Friday, February 23, 2018

Wait, What Order Are These Games?

Just to get this straight, the women's team is home and the men's team is away against the same opponent, just not in basketball?

Yes. That's right. The women's lacrosse team is home against Virginia tomorrow at 1. The men's team will be at Virginia at the same time.

That's usually how basketball works in February, not lacrosse.

As for basketball, Courtney Banghart was sure her team was going to Dartmouth first this weekend. TigerBlog was just as sure that Harvard was coming to Jadwin Gym first this weekend. Turns out they were both right.

All of this came out during the current edition of "The Court Report," the podcast that TB has done each week with the Princeton women's basketball coach this season. TB mentioned that Harvard was the first game of the weekend, and then Courtney said that her team was going to Dartmouth first.

This was always TigerBlog's fear when he traveled with men's basketball, which he did from 1989-2004 or so. He was positive that one of those times, or maybe each time, that he'd have it backwards, and he'd show up at, say Ithaca, N.Y., in time to see Cornell play ... Penn.

It never happened, fortunately. There was the time that an old-time sportswriter from the Star-Ledger called him to find out where everyone was; TB was at Harvard and the writer had gone to Palmer Stadium.

There were no cell phones then, of course, so TB got a call at the Harvard Stadium press box. It's like getting a call at 2 am. You assume something is wrong, though it turned out just to be a sportswriter who couldn't read a schedule. On the plus side, it would have been worse if he'd been at Harvard and the game had been at Princeton.

Anyway, both Courtney and TigerBlog were correct this time.

It'll be the women's team at Dartmouth tonight and Harvard tomorrow night. It'll be the men home against Harvard tonight and Dartmouth tomorrow night.

Courtney was on the bus yesterday when she texted TB about something, and TB reminded her to make sure she was going to New Hampshire first.

It's not like she doesn't know the way. She's a Dartmouth grad, undergrad and graduate, and one of the best women's basketball players the school has ever had. She also coached there for three years before coming to Princeton 11 years ago.

This weekend isn't the time for anything sentimental, not at this time of year, not for either team. Princeton is playing for an Ivy League title; Dartmouth is playing to get into the Ivy League tournament, which is just two weeks away now.

Princeton is 9-1 in the league, one game ahead of Penn, who will be at Harvard and Dartmouth. From there it goes to a three-way tie for third, at 6-4, with Yale (the only team to beat Princeton), Dartmouth and Harvard. Princeton and Penn finish the regular season next week home games against Yale and Brown.

Brown and Cornell are both 2-8. TigerBlog didn't look all this up, but he's reasonably sure that Brown or Cornell could catch the three who are tied for third or the three who are tied for third can still catch Princeton and Penn, mathematically at least.

Practically, though, it appears that it's Princeton and Penn for the championship and top two seeds and then Yale, Dartmouth and Harvard in a race for the final two tournament slots.

On the men's side, Harvard is here tonight and Dartmouth tomorrow, a rarity where the men and women have different opponents. It's consecutive rarities - a weekend without any home basketball last weekend because there were doubleheaders on the road and then a weekend where the opponents don't match up.

Princeton has no time to worry about such matters though. The Tigers are still in the hunt for a spot in the Ivy League tournament, even with the current six-game losing streak.

Up first is the Crimson, who are tied with Penn for first at 9-1. Those teams match up tomorrow night in Philadelphia.

Princeton is currently in seventh, at 3-7 in the league, with four games to play. Obviously there's very, very little margin for error.

Yale is 5-5 entering this weekend. Columbia, Cornell and Brown are all 4-6. TB isn't sure about how the tiebreakers will all play out, but he does know that 6-8 made it last year and it might do so again.

Princeton is fortunate to have games left against the teams with whom it is competing.

With four games to go, Princeton can't really be looking at the big picture or the different permutations for the league tournament. Nope. The Tigers need to come out strong, and relaxed. As the mantra goes, "make shots."

See what happens this weekend and see where it leaves them. Then worry about next weekend.

As for lacrosse, it's Princeton's first regular season game against UVa on the men's side since 2008 (there was an NCAA tournament game in 2012), while the women play UVa every year. For the women, it's the home opener, and admission is free.

Both teams are 1-0 after the men opened with a 9-8 two OT win over Monmouth and the women opened with a 17-4 win at Temple.

Lacrosse season has started. Basketball season is winding down.

It's a weekend with big games in both. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

This Is Princeton Golf

You want to see some videos that are really funny and really well done?

Well, check out what the men's golf team has been up to lately.

Here's one:
Here's another:

There's a series of them on the men's golf twitter feed. They're all really good. TigerBlog gives them high marks for creativity, initiative and execution.

The videos also take him back to the glory days of the "Who's the Tiger" videos.

They're leading up to the season opener, which takes place in Arizona starting Sunday. If you couldn't get to Arizona, by the way, there was always Central New Jersey the last few days, where the temperature has been in the 70s.

The men's golf team will be one of, by TigerBlog's count, 17 Princeton teams who will be competing this weekend. There will be everything from season openers to big early season matchups to late-season regular season games with championship impacts to league championship meets all the way to the national championship in men's squash.

As is the case this time of year, there's something for everyone. See for yourself HERE.

Speaking of teams that will be playing this weekend and videos, there is the men's hockey team. The Tigers honored their 1998 and 2008 ECAC championship, and the event was captured in THIS video.

The current men's hockey team has just this weekend left in the regular season and is one of five teams competing for four spots to host next weekend's ECAC first round playoff series. The Tigers are currently tied for seventh with Yale with 19 points, two out of fifth, one out of sixth and one ahead of Quinnipiac, who is ninth.

Princeton is at Clarkson (third place) tomorrow and St. Lawrence (12th place) Saturday. Every point in the standings is critical. Should it come to it, Princeton would have the tiebreaker over Quinnipiac.

If Princeton does finish in between fifth and eighth, then it will be home next weekend, March 2-4, in a best-of-three series. Last year's was incredible, with three thrilling games against Colgate that ended with the Tigers' advancing. 

The women's season is one week ahead, which means that the playoffs are this weekend. Princeton will be at Cornell, tomorrow at 6, Saturday at 3 and then Sunday if necessary at 3.

As for as championships go, the will be at least three Ivy titles that will definitely be celebrated this weekend, two in indoor track and field and one in men's swimming and diving.

The Heps track and field championships will be held at Dartmouth Saturday and Sunday. The Ivy League men's swimming and diving championships will be DeNunzio Pool, running through Saturday.

There are other events. TigerBlog will have more on lacrosse and basketball tomorrow. For now he'll just say that the men's basketball team is home against Harvard tomorrow and Dartmouth Saturday and the two lacrosse teams both play Virginia, with the women at home and the men on the road.

Besides, he wanted to mention two more Winter Olympics things.

First of all, the U.S. men's hockey team was eliminated with a quarterfinal loss to the Czech Republic. The game was decided in a shootout after the teams were even at 2-2 through regulation and a five-minute overtime.

Here's TB's question - why in the world would that game go to a shootout? Why wouldn't they just play until someone scored a goal?

How long could that possibly have taken? Yes, every now and then there will be a game that goes on and on and on, but for the most part, someone will end it. 

And lest you think TB is being a hypocrite, the American women shouldn't have won a gold medal in a shootout either. 

TigerBlog hates shootouts as much as he hates PKs in major soccer elimination events. Actually he hates them more, because hockey goals are easier to come by than soccer goals for the most part.

On the other hand, his favorite event - the cross country skiing sprint relay - was epic yesterday, as the U.S. just slipped past the heavily favored Swedes and Norwegians to win the gold.

If you saw this, American Jessica Diggins made an all-out charge up the last hill and then down into the stadium and ultimately to the finish line, winning by 0.19 seconds.

It was certainly riveting. It was also so indicative of what the Winter Games so often are - events that nobody watches except for two weeks every four years that are decided by the smallest fractions of seconds.

That's TB's way of saying he's really enjoyed watching them.

As for events you can watch every year, there's the weekend in Princeton Athletics.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rooting For Brea, Again

Yesterday was "Tiger Tuesday" here at Princeton.

To TigerBlog, pretty much every Tuesday for the last quarter-century has been a Tiger Tuesday. Some Tuesdays are more Tigery than others, with games like Princeton-Penn basketball or some lacrosse games on the schedule.

Your average Tuesday is highlighted by the weekly event meeting. TigerBlog feels like Princeton could stream that meeting, since it's always good for a few laughs in the 30-45 minutes that it usually runs.

Yeah, it would get good viewership.

TigerBlog can't imagine how many event meetings he's been to on Tuesdays. He remembers the first one, though, for two reasons.

First, it was in a conference room on the Jadwin mezzanine that long ago was converted to offices. Second, the big issue was that nobody could find the women's soccer programs at Lourie-Love Field BUT that there also weren't enough of them. TigerBlog, still trying to fit in, let it go as long as he could before he had to point out the obvious: if nobody can find them, how do you know there aren't enough.

Out of that meeting, by the way, grew the wooden program holders that you still see today at Princeton games.

TB's all-time favorite event meeting moment, he's pretty sure, came from Hank Towns, the old equipment manager and one of the greatest people who has ever walked this planet. The issue that came up was that Pete Carril was keeping the players too late at practice, something that caused some concern about whether or not the players would be able to get to dinner on time.

Hank, as only Hank can, said this: "I don't care about their dinner. I care about my dinner. They can eat at McDonald's."

Two things on that - 1) that's word-for-word what Hank said and 2) TB laughed when he wrote that again.

TigerBlog has been going to Tuesday event meetings since before either of his kids was born. He's used to those Tiger Tuesdays.

The actual Tiger Tuesday was a day on which high school seniors who have been admitted to Princeton were invited to the campus to go to a class or two, eat lunch, take some tours, meet some of their future classmates. The Class of 2022 will include Miss TigerBlog, and she was in attendance yesterday.

Of course, she has spent more time on the campus than your average incoming freshman, though the first other student she met yesterday was from Princeton High School.

TigerBlog is excited enough about the opportunity his daughter now finds awaiting her. He's seen so many people who have been touched by the amazing chance to attend Princeton, and now it's just a few months away from her.

Having her on campus yesterday was pretty special. He can't imagine what it'll be like when she's there all the time - other than the part where she'll go out of her way never to see him and all.

It dawns on TigerBlog that the Class of 2022 will be 100 years behind the Class of 1922, which featured the two men for whom the old soccer field was named - Donold Lourie and George Love.

The old field - it was called Lourie-Love Field - was on the same spot where Roberts Stadium now stands. Lourie-Love featured exactly zero frills, not even a place to put the programs in the early 1990s.

It was the women's soccer team's dramatic run to the 2004 NCAA Final Four, one that packed Lourie-Love, especially in the quarterfinal win over Washington, that was behind the inspiration to build the new field, which is as nice a soccer venue as you will ever see.

One of the mainstays on that 2004 team was a defender from Canada named Brea Griffiths. TigerBlog remembers her as being funny, friendly and outgoing off the field and ferocious on the field. To get to the goal required getting past Brea, something that was intimidating and, usually, impossible.

She was a two-time All-Ivy selection and the rock of a defense on a team that was perfect in the Ivy League and won four NCAA games her senior year. She also was the perfect teammate, the kind of team-oriented leader without whom you can never really reach your fullest potential as a group. 

TigerBlog hadn't heard from her in a long time when she checked in a few weeks ago. These days, she's Brea Kroeker.

As it turns out, Brea has been battling very serious health issues the last four years, and honestly TB didn't really understand what exactly was wrong with her, just that it's clear that she has been in pretty rough shape.

It can be generally termed as "severe chronic illness." Basically what she needs now is more diagnostic testing. It's completely turned her life upside down.

It's been brutal, actually. It took a long time to even figure out what was wrong with her. At least now she knows, and she's trying to do something about it.

If you want more information, HERE IS THE PAGE where you can see more information and how to help.

The incredible thing about Brea is that her spirit is great. She was laughing about it to TigerBlog, and her determination comes through with every word she says. She continues to raise her three children in the face of all this.

It's a tough fight. She's a tough person, and always has been. It's like she was saying "hey, no big deal. I'll take this on too."

Her determination is obvious. Her sense of humor is still there.

She's fighting a very tough battle here, and she is doing so in extraordinary fashion. TB wants her to win now more than he ever wanted her to as a player at Princeton.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Minutewomen

TigerBlog is reasonably sure that he's watched more of the Winter Olympics than you have.

He's watched a lot of it. Actually, he's watched some of it twice, since NBC Sports Network had programming during the day yesterday that NBC reran on the main network in its exact form a few hours later. It was a bit odd to do that, actually.

Anyway, other than alpine skiing, TB prefers the sports that are a bit more offbeat, as opposed to, say, figure skating. What has stood out to him?

Last week he mentioned that he really liked the cross country skiing sprint. He also thought the men's 15K biathlon mass start was great, with the little oval near the shooting spot where skiers had to go around once for every time they missed a shot, and then the end, which was a photo finish between France's Martin Fourcade and Germany's Simon Schempp. In fact, they finished with identical times.

Over the course of 15 kilometers, or just short of 10 miles, and Fourcade and Schempp got to the finish line at the same time. And that doesn't even include the penalty laps.

At first, it looked like Fourcade had lost, since he slammed his pole to the ground. Instead, he was the winner, unlike four years ago, when he lost in similar fashion - though he did win two other golds back then.

The team cross country relay was impressive, or at least the anchor leg by Norway's Johannes Klaebo, who obliterated the best skiers in the world and didn't even look like he was out of breath when he was done.

TB liked the speed skating team pursuit - that's three skaters per country, starting on opposite sides of the oval. The third skater across is the one whose time counts.

And there was the big air snowboarding. Did you see this one? It's held at the same spot as the ski jumping, with the same landing area. It's the steepest drop ever, followed by a liftoff and then some flips and twists and all.

That's impressive enough. What's even more impressive is the woman who was standing at the top with a walkie-talkie to tell the competitors when to go, and the two people with cameras who were stationed along the downslope. TB thinks they should get whatever is better than a gold medal for doing that.

TB wouldn't have done it. Not that high up, and in freezing and windy conditions? Yikes.

TigerBlog's Olympic viewing Sunday afternoon was interrupted by the fact that the Princeton-Columbia women's basketball game was being replayed on SportsNet NY, so he figured he'd check it out, even though he knew who it was going to end up.

Princeton won the game 74-46, this after beating Penn 60-40 Tuesday night and Cornell 72-40 Friday night. Bella Alarie picked up yet another Ivy Player of the Week award along the way.

Princeton just completed a five-games-in-eight-days run, one that head coach Courtney Banghart had not experienced before. Princeton went 5-0 in those games, holding four of the opponents to 47 points or fewer. The average margin of victory was 26.4, and no game was closer than 19.

That run leaves Princeton at 19-4 overall and 9-1 in the league, with four regular season games left - at Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend and home with Brown and Yale next weekend. Yale is the only Ivy team to whom Princeton has lost.

Any three wins in that stretch means at least a share of the Ivy title and clinches the top seed in the upcoming Ivy tournament. 

If you want a really impressive number for Princeton, it's this: 31.1. If you want another, it's this: 28.9.

Those numbers are Alarie's minutes played in all games and in the conference only. She leads the team in both categories.

Think about that. Princeton has no player who is playing at least 29 minutes per game in its Ivy League games. That's a by-product of the fact that Princeton has not played a game - nine wins or one loss - that hasn't been decided by double figures.

It also tells you a few things.

One, Princeton has great depth. Two, nobody's stats are being padded with an eye on postseason honors or anything.

Third, and probably most importantly, Princeton figures have somewhat fresher legs for the stretch drive here. If you look at the Ivy League stats, there are 10 players in the league who average at least 32.4 minutes, and that doesn't count Penn's Michelle Nwokedi and Anna Ross, who average 32.3 each.

Don't sell short the importance of being rested this late into the long season. Hey, Princeton just finished playing those five games in eight days and were like Klaebo as he came into the cross country stadium for the last time.

What? That didn't work?

This guy was skiing back and forth with one of the OAR guys (Olympic Athletes from Russia; why not just call them Russia?) and then in a blink was gone. Like, on skis.

Yeah. You had to see it.

TigerBlog did. Like he said, he's watched more of this stuff than you have. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Happy Washington's Birthday

Technically, today is not Presidents' Day.

Today is actually a federal holiday called officially "Washington's Birthday," named for the first President of the United States. Washington's birthday has been a federal holiday since 1879, and it was moved from his actual birthday of Feb. 22 to its current spot on the third Monday of February in 1968.

The fact that the holiday no longer falls on Washington's birthday, coupled with the fact that it is now in between Washington's birthday and Abraham Lincoln's birthday, has led it to be known as "Presidents' Day" by most people.

There are 10 official federal holidays in the United States. Only one, "Martin Luther King Jr. Day," is named for someone who was born after the United States became an independent nation in 1776.

As for the Presidents, among TigerBlog's rather useless abilities, he can name all 45 Presidents of the United States in order. Trust him on this.

Mostly he remembers who was elected in what year, so it makes it easier to put them in order. He can also recite the entire "Cat In The Hat" from memory, as well as a lot of lines from movies and TV shows and a lot of song lyrics.

At one point, he was able to recite "Casey At The Bat" and what is known as "The Night Before Christmas" but is really called "A Visit From St. Nick," but he has forgotten certain parts of both. Every now and then he'll go through the entire "Cat In The Hat," just to make sure he still can.

Okay, so it's a little weird, but hey, why not. It reminds him of how he learned it in the first place, when he would read it to TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog back when they were little. One day he realized that he'd simply memorized it.

TigerBlog can't remember exactly when he first started reading the Dr. Seuss classic to his kids. It might have been around the time the current Cornell men's basketball coach, Brian Earl, was earning the 1999 Ivy League Player of the Year Award as a Princeton Tiger.

Earl earned his first win against his alma mater Friday night in Ithaca, when Cornell defeated Princeton 107-101 in three overtimes. Princeton's current losing streak reached five Saturday night, when the Tigers - after that three OT game and then a four-hour bus ride to New York City - lost to Columbia.

TigerBlog has been asked about the current losing streak a lot in the last few weeks. It is a stunning situation, as the Tigers looked like as strong an Ivy League contender as anyone for the non-league season and then into the start of the league season, even after a loss to Penn.

Now? Princeton is playing to get into the Ivy League tournament, and to do so, the team needs to turn things around somewhat quickly, beginning this weekend, when Harvard and Dartmouth come to Jadwin Gym.

Right now, Princeton is 3-7 in the league, one game back of Cornell, Columbia and Brown for the fourth spot in the tournament. There are four games left for every time, and Princeton will finish the season with a trip to Brown and Yale.

TigerBlog will admit that he has been very surprised by the losing streak, and he never saw it coming after the Tigers went into first semester exam break with big wins over Columbia and Cornell. This isn't like the Giants most recent season, in which everyone thought the team would be very good but instead turned out to be awful from Day 1.

No, Princeton was supposed to be good and in fact was for much of the season. Then it all turned, seemingly on a dime.

TigerBlog's take on it is this: Relax. Everyone just relax.

First of all, TigerBlog will believe the Tigers aren't going to be part of the Ivy League tournament when that mathematically happens. Until then, he still has faith in this team.

For starters, the head coach is the right guy, Mitch Henderson. He's the same coach who led the Tigers to a 16-0 Ivy run last year, going 14-0 in the regular season and then winning the first tournament. He then led Princeton into the NCAA tournament, where the Tigers lost by just two to Notre Dame, who had just torn through the ACC tournament.

Henderson is in his seventh year as the head coach at Princeton. He's a Princeton basketball guy from head to toe. He's already third all-time in coaching wins in program history, behind only Pete Carril and Cappy Cappon.

How does that play out this season? He is facing a tough challenge, navigating his team when things aren't going easily. TB has a lot of confidence in the coach.

He also has confidence in the players. This is the same group that has had brilliant stretches this year. This is the same group that has some big-time players who have proven themselves time and again.

Maybe that's why all of this has been so stunning. Turning it around won't be easy, but it wouldn't be stunning either.

