Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Serving Up Another Championship

TigerBlog was driving back from Dartmouth Saturday afternoon when he had to stop in the Connecticut town of Darien to get gas.

Most of the time that TB gets gas, it's in New Jersey, where he doesn't have to pump it himself. In fact, it's the law in New Jersey. Presumably, the point was to create jobs, TB has always assumed.

In Connecticut, TB had to pump it himself. So he got out of the car and went to put the fuel in his tank.

That's where he noticed something that boggled his mind.

On the gas pump was a TV screen, and it was showing a video. In this case, it was a clip from one of the talk shows on daytime TV.

Is this what the collective attention span of the American consumer has reached?

Nobody can stand there for two minutes to pump gas without having to be entertained? Or is this just another vehicle to squeeze an extra penny or two of advertising?

In protest, TigerBlog refused to look at the video screen.

A few hours earlier, TigerBlog had been in Hanover for the men's lacrosse team's 16-5 win over Dartmouth. The game began at 1 and ended around 3, and TB was done with everything he needed to do shortly thereafter.

Before beginning the long ride home, though, he decided to step into the tennis center to see if Princeton-Dartmouth women's tennis was still going on. As it turned out, he had timed it just perfectly.

First, for those wondering why the match was indoors, the weather in Hanover Saturday didn't quite match the weather in Princeton. Nope, it was in the 30s and windy in the morning, and of course, there is still plenty of snow on the grass up there, well into April.

When TB walked into the tennis building, he could see that there were only two matches going on, one on Court 2 and the other on Court 6. The big scoreboard on the wall said the match score was 3-2 in favor of Princeton and that it was about to become 3-3 when the match on Court 2 ended, which was in the next minute or so.

That put it all on the match on Court 6.

This was not ordinary Ivy women's tennis match, though. This was a huge one, as the undefeated Tigers were playing a Dartmouth team that was ranked above them nationally - actually 16 spots above No. 53 Princeton at No. 37 - and was playing to force a tie at the top of the league standings.

And it all came down to the match on Court 6.

TigerBlog was staring at a long ride home, but he knew he wasn't leaving until the match was completed. It didn't take all that long, either, as Princeton's Katie Goepel went from up 2-1 to winning it at 6-1 in virtually no time.

With her deciding point, the match went to Princeton, 4-3.

TigerBlog has seen a ton of lacrosse. And football and basketball. And more than his share of other sports, like hockey, soccer, field hockey and others.

Princeton prides itself on its broad-based athletic program and fields 38 varsity teams with about 1,000 varsity athletes. Other than the fact that Princeton had just won a huge match, TB was happiest about the chance to see how the Princeton tennis culture played out.

There was a very loyal Princeton contingent in Hanover. TB assumed they were mostly parents.

And it was easy to tell this was a close-knit group. Maybe that's a by-product of winning, or maybe that's part of why a team wins.

And they were a welcoming one. Maybe TB's "Princeton Athletics" shirt was a giveaway that he was on some level one of them, but everyone who saw him had a smile and hello.

With the end of the match, TB wished head coach Laura Granville good luck and then started out for the long drive back. Granville and her team were on their way to Boston, where they would play Harvard the next day.

As it turned out, Princeton had a bigger Sunday than Saturday, with a win over Harvard and a Columbia loss to Brown, which left the Tigers with at least a share of the Ivy League championship. Princeton is at Columbia Friday and home with Cornell Sunday; a win in either match means the outright title and a return to the NCAA tournament.

A year ago, Princeton went 7-0 in the league and defeated Arizona State in the first round of the NCAAs before falling to No. 2 Alabama in a very close match.

The wins this weekend ran Princeton's league winning streak to 12 straight. It also put the Tigers back on the brink of heading back to the postseason.

From TigerBlog's perch above the courts in the gallery Saturday, it was more about offering a little support for the program - and then staying around to see the end of what was a pretty exciting few hours of tennis.

It was a nice end to the day in Hanover, and the start to a great weekend for the Tigers.

A championship weekend. For the second year in a row.

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