Thursday, February 27, 2014

Saturday At 52

TigerBlog is all thawed out, finally.

To say it was cold at Manhattan's Gaelic Park Tuesday night would be something of an understatement. TigerBlog was wearing long underwear, pants, heavy socks, a long-sleeve t-shirt, one fleece, another fleece, his heaviest sweatshirt, his big heavy Princeton Athetics coat, gloves and a hat - and he was still freezing.

TB much prefers 95 degrees with high humidity to nights like Tuesday, when it was in the 20s with a gentle lazy wind blowing. A lazy wind, by the way, is a wind that is too lazy to go around you, so it goes through you.

The occasion was the Princeton-Manhattan men's lacrosse game. It's become something of a necessary evil to play lacrosse games beginning in February, weather notwithstanding, and so the early-season schedule is dotted with dates like "Feb. 25, Princeton at Manhattan" and just hope for tolerable weather.

Tuesday night didn't cooperate in the least.

TB assumes that the players are used to the cold, after practicing in it. And when you're young and moving around playing lacrosse, you probably don't feel it as much as you do when you're more than twice the age of any of the players and you're just standing there watching.

Gaelic Park sits under the subway tracks, and the No. 1 train that comes up Seventh Ave. and ends at 242nd Street and Van Cortlandt Park, a few blocks from the Manhattan campus. Several times during the game, the unmistakable sound of a subway train's brakes could be heard above the normal sounds of lacrosse.

The field itself is an enormous piece of field turf, one that is the home of Manhattan lacrosse, soccer and even softball. Unlike almost any other college lacrosse field that TB can think of, there is no fence directly behind one of the goals, only another 70 yards or so of turf field that is where the softball field is laid out. As a result, it gives the impression that the lacrosse game is being played on a gigantic piece of land.

The park is tucked into the city streets of the Bronx, which is actually where Manhattan College is. If you like cities, it's a nice little place.

It just doesn't happen to have a press box, though, which meant TB couldn't take refuge from the cold. He does recognize that this hardly makes him a sympathetic figure or anything.

He'll be back in the press box Saturday, when Princeton hosts Johns Hopkins at noon in the opening game of a doubleheader on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium, one that concludes with the Princeton-Georgetown women's game.

Princeton-Hopkins is one of TigerBlog's favorite games each year. There was a time that Princeton lost 24 straight games to Hopkins, which meant that there were players who went from being born to graduating as Princeton seniors and never having the Tigers beat the Blue Jays in all that time.

The 0-24 streak was part of a 1-33 run that ended in the 1990 NCAA tournament, Princeton's first. Since then, the Tigers are 16-10 against the Blue Jays, including 3-0 in the NCAA tournament.

Recently it's been something of an odd series, in that the game has had little impact on the remainder of the season. The teams almost always play on the first Saturday of March, so it's not always easy to tell what direction either team is going to go in after they cross paths.

For instance, Princeton beat Hopkins 8-3 at Homewood Field in 2011. Leaving the field that day, TB would never have guessed that Hopkins would end up as the third seed in the NCAA tournament and that Princeton would struggle all year with injuries and tight losses.

Last year Princeton knocked off Hopkins 11-8, on a day when the Blue Jays were ranked third nationally. Big win for the Tigers, right? One that fit perfectly into the selection criteria for NCAA tournament bids, no?

Only Hopkins' 2013 season fell apart in a series of its own tight losses, and by season's end, that was no longer a big win - and neither team made the NCAA tournament.

The visiting team has had overwhelming success in this series as well. In the last 12 games played on one of the team's campuses - not counting the four games at M&T Bank Stadium from 2007-10 - the visiting team is a remarkable 10-2.

This year Princeton is 2-0 and Hopkins is 3-0. It certainly seems like both teams will very much be in the mix for the NCAA tournament and can even think about going deep into May, but hey, there have been other years like that where it didn't pan out.

In the meantime, the game features two high-scoring teams, as well as an opportunity to see two players who will probably end up being among the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy. Hopkins is led by Wells Stanwick, who has 13 assists in three games, while Princeton is led by the amazing Tom Schreiber, who has four goals and six assists in two games and needs one more assist to become the third Princeton player with at least 80 career goal and 80 career assists.

The second game matches two teams with 1-1 records. Princeton opened with a loss at Loyola before beating Rutgers last night on yet another very cold early-season evening. Georgetown defeated Delaware and lost to Towson.

No, it's not going to be a warm sunny spring day for the doubleheader.

Yes, it will still be worth attending.

No comments: