Monday, April 18, 2016

Weekend Sunshine

TigerBlog stood behind the Princeton softball bullpen for a few seconds yesterday.

It was between games of the doubleheader against Penn. Princeton had just won the first game 5-4 on a beautifully manufactured run in the bottom of the seventh, with a single by Kaitlyn Waslawski, a perfect bunt between the pitcher and first baseman by Kayla Bose with heads-up base-running by Waslawksi that made it first-and-third with none out and then the game-winning single by Keeley Walsh.

As TB walked past Lisa van Ackeren, the Tiger head coach held up her hand and said "walk-offs deserve high-5s."

Now Ashley La Guardia was warming up for Game 2, and TigerBlog was trying to figure out if he could put bat on ball against her. You know. If he saw 10 pitches, could he foul even one of them off? Maybe.

La Guardia would go four innings and pick up her sixth win of the season. For Princeton softball, it completed a two-day stretch where Princeton took three of four from the Quakers.

As a result, Princeton is now 7-5 in the South Division in the Ivy League. The Tigers are three games up on Columbia, who is in second place. The Tigers play the Lions four times this coming weekend in New York City. 

On the whole the weekend for Princeton Athletics wasn't quite as perfect as the weather. Still, it was a pretty good one.

With apologies to everyone else who had a big weekend, here are some of the highlights:

* there was an Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament bid clinched for the women's tennis team

* the women's lacrosse team had a huge, huge win, putting the Tigers in line for an Ivy title and possibly the host role for the Ivy League tournament

* the baseball team won three of four against Penn as well, putting Princeton up by three against both Penn and Cornell and five up on Columbia, also this week's opponent

* the men's lacrosse team had a remarkable game with Dartmouth in which the Tigers were shut out in the first half and then did the shutting out in the second half, something TigerBlog has never seen before. The 7-3 win over the Big Green keeps Princeton alive in the Ivy tournament race, with a must-have game at Harvard Saturday

* the men's heavyweight rowing team won the Compton Cup at Harvard, something it hadn't done since 1957. Princeton also won it for the second straight year, something it hadn't done wince 1956 and 1957

Again, TigerBlog apologies to everyone else, but let's look a little closer at a two of these teams.

The women's tennis team won its third-straight outright Ivy League championship and will now appear in its third-straight NCAA tournament. Both of those are program firsts.

The 2016 season was a pretty wide-open one in Ivy League women's tennis. No team in the league had fewer than two wins or fewer than two losses, which means top-to-bottom in the league was separated by only three games.

In fact, this was the most balanced women's tennis season in league history.

The Ivy League first crowned a champion in the sport in 1979. Until yesterday, there had never been a team to win the championship without a record of either 7-0 or 6-1.

Also, there had never been a year in which a team finished last without a record of either 1-6 or 0-7.

This year? The best record was 5-2. The worst was 2-5.

In other words, every team could beat every other team. And it was Princeton who came through.

Princeton knocked off Columbia 4-3 Friday in Princeton, which made the match against Cornell for at least a share of the title. Princeton then won that one 5-2, and the championship became an outright one when Penn beat Columbia yesterday.

Up next for Princeton will be the selections for the tournament, which will be May 3.

The other team TB wants to talk about is the women's lacrosse team.

Princeton hosted Cornell Saturday in a game that matched the last two unbeatens in the Ivy League race. Princeton trailed for more than half the game before rallying to win 8-7, the outcome not decided until Ellie DeGarmo's 16th save, which came with 16 seconds remaining.

With the win, Princeton clinched at least a spot in the Ivy tournament. The Tigers can pretty much wrap up the host role Wednesday, when Penn comes to Sherrerd Field.

Of course, Penn can stay alive to host the tournament should the Quakers get a win Wednesday. Princeton and Penn, by the way, are the only schools ever to host the Ivy tournament.

If Princeton beats Penn, then the only two schools that could still mathematically host the tournament would be Princeton or Cornell.

After Princeton plays Penn, it finishes its regular season with games against Columbia and Brown, who are seventh and eighth in the league. If Princeton wins those two games, it would earn at least a share of the Ivy title.

If Penn defeats Princeton, it would host the tournament by also beating Yale and Cornell. So yes, there is a long way to go. And Penn is always, always tough. In fact, the Quakers played No. 1 Maryland to a 12-8 game, which is one of the closest games the Terps have played.

That's for Wednesday though.

This weekend? It was filled with sunshine in Princeton. Literally and figuratively.

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