Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Elegance Of Frank Deford

As you may have noticed, TigerBlog likes to write.

He has visions of his retirement world, one that includes, among other necessities, a dog (probably a bulldog like Trevor Tierney's), a beach house, a porch that looks out over the water and a laptop on which he can write, about anything and everything, for a large audience or an audience of one.

Golf? Nah. Walking on the beach. Walking the dog. Writing. That's a retirement.

The art of writing - sportswriting in particular - has fascinated TigerBlog since he was a kid and FatherBlog would bring home the New York Post and the New York Daily News every night. 

Long before TigerBlog ever wrote his first story - nearly 35 years ago, about a high school football game between Pennington Prep and the Academy of the New Church - his views on writing were shaped by reading others.

TigerBlog never really envisioned writing the sort of blog that he has come to do every day. He was taught early on that the news is the news; your covering the news is not news. That was the mantra of Harvey Yavener, with whom TB worked way back when in the newspaper business.

Back then, the idea of writing about himself - even if the third person - would never have dawned on him. Writing about his own experiences day after day? That would have been absurd.

It was a different world back then. Sportswriters wrote stories about coaches and athletes. The emphasis was on the ability to put words together. Analyzing games was what the beat writers did. Analyzing the people was what the feature writers did.

And the best writers could be found in one place - Sports Illustrated.

TigerBlog used to get the magazine out his mailbox every Thursday and read it cover to cover. The stories were so well crafted, week after week. And one name was more associated with that level of sportswriting than any other.

Frank Deford.

The legendary sportswriter passed away Monday, at the age of 78. In addition to his decades of work at Sports Illustrated, Deford also did essays on NPR and spent what was a fulfilling, if unsuccessful, tenure with the short-lived "The National," a daily sports newspaper that started in 1990 and lasted 18 months.

Deford also wrote books, both sports books and novels. Until he read the obit, TigerBlog had no idea that Deford had written "Everybody's All-American." He also was awarded the National Humanities Medal by former President Obama.

TigerBlog met Deford one time, back in 1996, when he spoke at a symposium on athletics in Dillon Gym as part of the University's 250th anniversary celebration. Joining Deford on the panel was Bob Costas; the moderator was Marvin Bressler, the late sociology professor and the inspiration for the Academic Athletic Fellows program.

Looking for some sense of who Deford was as a person, TigerBlog spoke with former Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters, who was close to the writer. He was a wonderful man, Gary said. And he was a great friend of Princeton and Princeton athletics.

Deford, for those who don't know, was a member of the Princeton Class of 1962. He came to Princeton from the Gilman School in Baltimore, where he had been a basketball player. At Princeton, Deford - who stood 6-4 - began his writing career with the Daily Princetonian.

As Gary spoke about his old friend, TigerBlog was struck by the way he used the word "elegant" to describe him four separate times. He was talking about his attire, his penchant for dressing up with matching purple ties and handkerchiefs.

And he was talking about his writing.

TigerBlog spent some of yesterday rereading stories that Deford had written during his long career at Sports Illustrated. They are all stories that TigerBlog has read before, and they're all amazingly well done.

They're also from a different era. It was an era of elegance in writing, one that has been torn away by the combination of impatience in society and ego and money in of those who used to be called sportswriters.

Today, it's more standard to express yourself in 140 characters or even just in a picture with a captain. Both of those have seen words shortened or eliminated, because why write out, for example, "for what's worth" when you can write "FWIW."

Where's the elegance in that?

And sportswriters, as it were? The money isn't in elegant writing. It's in what they call "hot takes."

The formula now is 1) find a forum someplace, 2) rant and rave about something as crudely as possible, 3) hope to get on TV, 4) make money.

Again, where's the elegance in that?

The best features TigerBlog has ever written have been about Princeton lacrosse players and coaches and have come from knowing his subjects for years and years. How, TB has long wondered, did the Sports Illustrated writers come up with those features each week on people that they presumably never met and spent little time with prior to writing?

TigerBlog likes to write longer feature stories. The story he wrote about Zach Currier earlier this spring was more than 3,500 words, or 3.5 times the length of an average blog.

Who has the patience to read that when Twitter is so much easier?

If you think 3,500 words are a lot, how about Deford's pieces? They take awhile to read, but they are incredible works of art.

If you are a Princeton fan, you probably read this Sports Illustrated story on the 1965 men's basketball team's run to the Final Four once you heard of Deford's passing.

It's called "A Whole Team Touched By Stardust," and it brings to life one of the greatest moments in Princeton Athletics history. It also has this sentence: Playmaker Gary Walters, 5 feet 10, is a poised first-year man who can beat a press.

TigerBlog found a link to the best stories Deford ever wrote for the magazine. Pick anyone you like. They're all spectacular.

HERE'S the link.

TigerBlog remembered reading some of them. One he didn't remember is one that captured his attention yesterday.

It's called "The Boxer and the Blonde." Read it HERE.

Remember how TigerBlog's Currier feature was 3,500 words? This one is 12,000.

It's the story of boxer Billy Conn, his first fight against heavyweight champ Joe Louis and the summer of 1941. It's told 24 years after the fact. 

It's incredible. It's to sportswriting what "A Prayer for Owen Meany" is to literature. It's unbelievable storytelling - and the very best writing TB has ever read.

Late yesterday afternoon Gary stopped by TigerBlog's office. TB could tell how saddened he was at the passing of Frank Deford. He'd had him up to his house on Cape Cod and had spent countless times with him.

At one point, Gary asked if TB had gotten the pictures that he had sent, including the one he included here. Yes, TB said. Gary paused, not speaking for a few seconds. Then he shook his head and said softly "those were great times."

Gary was mourning the loss of his friend, Frank Deford, a great American sportswriter, as great as they have ever come.

He was, to use his friend's word, a man of elegance.

Even as the world around him lost its patience, and the ability to put words together became valued less, that elegance still lives on in the pieces he leaves behind.

That elegance, the elegance of Frank Deford, will last forever.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It Was A Long Ride Home

TigerBlog wanted to start off the week by sharing his thoughts from the weekend's NCAA men's and women's lacrosse championships.

He was in Foxboro all weekend, at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots.

As TB mentioned when he was writing about the Fireside Inn near Dartmouth recently, some hotels offer rooms with beautiful views and others offer views of parking lots. Some offer both.

The view from TigerBlog's room looked right across the parking lot at the giant facility. It was quite a beautiful sight, especially at night with the stadium lights still on.

Towson, who would lose to Ohio State in a tough semifinal. Prior to that, Towson had been staying in the same hotel as TigerBlog, on the same floor, as a matter of fact. Towson would walk from the hotel to the stadium, which made for some pretty good social media posts.

TB saw eight games in four days: the Division I women's semifinals Friday, the Division I men's semifinals Saturday, the Division I women's final and the Division II and III men's finals Sunday at finally the Division I men's final yesterday.

He was part of the stat crew for all eight games.

You're jealous, right? Whatever you did couldn't possibly be any better than that.

The problem with putting together a post-tournament review is that TB couldn't do it until, well, post-tournament. And post-tournament wasn't going to come until late afternoon yesterday, in New England.

That left TigerBlog staring at a long, long ride back, one that figured to feature some serious holiday weekend traffic. He knew he wasn't getting back until past 11 at the earliest, and the last thing he was going to want to do was sit down and start writing.

So, you'll have to wait a day to hear all about it.

Ah, but that left him needing a subject that he could get through before he had to drive back, or before he had to work the last game. TB, though, is never at a loss for words, especially written ones.

He'll give you a little lacrosse.

The Major League Lacrosse draft was held Sunday. Zach Currier was the sixth overall pick, going to the Denver Outlaws, who traded three draft choices and a player to move up to get him.

TigerBlog was really happy to see Gavin McBride was also drafted, going in the fifth round, also to Denver. And he'd like to mention Brian Masi, who went in the ninth round to Atlanta and in doing so became the first Sacred Heart Pioneer ever to be drafted by Major League Lacrosse.

The end of Memorial Day weekend means that there are only two athletic events left for the 2016-17 academic year.

