Monday, November 14, 2016

To The Final Four, In A Second

TigerBlog is driving his old car these days. It's sort of a long story.

Well, actually not really. He needs to take the old car in to get inspected in November, so he gave TigerBlog Jr. his other car to drive until Thanksgiving.

TBJ's car has more than 200,000 miles on it. Thankfully, it still runs well, though it is showing its age.

For starters, there are a few dents on it. And some scratches. And a hole in the floorboard on the driver's side. And some other things.

Like the radio. It doesn't work anymore. Sometimes it does for a few minutes, but then it switches over to another frequency, makes a bit of a bang and then stops working completely.

As a result, TB listens to music off his iPhone in the car.

Yesterday he got into the car, put on his music and hit the "shuffle" button. The first song that came on was "America," by Simon and Garfunkel.

It's not his favorite song by the duo. Nope, not with "The Sounds of Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Still, it's a good song. And it gives a mention to TigerBlog's favorite superhighway, when they sing "counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike; they've all come to look for America."

Ah, the New Jersey Turnpike.

It's highway of beauty and character, just like the state of New Jersey itself, with something for everyone. It reaches from the Delaware Memorial Bridge in the south to the George Washington Bridge in the north, all in the span of just 18 exits.

It runs the gamut of sites to be seen, including a major international airport, the site of a Super Bowl, farmland, commercial centers, industrial centers, educational centers, a major seaport, oil refineries and some of the most spectacular views of Manhattan anyway.

By going one way off an exit, you can connect directly to the Jersey Shore. By going the other way, you can be in Princeton in 10 minutes.

When TigerBlog was in college, anytime he'd say he was from New Jersey, the question was "what exit?" It wasn't original or funny or anything, and TB didn't really know how to answer anyway.

Coming from one direction? Exit 11. Coming from another? Exit 8.

It's a much-maligned highway. It has millions of cars on it at all time, and it can have way more than its share of traffic. People who aren't from New Jersey point to some of its miles, especially those that go past those oil refineries, as a sign that the Garden State isn't so pretty.

To them, TB says "you're not seeing it the way TB is." The Turnpike? It's a symbol of beauty.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is also mentioned in a song. Billy Joel has a song from his early days called "You're My Home," which says "home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Indiana's early morning dew. High up in the hills of California. Home is just another word for you."

Yeah, it's got nothing on Simon and Garfunkel.

Princeton teams spend hours and hours each year on the New Jersey Turnpike. They're rarely on the Pennsylvania counterpart, since no Ivy League school is located as you head west from the Philadelphia area.

There is one school that you need to head out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to reach, and that's Penn State. If you happened to see a bus with Princeton athletes on it on its way back from there yesterday, well, chances are there was some celebrating going on inside.

The Princeton field hockey team spent the weekend at Penn State and had an amazing time. The Tigers, the 14th-ranked team in the country and unseeded in the NCAA tournament, took out the host Nittany Lions Saturday and then Virginia yesterday.

The end of the game yesterday was particularly dramatic, as Sophia Tornetta scored in the final second for the game-winner. Here are the highlights:

As a result, Princeton is one of the last four teams standing in the NCAA field hockey tournament.

Getting this far is hardly new for the Tiger field hockey program. This will be the seventh time Princeton has reached the Final Four, and it's only been four years since Princeton won the championship.

This one, though, is a bit unlikely. For starters, Princeton didn't win the Ivy League this year, so the team needed an at-large bid just to get into the tournament in the first place. Also, Princeton had already lost to both Penn State (4-2) and Virginia (2-0) in the regular season.

Also, this is Year 1 under new head coach Carla Tagliente and her top assistant, Dina Rizzo. And it's a young team, one that lost Tornetta to injury in midseason for eight games.

And despite that, the Tigers are still playing.

Princeton's next opponent will be Delaware, whom Princeton beat 4-2 back in the fourth game of the year. Of course, the Tigers have seen so far what regular season results mean in the postseason.

The Princeton-Delaware game will be Friday at 4:45 at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. The other semifinal will match UConn and North Carolina.

It's a great story for Princeton, reaching the Final Four this way. This is definitely the hard way.

As an at-large team. With less than a second to spare.

Yes. That had to be one happy bus ride back, regardless of which Turnpike it was.

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