Monday, May 3, 2010

175:32 of 180

Back in 2004, TigerBlog was the women's soccer contact during the team's run to the the NCAA Final Four. The key moment of the season, as far as TB is concerned, came when Princeton defeated Harvard during the Ivy season.

Before the game, TB wrote this in his game notes:
The ninth-ranked Princeton women's soccer team takes on Harvard - and some history - Saturday evening (7) at Lourie-Love Field. The Tigers are 5-18-1 all-time against the Crimson and haven't defeated Harvard at home in 12 years.

He also added this:
Princeton is 0-4-0 at home against Harvard under Julie Shackford. Princeton has not scored a goal in any of those four games.

About an hour before the game, TigerBlog was cornered in, of all places, the men's room at Class of 1952 Stadium (Lourie-Love Field had no bathrooms, and TB isn't a huge fan of the port-o-johns) by the father of one of the players, who informed TB that if Princeton lost, it would be because of what TB wrote. His implication was that the players had read that and it had them psyched out.

TB thought about that through the game, as Princeton completely outplayed Harvard, allowed one transition goal early in the second half and looked like it was going to lose 1-0. Then, with 41 seconds left in regulation, Emily Behncke finally got Princeton on the board, and then after Emily Vogelzang stopped a breakaway in overtime, Esmeralda Negron gave the Tigers the 2-1 win.

The whole time the game was unfolding, TB kept wondering if it was his fault that Princeton wasn't scoring. Had he, indeed, psyched out the Princeton players?

TB flashed back to that episode in the first five minutes of the Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse game this past Saturday.

TigerBlog's pregame story (they're not game notes anymore) for the game referred to Princeton's struggles in the early moments against Cornell. And then what happened? History repeated itself.

Cornell won the opening face-off and scored on its first possession. It was 3-0 after five minutes and 4-0 after the first quarter.

In the last three Princeton-Cornell games (the one this weekend and the two last year), Cornell has outscored Princeton 8-0 in the first five minutes of the games combined and then had Princeton outscore Cornell 20-18 in the combined final 55 minutes.

Still, those first five were too much to overcome, as Princeton never tied the Big Red at any point of the three games. Cornell, in the 180 minutes of the three games, had the lead for 175:32. The games were tied for 4:28; Princeton never led.

Think about that. Cornell had the lead for 175:32 of 180 minutes. That's staggering.

You can go back further in history and find that Cornell gets off to a fast start every time against Princeton. In fact, you have to go back to 2004 to find a game where Cornell did not score first - and early in the game, at that.

So why does it happen? Is it TB's fault? Are the players psyched out by reading about this stuff?

TB can't imagine that it's the case. If anything, TB's belief is the opposite, that players who read that information are motivated to change it.

Whatever the reason, the game Saturday ended what has to be the single greatest regular-season day in Ivy League men's lacrosse history. There were three games with eight possible scenarios to affect the championship race and the field for the first Ivy League tournament.

And did you see the results? Yale beat Harvard 9-8. Brown beat Dartmouth 10-9, in overtime to boot. Had those games gone the other way, then Harvard and Dartmouth would have made the tournament field.

Then it was Princeton-Cornell. If the stat about how Cornell has had the lead for 175:32 of the 180 minutes of the last three games isn't wild enough, how about this for Princeton from Saturday:

Princeton had two separate scoring droughts of more than 20 minutes (20:40 to start the game and then 20:38 from the second to the fourth quarters) and then scored six goals in a 7:52 span of the fourth. Princeton had a chance to tie it at the end, which considering it was 9-3 after three quarters is amazing.

When the day was over, it was three one-goal games and a four-way tie for the league championship for the first time ever.

So where does it leave the Tigers? The NCAA tournament brackets are being debated on laxpower and Inside Lacrosse, but it seems that Princeton is secure in the field of 16. Getting a first round home game? That might depend on this weekend's Ivy tournament, to be held at Cornell, who won the tiebreaker.

Princeton plays Yale Friday at 5, followed by Cornell-Brown at 8. The final is Sunday at noon. The winner receives the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament; the four-way tie for the title stands.

TigerBlog is rooting for two things to come out of this. First, he'd love to see a Princeton-Cornell rematch, just to see if it'll happen again.

And second? Well, we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here, but how about a first-round NCAA tournament game with the ECAC champ at Princeton.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If Princeton were to end its season with consecutive losses to Harvard, Cornell and Yale, I would not be surprised to see us at home watching the NCAA tournament. The worst case scenario is Yale beating us and then Cornell in the Ivy final; the selection committee would then have to choose three Ivy teams for us to get the nod.

Starting the season with wins over Hofstra and Hopkins looked good at the time but both of them have faded, decreasing the value of our early victories. The fact is that, at this point in time, our only quality win is over Hofstra in week one of the season.

It's possible that, over the course of three games and two calendar weeks, we will go from being the fifth-ranked team in the country to out of the tournament.

You might want to do an analysis of why our men's and women's lacrosse teams perform worst when Princeton is scheduled to host a tournament quarterfinal game. We have got to stop bidding on those things.