Friday, October 21, 2016

Harvard At Princeton Four Times

Harvard is at Princeton tomorrow. In four different sports.

All four Harvard teams come here unbeaten in the Ivy League. That'll get your attention, right?

You know who would have been all over this weekend? Harvey Yavener.

Way back when, Yav, as he is known, was the person who wrote more words about Princeton Athletics than anyone else in a given year. Or decade.

TigerBlog worked with Yav at the Trenton Times. It was Yav who taught TB many of the ins and outs of writing and working in sports that TB still values today.

Yav covered everyone and everything at Princeton, way more than football and basketball, even if he and Pete Carril were really close. Yav was the first male reporter TigerBlog ever met who had a real love of women's athletics and who appreciated women's athletes for their skill and determination.

He'd interview an athlete for an hour and write long, flowing pieces that hardly ever touched on what they did on the field. He'd write epic game stories that made the most mundane event seem like high drama.

As for Yav, he's been retired for awhile. He is one of TigerBlog's favorite people ever. TigerBlog wanted Yav to respect him when TB worked for him, even if Yav was, you'll pardon the expression, a big-time hard ass. That was Yav.

One day, though, Yav did tell TigerBlog that he loved him. It made TB smile back then, and it makes him smile now thinking about it, nearly 30 years later.

There were a lot of nights that Yav and TigerBlog went to one of Yav's favorite restaurants in Trenton, in the Chambersburg section, after their work was done, usually around midnight. Yav would order for both of them. They'd sit. They'd eat. They'd talk. About everything and anything. And then Yav would pay. TB's money was never any good when Yav was there.

Why mention Yav? Because he turned 87 yesterday. He's retired, and there isn't a Princeton athlete now who's ever heard of him. But there are legions of them out there who remember when it was their turn to be interviewed by him, even if they remember no other reporter to whom they ever spoke.

TigerBlog called him yesterday. He always does on his birthday. Hasn't missed one in a long time. It's always good to hear his voice, one that he's imitated a million times, a voice that was responsible at various times for some of the funniest, most instructional, most sarcastic, most absurd, most insightful, most genuine and even once most heartwarming things that TB has ever heard. 

So happy birthday to Yav. It's been awhile since he's been to this campus, but he would be loving this weekend here, that's for sure.

As incredible as this might seem, this weekend marks the start of women's hockey season.

The Tigers, who won the Ivy League and reached the NCAA tournament last year, open the season with a pair of games at Providence, tomorrow and Sunday, both at 2.

There's also a women's volleyball match tonight, as the Tigers host Penn. Princeton is 7-0 in the league, and only Penn has won a game off Princeton to date.

Mostly, though, this weekend is Harvard at Princeton weekend. The Crimson will send four teams to Princeton for games tomorrow - and all four teams are unbeaten in the Ivy League. Does that get your attention?

TB will start with the soccer doubleheader, with the women's game at 1 and the men's game at 4.

Princeton has had its struggles in the league, going a combined 1-4-2 between the two teams, who are a combined 14-5-0 outside the league.

Whether or not Princeton can get back into the league races is not the issue for tomorrow. Getting the opportunity to give Harvard its first league loss is. And, for the Princeton women, even if there will be no second-straight Ivy title, there is still a really strong shot at an at-large NCAA tournament bid, which makes every game huge.

Then there's the field hockey game.

Princeton has won 21 of the last 22 Ivy League field hockey titles. Under the direction of first-year head coach Carla Tagliente, Princeton is now 4-0 this year and has outscored its four opponents by a combined 18-1.

Harvard is also 4-0. Harvard has outscored its opponents 11-2, and both of those goals came from Penn, who lost to the Crimson 3-2.

Big game? Obviously.

There's another big game as well. That would be in football.

Princeton and Harvard are both 2-0, as is Penn, who plays Yale tonight. The football game on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium kicks off at 1.

The last two Princeton wins over Harvard, in 2012 and 2013, were among the best football games Princeton has played in the last 25 years or so.

The 2012 win saw the Tigers win 39-34 after trailing 34-10 with less than 12 minutes go. TigerBlog was there and still really isn't sure how Princeton pulled it off.

The game-winner came on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Epperly to Roman Wilson with 13 seconds to go.

In the complex world of how games evolve, Princeton need three touchdowns and three two-point conversions to tie the game. The first two TDs were followed by successful two-pointers, making it an eight-point game. The third TD, with 2:27 left, was followed by an unsuccessful attempt, leaving the Tigers down 34-32.

TB thought then and still thinks now that Princeton would have lost had it been successful on that last attempt. Why? Because Harvard tried to run out the clock and didn't. Had the Crimson needed points to win, it's more than 50-50 that it would have gone that way.

A year later, Princeton beat Harvard 51-48. Again, the game-winning points came on a pass from Epperly to Wilson.

The last two years have been all Harvard, with wins by 49-7 and 42-7. TigerBlog will say that tomorrow's game will be somewhere in between the greatest game ever played at Princeton Stadium and a blowout.

So those are the four games. Let's see how they play out.

Yav? He would have covered field hockey and then come to football, raving about the kid from Princeton he just interviewed.

Yeah. No doubt about that.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of The Trenton Times, did they have a fallout with PU? There's never a mention of Princeton sports anywhere anymore.

Steven Feldman '68 said...

When Princeton women's basketball team was unbeaten during the regular 2014-2015 season, I spoke to the Times' sports editor about the Times' lack of Princeton sports coverage. He told me that they just do not have the staff anymore to provide that coverage.