The IRA national rowing championships will be held this weekend in Sacramento, where the men's lightweights, men's heavyweights and women's lightweights will all be competing.

The other remaining event will be the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon, which will be June 7-10. Princeton will be sending four athletes after this past weekend's regional qualifier in Kentucky: women's hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe, women's pole vaulter Allison Harris, men's pole vaulter August Kiles and men's 1,500 meter runner William Paulson.

It would have been five, as it appeared that men's hammer thrower Adam Kelly originally qualified by finishing 12th, which was the last spot to advance. Unfortunately, two other throwers protested foul calls on throws and won their protests, which bumped Kelly to 14th.

Other than the rowing and track and field national championships, the rest of the academic year has come and gone.

Don't think for a minute that this will be a cushy week at Princeton though. Far from it.

This is one of the busiest times of year, with the Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Banquet Thursday night and then Reunions after that, followed by Class Day and Commencement.

Back when TigerBlog was in the newspaper business, every academic year began with the preseason luncheon at what was then Trenton State College and is now the College of New Jersey. TB has mentioned this before, but the president of the college began each luncheon by saying the same thing: "I predict that every Trenton State team will go undefeated this year."

Of course he was joking. But it was his line, every year TB was at the luncheon.

Each year, TigerBlog had the same feeling - he couldn't believe he was at another luncheon at TSC, that an entire year had come and gone.

He has the same feeling at the lacrosse championships and the banquet every time. Has another year really zoomed by?

Each year is special and different in its own way, each with its own highs and lows. Each one has its own banquet storylines. Each one makes TB wonder what the next year's storylines will be.

In the meantime, he'll have more on the banquet as the week goes along. And probably more on the lacrosse tomorrow.

He just couldn't do it today.

That was a long ride home.

Friday, May 26, 2017

What's The Capital Of Nebraska?

TigerBlog isn't sure when they taught state capitals.

He just knows that whoever taught him, it stuck. What is it about state capitals that make them so easy to remember?

Nebraska? Lincoln. It is Lincoln, right? It is.

Actually, it's possible it didn't stick as much as TigerBlog thought. He just took a quick quiz and he got two wrong. But not Nebraska. He was right about that one.

When he was in middle school or whenever he first started to learn this stuff, he struggled with North and South Dakota. He remembered Pierre and Bismark, just not which went with which. Bismark, by the way, is the North Dakota one.

So which two did he mess up?

Tennessee. He thought it was Knoxville, not Nashville.

And Kentucky. He thought it was Lexington, but it's Frankfurt. So that's 48 out of 50, or a 96 on the test.

As for Lexington, well, it's part of this week's edition of Friday notes.

* It's not the capital, but it's still important

While Lexington might be 26 miles away from the state capital in Frankfurt, it's the capital of Princeton track and field this weekend. There are 22 Princeton track and field athletes competing at the NCAA regional, beginning yesterday and continuing through tomorrow. The goal is to advance to the NCAA championships in two weeks in Eugene, Ore.

If you're looking for all kinds of information on the event this weekend, you can find it HERE.

There will be 14 men and eight women who compete.

Princeton has already had athletes who have qualified for Oregon.

Julia Ratcliffe, who figures to make a serious run at a second NCAA title (she also has been a runner-up), won the hammer throw at the regional. In the men's hammer, Adam Kelly earned a second-straight spot in the NCAA championships.

Allison Harris advanced in the pole vault for her first outdoor to the NCAA championships. She finished 10th this past winter at the indoor championships. 

* Double play

Princeton's men's tennis duo of Alex Day and Luke Gamble played yesterday at the NCAA doubles championships at the University of Georgia. That's in Athens, which is not the state capital. Atlanta is.

Day and Gamble became the first Princeton doubles team to reach the NCAA men's tennis tournament since 2001. The two had three wins over top 10 doubles teams prior to the NCAA event.

* Rowing championships

The IRA national championships are next weekend. So why mention them now? Because they're in Sacramento, which as everyone knows is the capital of California.

The NCAA women's championships will be this weekend, much closer, on Mercer Lake at Mercer County Park, which isn't quite in the state capital but is close. Trenton, by the way, is home of the only state capital building that is visible from another state.

Way more information about the women's championships than TigerBlog could ever give you can be found HERE.

The first varsity eight is undefeated this season, including an Ivy League championship. The Tigers are the fourth seed for the NCAA event.

The event begins today and runs through Sunday. If you're in the area, it's definitely worth attending, especially if you've never been to a major rowing regatta.

* Winning pitcher

TigerBlog got a text from Scott Jurgens, the former marketing director at Princeton, asking if he was looking for something to write about. Jurgens is now at Rice, which is in Houston, which, like a lot of other places in Texas, is not the capital. Austin is.

Jurgens is a big fan of the Toronto Blue Jays. Actually, TB has no idea why that is. He'll have to ask Jurgens one of these days. He doesn't have to ask how Barnaby, Scott's dog, is doing, because Scott keeps the world updated on Twitter.

Anyway, Scott texted TB the other day to say that Toronto's Danny Barnes, a Princeton alum, got his first Major League win Tuesday night, when he came on in relief and retired all five Milwaukee Brewers he faced.

Another Princeton alum, Mike Ford, is in Triple A now at Scranton-Wilkes Barre, one step below the Yankees. After hitting two home runs in 113 at-bats at Double-A Trenton, he hit four in his first 36 at-bats at Triple-A.

* Honoring Abby

Abby Finkelston was named the winner of the 2017 YRL Unsung Hero Award presented by the One Love Foundation.

The award is given annually to a male and a female Division I lacrosse player who demonstrate dedication, integrity, humility, hard work, community service, leadership, kindness and sportsmanship - all qualities Yeardley Love exemplified throughout her life.

Finkelston, a junior, missed the entire season due to injuries - but clearly she continues to make an impact on Princeton women's lacrosse. From the story: After sustaining severe injuries in a car accident in high school, Abby rebounded to become a starting attacker both her freshman and sophomore years. This year she had another setback with hip injuries that took her off the playing field. Through all of this, Abby has been a positive leader for her team. She even used her injury to help others in similar circumstances by founding the Wounded Tigers Network, a resource and support for injured student-athletes at Princeton. In addition to being an exemplary student-athlete, Abby has also been a longtime member of Best Buddies and is actively involved in its Princeton chapter.

In keeping with the theme of the day, Finkelston is from Leonardtown, Md., which is 70 miles away from Annapolis, the state capital.

* Updated predictions

The NCAA lacrosse championships are not being held in Boston, the state capital of Massachusetts. They are in Foxboro, which is about 30 miles away.

Unlike previous years, the men's and women's championships will be in the same building.

As a result, it'll be rather busy, with eight games in four days. It begins tonight with the women's Division I semifinals, continues tomorrow with the Division I men's semifinals, Sunday with the Division I women's final, the Division II men's final and the Division III men's final and concludes Monday with the Division I men's final.

For TigerBlog, this will be his 22nd Final Four in 25 years and his 13th straight as the official scorer. Speaking of 25 years, TigerBlog is looking forward to halftime Monday, when the 1992 Princeton men's team will be honored on the 25th anniversary of its NCAA title.

As for TB's thoughts on who will win, he said in mid-season that he thought Maryland would win both the men's and the women's championships. He'll stay with Maryland on the women's side.

As for the men, every time TB sees Ohio State play he's more impressed. He picked the Buckeyes to get to the final, and he'll stay with that, even though Towson, Ohio State's semifinal opponent, is definitely for real.

Towson, by the way, is the Final Four for the first time since 2001, when those Tigers lost to the Princeton Tigers 12-11 in the semifinal. It was Sean Hartofilis with the game-winner, if TB is remembering correctly.

The other side has Maryland, the team that TigerBlog thought in mid-season and pre-tournament would be playing Ohio State on Memorial Day, against Denver.

TigerBlog will go with two thoughts here: 1) Trevor Baptiste and 2) Bill Tierney. Maybe it's the fact that he spent 22 years with Tierney at Princeton, but TigerBlog will go with Denver. Especially if Baptiste wins face-offs the way he has been.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

How Is Zach Currier Not First-Team All-America?

