomorrow. Today, though, belongs to every athlete in Princeton history who ever has won an Ivy League championship.

And how many of them would there be? How about more than 8,000.

And how many Ivy League championship rings does it all add up to now? How about 14,000.

Those are extraordinary numbers.

Princeton becomes the first Ivy League school to reach 500 league titles. Harvard is in second place, with 428.

No other school is even more than halfway to 500.

Princeton's women alone have won 214 championships. Half the league hasn't won more than that between their men and women combined.

It's obviously something worthy of a major celebration.

The first Ivy League championship was won in the 1956-57 academic year, the first of official Ivy League competition. That first title belonged to the men's squash team.

If you want to see much more about the 500th, click HERE.

Here's some basic information:

The first year of official Ivy League competition was 1956-57, a year in which Yale won seven league titles to Princeton's four. After 10 years, Princeton had 32 Ivy titles, behind both Harvard (46) and Yale (35).
Princeton finally caught Yale in the 1970-71 academic year. As for Harvard, that would take longer.
In fact, at one point, Harvard had a 43-title lead on Princeton. It actually wasn't until the 1990s that Princeton actually took the lead.
In the last 27 years, Princeton has a 292-196 lead over the Crimson. That's how Princeton has built this huge lead.

Princeton has been in double figures in Ivy League championships 26 times, including 10 of the last 11. Only Harvard, who has done so 10 times, has also done it.

Each of the 33 Princeton teams who compete for Ivy titles has won at least two. There are 24 teams who have won at least 10 and nine who have won at least 20.

The overall leader is men's swimming and diving at 30. The field hockey team leads the women with 26.

TB has been here for more than half of those 500 championships. He's said the same thing every year - winning is not something you can ever take for granted, and nobody at Princeton ever does.

Still, to have that level of consistency speaks to a lot of things. It talks about having a clear vision, something that both Directors of Athletics TB has worked for - Gary Walters and now Mollie Marcoux Samaan - have articulated and then made sure that the entire department embraced.

Princeton has been represented all of these years by incredible coaches, and those coaches have gone out and recruited some of the most amazing people TB has ever met in the athletes who have competed here.

The result of their own experience is that they have gone on to become extraordinarily loyal alums who are invested in making sure the current generation of athletes has the best possible experience they can have as well. And the people who work in the Department of Athletics? They are a highly committed group who takes great pride in how their contributions make an impact.

And so this achievement belongs to everyone at Princeton.

And, again, it's never something to take for granted. Getting to 500 has been remarkable, but nobody is satisfied.

Still, it's definitely something to celebrate.

Friday, February 7, 2020

No Time For Small Talk

Hey, how are you today?

TigerBlog is fine. And that's it for the small talk today.

It's too big a weekend for any of that right now.

There will definitely be Ivy League championships awarded this weekend in men's and women's fencing, as the Ivy League round robins will be held at Harvard. This weekend will also have a huge impact on the Ivy League wrestling race, and there could be a championship won by Sunday night.

There are also big games in basketball and hockey for men and women, as well as swimming, tennis, squash and track and field. If you like there are also lacrosse scrimmages, for the men tomorrow and the women Sunday.

HERE is the complete weekend schedule.

TB will start with fencing.

There are five nationally ranked men's Ivy teams and five nationally ranked women's Ivy teams, and each team on both sides will fence against all of the other Ivy teams in two days at Harvard.

On the men's side, the No. 1 team in the country is Columbia, followed by No. 2 Harvard. Princeton comes into the event ranked sixth.

To borrow from the preview, Princeton's men have won four Ivy titles in the last 10 years, in 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2017. The women have won seven times in the last 10 years, including annually from 2010-14 as well as 2016 and 2017.

You can read the entire preview, which includes match times and all necessary links, HERE.

If you don't know anything else about the women's rankings, know that Princeton is ranked No. 1 in the country and Columbia is ranked No. 2 in the country and the two are separated in the most recent poll by one point.

And at the Ivy fencing championships, anything can happen. Often there are three-way ties for the championship, and in some years three-way ties on both sides.

Now about that wrestling weekend.

This is the background: Cornell has won the last 17 Ivy League wrestling champoinships.

These are current national rankings: Princeton is No. 16, Cornell is No. 17.

The two meet Sunday at Jadwin Gym at 1. This is after Princeton hosts Columbia at 4 in Dillon Gym in a match that can be seen on ESPNU. As for Cornell, the Big Red are at Penn Saturday.

The current Ivy League standings have Cornell at 3-0 and Princeton and Penn both at 2-0. There are six Ivy schools who have wrestling teams, so each school has five regular season league matches. That means that Cornell will be done by the end of the weekend.

A Big Red sweep, and that adds up to 18 straight.

On the other hand, two wins by Princeton and Penn (home against Columbia Sunday) would set up a winner-take-all showdown Saturday in Princeton for the league title.

There can also be co-championships and even a three-way championship, depending on the results this weekend. This is obviously a huge weekend, but when you throw in the chance for Princeton and/or Penn to end the long Big Red run, it's even bigger.

The men's hockey team is at Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow night. The women are home with RPI tonight and Union tomorrow night.

The women currently sit second in the ECAC standings with 25 points, four back of Cornell for first place and five up on Yale for fifth place. Why is fifth place a big deal?

Because the top four teams in the standings get home ice in the first round of the league tournament. There are only three weekends left in the regular season, by the way, on the women's side.

As for basketball, Princeton is unbeaten in both the men's and women's league standings as they prepare for Cornell tonight and Columbia tomorrow night. The women are home and the men are away, and if you listened to this week's "Conversations With Carla" podcast, then you know that this is the first time in 2020 the women are playing in Jadwin Gym.

In fact, the last home game prior to tonight was Dec. 29 against New Hampshire.

Princeton's women are 3-0 in the league, unbeaten along with 4-0 Yale. Cornell and Columbia are both 2-2.

For the men, Princeton and Yale are both 4-0, and Cornell and Columbia are both 1-3. Harvard, Penn and Brown are all 2-2.

Princeton plays Yale a week from today in both, with the men home and the women away.

The league races are going to start to sort themselves out in the next few weekends, but there are still five full weekends to go before the league tournament starts.

As you know, things are much more immediate in fencing and wrestling.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Is It Fall Yet?

If you want to upload a schedule onto, there's a form on the content management system that you need to follow.

As you enter each game, it appears on the schedule page on the website, unless you click a button on the back end that keeps the schedule hidden. TigerBlog prefers to enter a game and have it be live, and he's waiting for the time that someone emails him to say that they were on the webpage, clicked on the schedule and can't understand why Princeton is only playing three games the coming year.

TB entered the 2020 football schedule yesterday. If you went to the schedule on the website around 3 or so, you might have noticed that the schedule only listed one game, or two, or however many were there when you checked.

Not to worry. Princeton will be playing the full 10 games in 2020.

The football schedule was formally announced this week, and season tickets for the five home games are now on sale. You can see the first HERE and buy the second HERE.

It's a really intriguing and interesting schedule, with five home games and non-league road trips to different places than Princeton fans are used to heading.

The season starts on Sept. 19 at Virginia Military Institute, which is in Lexington, Va. The Keydets went 5-7 last year, including 4-4 in the very competitive Southern Conference.

Beyond that, there is the gameday experience at Foster Stadium, which the VMI website describes this way:
Very few football experiences in the country can rival that of a fall Saturday at Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium, the home of Keydets. It is a day filled with the pageantry and tradition of the nation's oldest state military school. The VMI Corps of Cadets marches from barracks onto the field as The Regimental Band plays “Shenandoah”. The Corps welcomes the team onto the field, as "Little John," a ceremonial cannon, joins the cheers with a thundering boom. The Rats come out of the stands with every Keydet score, and do a pushup for every point on the VMI side of the scoreboard. The familiar strain of "The Spirit" plays to stir the hearts of the Keydet faithful. 
How much fun does that sound like?

And for Princeton, it's one of two trips to military institutions. The other is an Oct. 10 trip to Army West Point and venerable Michie Stadium.

TB has been to Army to see Princeton play basketball (and to cover Rider basketball there once a long time ago as well). He's never seen a football game there.

Don't know much about Michie Stadium? Well, check out the main photo HERE.

That's quite a picture, no?

And that's what Princeton will be walking into come October. Do you want to guess who the team who plays at Michie directly before Princeton is?

Army plays at Miami, the one in Ohio, the Saturday before Princeton is there. The week before that, on Sept. 26, who is at Michie?

Oklahoma. Yes, that Oklahoma.

For that matter, VMI will come into the game in September one week after playing at Virginia.

As for the other non-league game, it's a Week 2 home game (the week after VMI) against Bucknell.

There are four home Ivy games, against Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth and Penn. Remember - the game at Yankee Stadium last year was supposed to be a Dartmouth home game, so Princeton will be home with the Big Green this year.

The Ivy road trips are to Columbia, Harvard and Yale.

How good will Princeton be?

The Tigers have nine All-Ivy selections returning, including the Bushnell Cup finalist Jeremiah Tyler and fellow first-team pick Delan Stallworth on defense and leading rusher and Ivy rushing touchdown leader Collin Eaddy on offense, not to mention a ton of other experience basically everywhere on the field. 

There are of course losses to graduation, including first-team All-Ivy League center Alex Deters and pro-prospect quarterback Kevin Davidson.

Princeton is 18-2 in the last two years. Its 18 wins are the most by the program in two years since 1950-51, which says something about the level the Tigers have been playing at of late.

And that's a quick look ahead to the fall of 2020.

Tomorrow TB will get back to the winter and the weekend to come, which includes some huge events with Ivy titles on the line. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Get To The Point

TigerBlog got a message yesterday asking him if he thinks Bella Alarie will break "it."

By "it," TB presumed the message meant the school record for points in a career, which since 1990 has been 1,683 and held by Sandi Bittler Leland.

That figure is also the second-best by any Princeton basketball player, trailing only the seemingly untouchable 2,503 that Bill Bradley scored (that was in three seasons, with no three-point shot).

In fact, that raises two questions for TigerBlog.

First, how many points might Bradley have scored in four years and with a three-point shot? And two, is it realistic for anyone to ever make a run at 2,503?

To answer the first, consider what Bradley's actual three seasons were.

As a sophomore in 1962-63, Bradley scored 682 points. His best year point-wise was his junior year, when he scored 936. He then scored 885 as a senior in 1964-65, when Princeton made its Final Four run.

For context, consider that only one other player has ever scored more than 600 points in a season, and that was Brian Taylor, who had 676 as a junior in 1971-72. Taylor's sophomore year was 563, which is the fifth-best total in program history.

Think about how much attention Taylor's scoring feats would have generated had Bradley not done what he did. And Taylor left after his junior year for the American Basketball Association, which means he probably would have gotten near 2,000 points if he had another season to play.

TB has never met Brian Taylor, but he knows a lot of people who speak in glowing terms about who Brian Taylor is and his long commitment to education. TB did find THIS REALLY GOOD STORY FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES IN 1983 about Taylor, when he came back to the school after playing in the ABA and NBA to finish his degree.

Meanwhile, back at Bradley, if you assume he would have made a huge impact as a freshman but not necessarily to the extent that he did later, that would still have meant another, what, 550-600 points? That would have taken him well past the 3,000-point mark, something only 10 players in Division I history have ever done.

How many can you name? TB will have the list at the end.

How many three's would Bradley have had? Probably around 100, TB would guess. So figure he would have ended up with 3,150 or so points.

Can anyone get to his record of 2,503?

The most games any Princeton men's basketball player has ever played in is 123, by Ian Hummer, who just happens to be second all-time in scoring as well (1,625). If you do the math, then Hummer would have had to have averaged 20.3 per game for 123 games to get to 2,503.

That doesn't seem too wildly out of reach. It's unlikely, since only Bradley and Taylor have averaged at least 20 for a career and only three others (Geoff Petrie, Pete Campbell, Bud Haabestad) averaged 20 in a season.

You'd need a player who comes in as a freshman who can score anywhere on the court and is a great three-point shooter. Maybe one day?

Meanwhile, back at Bella, she now has 1,514 points. She has 11 Ivy League regular season games to go, and presumably the Ivy tournament and hopefully the NCAA or WNIT after that.

The record is 1,683, which leaves her 169 points away from tying the record. She needs to average 15.4 in the 11 Ivy games to tie it before any potential postseason.

Her next chances to add to her total come up this weekend, when Princeton hosts Cornell and Columbia Friday and Saturday.

Right now Princeton is 3-0 in the league. Yale, whom Princeton plays in New Haven next Friday, is 4-0, and every other team in the league has at least two losses. Cornell and Columbia are both 2-2.

As for the 3,000-point scorers, here is the list:

3,667, Pete Maravich LSU
3,249 Freeman Williams, Portland State
3,225 Chris Clemons, Campbell
3,217 Lionel Simmons, La Salle
3,165 Alphonso Ford, Mississippi Valley State
3,150 Doug McDermott, Creighton
3,067 Mike Daum, South Dakota State
3,066 Harry Kelly, Texas Southern
3,058 Keydren Clark, St. Peter's
3,008 Hersey Hawkins, Bradley

Clemons and Daum both graduated last year by the way. Clemons is currently with the Houston Rockets, and Daum is playing in Europe. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Super Bowl Champ John Lovett, And The National Rankings

As TigerBlog said yesterday, winning has a way of following some players around.

Here's the proof of that:


That's Princeton alum John Lovett with Lombardi Trophy, after his Kansas City Chiefs defeated San Francisco in the Super Bowl Sunday night. If you're keeping track, the last four seasons for Lovett look like this:

2016 - Ivy League championship, Bushnell Cup winner
2017 - injured
2018 - Ivy League championship, perfect season, Bushnell Cup winner
2019 - Super Bowl championship

TB texted Lovett congratulations after the game, and Lovett got back to him yesterday. It made TB wonder how many hundreds of text messages Lovett received, and he's pretty sure Lovett got back to all of them.

TB wasn't the football contact during Lovett's time at Princeton, but he did watch him closely. It's clear that he is one of the absolute top leaders of any Princeton team in all the years that TB has watching the Tigers.

If TB is correct, Lovett became the third Princeton alum to win a Super Bowl ring as a player, joining Bob Holly and Jason Garrett. Is he forgetting anyone?

Lovett spent the season on injured reserve. Up next is a chance to make his mark on the field, as the Chiefs will look to repeat. With Pat Mahomes as the quarterback, there certainly is a chance. Of course, at the same time, there are a lot of quarterbacks who got there once and never got back again, and some others who never got there.

Dan Marino played in the Super Bowl in his second season (TB is pretty sure it was his second), and at the time, you could have gotten big odds if you wanted to say he'd never be back again. And yet he never returned.

If you never saw Marino play, by the way, there haven't been too many, if any, quarterbacks who ever could throw the ball like he could. But that one Super Bowl - a loss to the San Francisco 49ers - was his only trip.

So will Lovett have a chance to get back? There's no way of knowing. TB hopes that Lovett will become a consistent part of the Chiefs attack, and he is pretty sure that he will,

Historically speaking, Lovett also joins George Parros (2007 Anaheim Ducks) and Chris Young (2015 Kansas City Royals) as Princeton alums who won a championship as a player in one of the four major American professional sports. This doesn't take into account the number of champions won by athletes in other sports.

And if TB is forgetting someone, he apologizes.

A week ago TB felt badly about waiting to write about the women's tennis team until the middle of the week. This time, the Super Bowl and the big basketball weekend kept him from talking about a huge accomplishment by the men's volleyball team from Thursday night.

If you remember before exam break, Princeton pushed UCLA, then ranked second in the country, to five sets before losing in Dillon Gym in men's volleyball. The teams met against Thursday night in California, and this time Princeton won, taking down the Bruins - who have won more NCAA titles than any other program - in four sets.

For Princeton, the win was the first one over UCLA, Southern Cal or Long Beach State. The sport is obviously dominated by the California schools, though not nearly as much as TB might have thought before he looked and saw that in the last 12 years, the NCAA championship scoreboard is California 7, East of the Mississippi 5 (two each for Ohio State and Loyola-Chicago and one for Penn State).

Can Princeton be part of the NCAA championship conversation this year? TB doesn't know enough about the sport to know. He does know that Princeton is ranked 12th, has NCAA tournament tournament experience from last year and has played a very tough schedule so far this season.

Of course, Princeton needs to get back to the NCAA in the first place, and that path goes through the very competitive EIVA. All in all, these are very exciting times for Princeton volleyball.

And hey, the Tigers are more than just 6-11 George Humann. This week's EIVA Player of the Week is Jerod Nelsen.

And, actually, for a bunch of Princeton's winter teams.

It was called to TB's attention that in fact 10 of Princeton's winter teams are or have been nationally ranked so far this season. That list: women's hockey, women's basketball, men's and women's squash, women's swimming and diving, wrestling, men's and women's fencing and men's volleyball.

That's a wild piece of information.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Rooting Interest

TigerBlog watched three games on TV this weekend.

The last was the Super Bowl, obviously, won by the Kansas City Chiefs 31-20 over the San Francisco 49ers. TB was rooting for Kansas City, mostly because of Princeton's John Lovett, who has spent the year on injured reserve with the Chiefs.

Lovett led Princeton to wins in the last 13 games in which he played and an 18-1 record as the starting quarterback his final two seasons as he led the Tigers to Ivy titles in 2016 and 2018. That 2018 season saw Princeton go a perfect 10-0.

To that he can add a Super Bowl championship. Yes, he was on IR, but still, he was a part of it in his way and he certainly got to enjoy the experience.

There are just some players whom winning seems to follow. Lovett is one of those.

Lovett was a quarterback at Princeton - a two-time Bushnell Cup winner - but he's a tight end/fullback/special teams player with the Chiefs. It'll be interesting to see what his role is with the team next year, but TB has a sense he will make a real impact. TB compared him to Taysom Hill of the Saints while Lovett was still at Princeton, and he sees no reason why he should change his mind.

By the way, the best Super Bowl commercial in years was the Bill Murray "Groundhog Day" one. 

So, the other two games TB watched?

One was Saturday, when he watched Duke-Air Force men's lacrosse. Yes, lacrosse season officially began this weekend.

Air Force defeated Duke 14-13 in something of an upset, and who doesn't want to see a good upset? Of course, with Duke, this type of result is nothing new - Duke is used to losing in February and ending up in the Final Four late in May anyway.

And as much as you want to root for the underdog, if you look strictly at your own self-interest, how are you supposed to know which team you should be rooting for so early in the season?

What if it comes down to Air Force and Princeton for the final at-large spot? Certainly the win over Duke will help the Air Force cause.

So yes, it made for a really entertaining game (and it's always great to be back in lacrosse season), but in the end, would it have helped Princeton if Duke had won? Maybe that's a stretch - but on Feb. 1, who knew?

The same thing was essentially true with the first game of the weekend that he watched. That was Friday afternoon, when he watched Penn-Harvard men's basketball.

That was also a great game. Harvard fought hard to force overtime, and Penn was able to pull it out.