There's a lot of time between now and the next tip-off. And it'll be on Carril Court, rather than on the road.

It'll start Friday night, when Harvard is here. The Crimson are tied with Penn for first, and they play the Quakers in Philadelphia Saturday night.

TigerBlog knows that Princeton's season has a long way to go. A year ago, a 6-8 team reached the tournament field, after being 2-8 at this point, rather than 3-7.

And hey, with the tournament, every Ivy game is still hugely important. It gives Princeton a second chance, and it makes this weekend really exciting.

Like he said, he'll stay positive until the math says otherwise.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Alumni Days

There is one weekend left in the ECAC women's hockey regular season, two left in the ECAC men's hockey regular season and three left in the men's and women's Ivy League basketball regular seasons.

And before TigerBlog gets into any of that, there's a video to watch. You can see it HERE.

This past weekend was the alumni weekend for the women's basketball team. The video gives you a pretty good sense of the family spirit that makes up the women's basketball program, and really so many other programs here at Princeton.

When you watch it, you can't help but get a sense of how important the current team is to those who played before and how much the current players appreciate that support. And how much they appreciate what went into building women's basketball at Princeton.

The most telling part for TB was the talk about how the earliest women's basketball teams, back in the 1970s, had to buy t-shirts at the U-store and then iron on their uniform numbers. One former player was wearing that shirt in the video.

Oh, and there was the story about having to chase off guys who wanted to play pickup games at Dillon in order to get the court for practice.

If you contrast that with the current state of women's basketball, or women's athletics in general, it's inconceivable that any of those things would even remotely be permitted today.

Now, the task of bringing alums who predate your tenure into such a close-knit group of your former players might not be easy if the head coach was somebody other than Courtney Banghart, who is the beneficiary of all of their efforts and who operates in a world that the older alums never would have imagined. TigerBlog asked Courtney Banghart about that on the most recent "The Court Report," and you can see in the video that she seems to have figured out exactly how.

It is Banghart who is the face of Princeton women's basketball. She's the one whose drive built the program, and it's easy to see how anyone who has ever played here responds to her.

Courtney made a great point in the podcast, that it's not easy for alums to get back to campus multiple times per year. Her group came back from all over the country for this past weekend.

This weekend there will be no basketball in Jadwin Gym, which is a total rarity, though something TB wouldn't mind seeing a few more times. Princeton hosted Cornell and Columbia in doubleheaders in January, which means that there are doubleheaders in Ithaca tonight and New York City tomorrow night.

The men's team will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak and vault itself back into the Ivy League tournament picture. 

The women are rolling again, after stumbling against Yale two Fridays ago. The Tigers since have beaten Brown, Harvard, Dartmouth and Penn, all convincingly, and now own a one-game lead over the Quakers after the 60-40 win Tuesday night at Jadwin.

For Princeton, this weekend is the last of what will be five games in eight days, and these will be the first two games in that run that are away. The Cornell/Columbia trip is not an easy one to make, with four hours between the schools.

There are going to be a lot of serious challenges for Princeton between now and March 11, with the goal of a league title and a tournament title that would send Banghart to her seventh NCAA tournament in 11 seasons for a program that had never been to one before.

So that's the women's basketball team.

The men's hockey team is also playing with an eye on the postseason, and this weekend it's doing what the women's basketball team did last weekend, as the Tigers will welcome back to Baker Rink the ECAC championship teams from 1998 and 2008 for ceremonies tomorrow night in the game against Union. It'll be Princeton and RPI tonight at Baker Rink, with face-off both nights at 7.

TigerBlog was at the 2008 semifinal in Albany. The men's lacrosse team played up there in a day game that Friday and then he went to the hockey game. His two biggest memories of that day were that is was unbelievably cold and windy for the lacrosse game and that Zane Kalemba was incredible in goal in a 3-0 shutout of Colgate.

As TB went back and checked, he was surprised that Kalemba only had 27 saves. It seemed like he had 127 or so.

The two championship teams will be honored between periods, with the 1998 team after the first and the 2008 team after the second.

As for the current Tigers, each of the remaining four games are huge. Princeton is currently in a log-jam of teams who hope to earn home ice for the first round of the playoffs, with five teams - Princeton, Colgate, Dartmouth, Yale and Quinnipiac - separated by just two points. Barring something extraordinary, four of those teams will be the home teams for the first round, and the fifth will have to go on the road.

Princeton will finish the regular season next weekend at Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

Elsewhere this weekend, the women's hockey team needs one point in four games at Brown and Yale to earn an ECAC playoff spot. The women's squash team is at the Howe Cup national championships. The women's swimming and diving championships continue at Harvard. The lacrosse season opens.

There are all kinds of events.

The whole schedule is HERE.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Never Let The Lyrics Get In The Way Of The Melody

The No. 1 song in the country for much of TigerBlog's senior year of high school was "Keep On Lovin' You" by REO Speedwagon.

TigerBlog has always been okay with REO Speedwagon. His theory is that the group has very good melodies and very good vocals and nobody who really was good at writing lyrics.

As a result, REO Speedwagon has some of the most forced rhymes in music history. For instance, from that song: "I don't wanna sleep. I just wanna keep on lovin' you."

