Friday, October 29, 2010

Congrats Batch

TigerBlog Jr. first played lacrosse in the second grade. When TigerBlog went to register TBJ, he was asked if he knew anything about lacrosse; when told that he had been working with Princeton's team for years, he was put in charge of the K-2 program.

TB took the 60 or so boys and divided them into four teams - Princeton, Syracuse, Johns Hopkins and Virginia. The program would meet every Sunday for one hour, with two teams in 30 minutes of drills while the other two teams played a game for 30 minutes (half-field, one goal in the crease, the other at midfield), after which the teams would switch, and the first two would play a game while the other two did drills.

At the end of the year, the K-2 group was feeling pretty good about itself, so it challenged the third graders to a game. When TB arrived at the field, it dawned on him that his teams hadn't used goalies yet, and so it needed one for the game.

At that point, he asked the K-2ers if anyone wanted to be the goalie, and only one hand went up - TBJ's. Since then, TBJ has never played another position in lacrosse, except for some very rare moments in a few blowouts.

Before TBJ volunteered to be the goalie, TB used to watch lacrosse and wonder who in the world would agree to play the position. After all, you stand in the goal while people rocket a hard rubber ball at you, and your task is to get in the way of the ball.

Now that he's watched TBJ do it for awhile, TB has an even greater respect for those who play in goal. By the end of the summer season, TBJ's legs are essentially one continuous bruise.

And yet he doesn't flinch or turn away, which is exactly what TB would do if even a Nerf ball was to be shot at him. TB has an amazing amount of respect and admiration for all goalies.

Some, of course, more than others. And right at the top of the list is Scott Bacigalupo.

This weekend, Bacigalupo will be inducted into the USILA Hall of Fame, becoming the third Princetonian from the Bill Tierney era and 14th of all-time to be so honored. Bacigalupo will join his coach (Tierney, who will introduce Bacigalupo) and Kevin Lowe, who like Bacigalupo graduated in 1994, as the first members of the Princeton lacrosse program from the team's six NCAA championships to reach the Hall of Fame.

Of course, there will be others who follow. Absolute total locks are Jesse Hubbard, David Morrow, Jon Hess and Ryan Boyle. There are several others who could make it as well, including Trevor Tierney, Chris Massey and Matt Striebel, as well as former Associate Head Coach David Metzbower (it would be a sin if Metz doesn't get in).

But this weekend belongs to Bacigalupo.

He came to Princeton in 1990-91 as the cornerstone of Princeton's ascent under Tierney to the elite of college men's lacrosse. After seeing Princeton fall in triple overtime to Towson in the 1991 quarterfinals his freshman year, Bacigalupo led Princeton to the 1992 championship, the 1993 semifinals and then the 1994 championship.

He would be the Most Outstanding Player of both championships, which both came in overtime. The 1992 title may have been considered a fluke had Bacigalupo and Lowe not led Princeton to a second one two years later.

He was a three-time first-team All-America and three-time first-team All-Ivy selection. His senior year he was voted second-team All-Ivy by the league coaches - and then was named Division I Player of the Year.

The current issue of Lacrosse Magazine, in advance of Bacigalupo's induction, is its goalie issue. The cover is a montage of pictures of some of the top goalies of all time, and it asks the question Best Goalie Ever?

The magazine has all kinds of great stuff about goalies, including a feedback section from its website that has all kinds of comments about what it takes to play the position, most of which include comments like "must be nuts."

There is a long story about Bacigalupo, with the headline "Best Of The Batch?" It also has a sidebar in which Bacigalupo mentions Metzbower.

There is also a poll where fans were asked to vote for the best goalie ever. Bacigalupo was first with 27% of the vote, followed by Sal LoCascio (UMass) second, Brian Dougherty (Maryland) third and then Trevor Tierney fourth.

As an aside, TB is pretty sure that current Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito, currently a junior, will be in the conversation when his career ends.

Bill Tierney, quoted about Bacigalupo, talks about what a great goalie he was. He also talks about how big it was for the Princeton program to get a player like Bacigalupo and what his decision to attend Princeton meant for the big picture of Tiger lacrosse and the sport itself.

As for TB, he saw almost every game Bacigalupo played at Princeton, and he remains amazed 20 years later by how dominant he was, what a difference he made and how much he scared the other teams.

Is he the best goalie of all-time?

What he did was more than just keep the ball out of the goal. An entire lacrosse dynasty was built with him as its foundation.

Congrats to Batch on being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

There an be no arguing that he deserves to be there as much as anyone.

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