Thursday, September 29, 2016

Welcome To The NWPC

Luis Nicolao will be meeting Bruce Springsteen today.

To put this in perspective for you, imagine meeting the one person who has ever lived - or maybe even was fictional - that you've wanted to meet more than any other, that you've wanted to meet your whole life, that you thought you'd never meet.

It's almost like a college application essay question. Name three people, living or dead, fiction or non-fiction, that you'd like to have lunch with and why.

Luis - oh, by the way, he's the head water polo coach at Princeton if you didn't already know that - was the lucky winner of a ticket in the lottery to meet The Boss at the Philadelphia Public Library. He said he will be giving Springsteen some Princeton water polo gear; if he gives him the longsleeve T-shirt that he recently gave TigerBlog then Springsteen will love him forever.

TigerBlog emailed Luis yesterday asking him when the last time he was this excited about something. Honestly, TigerBlog can't remember the last time anyone he knows was this excited about something.

What was Luis' response? He said he keeps thinking Springsteen will be showing up at Luis' house afterwards for a drink. 

It all got TigerBlog to thinking about the one person he'd like to meet that he's never met. If it has to be limited to someone "famous," then maybe he'd stay with the E Street Band theme and go with Stevie Van Zandt.

TB would have a lot to talk about. There's the music of course, including Van Zandt's own band, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, had a song that is a TigerBlog favorite - "If I Give You My Heart, Will You Love Me Forever?" 

And of course, Little Steven was Sylvio Dante in "The Sopranos," which could be TB's favorite TV show of all time. And TigerBlog loved "Lilyhammer," a Netflix series in which Van Zandt played a character very similar to Sylvio.

On top of all that, TigerBlog and Van Zandt grew up 15 miles away from each other. Maybe they could hang out and get some pizza on the boardwalk one day? TigerBlog will buy.

Anyway, once Luis is done living out this dream of his, he can go back to focusing on his season.

His team defeated St. Francis (Pa.) last night at DeNunzio Pool in its first-ever Northeast Water Polo Conference game. What is the Northeast Water Polo Conference?

Well, if you've followed men's water polo here in the past, you know about the Collegiate Water Polo Association, in which Princeton has competed for years. This past off-season the CWPA did some realigning and renaming, and the result is two new conferences under the old conference's jurisdiction.

The split is a bit confusing.

There are now two separate conferences, but they are not divided with the same number of teams or along geographical lines.

If TigerBlog is getting this right, there are 47 men's water polo teams, of which 20 are in one of the two new conferences. That's a high percentage.

The two conferences are the Northeast Water Polo Conference and the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference. The Mid-Atlantic one has two divisions, the East and the West.

There are six teams in the Northeast - Princeton, Harvard, Brown, MIT, St. Francis and Iona. Princeton will play each team twice, including five straight at home beginning last night.

And the other four? There's Iona tomorrow night at 8. There's Brown Saturday at 7. There's Harvard Sunday at 10. There's MIT Sunday at 2.

That's a lot of water polo at DeNunzio Pool, all of which is free, by the way. 

There are six teams (Bucknell, Johns Hopkins, Fordham, Navy, Wagner and George Washington) in the East Division and there are eight in the West Division (Connecticut College, Gannon, La Salle, Mercyhurst, Monmouth, Penn State Behrend, Salem International, Washington & Jefferson).

At the end of the season, there will be a playoff format for each conference. The winners of the two conference playoffs will then play each other in what will essentially be an NCAA play-in game, with the winner to advance to the Final Four.

Again, that's if TigerBlog has this right.

Princeton water polo got a lot of attention this past summer with Ashleigh Johnson as one of the best players on the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the Rio Olympics. She'll be back this spring with the women.

At some point during the spring season, Nicolao figures to go over the 800-win mark for his career here between the two teams. He currently has 779 wins, which is a ton. He's won nine division championships with each team, and he has taken both to the NCAA championships. He's won 13 Coach of the Year awards.

And now he gets his reward.

He gets to meet The Boss.

He seems sort of happy about it.

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