TB can see it now. "We need something that rhymes with 'keep,' and all I can think of is 'sleep.' How do we make that work?"

This is the same group that sang the song that blared in the Caldwell Field House locker room area as TB walked in yesterday. These are some of the lyrics:

"And I can't fight this feeling anymore
I've forgotten what I started fighting for
It's time to bring this ship into the shore
And throw away the oars, forever"


Yeah. Eh. But it's still a good song. That's the true genius of REO Speedwagon. It made these songs work.

Oh well. As the late great Maurice White said, "never let the lyrics get in the way of melody."

He should know. He's the one who brought you this:

"Come to see victory
In a land called fantasy
Loving life for you and me
To behold to your soul is ecstasy
You will find other kind
That has been in search of you
Many lives have brought you to
Recognise it's your life now in review"


And that's in one of the greatest songs TigerBlog has ever heard, like one of his 10 favorites ever.

Anyway, TigerBlog likes knowing that he works at a place where he can walk in and hear REO Speedwagon sing its silly lyrics in an enjoyable fashion.

He also likes working at a place where he can tweet a picture of Chester A. Arthur. Is this a great job or what?

TigerBlog's picture of the 21st President of the United States was used as emphasis for the difference in the time that Princeton and Monmouth have fielded men's lacrosse team. Monmouth is in Year 5 of playing men's lacrosse. When Princeton was in Year 5, ol' Chester was the President.

Monmouth has come a long way in a short time, though. The Hawks are the defending MAAC champs, and they played in their first NCAA tournament last year. That was in just Year 4.

Monmouth will start Year 5 Saturday at Princeton, on opening day for both. Somewhat insanely, there have already been more than 30 Division I lacrosse games played to date. Even more insanely, Duke's Justin Guterding already has 27 points in three games.
The rise of Monmouth lacrosse is a great thing for New Jersey. TB hopes it gives other schools that are similar in size and resources to Monmouth the push needed to start their own programs and continue to grow the game.

For decades, the only two Division I teams in New Jersey were Princeton and Rutgers, before NJIT and Monmouth started their teams within those last five years. This will be the first time Princeton plays all three New Jersey opponents, and this will also be the first time Monmouth has played an Ivy opponent.

The 2018 season will also the first time that Princeton plays all three of its New Jersey rivals. In fact, all three will be in Princeton, and all three will be in the first five games of the year, along with trips to Virginia and Johns Hopkins.

Princeton is five weeks away from its Ivy opener, in Princeton against Penn on March 17. The league should be pretty strong this season.

As for the Tigers themselves, this is Year 3 of Matt Madalon as head coach and Year 2 of Michael Sowers as the leader of an offense that ranked second in Division I in goals per game last year, with just short of 15. This came one year after an average of slightly more than 10 per game, and there's no secret what the difference was.

Sowers broke the Princeton record for points in a season with 82, on 41 goals and 41 assists. He broke the Ivy freshman records for goals and points, and he established himself quickly as one of the country's best players - and one of its most exciting.

Princeton also has Austin Sims, who will be a very high pick in the next Major League Lacrosse draft. Sims scored 27 goals last year as a middie, despite missing a third of the season due to injury. When he's on, there is no midfielder in the country who can score any better than he can. 

Princeton has a good mix this year of returning players, promising newcomers, big holes to fill, incoming freshmen and everything else that makes the start of a new season all the more exciting.

And that opening day is almost here. It's either stunning that Princeton will be playing outside again on Feb. 17 or that the Tigers and their Ivy League buddies are late to the party.

Either way, it'll be Princeton and Monmouth for the first time, Saturday at 1 on Sherrerd Field. Come to that, stay for hockey, get a nosh in the middle.

Perfect, right?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Little Olympics, A Little Princeton

TigerBlog long ago realized that he was older than any athlete he was going to see on TV.

Does he really have to be more than 20 years older than two American gold medal winners combined though?

What's with the 17 year olds and the snowboard events at the Olympics? First it was Red Gerard in snowslope, and then it was Chloe Kim in the halfpipe.

They're both 17. Winning Olympic gold medals. At least Jamie Anderson, who also has won a gold medal in snowboarding, is 27. And Kelly Clark, who finished fourth, is 34. Of course that's an age TB hasn't seen in forever either, but it's better than 17.

Oh, and Clark? She actually has won a gold and two bronzes in the event. The first time? That was her gold, back in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, when she was just 18.

The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, are purring along. TigerBlog isn't as into them as he is the Summer Games, and maybe it's because he never knows what time it is in South Korea, so it messes with whether or not events are live. Or maybe it's because he's not the biggest fan of figure skating or the extreme-type events.

He doesn't mind the figure skating, but it's so clear that it's what drives ratings at the Winter Games and NBC is going to milk every cent it can out of the sport. That's why there's a team event now.

One thing TB will say is that the commentators for the figure skating are really good, especially Tanith White.

TB isn't a big fan of sports that are judged. He prefers events where there is a clear winner, achieved without having any judges have to offer what human nature dictates will be scores that are at the very least influenced by the reputation of the competitors.