The first time TigerBlog wrote this, he buried the lead.

He's going to take a second shot at it. This time, he's made a slight change and started with the lead, which is simply this: How in the world is Zach Currier not a first-team All-America?

There. That's better.

The USILA men's lacrosse All-America teams were announced yesterday, and Currier was a second-team selection. This comes after Currier put up a season that, in TigerBlog's opinion, is unmatchable by a midfielder.

In case you forgot, Currier had 24 goals, 34 assists and 58 points. There were four first-team All-America middies, and none of them - and no other Division I midfielder, for that matter - had more points than Currier.

For a little context by the way, Tom Schreiber, with whom Currier played in 2014 when Schreiber was a senior, is one of the two best passing middies TigerBlog has ever seen (Duke's Myles Jones, now in the MLL, is the other). Even Schreiber never had more than 32 assists in a season at Princeton, or two fewer than Currier had this year.

And Currier isn't even known as a scoring midfielder.

Add to his scoring totals these other stats. He led Princeton in caused turnovers (as a shortstick offensive midfielder; has anyone else ever done that?) and won 56.4 percent of his 202 face-offs. Has anyone who ever had a 58-point season done that?

Lastly, he picked up 130 ground balls. That's a ton. The four first-team All-America middies combined have 36 ground balls. That's not each. That's total between them.

As TB also said, Currier is a player whose numbers don't define him who nevertheless has numbers that are stunning. What really makes Currier special, though, is his ability to impact every aspect of a game, from start to finish, making himself a total pain in the butt for the opponent, without ever leaving the field. 

TigerBlog wrote a few weeks ago that he thought that Currier was the best player in Division I lacrosse this year, and he stands by that. This was before the five Tewaaraton Trophy finalists were announced, when Currier was one of the 25 nominees. TigerBlog didn't expect Currier to be among the five, understanding that not reaching the NCAA tournament was going to hurt his chances.

Still, when it came to All-America, there are two players who should have been complete no-brainers: Currier, and Denver face-off specialist Trevor Baptiste. Everyone else was subject to debate. Not those two.

There will always be snubs for All-America teams. You know, players who had exceptional seasons but didn't get the recognition.

When TB first looked at the list yesterday, he was hoping to see a few names that weren't there and probably should have been. Greg Wozniak, a former high school teammate of TigerBlog Jr. and an All-Patriot League defenseman from Boston University. It would have been nice to see his name.

Then there was Ryan O'Donoghue, a defenseman from Sacred Heart who was the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year. TigerBlog hasn't seen too many poles who can take the ball away while still staying in position quite like O'Donoghue, who was second in Division I in caused turnovers. It would have been nice to see him too, but he wasn't there.

What happened with Currier is different. So different that TigerBlog has no idea how it possibly happened.

Then again, he also doesn't understand the whole Gavin McBride thing.

Princeton had two All-Americas.

Michael Sowers was a third-team selection on attack. The freshman set a Princeton record with 82 points this season, and he ranks second in Division I in points per game, behind only Connor Fields of Albany, a first-team selection.

Would TigerBlog like to have seen Sowers higher? Yes. Does he understand why Sowers was only third-team. Yes.

Then there's McBride, who is second in Division I in goals scored behind Fields (55-54) and first in Division I in goals per game. McBride's 54 goals also set the Princeton record for goals in a season.

His reward was nothing. Not first-team. Or second. Or third. Or honorable mention. In all, there were 32 attackmen honored, and McBride wasn't one of them.

In many ways, that's harder to believe than the fact that Currier wasn't first team.

Honestly, TigerBlog would love to hear the behind-the-scenes of how this happened, so he could understand it. 

The whole situation led TigerBlog to ask himself a question: Is it his place to be critical of the selections, or merely to report them?

He works in college athletic communications. Is it okay for him to critique things? 

When he first started doing this, it would never have dawned on him that his role would be to do anything other than simply put out facts. When he used to do media notes way back before there was a webpage, he wouldn't even use any kind of modifiers to describe accomplishments. There would be no "Smith has only thrown two interceptions in 150 passes."

Nope. Just facts. Let the media decide what to do with them.

Looking back on that, it seems like a fairly quaint notion. And a time long gone.

TigerBlog asks his Office of Athletic Communications colleagues all the time what they would do if they were starting from scratch. What is it that people are looking for when they want to see something about Princeton Athletics?

It's a balancing act.

In 2017, a large segment of the people who are looking for information are looking for what can be described as "commentary." It doesn't have to be ugly commentary. It doesn't have to be edgy. But it doesn't have to be plain facts either.

On the other hand, the OAC is an arm of the Department of Athletics and the University and as such has a responsibility for professionalism and proper conduct, especially in content that is so public.

TB thinks the OAC has done a good job of getting away from just who, what, when and where without getting unprofessionally into why. He wouldn't tolerate stories or social media posts that are, for examples, critical of the officials or the other team's coaches or anything like.

There's a line out there that can't be crossed. It used to be the line was right on the barrier between facts and opinions, but hey, TigerBlog has nearly a decade of sharing his opinions with you every day right here.

So again, his question is this: Can he be critical of the All-America selections, or does he need to simply report them?

Anyway, there were 16 first-team All-Americas and 15 of them played in the NCAA tournament. That's a big deal. Princeton nearly doubled its win total, going from five wins to nine wins, and the Tigers had a 50 percent increase in scoring, going from 10 goals a game to just a shade under 15.

But the Tigers did not play in the NCAA tournament. That is true.

Is that why Currier wasn't first-team? If so, then it's ridiculous.

Is it TigerBlog's place to be critical? He's not sure.

Maybe he should just leave you with what he tweeted yesterday:
"Been around Princeton lax for 28 years, six NCAA/17 Ivy titles and 31 1st-team AA. Never saw anyone have a better year than Currier in '17."

Yeah. He'll just leave it with that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 - The Greatest Class Of Top Women Athletes Ever

There is the kind of rain that falls softly and gently as you lie in bed listening to it or sit on a covered porch watching it.

Then there's the kind of rain that just pelts you when you're standing outside, leaving you soaked and miserable.

The first is beautiful. The second is annoying.

TigerBlog had to deal with the second kind during the Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament a few weeks ago in New Haven, when the rain fell pretty much all day, in pretty substantial amounts. Fortunately, TigerBlog had his trusty "Education Through Athletics" umbrella.

Unfortunately, the rain stopped when the game ended - and TB left it in the press box at Reese Stadium. He'd had it for, what, five or six years, and just like that it was gone.

It was a great umbrella too. It was big and sturdy, and in all that time the wind never got the better of it. And just like that, it was a gone - a Princeton umbrella in a Connecticut press box, a Tiger lost among the Bulldogs.

Speaking of bulldogs, TigerBlog saw a story that Yale's newest Handsome Dan is a different kind of Bulldog than his 17 predecessors. From the New Haven Register story:

The dog, also known as Walter, is not a member of the traditional bulldog breed at all. He’s an Olde English Bulldogge, a recently developed version of the lovable, friendly dog that has won the hearts of Elis since Yale introduced the first college mascot in 1889, according to Chris Getman, who was the handler for four Handsome Dans over 33 years.

Anyway, to the rescue came Kim Meszaros, who was able to dig up another umbrella for TigerBlog. This one doesn't say "Education Through Athletics" but instead has the big striped P. Either way, it's the same umbrella, only brand new.

So thanks, Kimmie. TigerBlog is grateful.

TigerBlog thought he would need the new umbrella yesterday, when he found himself at Springdale Golf Club. It was the seventh hole. Or maybe the 12th. He's not sure actually. He does know it never rained, which is good.

Was he playing? No, TigerBlog hasn't played golf in about 15 years or so. No, he was part of the  crew for a series of videos that featured Spencer Weisz of the men's basketball team.

TB will have more on that another time.

For now, TB would rather focus on the announcements of the top senior male and female athletes at Princeton. Weisz was one of six finalists for the Roper Trophy, along with his teammate Steven Cook, lacrosse player Zach Currier, fencer Alex House, football player Dorian Williams and hockey goalie Colton Phinney.

There are 10 finalists for the von Kienbusch Award, given to the outstanding senior female athlete. Ten? Is that a lot?

Yes, it is. Then again, it's fine with TigerBlog, since the Class of 2017 is the greatest class of top female athletes that Princeton has ever seen. And Princeton has seen some great ones.

The 10 finalists are, alphabetically: field hockey player Cat Caro, lacrosse goalie Ellie DeGarmo, fencer Kat Holmes, lacrosse player Olivia Hompe, water polo player Ashleigh Johnson, hockey player Kelsey Koelzer, soccer player Tyler Lussi, volleyball player Cara Mattaliano, fencer Anna Van Brummen and hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe.

So what do these 10 bring to the table?

There are two Olympians, including a gold-medal winner. There are two individual national NCAA champions. There are eight first-team All-Americas and one second-team All-America. There are seven Ivy Players of the Year, including five who did it more than once.

They are NCAA leaders, school-record holders, league champs, NCAA championship participants. The list of their accomplishments is extraordinary.

TigerBlog and his Office of Athletic Communications colleagues knew this group would be getting to the finish line at the same time when it was clear that Johnson, Holmes and Ratcliffe would all be returning to Princeton this academic year after taking off to train for the Olympics.

These 10 are among the best players Princeton has ever seen in their sport. For TigerBlog's money, probably half are the absolute best who ever have played their sport here.

It's been an extraordinary four (actually four-plus, with the three who took a year off for the Olympics) years with this group.

TigerBlog has said this many times before, but it's not just the quality of the female athletes. It's the way that the average male Princeton fan has embraced them.

TB hears it all the time. Each time, he thinks back to when he first started, when nearly every male fan referred to female athletes as "girls" without ever remotely considering referring to male athletes as "boys." It's not a Title IX thing. It's not an equity thing. It's not a sexist thing.

It's a respect thing.

It's an understanding of just how great these athletes are. The 10 women who are finalists for the award are amazing athletes.

When you're amazing, people notice. And that's what has happened here.

And there you have it. The 10 finalists for the von Kienbusch Award for 2017 - the greatest class of top female athletes Princeton has ever known.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Riding For Derek

 As TigerBlog pulled into the parking lot at Penn Park Saturday morning at 6:15, he knew one of his two thoughts would have to be true:

Either he was about to be part of something pretty special, or he was about to be the victim of the best practical joke ever played on him.

As it turned out, it was the first. He would have been really pissed off had it been the second - though he would have had a certain level of grudging respect for Steve DiGregorio had he actually gone the practical joke route.

Instead, DiGregorio - "Digger," to everyone - will have to settle for TB's usual respect for the way that he, his family and his closest friends continue to attack a disease called ataxia telangiectasia that came into the DiGregorio family what seems like forever ago, when it went after Steve and Nadia DiGregorio's middle child, Derek. If the disease - A-T, it's known as - thought it was going to have an easy time of it, well, it picked the wrong group to mess with.

A-T is a rare disease, with around 700 cases in the entire country. It's a neurological disease that attacks the entire body and eventually causes the immune system to fail. It has a 100% mortality rate.

So what did the DiGregorio's do?

They set out to find a cure. And to do that, they needed to raise money. And that's what they've done. They've counterattacked A-T, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through various means, all to go after a disease that nobody has ever heard of before Digger talks to them about it.

The latest effort was to enter a team in the "Million Dollar Bike Ride," an event that started at Penn Park and brought together about 300 riders or so, all competing on different teams that represented various "orphan" diseases. They were all there for the same reason - to support the DiGregorio's and all the other families who have been forced to deal with these hideous situations.

Digger, at one time a Princeton assistant football coach, is the kind of person who can get others to not think twice about helping in any way possible. In this case, it would be riding a bicycle. Or would it?

Maybe Digger was being devious. Maybe he was just trying to get TigerBlog to show up at Penn Park at 6:15 on his Saturday just to be funny. Maybe there would be no ride.

TigerBlog's alarm was set for 5:00, but he woke up shortly before that. It's something that seems to happen all the time when he has to get up super early. Set the alarm. Wake up just before it would have gone off. On the other hand, if he didn't set it, he'd sleep hours past when he was supposed to get up.

Riders could go either 73, 34 or 13 miles. TigerBlog chose 73 - he would drive 30 miles to Philadelphia, ride 13 and then drive the 30 miles back.

Actually, it was while he was driving down 95 that he considered - briefly - what a great prank this might be. When he turned into the parking lot, though, he saw bicycles and riders everywhere.

It was an interesting moment. TB didn't realize the scope of the event, but here were all these people, on their Saturday early, early morning, all ready to ride to help someone.

Digger and his son Zack, a Penn senior-to-be, pulled in shortly after TB did. He told them his thought that all this might have been a joke, and they laughed. That's what they do. They laugh. They have fun. And they fight on.

The A-T group included, among others, Princeton head men's basketball coach Mitch Henderson and former player and assistant coach Howard Levy, who is very close to Digger and who has been as much a driving force behind this fight as anyone. It was Howard who pointed out that there was a "morbid competition" between the diseases.

It was cloudy and cool Saturday when the ride began. It went up the Drexel campus and then over to the art museum and Fairmount Park.

For the most part, this was friends out for a ride. TigerBlog rode with Digger and joked about the things they always joke about - until Digger left him behind. Mitch and Howard, talking Ivy League basketball, came up behind him for awhile, but eventually TigerBlog rode on alone as they sped ahead too. It's probably TigerBlog's bike, right? It has to be one of the slow ones.

At about the halfway point, there was a rest stop, where his team all stopped. TigerBlog figured he'd keep going, since he wasn't tired and since it would give him a head start on them on the way back.

As he turned back towards the art museum, he began to pedal with a woman who introduced herself as Staci, a doctor who works in genetics. Though she was on another team in the race, she knew all about A-T, knew what an awful diagnosis it is.

At one point, it began to drizzle. TigerBlog remarked that it felt good. Then it rained a little harder. Then it poured. Then it poured harder. It was soaking. And refreshing. But mostly soaking.

Eventually Digger, Howard, Mitch and the rest of the group caught up to TigerBlog. At the end, it was up the ramp and back across the river, eventually back to the parking lot. And then inside Penn's ice rink, the staging area for the event.

There were snacks and drinks. And a get-together for the riders. Staci made her way in, and TigerBlog introduced her to Digger and Howard. Digger told her some of Derek's story. This is her world. She listens to these stories all the time, TB supposed. Her instinct as a doctor is to cure. TigerBlog figures all doctors feel that way.

Then reality comes and slaps you in the face. These diseases, the "orphans," have no cure.

While this was going on, Derek himself was a few blocks away, in CHOP. That's Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a place where Derek and his family have spent far too much time. This time, he was there fighting off an infection, one that came along as he was finishing up high school and getting ready for things like the prom and graduation.

Instead, he was in the hospital again.

It was a stark contrast to the riders, out on what would be a rainy Saturday pedaling through Philadelphia, but it was also a sharp reminder as to why they were doing it.

For Derek. And the others like him. And their families, who deal with these diseases every day. And the Staci's of the world, who are all in on the race to help them, and not just on a bicycle.

The DiGregorio's are among the strongest people TB has ever met. When they said to be in Philadelphia around sunrise on a Saturday, TigerBlog was there. So where all the others.

It was a very special way to spend the morning. And it was no practical joke. No joke at all really.

There were a lot of laughs and it was a lot of fun.

The "orphans," though, hung over the entire day. And over at CHOP was a more vivid reminder, one that was more drenching than the rains that fell.

Derek, by the way, came home Sunday night. The fight continues.

So do the fighters.

Monday, May 22, 2017

High Drama In State College

TigerBlog is more a fan of comedies and musicals than he is of dramas.

In his perfect world, people find themselves in stressful situations - and either make a joke or launch into song. It's the right way to handle things. When the other gang is staring you down, what are you going to do? Fight - or stare right back and sing "when you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way?"

Either that, or get the Corleone family or the Soprano family involved, but that's only in extreme circumstances.

When it comes to shows, TB only wants to go see musicals. Why walk out of the theater pondering the dark realities of the world when you can sing instead?

Looking for drama this past weekend as 16 Division I lacrosse teams chased the eight spots available to them at Gillette Stadium? You had to follow the women then. The men didn't really give you much.

All of the drama that was missing in the NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals could be found on the women's side.

While the four men's games were all basically done by halftime, three of the women's games were epics.

In fact, through the first 13 games of the tournament, only one had been decided by one goal and the rest were all by three or more. The average margin of victory before the Final Four has been a little more than six goals. In the four quarterfinal games, it was more than seven, and it wasn't worse than that only because Syracuse (lost 10-6 to Towson) and Duke (lost 16-11 to Ohio State) scored some late goals to make their final scores a little closer.

The four men's winners this weekend were dominant from start to finish, especially Denver face-off specialist Trevor Baptiste (21 for 22, 13 ground balls, one goal, only one turnover, completely ripped the heart out of Notre Dame in a 16-4 win).

Before TB gets to the women, he just wants to say that neither Princeton nor Denver had ever won an NCAA tournament game (one single game) before Bill Tierney became the head coach at both. For Tierney, this coming weekend will be his 15th Final Four in the last 29 years.

That's insane.

As for the women, there was Maryland, the top seed and heavy favorite who had to make a shocking rally to defeat a Stony Brook team who came in with all the confidence in the world before falling short 13-12. There was Navy - Navy?  - yes, Navy, who stunned the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels 16-14. This is the same Navy team that had raised eyebrows by upsetting Penn in the first round, let alone North Carolina.

Boston College beat USC 20-14, a score that made TB wonder if Boston College had ever beaten USC by that score in football (it hasn't).

And that left the final game of the women's quarterfinals, yesterday afternoon, between fifth-seeded Princeton and fourth-seeded Penn State.

Princeton had gotten to the quarterfinals by beating Cornell last weekend, giving Princeton three wins in three tries against the Big Red. Penn State, Princeton's quarterfinal opponent, had beaten the Tigers 13-8 back in March.

Could Princeton defeat a team it had already lost to after beating another team a third time?

The answer would be no, but not for lack of effort.

Penn State would win the game 14-12 to advance to the Final Four, but Princeton did not go away quietly. This was a great game from start to finish, a game that featured athleticism, competitive fire, tension throughout, nine ties, seven lead changes, neither team ever able to lead by more than two and more than anything else great goalie play on both end of the field.

In the face of two teams who were relentless and desperate to score each time they could, Princeton's Ellie DeGarmo and Penn State's Cat Rainone combined for 29 saves, many of them that were jaw-dropping.

DeGarmo, the first-team All-America, was particularly incredible, as again was her defense. There were so many times that Penn State shooters appeared to have lanes to the goal, only to have those lanes close before a good shot could be attempted or to have DeGarmo come up huge again and again.

DeGarmo came up huge the last few weeks, with 15 saves against Cornell in the Ivy League tournament final two weeks ago to earn MVP honors, 15 more against the Big Red in the NCAA opener and then 16 yesterday against Penn State.

For the season, that added up to 235 saves this season and 544 for her career. Her career total is fourth-best in program history; the 235 this year are the program record for any season.

Unfortunately, those numbers will not be changing.

It's the harsh reality of this time of year for college lacrosse players. It ends, and it almost always ends sadly.

The difference between Princeton and Penn State yesterday was slight. The difference between the prize is extraordinary.

For Penn State, it's a return to Championship Weekend, with a chance to take on Maryland in Game 1 before BC-Navy in Game 2 Friday at Gillette Stadium.

That will be Friday, the first of four days that will see eight games played there, with the Division women's and men's semifinals and championship games and the Division II and Division III men's finals as well.

For Princeton, it's the end of a season that saw the team spend pretty much all year in the Top 10, with some really good regular season wins, a share of the Ivy League regular season title and then the Ivy tournament championship that left little doubt who the best team in the league was.

For Chris Sailer, the Tiger head coach, it was the latest in a series of great seasons with great teams at Princeton. Already a member of the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Sailer still has the same fire that drives Tierney. It's about the next year, not about what you've done to this point.

In the meantime, it had to be a tough ride home for Princeton. The Tigers came close and competed hard, leaving it all on the field, as they say.

Unfortunately, sometimes you do all that and the other team still wins.

Friday, May 19, 2017

More Friday Thoughts

The Princeton University Department of Athletics had a BBQ last night in the lobby of Jadwin Gym.

TigerBlog was tied up for a little while before the party started, and when he finally got to the lobby of Jadwin, he saw a bunch of pizza boxes and thought he might have missed out. Then he saw assistant wrestling coach Sean Gray, who pointed him in the right direction.

That direction, by the way, would be the ribs, the bacon wrapped shrimp and the mac and cheese. That worked.

Oh, there was also a hot dog truck outside. TigerBlog didn't venture there, but the cheesy fries looked pretty, well, cheese-covered. 

The party is an end-of-athletic-year event. Or a near-end-of-athletic-year event, anyway.

Last Friday, TigerBlog offered up a bunch of different thoughts, and he was pleased with how it came out. Since another week has sailed by, TigerBlog will again do what he did last week. Who knows, maybe this will become a Friday tradition.

*  Tournament locations

The Ivy League announced this week that the men's and women's basketball tournaments will return to the Palestra for Year 2. It also was announced that the men's lacrosse tournament will be played at Columbia.

If you recall the first Ivy basketball tournaments, you remember that the No. 1 seeds won both tournaments - Princeton's men and Penn's women. You also might recall that Princeton's men, as the top seed, had to play fourth-seeded Penn on Penn's home court. It wasn't just that - Penn had been the second-hottest team in the league by season's end to climb into the fourth spot in the first place.

As TB wrote at the time, it was the worst-case scenario for the league in Year 1, with a 14-0 team having to go play at the fourth seed, one that was on a roll by the end of the season. It ended up working out in the end, at least in terms of sending the best teams to the NCAA tournament, but it raised all kinds of questions of fairness, especially when Penn very nearly knocked off Princeton in the semifinals.

It's still a very divided crowd of Ivy basketball fans out there. TigerBlog has heard any and all opinions - the Palestra is the perfect spot, the Palestra is the worst spot, the top seeds should host, the men and women need to be together, the perfect spot is Madison Square Garden or the Barclay's Center, there shouldn't be a tournament at all.

One thing TigerBlog will say - he'll be surprised if Penn is again the fourth seed (on either side) with a matchup against the undefeated league champ, as was the case this year. It was almost laughably unfortunate for the Ivy League that it happened that way last year.

And TB will also say that Year 3 will be a big indicator as to what the league is thinking in terms of all those issues raised two paragraphs ago.

As for the men's lacrosse tournament, TigerBlog's first thought was like everyone else's: But Columbia doesn't have a men's lacrosse team. His second thought was unlike most people's: Who will do the stats?

His third thought was that it's a pretty good idea. TigerBlog is all for trying out different game times at basketball, for instance, to see what resonates. The same logic applies here.

On the down side, the regular season champ has hosted each of the first eight Ivy men's lacrosse tournaments, and they were spread out around five locations.

On the plus side, there are probably more Ivy League men's lacrosse alums in New York City - or a short drive - than there are the rest of the world combined. Maybe having the tournament there will draw them to Columbia; maybe it won't. TigerBlog is okay with taking a year to see.

Maybe there will be lessons learned that will then apply to basketball.

* What do you write on a card to the men's lacrosse coach after he has a baby?

TigerBlog wrote this to Matt Madalon (and his wife Ashleigh) after the birth of their daughter Waverly Rose last week: May she bring you even more joy than knowing you have three more years of Michael Sowers.

* Speaking of men's lacrosse

And, of course, TigerBlog is happy to speak of men's lacrosse. The quarterfinals are this weekend, and TB's four predicted Final Four teams all advanced out of the opening round.

For the record, the games this weekend are Ohio State-Duke and Notre Dame-Denver tomorrow and Syracuse-Towson and Maryland-Albany Sunday. Also for the record, TB's predicted Final Four was Ohio State, Denver, Syracuse and Maryland.

Of those, TB feels like the two most likely to make it through this weekend are Ohio State and Denver. The more TB watches  Ohio State, the more he likes this team.

It wouldn't shock TB to see Towson beat Syracuse, and of course Albany has a shot at Maryland. TB will stay with his four pre-tournament picks though.

* Speaking of women's lacrosse

The Princeton women are in the NCAA quarterfinals, playing at Penn State Sunday at 1. TigerBlog saw the first meeting between these teams back on March 21, when Penn State defeated the Tigers 13-8.

A week ago, Penn State led James Madison 8-1 in the first half, had JMU come back to tie the game at 9-9 and then won by five (19-14). In the regular season against Princeton, Penn State led Princeton 5-0, had the Tigers come back to take a 6-5 lead and then won, also by five.

What does it mean for tomorrow? Nothing at all.

Princeton is playing very well. The Tigers have great balance and depth, and they've played in a ton of big games, this year and in recent years. It should be a really good one - and you can see it on the Big Ten Network (Sunday at 1). 

* Aw, shoot

TigerBlog was talking to Princeton women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer at the department staff meeting yesterday about the impact that the shot clock has had on the pace of play. TB said he would look up how many shots per game Princeton averaged in the recent years to see if there had been a jump.

He had no idea what he'd learn. Here's what he found out:

Year, and Princeton's shots per game
2011 - 24.1
2012 - 24.3
2013 - 24.9
2014 - 24.9
2015 - 24.5
2016 - 22.8

That's remarkably consistent, actually. Five years between 24.1 and 24.9 and one with 22.8.

And this season, with the rules change? Princeton has averaged 32.1 shots per game.

* Speaking of softball

Don't forget. Tonight is the first game in the NCAA softball regional for Princeton, who will play at Florida State at 7 on ESPNU.

* And finally ...

The staff meeting yesterday also was where Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan announced the winner of the Lorin Maurer Award. The award is given to a staff member in memory of Lorin's great spirit; Lorin was the Friends' Group coordinator who passed away in a plane crash in 2009, shortly after turning 30.

The winner this year was Elysee Nicolas. Nobody here, by the way, has ever called him "Elysee" or "Nicolas," not in his 35 years or so working for the Department of Athletics.

Nope, he's just "Nicky." He's one of the members of the grounds crew, a hard-working and well-liked group that does so much to enhance the experience of the athletes. Together, the grounds crew builds great relationships with coaches and athletes, and they are among the most visible members of the department in the daily lives of the people who compete here.

TB knew Nicky was the winner, and so he focused on him as Mollie talked about Lorin and what the award means. At that moment, Nicky had exactly zero idea that he was about to be honored.

As he was announced and came forward, the rest of the department stood and cheered him. You could tell he was overwhelmed, and a bit taken aback that he was being recognized.

TigerBlog was very happy for Nicky. He's a warm, friendly, caring man, one who has done his job far away from the spotlight all these years.

He definitely earned this moment in the spotlight - and the applause that came with it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

One Of The Greatest Coaches In Princeton History

TigerBlog writes today about one of the all-time greatest coaches in Princeton history.

First, though, the weather. 

Ah, spring.

Three months? Forget that. It was a wonderful 36 hours, wasn't it?

Spring rolled into the greater Princeton metropolitan area Monday around 6. It was simply beautiful out, with clear skies, temps right at 70, no humidity, a nice gentle breeze. Before that, it had been freezing around here for weeks.

It lasted all the way until yesterday morning, when the blast furnace was turned up and summer arrived. It was in the 90s yesterday and will be again today, before dipping down to the high 80s tomorrow.

TigerBlog used to love having one spring day after another. Back when he was a kid, there was a window in his kitchen that opened by pushing out a thin metal rod that snapped into place when the window was completely open. When you closed the window, you pulled the rod back in and then turned it 90 degrees to the right to lock it.

One of TB's favorite memories of his house was pushing out that window on nice spring days and letting the fresh air inside. He can still see the window, to the right of the stove, and the blue skies beyond it, stretching out over the line of trees that started a 200 or so yards up the block and ended in his back yard.

It was exactly what spring is supposed to be - rejuvenating.

TigerBlog isn't sure if his brother has the same memory of the kitchen. Maybe. Does BrotherBlog also remember that he told TB when they were in college that when he opened his windows in his dorm for the first time post-winter it reminded him of the kitchen back home?

TB doubts it. But BrotherBlog will check in at some point. He's taken to binge-reading, TB thinks, so it may be a few days.

Anyway, those days used to be in March. Not anymore.

Actually, as TB thinks about it, the nicest weather for any Princeton men's lacrosse game this year was back on Feb. 25 against Hofstra. April? A series of cold, rainy Saturdays. May? Even colder.

Until earlier this week, anyway. TB thinks it's supposed to calm down a bit and get to the 70s, which might actually be spring-like. TB will believe it when he sees it.

As for the spring athletic season, here's what it comes down to for Princeton:

* women's golfer Maya Walton competes this weekend at the NCAA championships outside Chicago. Walton is the third Princeton women's golfer to advance to the championships, joining Mary Moan in 1997 and Kelly Shon in 2014.

* the women's lacrosse team plays at Penn State Sunday at 1 in the NCAA quarterfinals. Princeton lost to Penn State 13-8 back in March in a game that will have next-to-no bearing on the game Sunday. The game can be seen live on the Big Ten Network and on BTN2GO.

* the final list of track and field athletes who will be advancing to the NCAA regional at the University of Kentucky will be out today. It's hard to know exactly how many Princetonians will be on the list, but it figures to be close to 20. Definitely making the trip to the Blue Grass State will be Julia Ratcliffe, who is chasing a second NCAA championship in the hammer throw.

* the softball team left early yesterday (as in the bus came at 4:30 am) to head out to the NCAA regional at Florida State. It'll be the Tigers and Seminoles at 7 tomorrow night, and you can see it on ESPNU. The other teams in the regional are Georgia and Jacksonville State.

* the rowing teams will be competing in the national championships within the next few weeks, with an average trip of 1,505 miles to get there. The women's open will compete about 10 miles away at Mercer County Park next weekend in the NCAA championships. The women's lightweights and men's heavyweights and lightweights will be in Sacremento June 2-4 for the IRA championships.

That's what's left for the 2016-17 season.

TigerBlog would like to finish today by talking a little about the women's open rowers, and their remarkable coach, Lori Daupiny.

Princeton won the women's open title at the Ivy League championships a week ago. It brought to 11 the number of Ivy League championships for the academic year.

It also was the latest achievement for the program, which under Dauphiny has established an incredible record of consistency.

Consider some of the numbers:

* Princeton is one of three schools to have qualified for all 21 NCAA women's rowing championship events - and Dauphiny has been the coach for all 21

* Princeton has reached the grand final in 16 of the first 20 NCAA championships

* Princeton has placed in top five at eight NCAA finals and won two of them

* Dauphiny has led Princeton to eight Ivy titles, including four of the last five

You also have to add to that Dauphiny's record of sending her athletes to the Olympics - and having them come home with medals.

Dauphiny is about as unassuming as anyone you'll ever meet. She says hi and smiles and waves in a very quiet, almost shy, way. She is fully engaged in the athletic department and can be seen at any number of other team's games. The simplest way to describe her is that she is just a really nice person.

You can't build a program in a better way that Dauphiny has. It's year after year of championship boats, national team rowers, top students, great assets to the University.

It starts with Lori Dauphiny. A really nice person? Yes.

And also one of the greatest coaches Princeton has ever seen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Thanks Amy

TigerBlog was at a meeting yesterday morning in the big multipurpose room in Frist.

It was one of those meetings that extended way beyond just the athletic department, so TigerBlog saw a lot of people he doesn't usually see. One of them was Amy Campbell, a University assistant vice president.

If you've been reading lately - and of course you have - then you know that Amy Campbell was the one who gave TigerBlog the advice on how to diaper a baby boy. Or at least TB thought that it was Amy Campbell.

After all, this was almost 20 years ago. Maybe he had the wrong person?

On the other hand, if it hadn't been Amy Campbell, then who was it? And, even worse, would this mean that all of the stories that TigerBlog remembers either didn't really happen or happened in ways that varied from his memory?

If it that's how it actually went, then that would be crushing to TigerBlog. His whole daily blog is based on telling stories. What if they didn't really happen the way he thinks they did?

When he saw Amy yesterday, TB asked if she'd seen the blog. She hadn't emailed him after all, like she'd done many times in the past.

Oh, by the way, Amy - one of the absolute gems of Princeton University - was a senior associate athletic director when TB first started here, and then she went on to become the athletic director at Bryn Mawr College before returning to the administration here.

Or had she?

There was a lot riding on this conversation, TB decided. He asked Amy if she'd seen the blog, and she said no, she'd missed a few lately.

Then TB showed it to her. Then she smiled widely and laughed and said that she'd learned that from diapering her nephews.

And with that, the great cloud of doubt lifted off of TigerBlog. He had been right. His faith had been restored. Were he right about that, then certainly he's right about everything, no?

Another highlight from yesterday came when TB's colleague Warren Croxton came into his office to ask a question about last year's NCAA baseball regional. Warren is the baseball contact, but he had a family conflict a year ago and couldn't make the trip to Louisiana, which is how TB ended up there in the first place.

For some reason, Warren was wondering about the attendance for the Princeton game against UL-Lafayette in the first round. The game was delayed hours and hours by rain and didn't start until 9:41 Central time.

Attendance was listed as 3,569. Princeton led heading into the bottom of the seventh, and Warren, for some reason, asked how many people were left at that time. Had the building cleared out as the hour approached midnight? 

TigerBlog's response was to call up a video that's actually still on his desktop. It's from the seventh-inning stretch, and it was the crowd as it sang not "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" but instead "Centerfield," the John Fogarty song from the late 1980s. It's the tradition there.

TigerBlog hadn't looked at the video in months. As soon as he did, it took him back to when he'd been there. He'd never seen anything like it a college sporting event. This was right around midnight after all. And it came just before the Ragin' Cajuns made their big rally.

He also told Warren that before the game, basically all of those people in the video had come up to TigerBlog and anyone else wearing "Princeton" stuff and said essentially: "we're going to kick your team's butts, but before we do ... come eat with us. We have some pretty good stuff here."

Perhaps Warren's interest in the regional from last year was inspired by the fact that Andrew Borders, who shares an office with Warren, is leaving tomorrow morning for the NCAA softball regional in Tallahassee, Florida.

Princeton plays Florida State Friday at 7 in a game on ESPNU. Andrew was trying to figure out if Princeton softball had ever been on TV before, and TB couldn't remember if the Women's College World Series had been televised when Princeton was in it in 1995 and 1996.

The Tigers left early this morning for Florida.

TigerBlog looked up yesterday to see how big the stadium is at Florida State, and he learned that the record for a single game is 1,712. Florida State has played four games this year with more than 2,000 people in attendance, twice at Florida and twice at Oregon.

FSU is 51-6-1 on the year, with three of those losses to Oregon and one each to North Carolina, Texas A&M and Florida. The tie came against Michigan.

Oh, and the question about the Women's College World Series for softball? TigerBlog asked David Rosenfeld, who was an intern back then, if he remembered. He didn't.

But he did say that it was a pretty good time for him. To quote him:

"That was a fun year for me...Great football season...went to Hawai'i...sat 3 feet from Goodrich passing the ball to Lewullis...then went to the women's NIT in Texas...then the WCWS. And it was all because of me."


As in that was a fun year. Not as in it was all because of him.

On the other hand, maybe none of those things really happened. Maybe he's just remembering it that way.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Off To Tallahassee

John Mack, the former Princeton men's track and field legend, sent TigerBlog an interesting text the other day.

What? The word "legend" is a little strong? Okay, how about the "very well-liked" John Mack? And he was a 10-time Heptagonal champion and 2000 Roper Trophy winner, so if he isn't quite a legend, he still had a great career here.

Mack also recently celebrated the birth of his third child, a daughter to go along with two sons.

Anyway, John is often texting TigerBlog interesting questions about games, players, coaches of years gone by. This past week, perhaps delirious from lack of sleep and mega-diaper changing, his thoughts turned to TigerBlog, and so he texted this: Who is the best athlete/player on an opposing team that you've seen at Princeton.

TigerBlog has seen a lot of great opponents. He came up with long, long, longtime NBA player Vince Carter, who in two games against Princeton for North Carolina was 11 for 13 from the field - with all 11 dunks.

It was Carter, TB believes, who finished the alley-oop from halftcourt from Shammond Williams that led Bill Raftery on ESPN2 to yelp "I don't think that's what Mr. Jadwin had in mind when he built his gymnasium."

There are plenty of other names TB could add to that list. Maybe he'll revisit this in the summer.

In the meantime, he can tell you the first opposing player whom he completely hated. That would be Ric Beardsley, from Syracuse's lacrosse team.

TigerBlog was new to lacrosse back then. Beardsley was a freshman at Syracuse in 1992, the first year Princeton won an NCAA championship. In Beardsley's four years at SU, Princeton won two NCAA titles (1992, 1994) and Syracuse won two (1993, 1995). In the two years that the Tigers didn't win, it was Beardsley and Syracuse who eliminated them.

Beardsley was a four-time All-America, including firs-team selections in 1994 and 1995. TigerBlog remembers him as brash, confident, cocky - and great. Really, really great. He was the one who personified the Syracuse lacrosse attitude of the time, and TB really hated him for it.

It was a respectful hate, though. Mostly, TB was awed by Beardsley and his on-field presence. He seemed to take over the entire field, as if everything that happened in the game had to get his approval first. As he thinks back, he can't remember any defenseman he's seen on any other opposing team who did that.

TigerBlog has never met Beardsley, but he assumes that Beardsley would be okay with his description of him.

TigerBlog watched a lot of lacrosse this past weekend, which is one of the best of the year, with eight first-round NCAA tournament games, four on Saturday and four on Sunday.

The last game of the opening weekend, like it always does, was the one at Syracuse (due to graduation, the Carrier Dome isn't available until Sunday night). This time, it was the Orange and Yale, and Syracuse would pull out a tough one over the Bulldogs 11-10.

And who was a part of the ESPNU broadcast? None other than Ric Beardsley.

And he was really good. He did a great job of explaining things and questioning decisions with just enough of his personality that it wasn't forced or contrived.

Actually, he broadcasts a lot like he played - some bravado, with a lot of substance behind it.

The Yale-Syracuse game was the last of the weekend. It ended at around 9:50, which left 10 minutes for the NCAA softball selection show.

Princeton earned its spot in the NCAA tournament by winning the Ivy League championship series two games to none over Harvard two weekends ago. It's the second straight year that Princeton has won the Ivy League championship and 19th time overall.

The reward is a 10th appearance in the NCAA tournament. In case you didn't realize it, Princeton has also made two appearances in the Women's College World Series, in 1995 and 1996.

As for 2017, Princeton knew it was in the tournament as it went to its banquet Sunday. The end of the banquet coincided with the selection show.

TigerBlog learned quickly that Minnesota, who is 54-3 and ranked third in the country, would not be a host. Instead, the Gophers were sent to the regional at Alabama, the 16th seed. Minnesota enters the NCAA tournament having won 25 straight games, and the team is 38-3 away from home.

Minnesota's RPI is 12, so TB isn't sure how the team didn't end up playing at home. He'll be rooting for the Gophers though.

The other thing about the NCAA tournament is that every team from the Southeastern Conference will be participating. That's 13 for 13. Of the 16 seeded teams, eight are from the SEC.

That's even better than football, where only 12 of the 14 teams made it to bowl games. It took TB about 10 minutes to figure out that Vanderbilt is the school without softball, leaving him to wonder why that is.

As for Princeton, the Tigers drew a trip to Tallahassee, where it will take on the fourth seed in the tournament, the host Florida State, in the first game Friday at 7 on ESPNU. The other two teams in the region are Jacksonville State and Georgia, and it's a double-elimination tournament.