Again, as a Princeton fan, which team should you have been rooting for in that one?

Again, who knows? You would need to know how the rest of the year will play out to be 100 percent sure.

On the other hand, just worry about the things you can control, right? And the Princeton men's basketball team did exactly that this weekend, sweeping Dartmouth and Harvard at home.

Suddenly a team that started its season at 1-7 is over .500 at 9-8. More important, Princeton is 4-0 in the Ivy League, with a sweep of Penn before exam break.

Right now Princeton and Yale are both 4-0, with three teams (Harvard, Penn and Brown) at 2-2. Cornell and Columbia, whom Princeton plays this week on the road, are both 1-3, and Dartmouth is now 0-4.

Princeton got to 4-0 this weekend by establishing its will against Dartmouth, winning 66-44 with a balanced offense, good shooting (53.8 percent for the night) and a smothering defense (Dartmouth shot 36.5 percent).

Then, Saturday night, Princeton toughed one out against Harvard 70-69, winning the kind of close game you need to win to have to make a run at a championship.

Princeton led most of the way, but Harvard wouldn't quit. Instead, the Crimson took the lead when Noah Kirkwood made two foul shots with 15 seconds left, only to have Richmond Aririguzoh fight his way past two blocked shots to eventually get fouled and then knock down the tying and winning foul shots with four seconds left.

It was a great night at Jadwin, with a large crowd that was into the game and two of the top teams in the league in a matchup that went to the wire.

And it went Princeton's way.

For this one it was easy to figure out which team to root for, right? 

Friday, January 31, 2020

A Busy Weekend Begins

If you know TigerBlog, it probably doesn't surprise you to learn that he has memorized the codes that go along with the fruits and vegetables he buys each week.

He likes to go to the self checkout line, which means he needs to keep entering the codes for fruits and vegetables. And he always gets the same stuff, so it didn't take long to get the numbers down.

For instance, bananas are 4011. Avocados are 4225. Eventually he's started referring to the items not by their names but by their numbers, as in "salad with a little 4225."

When he mentioned this to his colleague Warren Croxton the other day, he said something along the lines of having a "4131," which is a Fuji apple. Croxton, a diehard Eagles fan, said he'd rather have a "4133," sight unseen.

Eagles fans are obsessed with the number 4,133. That was the final score of the Super Bowl the Eagles won over the New England Patriots.

What TB didn't realize is that these numbers aren't unique to his supermarket or even that supermarket chain. They are called PLU codes, which stands for "Product Look Up" codes.

They start with either "3" or "4," though they will have a "9" in front of them if they are organic items or an "8" if they are genetically engineered. The numbers are randomly assigned.

As it turns out, a 4133 would be a small gala apple.

Princeton fans should know the meaning of the number 4341. If you don't, that was the score of Princeton's 1996 NCAA tournament win over UCLA. A 4341 would be a yellow seedless watermelon.

This is obviously Super Bowl weekend, as the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers play Sunday in Miami.

TigerBlog would be rooting for Kansas City anyway, because he's a fan of Chiefs' quarterback Pat Mahomes. Throw in the fact that Princeton alum John Lovett is a member of the team, and that makes it even more so.

Lovett, the only two-time Bushnell Cup winner in Princeton football history, has spent the season on injured reserve with Kansas City. He had a strong preseason before getting hurt, and he seemed to make a strong impression on the team.

TigerBlog will be talking to Lovett this afternoon to get his thoughts on the experience to date, at the Super Bowl and throughout the season. TB's goal is to have that story on before the start of men's hockey and men's basketball tonight.

This is the start of the run from the return from exams through the end of the regular season and then into the postseason. The teams - not just in basketball and hockey - will go from not very busy to very, very busy, starting tonight.

If TB is counting correctly, there are 38 Princeton events scheduled from today through Sunday. That's a lot.

If he's also counting correctly, there are 16 teams who are competing. That's also a lot.

And it's not even crossover season yet. That's coming soon. If this weekend's schedule isn't enough for you, tomorrow is also Day 1 of spring practices, not to mention the first actual Division I lacrosse games - 13 of them to be exact.

The men's hockey team is home this weekend against Colgate and Cornell, with face-off at 7 both nights. Princeton was playing well before the breaking, having tied Harvard and beaten St. Lawrence (on a goal with 0.6 seconds left in OT of a scoreless game).

The Tigers have eight regular season games left as they try to get some momentum going and possibly get home ice in the playoffs.

The men's basketball team has 12 league games left - two each for the next six weekends. That run starts this weekend with home games against Dartmouth (tonight at 7) and Harvard (tomorrow at 6).

Each league team has played both of its games against its travel partners to date. Princeton, Harvard and Yale all swept those two games, while Columbia and Cornell split.

There are also home events in men's and women's tennis, men's and women's squash and men's and women's swimming and diving, which hosts the H-Y-P meet at DeNunzio Pool.

The full schedule is HERE.

And TB's Super Bowl prediction?

Chiefs win. Final score: Fava beans.

You know. That's 45-28.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Take Three

TigerBlog hopes you enjoy this week's edition of "Conversations With Carla," the weekly podcast with head women's basketball coach Carla Berube.

This was an extra special edition, mostly because it took three tries to get it done.

The first only went a minute or so before TB sensed something wasn't right with the sound. The second time was the full 12-minute version, only the sound problem hadn't been fixed. When you listed to that version, all you heard was something similar to Charlie Brown's teacher. Or maybe a combination of that and the sound an MRI makes.

Fortunately, Berube is a good sport, and she agreed to record another version, after TB's colleague Cody Chrusciel fixed the problem. And what was the solution to the problem?

Restart the computer, of course.

Anyway, thanks again to Carla for being so good about things. You can hear the actual, listenable version HERE.

This week's conversation had a lot of ground to cover.

First, there was the fact that Princeton hasn't played since Jan. 11, which was the 75-55 win over Penn in the Ivy opener. That game was Princeton's only game since Dec. 29 - more than a month ago - which means the Tigers will have played only that one game in 33 days when they take on Dartmouth Friday in Hanover (and then head to Harvard Saturday).

The reason for the big gap was first-semester exams, which for the final time were in January. For Berube, the last time for an exam break was the first time for her, since she is in her first season at Princeton.

Her school for the last 17 years was Tufts, which places in the NESCAC, which plays Friday night/Saturday afternoon games and does so all through January. For Berube, this was a pretty big adjustment.

Then there's the new schedule that the Ivy League announced earlier this week.

The traditional travel-partner format of six Ivy weekends of back-to-backs dates to the 1958 seasons, or the third official year of Ivy men's basketball. In the first two seasons, the schedule was somewhat random, with only two weekends of back-to-backs and no real order to the sequence of playing teams.

The current format stayed that way through this year. As the world evolves, especially with the change to Princeton's academic schedule, the 2020-21 season will see a whole new way of doing things.

This time, each team will start on Jan. 2 and play three on the same days throughout. There will be three weekends with back-to-backs and a fourth with a game Saturday and then the Monday of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. TB really likes that idea.

Carla gives her thoughts on all of this as well in the podcast.

As for the current season, Princeton and Penn have played each other once while the other six schools have all played both of their travel-partner games so far. Each of the next six weekends will feature back-to-backs, and Princeton and Penn will play their other game at Jadwin on Feb. 25.

Yale is the only 2-0 team, having swept Brown. Harvard and Dartmouth and Cornell and Columbia all split their games.

Princeton is 13-1 on the season, with only a loss in overtime at No. 18 Iowa, who is 17-3 on the year, in the way of an unbeaten record so far.

Princeton leads the Ivy League in 11 statistical categories and is in the top 10 in Division I in five, including ranking third in scoring defense at 50.6. You get extra credit if you knew that Campbell leads Division I at 49.3.

Georgia Tech, by the way, is second at 50.5 heading into its game at Miami tonight. Should Miami get at least 56 points, then Princeton would move into second.

Campbell, by the way, is putting up insane defensive numbers. The Camels are 14-5 overall and 9-1 in the Big South, and the last six opponents have all been held to 47 or fewer. The last two have been held to 36 and 32.

Berube has been talking about defense since Day 1 at Princeton. The numbers Campbell is putting up impress her.

Of course, TB didn't ask her about that until version No. 3. Of the three versions, he thinks the last one was the best one.

At the very least, it was the only audible one.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Creative Process

Okay, write about the women's tennis team. It's Wednesday, and you wanted to do that Monday and yesterday and never got around to it.

They had a huge weekend. Beat two top 25 teams from the Power Five. That's awesome. They're really good.

They were in Seattle last weekend. They were in Seattle of for the NCAA tournament too last spring.

When was that? May. So how many months ago was that? Eight. Wait, it's almost February, so maybe more nine than eight.

Well, when exactly was the NCAA tournament. Check the schedule. Okay. Loading. Loading.

Seattle. BrotherBlog lives there, as opposed to TB, who has lived his whole life in a 45-mile radius of Jadwin Gym. 

Hey, a Carla Berube mic'd up video story. Gotta watch that. Mic'd up videos are always good. And it's a little more than two minutes. Perfect.

That was really good. But wait a second. Why is GPT open in the first place? Looking for ... looking for ... oh yeah. Women's tennis. It was May 3-4 last year, so it's sort of closer to nine months.

Okay, got it. Time to write about women's tennis. But that video was good. Find a way to link that. And the basketball schedule change was announced by the Ivy League. Should get that in too, though it's only Wednesday, so maybe wait on that til later in the week, before the games this weekend? 


Anyway, that was basically a three-minute run through TigerBlog's mind yesterday at one point (minus the part where he was thinking in the third-person).

He goes through that pretty much every day. It's what he calls "the creative process."

Some weeks it's pretty easy to figure out what to write and in what order. Others it isn't.

For this week, he wanted to write about women's tennis, because what they did was special. The Tigers were competing as part of the ITA Kick-off Weekend, which had preliminary rounds on 16 different campuses.

Princeton was at the University of Washington (where BB teaches in the law school, as an aside), where the first opponent would be the host Huskies, who were ranked 17th in the country.

It was Washington who defeated Princeton in the second round of the NCAA tournament last spring, after the Tigers took out Northwestern.

This time, in the rematch, it would be 4-3 Princeton. The deciding point came at No. 5 singles from junior Stephanie Schrage, who dropped the first set 6-1 and then won 6-3, 6-4 from there to clinch it.

That put Princeton in the next round against 11th-ranked USC, which became another 4-3 Princeton win. This time, it would be sophomore Grace Joyce who won the clinching match, 6-3, 7-5.

Here's the winning point:

The wins advance Princeton to the final 16 of the ITA Indoor National Championships, which will be held in Chicago in two weeks.

Princeton has won five of the last six Ivy titles, including the last two. It's an impressive record of sustained success, and all five of those championships have come since Laura Granville became head coach in 2012.

The Tigers will be busy from now on, starting Saturday, also in Chicago, to take on Northwestern. Between then and the Ivy opener March 28, there will be trips to, among other places, Chicago again and then Alabama, Florida, Virginia and Michigan.

There will even be some home matches, including Towson and FDU on Feb. 15.

As TB said, he wanted to talk about the women's tennis team earlier in the week. They certainly deserve any praise for their performance out there.

Also, if you want to see the Berube video, click HERE.

As he said, TB likes the mic'd up videos. They give a really good feel for what it's like to be there and insight into the coach.

And the basketball schedule change?

That can wait for another day, and another creative process. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Back On The Ice

Have you ever heard of Violet Palmer?

Is her name familiar? How about Kelly Cooke's?

Kelly Cooke, of the Princeton Class of 2013, was a four-time All-ECAC Academic selection in women's hockey.

She was also the Tiger captain as a senior. As a junior, she was named the team's most improved player, and she followed that a year later by being named team MVP.

After graduation she  became a professional hockey player. And now? She is one of the top referees in the women's game.

And possibly the men's game at some point?

There have been women refs in the NBA since 2006, when, if you guessed correctly, Violet Palmer  became the first female to officiate a regular season game. The NHL has not yet allowed that to happen, but the time is coming.

And Cooke could be the ref.

She has already refereed NHL men in preseason scrimmages. And this past weekend, she was part of the NHL's All-Star weekend in St. Louis, where she officiated the U.S. vs. Canada women's all-star showcase.

Being the first woman to do anything that has traditionally been all-male is not easy. It would be great to see Cooke get the chance.

Sarah Thomas, by the way, was the first woman to officiate in the NFL, something she did in the 2015 season. Before that she was the first woman to officiate in a college bowl game and in the Big Ten.

As far as TigerBlog can tell, no woman has ever umpired a Major League Baseball regular season game. Pam Postema did work Major League exhibition games and spent 13 years working in the Minors, and she wrote about her experiences, and frustration with the lack of promotion to the Majors, in what was a relatively interestingly titled book.

Anyway, Cook's college team plays tonight for the first time since the break for exams, which means the Tigers will be on the ice for the first time in 17 days. Most recently Princeton was at Dartmouth and Harvard for a three-point weekend.

Princeton is at Quinnipiac tonight, with face-off in Hamden at 6.

Right now Princeton is in fourth place in the ECAC, which brings with it a home series in the first round of the playoffs next month.

As is always the case this time of year, the standings are a bit bunched throughout. Cornell is in first with 26 points, followed by Harvard at 21 and then three more teams - Clarkson, Princeton and Yale - all within three.

It drops back to 15 for sixth-place Colgate, as the teams chase home ice. Teams need to be in the top eight to get into the postseason, and after Colgate you have Union, Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence with 13 or 12 each. From there it's Dartmouth with seven points in 10th place, so you can pretty much see how it's all shaping up.

Princeton has nine regular season games left, with five away and four at home. The next three, starting tonight, are on the road, with a trip to Yale and Brown scheduled for this weekend. It's the first of two meetings between Princeton and those two, and keep in mind that Princeton is one up on Yale right now.

Princeton is also ranked sixth in the country as the team looks for a second-straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

When you talk about Princeton, you of course talk about sophomore Sarah Fillier, who has 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points. She ranks second in Division I in points per game and third in assists per game, and she is threat to do something spectacular every time she's on the ice.

Her classmate Maggie Connors leads the team with 15 goals and ranks fourth in Division I in goals per game.

In addition, there are other Princeton players who are moving up career lists. From the preview story:
Among Tigers climbing program record lists, senior Claire Thompson has climbed to fifth place on the program's list for career points by a defenseman with 78, 13 back of Laura Watt '07 (91) for fourth. Classmate Carly Bullock's 79 career goals stand seventh on the program's list, eight back of Gretchen Anderson '04 (87) for sixth. Fellow senior Steph Neatby's 11 career shutouts are good for fourth all-time, two back of Rebecca Potter '83 (13) and three behind Rebecca Young '09 and Rachel Weber '12 (14) for the record. Neatby's 1,746 career saves have her closing in Weber's 1,787 for fifth on the program's all-time list.

You can read the whole story HERE.

There will be a lot of women's hockey played by Princeton in the next several weeks. Will Princeton get home ice in the postseason? Will Princeton return to the NCAAs?

Those questions start to get answered tonight. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Rest In Peace

The sports world, no, the world in general, was stunned yesterday by the death of Kobe Bryant.

It was Saturday that the LeBron vs. Kobe debate raged on Twitter after LeBron James moved past Kobe into third place all-time in scoring in NBA history. Many of the tweets, to be honest, were mocking Kobe as a ball-hog who never met a shot he didn't like.

Then, a few hours later, Bryant was gone, killed in a helicopter crash in California at the age of 41, along with his 13 year old daughter. First reports said five peopled had died, including one of Gianna Bryant's travel basketball teammates and the teammate's mother, who coached the team, as well as the pilot, but that total was later upped to nine.

Kobe was a larger than life figure who was known throughout the world. It's even more shocking when you consider that Kobe has been a staple in the public eye as much since he retired nearly four years ago.

In fact, he was seen in a few places just the day before he died, including with a video of him at his Mamba Sports Academy with lacrosse superstar Kyle Harrison and a few young players who flocked to meet him.

There were also numerous videos of him with his daughters on the basketball court. 

That's how he was, a big presence, with a big personality who seemed really comfortable out in public, meeting people, talking to them, coaching his daughters. He was not without his issues, and he was not universally loved. He worked hard to fix his public image after he was accused of sexual assault in Colorado, and not everyone was willing to forgive him after that, which is up to each individual.

Through the years, Kobe Bryant was never one of TB's favorite players. He thought comparisons between him and Michael Jordan were understandable, since they played similarly (really hard at all times), but Jordan is the best ever by a wide margin. He did seem like a somewhat selfish player at times, and TB has never been a huge fan of the Lakers. And the incident in Colorado did leave a lot of questions about him for TB.

Still, Bryant died at 41 with one daughter, leaving behind three others, including one who is not yet a year old. It can't be described as anything other than tragic.

And don't forget the others on the plane. The woman who coached the team leaves behind two other children, and TB doesn't know anything about the pilot or the other passengers. It's important to remember this isn't just a Kobe story. 

The Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs traded 24-second violations when their game yesterday began, in tribute to Bryant. That was a very nice touch - and it had to be really weird to be at an NBA game yesterday.

TB remembers Bryant's father Joe (Jellybean) Bryant even back when he played at La Salle, and then later in his own long NBA career. Included in his time at La Salle was an 83-78 win over Princeton in the 1973-74 season.

Kobe went straight from Lower Merion High School to the NBA, and he played his entire career with the Lakers. TigerBlog remembers being at Lower Merion for a high school lacrosse game his son played in and thinking "this is where Kobe went."

 And just like that, he's gone.

It takes a lot to shock TB, but this definitely did.

There is no segue from the death of Kobe Bryant into the return from exam break for the Princeton men's basketball team that is even remotely appropriate, so TB will just say RIP to Kobe and the other people on the helicopter.

As for Princeton, the Tigers defeated Rutgers-Camden 87-41, which is about what you'd expect. Princeton led 53-16 at the break.

Mitch Henderson played 14 players in the game, and all 14 scored. Freshman Keeshawn Kellman led the Tigers with 20.

More importantly for Princeton, the Ivy League schedule restarts this weekend, with home games against Dartmouth and Harvard. If you're interested in the Ivy standings in men's basketball right now, they look like this:

Princeton, Harvard, Yale 2-0
Cornell, Columbia 1-1
Penn, Brown, Dartmouth 0-2

Again, the top four teams will play at Harvard in the league tournament. Also again, the Ivy champ is the team that wins the regular season.

Princeton is holding in its back pocket a pair of wins over Penn, something not a lot of teams will probably be able to match. The Quakers will once again need every win to get into the Ivy tournament, and Penn knocked off Temple Saturday and looked good in the process.

There's a very long way to go in Ivy League basketball, and it will be a six-week, 12-game sprint to the finish on both the men's and women's side. Every game is important.

And that's it for today. The death of Kobe Bryant and the others on the helicopter have left at least five children without one parent and is just an unimaginable tragedy.

Nothing else seems in the sports world seems all that big at the moment.