Friday, February 22, 2019

A Rare Opportunity

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

Any guesses?

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

And so TigerBlog asks again. Any guesses?

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

Give up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will she get the record?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that a lot?

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Four Days, 35 Events

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

"Softball sesaon," TB said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will that be Princeton?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year is no different. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

That's 400

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She had every right to be beaming.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

41 Yes. 45 Yes. 58 Maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So where to start?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, would it be that shocking? 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Making It Through The Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Weekend In Hoops

TigerBlog starts your Friday with a congratulations to Sydney Jordan.

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

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

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

Congrats to Sydney Jordan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Making Points

TigerBlog did three podcasts in three hours yesterday.

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

Good thing TB likes to hear his own voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there are the lacrosse teams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Remembering Lorin, 10 Years Later

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

Her answer was that it's fewer than 50.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now it's 10 years later.

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

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

TB hopes that never goes away.

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Feeding Frenzy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 11, 2019

Weekend On Ice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could that be a turning point?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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