The cross country skiing just looks brutal, but he found an event yesterday that he really liked - the cross country sprint. It took a little more than three minutes to do, and the finishes were often decided by a fraction of the length of a ski.

TB also likes the alpine skiing. And the bobsled and luge.

And hockey. He'd like the hockey more if Kelsey Koelzer was on the U.S. team, but maybe that'll be the case four years from now.

Koelzer, who graduated from Princeton a year ago, won the hardest shot contest and then added the MVP award at the National Women's Hockey League all-star game. Koelzer had four goals in the game; TB would love to see her in a Team USA jersey four years from now.

That's one note that TB wanted to pass along from last weekend. He also wanted to mention the women's tennis team, who won the ECAC tournament at Jadwin Gym this past weekend.

It was the first ECAC championship for Princeton. It wouldn't be as noteworthy were it not for the fact that the eight-team field consisted of the eight Ivy League schools, and Princeton stamped itself as something of a favorite with its wins over Harvard, Brown and Dartmouth.

Its win earlier against then No. 12 Auburn also was attention-getting. This is shaping up as a nice year for the Tigers.

Princeton is back in Jadwin Gym this weekend, hosting Xavier Saturday and Kentucky Sunday. Maybe those schools will have such a good experience this weekend that they'll tell their men's basketball teams all about it and tell them to try it themselves?

Now that Princeton has had a good start against Ivy League teams (remember, league matches won't start until March 31), the Tigers are going to turn their attention to the Big 10. Beginning a week from today, Princeton will host, in order, Rutgers, Indiana, Maryland and Penn State, four Big 10 schools, in a 10-day span.

A little more in keeping with the winter season, the Ivy League women's swimming and diving championships begin today at Harvard. The event will run through Saturday.

If the recent H-Y-P meet at Harvard is an indication, Princeton isn't going to be a pushover in the Ivy meet.

The men's Ivy League championships will be held a week later, which means they start a week from today. That event will be held at DeNunzio Pool.

Also next weekend will be the Ivy League Heptagonal track and field championships, which will be held at Dartmouth. The winter season is winding down.

Oh, and last night? It was Princeton 60, Penn 40 in women's basketball. TigerBlog will have more on that before the weekend comes around.

For now, he'll just say that it was a really impressive performance by a team that has been impressive all season.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Another Tuesday With The Quakers

If you want to see something cute, then check out THIS VIDEO.

Yeah, there's more to starting lineups than simply running out to the foul line when your name is called.

Speaking of starting lineups, Bill Bromberg recently celebrated his 500th Princeton event as the public address announcer. That's a lot of events.

At the women's basketball game Friday night, TigerBlog borrowed the mic from Bromberg and read a short announcement celebrating the occasion. It was well-earned on Bromberg's part.

It also got TB wondering about the other people who work on press row for Princeton basketball, men's and women's. They've been the same faces for a long time, doing the same jobs, blending into the background but executing hugely important tasks that are necessary to stage a basketball game.

Take Doug Gildenberg and Bob Nicastro, for instance. They've been doing stats at Princeton basketball and football games for a long time. TB wonders if they've come close to 500 without any lacrosse mixed in; he'll have to ask them when he sees them next.

Think about that. You could go to five home football games and 20 home basketball games a year, and it would take you 20 years to get to 500 and that rate. That's assuming 20 home basketball games a year (there aren't always) and that you don't miss a single one.

In Bromberg's case, he had lacrosse mixed in but almost no football, and he got to 500 in just 19 years.

Anyway TB will ask Gildenberg and Nicastro. See what they say.

As for the women's basketball video, it was a little bit of fun. It was shot one day before practice, and clearly the players were loose and happy.

They were also just about to embark on a huge stretch of five games in eight days. In last week's episode of "The Court Report," Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart said it was a first for her, and so she's not exactly sure how it's doing to play out.

Through the first two games of that run, things have gone just fine. Princeton defeated Harvard and Dartmouth this past weekend at Jadwin Gym by a combined 52 points, which means that the Tigers have now had three relatively easy wins since the loss to Yale in the first game back from first semester exams.

In fact, Princeton is now 6-1 in the Ivy League, and all seven of the games have been decided by at least 14 points.

The drama quotient might just ratchet up a bit tonight, though.

Princeton hosts Penn tonight at 6:30 in the second meeting of the year between the two. The Tigers won the Ivy opener for both back on Jan. 6, that one by a 70-55 count.

That, by the way, was also the last time Penn lost a game. The Quakers have ripped off nine straight, and all six of their Ivy wins have been by at least 15 points.

What does it all mean? It means that tonight's game will have a huge impact on who will be the Ivy League champion.

Right now, Princeton and Penn are tied for first at 6-1 each. Next up is Harvard and Yale, at 5-3 each, followed by 4-4 Dartmouth.

Unlike Princeton, Penn does not have a game remaining on its schedule against a team that it hasn't beaten by at least 15. The Tigers have the home game against Yale, to whom it lost 73-59.

In other words, Princeton can't really count on getting much help should it fall to the Quakers tonight. Yes, TigerBlog would be shocked if the remaining 12 Ivy games involving Princeton and Penn were all decided by double figures. Still, both teams seem to be playing on a championship level right now.

