Monday, May 5, 2014

One Tournament Down, One To Go

TigerBlog's job at the Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament was to enter the stats into the computer. He did it for all three games, Friday's two semifinals and yesterday's final.

At the same time, he also watched the men's tournament games on ESPN3 on a different computer, sort of paying attention when he could.

At one point yesterday, there was a timeout in the women's game at the same time there was a goal scored in the men's game. As the men's teams lined up for the face-off, TB reflexively entered it into the stats for the women's game and then deleted it when he realized what he was doing.

The men's game, of course, has face-offs. The women's game has draw controls.

Of any sport that men and women both play, lacrosse is by far the most different. Actually, other than having sticks with pockets - and those pockets are radically different - and the basic concept of putting the ball in a goal, the two sports have almost nothing in common.

They don't play on the same size field. They have a different number of players on the field (10 for the men, 12 for the women). The rules about contact, defending, basically everything are different.

For years, TigerBlog couldn't believe that women's lacrosse didn't play with fixed boundaries, as opposed to having the game simply stop when the play got too close to the bench or the fence and then picked it back up. Eventually, those rules were changed.

The men's game in recent years has made great strides in improving the pace of play, and these changes have all been for the better, especially the restarts. TB thinks the women's game could benefit from quicker restarts as well.

TB also doesn't understand why women's lacrosse doesn't enter some sort of timing rules for clearing the ball and some sort of stalling rules, especially for the end-game.

Penn defeated Princeton 9-6 in the women's final yesterday. The Quakers survived in double overtime against Harvard in the semifinals, while Princeton pasted Cornell.

Penn ran out to a 6-2 halftime lead against Princeton yesterday. The Quakers outshot Princeton 21-3 in the first 30 minutes.

Princeton was able to settle things down in the second half and put together some offense. Penn, taking advantage of the fact that there are no timing rules, possessed the ball for huge stretches in the second half, when it took just three more shots.

Why shoot? There was no need to. And it worked out perfectly for the Quakers, who even repeatedly passed up the chance to go straight to the goal on free position shots.

In the end, Princeton ran out of time to finish any kind of comeback. For Penn, it was a well-executed second-half strategy.

Princeton and Penn are the Ivy League co-champions. Both teams were pretty much a lock for the NCAA tournament once they won their semifinal games Friday, and that's how it turned out last night, when the draw was announced.
Princeton's draw is a strange one, in that the Tigers play Penn State at Virginia, with the winner to play the host team. It's strange, in that Princeton and Penn State played little more than a week ago, when Penn State defeated the Tigers 13-12 in Happy Valley. Princeton has also played UVa during the season, in a game the Tigers won 15-13.

Penn, on the other hand, drew Canisius in the first round, with a shot at No. 1 Maryland for the winner.

In the end, the 2014 Ivy women's tournament was a very nice showcase for the league's top teams, and it did give Cornell and Harvard a crack at earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but neither did.

TB is a huge fan of the Ivy lacrosse tournaments. The Ivy League is almost always a multiple-bid for both the men and women, and in fact five Ivy teams are headed to NCAAs.

Women's lacrosse is a game of athleticism. The way the game is played, the No. 1 commodity is speed, which creates scoring opportunities and also leads to free position chances.

Princeton's Erin McMunn set a tournament record with 10 goals in two games, including seven against Cornell. Blake Dietrick, the first-team All-Ivy women's basketball player, had one - but it might have been the nicest one of the weekend.

After the game against Penn ended, TB brought the computer and printer from Class of 1952 Stadium back to Jadwin, as there are no more games at 52 this year. As he walked back to where his car was parked, he walked past a Princeton player wearing sweats with the No. 15 on them, which led TB to surmise it was goalie Annie Woehling, who had been strong in both games.

TigerBlog nodded to her and told her she had played well. Woehling said thank you and kept going. She had the look of a player who knew that it hadn't been her team's day but that there would be at least one more day to come on this season, something that was confirmed a few hours later when the NCAA field was announced.

The Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament had a nice run on Sherrerd Field. Now it's time to look ahead to the other tournament, the one with the bigger prizes at stake.

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