Friday, September 18, 2015

Kickoff Weekend

TigerBlog saw a neighbor yesterday and made the usual small talk.

He said hi. And he added that it was a beautiful day.

And it was. This is the month for the best weather of the year in this area, when it's not swelteringly hot or too rainy. Usually, the weather is in the 70s or 80s, with low humidity and bright blue skies.

It might have been a little warmer than usual yesterday, but the 10-day forecast - and probably the 30-day forecast - is nearly perfect.

So what did the neighbor say to TigerBlog?

"Yes, but it's supposed to be an awful winter."

Wow. That was harsh.

Maybe it will be. Maybe it won't. For now, it's beautiful. And it's supposed to be beautiful all weekend.

It's a busy weekend for Princeton Athletics, the first really full weekend of the 2015-16 academic year. Between now and Sunday there will be 20 events, with 10 different teams competing: women's soccer, men's soccer, field hockey, men's tennis, men's golf, women's golf, women's volleyball and men's water polo.

And, after all of the lead-up, all of the waiting, all of the practice, it's finally time to kick it off.

Twice, actually.

At noon and at six tomorrow, Princeton will have its first two football games. They both have fascinating storylines, and TigerBlog will get to them shortly.

First, of the 10 teams that play this weekend, four are at home.

The men's soccer team has its first home game, tomorrow at 4, against Boston University. The women's soccer team will be on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium Sunday, against 23rd-ranked William & Mary.

The women's soccer game starts at 1 Sunday. An hour later, the field hockey team hosts American on Bedford Field. You should be able to see the end of both games, since they're separated by less than the length of the game fields they play on.

The other home event is the Ivy Plus men's tennis tournament, which starts today and runs through Sunday. Princeton will host 21 teams at the event - the other seven Ivy teams and Bucknell, Buffalo, Indiana, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, NJIT, Notre Dame, Old Dominion, Penn State, St. John's, Tennessee, Tulsa, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.

And, like 33 of the 38 sports at Princeton, there is no admission charge for the events at Princeton this weekend.

So that leaves football and football.

Let's start with sprint football.

The Princeton sprint football team began play in the 1931 season with a weight limit that was reflected in the official name of the conference, the Eastern 150-Pound Football League. There were seven original members, with Princeton, Penn, Lafayette, Cornell, Rutgers, Villanova and Yale.

For a long time, there were five teams that played lightweight football, which eventually became sprint football in 1998 - Princeton, Penn, Cornell, Army and Navy. Then Mansfield added a team. And then Post. And then Franklin Pierce.

Now, the league is up to nine teams, with the addition of Chestnut Hill College, located outside of Philadelphia. And Princeton is Chestnut Hill's first-ever opponent, tomorrow at noon at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School, which is near the CHC campus.

As any Princeton fan knows, the Tigers have struggled in sprint football. The Tigers have lost 101 consecutive league games, dating to 1999.

Each time Princeton has played one of the new teams, TigerBlog has been there, hoping that this would be the one that ends the streak. He's going to try to be at Plymouth-Whitemarsh tomorrow as well.

Then there's the football team.

Princeton opens its 2015 season at Lafayette, with kickoff at 6. By then, six of the seven other Ivy teams will be done and the seventh, Cornell, who kicks off at 3, might also be done. That will make Princeton the last Division I team to start its season.

The big story for Princeton this season is probably the quarterback position. Both Quinn Epperly and Connor Michelsen have graduated, after they combined for 7,783 career passing yards and 47 touchdowns. One or the other started each of the last 31 games for the Tigers.

Chad Kanoff appears ready to be the No. 1 quarterback, though at Princeton, there's really no such thing as a No. 1 quarterback. There are multiple quarterbacks, often on the same play, and this year Kanoff, Kedric Bostic and John Lovett all figure to play a lot.

All three, by the way, stand at least 6-3 and weigh in at least 220 pounds. And none of them are bigger than the man who figures to be the No. 1 target - wide receiver Seth DeValve, who only played two games a year ago due to injury. He does enter his senior year with 999 career receiving yards.

The entire lineup is dotted with familiar names. Princeton has been almost universally picked for fourth in the Ivy League, behind Harvard, Dartmouth and Yale - all of whom Princeton plays in the final five weeks of the season.

For now it's the game at Lafayette and then a home game against Lehigh. Then it's the Ivy opener against Columbia.

For Princeton, who has waited and watched basically every other football team anywhere play, it hardly matters who the opponent is.

It should be a perfect night in Easton - even if the coming winter is going to be bad. And it'll be interesting to see the Tigers play.

And that's your weekend in Princeton Athletics.

TigerBlog will report in Monday on how it all plays out.

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