Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gus And The Bus

Let's see.

Should TigerBlog start today with the bus? Or with Gus?

Let's go with Gus.

TigerBlog and Miss TigerBlog were at a lacrosse tournament Sunday afternoon at one of the Baltimore prep schools. TigerBlog had the trifecta going - Princeton lacrosse hat, Denver lacrosse sweatshirt, Sacred Heart lacrosse chair.

As he sat in his chair overlooking the field, he turned his head brieflly and found himself face-to-face with, of all things, a basset hound. You know, one of the hush puppy dogs.

The dog's owner was walking him around the campus. TigerBlog was looking at the dog, not the woman who was walking him. He asked her how old the dog was, and she responded that he was 14.

Then TB realized the dog's name was Gus. Then he put it all together: the year 2016 minus 14 years plus the name Gus plus outside of Baltimore. And what did it equal?

Ryan Boyle.

Back when Boyle was a Princeton men's lacrosse All-America, he had a puppy named Gus. Boyle then graduated in 2004 and went on to a long professional and international career, and now, in addition to being one of the greatest players of all time, he might just be the greatest lacrosse color commentator of all time as well.

TigerBlog looked up at the woman walking the dog and mentioned that he knew a lacrosse player who had a dog named Gus. Had she ever heard of Ryan Boyle? Turned out it was Boyle's mother.

Her question for TigerBlog was simple. How in the world did he remember the name of Ryan's dog from all those years ago?

It's a gift. TigerBlog can remember lots and lots and lots of facts. Like dog names - and birthdays and song lyrics and scores of games he's been to and the fact that Boyle had 232 career points at Princeton, second only to Kevin Lowe's 247.

So that's the part about Gus.

The bus? That would be the one parked in the apron outside Jadwin, Caldwell Field House and DeNunzio yesterday morning.

It was the one that would be driving the Princeton field hockey team to Norfolk as its November ride literally continued. Before the bus pulled out, though, there would be a sendoff, with athletic department staff, the Princeton band (a recording of the band, anyway) and some Dunkin Donut-type goodies.

It was a nice little morning party, and it was well-earned by the Tigers.

And it was one that seemed sort of unlikely a few weeks ago. Back at the end of October, Princeton lost back-to-back overtime games to Harvard and Cornell. At that point, it seemed like a promising season might be over.

Ah, but it was only starting.

Princeton came back to thump Penn in the regular season finale and then exhaled when the NCAA selections were announced. The Tigers? They got an at-large bid.

And they've made the most of it. Princeton knocked off Penn State and Virginia (on Sophia Tornetta's goal as time expired) last weekend to advance to the Final Four for the seventh time in program history.

Next up is Delaware, tomorrow afternoon, at Old Dominion, in the second NCAA semifinal, after North Carolina and UConn play in the opener. The championship game is Sunday.

Princeton has already beaten Delaware this year. Then again, Princeton had already lost to Penn State and Virginia this year. 

The NCAA field hockey championship has been dominated by a select few schools. The tournament began in 1981, and since then, in 35 years, only 10 schools have won a championship.

In recent years, it's been even more exclusive. The last 12 years have seen only five schools win all of the titles - Maryland, UConn, Syracuse, North Carolina and of course Princeton, who won it all in 2012.

UConn followed Princeton's win by taking the next two championships. Syracuse, last year's champ, is not here. Delaware is making its second Final Four appearance and first since 1982.

North Carolina has been the runner-up in four of the last six years (including to Princeton), and the field hockey team will be looking to match the NCAA titles that the Tar Heel men's and women's lacrosse teams both won in the spring.

The bus that rolled away yesterday morning took with a team that has 13 freshmen and sophomores and eight juniors and seniors. In fact, there are just three seniors on the team, though leading scorer Cat Caro is one of them.

Throw in the coaching change, and it's easy to say that this might have been a year with some growing pains. Regardless, though, here is Princeton, in the Final Four again.

It can be a winding road sometimes, but in the end it can take you where you want to be.

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