Then there's the matter of the NCAA tournament. The automatic bid will go to the winner of the event, to be held in the Palestra in less than four weeks.

Princeton's current RPI is 34, which would put the Tigers in the conversation for another at-large bid, should the Tigers not win the tournament. That's getting way ahead of things.

In the meantime, there's the game tonight.

Princeton and Penn have developed an extraordinary rivalry in women's basketball. Princeton has won six of the last eight Ivy championships, while Penn has won in the years that Princeton has not. It was the Quakers who won the regular season and Ivy tournament titles a year ago, leaving Princeton to play in the WNIT.

Both teams clearly want an Ivy title and an NCAA bid. Both teams know who the primary challenger to that is.

As has been the case for so many decades on the men's side, the Princeton-Penn women's basketball teams just have a different feel to them. The intensity is greater from the opening tip. The teams know each other so well.

That's tonight at 6:30.

Princeton and Penn women's basketball. It's another big one between the two.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Remembering Lorin, Again

TigerBlog was watching some of the ECAC women's tennis tournament the other day, down on the E level tennis courts in Jadwin Gym.

It took him back to another tournament he'd seen there, one 35 years ago, a high school tournament that he covered back in his newspaper days. Back when he was down there for that, he probably just assumed that one day, his office would be about 25 feet away.

Actually, that's something that never entered his mind. In fact, his biggest memory of covering that tournament came not in Jadwin Gym but the next day in the newsroom.

TB was covering Princeton High School, who won the state group championship that day. The story about the championship match was played up with a big headline on Page 1 (ah, those were the days in the newspaper biz), which led Bus Saidt, the literal Hall-of-Fame columnist then, to pick up the paper, throw it down in disgust and say "what happened? The war end?"

It's hysterical now. It was a bit intimidating back then, even if TB had nothing to do with the headline.

All these years later, it still makes TigerBlog chuckle.

TigerBlog's office has been on E level for a little more than two years. Other than the occasional cockroach and flood, this is a great space. TB loves it down here, even without a window.

There are some days, many days actually, where he heads downstairs when he gets here and never sees daylight until he leaves. When the clocks changed, he would get here in the morning and then it would be dark out when he'd next go upstairs.

That hardly bothers him though. What it does mean is that he spends very little time up on the Jadwin balcony, which, in contrast to his first, oh, 27 years of covering Princeton Athletics was the home of the Office of Athletics Communications.

It seems like so long ago that it his office was up there.

Those were, mostly, good times up there. TB can go back all the way to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when he first met a student worker named Mollie Marcoux.

Over the years, there'd be all kinds of great moments up there, even some of the really late nights doing game programs or media guides. Through the years there were mostly laughs, even as the faces there changed, and changed, and changed again and again.

And then there was that one day.

It was actually nine years ago today. TigerBlog was at his desk, after a meeting. It was mid-afternoon. TB always left his door open, and people would walk by and wave, or walk by and say hi, or walk in, or just keep walking.

Or, in the case of Lorin Maurer, walk by and smile.

And that's what she did that afternoon, nine years ago today. She walked by. Stopped. Smiled. And kept going.

She was off to a wedding in Buffalo, her boyfriend's brother's, and had a plane to catch. She was running late, so she didn't have any time.

But she stopped. She didn't come in. But she stopped, and smiled. That's what she did a lot.

She didn't have to stop. She could have just kept walking, running, down the mezzanine and out to the parking lot, but she was too nice for that.

It would be the last time TigerBlog ever saw her. Her plane never reached Buffalo, instead crashing short of the airport, killing Lorin, as well as the other 48 people on the plane and one on the ground.

TigerBlog still remembers the feeling the next day when he first saw the news. Lorin was dead? No chance. She was so full of life, so young, so happy. And she was just there.

It really was the single most stunning moment of TB's life.

Each year since, either on this date or the one closest to it if this date was on a Saturday or Sunday, TigerBlog has written about Lorin Maurer.

Lorin was the Friends' group coordinator. She assisted with their fundraising efforts and helped run their events. She brought great enthusiasm to her job, no matter what the task of the moment was.

TigerBlog remembers one reception in the lobby of Jadwin where nobody had put table clothes out on the table, so Lorin did it, laughing about it the entire time.

She was barely 30 when she died, which means she wouldn't even be 40 yet. She was such a nice person, and she would never have done anything to hurt a soul.

And then she was gone.

There aren't that many people left here who worked with Lorin, let alone who were close to her. As TB says every year, there were several people who worked here and still are here who were much closer to her than he was.

But he liked her. He admired her zest. He was happy for her and her boyfriend and their future.

And then she was gone.

TigerBlog will never forget her. He'll never forget the way she stopped outside his office that day, smiling, and then continuing on her way, to what would be that horrific tragedy outside of Buffalo.

And he'll keep telling her story on this anniversary.

If you knew her, you know exactly what TigerBlog means when he talks about her. If you didn't know her, trust TB. She was just a sweet person.

She deserved a long, happy life, but she was cheated out of that.

The best TigerBlog can do is remember her here, and remember her in his mind, remember her exactly how she was.

And he can promise you that he'll always do both.