Thursday, October 27, 2011

Go Princeton - And America

TigerBlog was trying to figure out the history of the United States in Olympic women's field hockey, and so he googled "Olympic field hockey."

Of course, there's a Wikipedia page for that.

Except that TB can't really figure out the Wikipedia page. And he found, egads, a mistake. On Wikipedia.

How is that possible?

As Michael Scott said a long time ago, back when "The Office" was in its hilarious stage (as opposed to its current hardly watchable soap opera-esque stage), "anyone can update Wikipedia, which means you know you're getting the best possible information."

On the Wikipedia page, it says that the United States has won two bronze medals, but TB can only see one - by the women in 1984.

And then there's the table that lists participation. Unless TB is missing something, he can't figure out if that's men's field hockey, women's field hockey or both.

The men's game isn't huge in this country, though it is in other parts of the world, most notably India, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. TB also wouldn't have gotten this correct, but the last Olympic men's field hockey gold medalist was Germany.

On the women's side, the Netherlands defeated China in the gold medal game, while Argentina defeated Germany in the bronze medal game at the most recent Olympic games.

As an aside, how much must it stink to lose the bronze medal game? Once you've won in the semifinal, at least you're assured of a medal. To get to the semifinals and come away without a medal has to be an awful feeling.

Anyway, the U.S. team is on the verge of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London, though there is a huge hurdle in the way.

The Americans defeated Canada 4-2 in the Pan Am Games semifinal, helped by a goal from Michelle Cesan, one of four Princeton players - along with Katie Reinprecht, Julia Reinprecht and Kathleen Sharkey - who have taken this year off from school to train with the U.S. national team in hopes of reaching the Olympics, which begin July 27, 2012. The four are among the 25 players in the national team pool, and all three but Sharkey were among the 18 who are on the active Pan Am roster.

The Olympic goal would be achieved with a gold medal at the Pan Am games, but doing so would require a win against Argentina, which is ranked No. 1 in the world right now. The gold medal game will be played tomorrow in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Tomorrow will mark the fifth straight Pan Am final between the U.S. and Argentina - and the sixth in the last seven - and Argentina has won them all. The U.S. is currently ranked 13th in the world.

Of course, 12 teams will qualify for the Olympics, so tomorrow's game is not all-or-nothing for the Americans. In fact, there are three other tournaments - held in India, Japan and Belgium - early in 2012 that will fill out the rest of the field.

In the meantime, the Princeton field hockey team finds itself in a rather odd position, considering its history of success.

The conversation at this time of year for Princeton usually involves whether or not the Tigers will host the first round of the NCAA tournament, not whether the team will get the Ivy League's postseason bid.

That, though, is the current issue for Princeton field hockey.

Minus its fab four, the 2011 Princeton field hockey team has had to scratch and claw its way into what is now a favorable position for an Ivy title and postseason bid, though nothing is yet etched in stone.

A week ago, there was a five-way tie for first place in the league. Now, with two league weekends remaining, that has been whittled down to a three-way tie.

Princeton, Yale and Columbia are all 4-1 in the league, followed by Harvard and Dartmouth at 3-2, Cornell and Penn at 1-4 and Brown at 0-5.

The good news for Princeton is that it has already beaten Yale and Columbia (Princeton's loss is to Dartmouth).

In fact, Columbia hosts Yale tomorrow night, so somebody has to lose that game. Columbia also plays Harvard; Yale also plays Brown.

As for the Tigers, they host Cornell Saturday (noon) and finish the regular season at Penn next Friday night. Should Princeton win its last two games, it would get at least a share of the Ivy title and just as importantly would get the Ivy League's NCAA bid, which this year means playing the Northeast Conference winner in a play-in game (at the Ivy school).

There's no way that the Ivy field hockey race would be this close if the Reinprechts, Sharkey and Cesan were on the Princeton team. Its wins over Yale and Columbia were both by a single goal, and the Tigers have outscored their league opponents by a combined 17-7, including 10-1 the last two weeks against Brown and Harvard.

Compare that to last year, when Princeton went 7-0 and outscored the league 46-5.

But hey, that makes this year even more special, that it's been such a close struggle to get to this point. Closing out a league championship would be something unique for a program that has dominated the Ivy League with 17 titles in 18 years.

And the fab four will be back next year, resuming their playing careers at Princeton with the goal of not just an Ivy title but also a national title.

First, though, there's the final against Argentina and the quest to get into the Olympics.

TigerBlog always finds it easy to root for Princeton and the United States. Here it's even easier.


cbaxter said...

Noticed on the National Team roster that we are the only college affected by the absence of players. It says a lot about Princeton Field Hockey!!

Anonymous said...

Princeton athletics in the nation's service.

Brian McD said...

Watched the thrilling championship game on a spanish-language high-def web-cast. 4-2 USA HUGE upset of Argentina, the top ranked team in the world, earning the Americans a trip to the Olympics. Even more amazing was that for most of the game, three players on the field knew the lyrics to Old Nassau.

Glenn Adams '63 said...

It's not quite true that Princeton was the only college affected by the absence of current undergraduate players. Princeton had 4 of the total of 7undergraduate players on the initial National Team roster. UVA had two and UNC one. This fact speaks volumes about the quality of current Princeton field hockey, thanks in large part to the laudable recruiting and coaching abilities of Coach Kristin Holmes-Winn. Hearty congratulations to the Tiger members of the Pan-Am Games gold-medal winning team! Glenn Adams

08 said...

incredible--can't wait to see how far they go in the Olympics!

however, it would appear that they are not the only collegiate athletes on the team: