Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On The Fence

TigerBlog is often asked by non-lacrosse fans if teams ever pull their goalies when they're down at the end, like they do in hockey. The answer is: sort of.

Lacrosse goalies come out and try to double-team the ball and force turnovers late in games when their team is down. At the same time, you can't achieve an offensive advantage like you can when you pull your goalie in hockey, because you have to keep four players on defense and three on offense at all times. If you sent an extra offensive player across midfield, it'd be offsides, change of possession.

TB considers himself to know a great deal about the rules of lacrosse, and other sports, especially football, basketball and baseball. At one time, TB was a high school baseball umpire; had he stayed in the newspaper business and had several afternoons free, he'd still be doing it.

As an aside, it is TB's contention that there are a ton of professional athletes who don't know all the rules of their sport, and situations in which highly paid pros obviously don't know how to play a particular moment because they don't know the rules comes up all the time.

It doesn't seem like soccer has that many rules. Field hockey does have a lot of rules, many of which are somewhat complicated, but TB learned them a long time ago from Beth Bozman, the former Princeton coach.

Some sports are relatively easy to figure out. Track and field, cross country, swimming, rowing - hey, whoever wins wins. Squash? Hit it above the red line into the other box on the serve, and keep it off the tin. Water polo? Anything goes under the water.

The points system in wrestling is fairly straightforward. Tennis couldn't be easier to figure out, once you give up trying to figure out why it goes love-15-30-40. Volleyball is a bit challenging at first, but the scoring is basic.

Golf has very complex rules that TB doesn't know that well, but it's a somewhat straightforward game.

And then there's fencing, a sport that TigerBlog knows almost nothing about. About all that TB knows is that there are three weapons (epee, sabre, foil; they all have very unique features to them), that during a match each team has three fencers compete in each of the three weapons for a total of 27 bouts and that the first team to 14 points will win.

Another thing he knows about fencing is that Princeton had a pretty good weekend last week.

Both the men and the women went 3-0 in the league after beating Yale, Brown and Penn in Ithaca last Sunday. The men are the only unbeaten in the league; the Princeton and Columbia women are both 3-0, and they will meet this coming Sunday at 11 a.m. as part of the final day of Ivy competition at Penn.

TB watched the video of the clinching point Princeton had against Yale from last Sunday, and he honestly can't figure out what was happening. Either way, it made the final score 14-13.

TigerBlog ventured down to the fencing room yesterday to congratulate head coach Zoltan Dudas, who is in charge of the men's and women's teams. Along the way, TB figured he could learn a little more about the sport.

TB and Dudas go back a few years, when Dudas asked TB to play squash with him. TB happily accepted, only to have Dudas tear his Achilles tendon on the first point, an injury that sent the coach to surgery and about a year of recovery. These days, TB mostly sees Dudas and his assistants, Hristo Hristov and Szilvia Voros, when they come up to the mailroom next to HQ to make coffee.

Anyway, TB's conversation with Dudas yesterday was in the fencing room, located on C level of Jadwin next to the Zanfrini Room. It features fencing strips across the long room, which features numerous pictures on the wall of past fencing greats and great fencing moments. There is a huge picture of Michel Sebastiani, the longtime Princeton coach, on the wall next to Dudas' office.

Dudas is Hungarian, and he was introduced to the sport when he was seven. Proudly, Dudas pointed out to TB that Hungary has won more Olympic medals in fencing than in any other sport. It ranks up there in Hungary with water polo and team handball as the most popular sports.

Dudas came to this country 10 years ago to coach, and he ended up at Notre Dame as an assistant before succeeding Sebastiani at Princeton.

Unlike years past, Princeton's roster is comprised of recruited fencers rather than sprinkled with walk-ons. Dudas said that fencers come to excel at one of three weapons somewhat randomly, as most clubs where young fencers are first exposed to the sport don't offer all three.

An amiable sort, Dudas appears to have forgiven TB for taking out his Achilles. These days, he's coming off one big weekend and heading towards another, with a pair of Ivy League titles to be decided.

But that was still six days away when TB went to visit Dudas yesterday afternoon. His fencing room was quiet, the coach was happy to talk about his sport with a novice, one who might not know too much about fencing, but one who knows that good things are happening in the sport at Princeton.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TB, that video is not very clear because the picture is too close in and you lose the activity as it goes off the right, but here's a quick recap:

Score is 4-1 advantage Wiccas/Princeton (on the left). You can see the score machine at 0:03. The weapon in this match is epee, which means any part of the opponent's body is target if hit with the tip of your weapon. After the director starts the point, there's a second of bouncing by both fencers and then Wiccas does a lunge immediately followed by a fleche (basically a running attack: notice the crossing over of his legs). The Yale fencer flinch retreats at the first lunge and then tries to counter attack as Wiccas goes past him. Wiccas actually seems to score during the approach, but the Yale fencer still turns his body and tries score from behind his back (a common technique since you're not allowed to move your back shoulder in front of the other one). Point/bout/match to Princeton.