Florida State will be hosting a regional for the fourth straight year, and the Seminoles also hosted the Super Regional a year ago (and in 2014). This also is the fourth straight season that FSU has won the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Clearly this will be a tough challenge for the Tigers. Only nine schools have reached at least the regional every year since 2000, and Florida State is one of them.

But hey, this is the reward for the season Princeton has had. And a chance to take its shot at one of the elites of college softball. And, unlike basketball or lacrosse or soccer or most sports, there will be at least two games in Florida for the Tigers.

So go Tigers.

And Gophers.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Third Time's The Wildest

Where were you four weeks ago?

It doesn't seem that long ago, right?

Just those four short weeks ago, the Princeton women's team had yet to play Cornell. Now? They've played three times. That's a lot of familiarity in a short time.

Cornell's last six games were against Princeton, Harvard, Harvard, Princeton, Notre Dame and Princeton. On the other hand, Princeton's last five games have been against Cornell, Columbia, Penn, Cornell and Cornell.

The first Princeton-Cornell meeting was all the back on April 22, in the regular-season, when the Tigers needed a win to get a share of the Ivy League championship. Final, Princeton 12, Cornell 11, in two OT.

The second Princeton-Cornell meeting was way, way back on May 7 - eight days ago - in the championship game of the Ivy League tournament, Final, Princeton 12, Cornell 9.

With those two games in the book, Princeton probably thought it was done with the Big Red. Then the NCAA selections came out. Princeton, the fifth seed, would get a first-round bye and then host the winner of Cornell-Notre Dame, which was played Friday night on Sherrerd Field.

All week, any time anyone mentioned the game to TigerBlog, he heard the same thing: It's tough to beat a team three times in a season.

That, of course, assumed Cornell would beat Notre Dame, something that wouldn't be easy. Cornell fell behind 2-0, 4-2 and 5-3 in the first half - and then sprinted past the Irish with a flawless second half, the end result of 12-7 win.

And with that, it would be time for Princeton-Cornell III. This time, the stakes were pretty high - a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.

It proved to be about as wild a game as Sherrerd Field has ever seen.

The game started at 1 on a nice, sunny Mothers' Day spring afternoon. A huge crowd was on hand, with a huge Princeton student turnout.

Cornell would go up 2-0. Princeton would come back with five straight before a Cornell goal with 5:50 left before intermission made it 5-3 Tigers at the break. Princeton continued to lead throughout the second half, but Cornell never went away.

At some point, TigerBlog looked out the press box window to the left and notice that the sunshine was diminishing. There were dark clouds coming in. Was it even supposed to rain?

In the meantime, Cornell would finally tie the score at 9-9 with 4:27 to play. And then, it started to rain. And rain and rain and rain.

Like, lots and lots of rain. Sideways rain. Heavy rain. Build-an-ark rain. It was unreal.

So what did Princeton do? First, Elizabeth George scored, with 4:04 to play. Then George scored again, with 2:08 to play. Now it was 11-9 Princeton.

How hard was it raining? See for yourself:

Yes, it was insane.

Maybe the best part was the way the Princeton fans - especially the students - only upped their intensity during the deluge.

So what happened next?

Of course, a 30-minute delay for lightning, one second later, after Cornell won the draw on a violation.

The clock on the scoreboard stood frozen at 2:07, with Princeton up 11-9, and Cornell ball. The teams retreated to the locker rooms. The fans gathered under the stands.

And the weather? Well, in about two minutes it went from torrential back to beautiful. Bright sunshine. No rain. Low 60s. It all happened really, really quickly.

Princeton may have lost the momentum it had just before the delay, after the two big goals. What the Tigers did have were their five most important people on this day:

Defenders Nonie Anderson, Madeleine Rodriguez, Alex Argo and Amanda Leavell and goalie Ellie DeGarmo.

Time and again in this game, when Princeton needed a lock-down defensive stand, those five came through. Earlier in the second half, Cornell, down two at the time, had taken the shot clock down to one and then shot, had DeGarmo save it and then got it right back, with 90 seconds to go.

What did Princeton do? Wiped Cornell out for another 90 seconds.

Now, after the delay, it was Cornell ball, with plenty of time to score, get it back and score again to force the tie and overtime.

What did Princeton do? Defended. Really, really well.

The result was three shots in the final 2:07, and three more saves for DeGarmo. She'd finish with 15 for the game and now has 219 for the season, which also happens to be the Princeton record.

Cornell would never get the 10th goal, let alone the 11th. DeGarmo and her defense were the stars for this game.

The Big Red has seen enough of DeGarmo, who also made 15 saves in the Ivy League tournament final and 14 in the regular season game. That's 44 saves, to go with 29 goals-against, or a .603 save percentage against one of the best offenses in Division I.

Princeton is happy to be done with Cornell as well. Next up is a trip this coming Sunday to fourth-seeded Penn State, who defeated Princeton 13-8 during the regular season, for the quarterfinal round. The winner goes to the Final Four in Foxboro, Mass.

Before this year, Princeton had never played a team three times in a season. They were three big games, with a lot on the line each time, and Princeton came up big all three times.

The third time, of course, would be the wettest and wildest.

And the biggest.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Ivy Titles, And Some Other Thoughts

TigerBlog has a lot on his mind these days.

He can share some of it with you now.

* Double figures again

If you ask TigerBlog before each academic year what he'd like to see out of Princeton Athletics, it's to reach double figures in Ivy League championships. This is something that only two schools - Princeton and Harvard - have ever done, and Princeton had done it 23 times prior to the start of this academic season, to 10 for Harvard.

You can add one to each for 2016-17. That makes the all-time score Princeton 24, Harvard 11, everyone else 0. The all-time total number of Ivy League championships right now sits at Princeton 462, Harvard 412, nobody else more than 228.

Princeton's 10 Ivy League champions for the academic year are: football, women's volleyball, men's fencing, women's fencing, men's basketball, men's indoor track and field, women's golf, women's lacrosse, men's outdoor track and field and softball.

* More on double figures

As a follow-up to the first item, the 10 Ivy titles that Princeton has won this year includes both football and men's basketball. TigerBlog has often wondered what the average Princeton Athletics fan thinks. Would they rather have double figures in Ivy titles or five Ivy title if two of them were football and men's basketball.

TigerBlog loves the concept of broad-based athletic participation. It's one of the things that has kept him at Princeton all these years. He loves having 37 teams, all different kinds of athletes, all different kind of team sub-cultures.

At the same time, he recognizes - and has heard directly - that many people value championships in men's basketball and football over quantity.

Well, this is the academic year for everyone, then. This is the first time Princeton has ever won football and men's basketball and reached double figures in Ivy titles in the same year.

* The last three Ivy titles

There are 33 official Ivy League sports, and 30 of them have awarded championships for the 2016-17 academic year. The last three will be earned Sunday, as the men's heavyweight and lightweight rowing teams compete at the Eastern Sprints in Worcester and the women's open rows at the Ivy championships in Pennsauken.

* Weapons of Mass Construction

If you didn't see the Weapons of Mass Construction video on the website, you can see it HERE. A special mention goes to TigerBlog's colleague John Bullis, who filmed the video - and also participated in the project when not filming.

It's easy to stand there with a camera and point it at the people who are working hard. It's a little different to put down the camera at one point and pick up a sledgehammer.

* Olivia Hompe is a Tewaaraton finalist

Olivia Hompe is one of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given annually to the top player in college lacrosse. Hompe has had a ridiculous year,  setting the Princeton single-season record for points and goals and breaking the career records for points and goals.

Hompe is the fifth Princeton player to be a finalist. Can you name the other four? One of them won it, and she was a finalist twice. The others were finalists once. TB will give you the answer shortly.

* NCAA women's lacrosse at Princeton this weekend

In case you forgot, it will be Notre Dame against Cornell tonight at 7 on Sherrerd Field in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Princeton, who received a first-round bye as the No. 5 seed in the tournament, will take on the winner Sunday at 1.

Princeton is 18-3 all-time in NCAA tournament games in Princeton. This one will not be easy, no matter who wins tonight. Cornell has already lost twice to Princeton this year, and it's always difficult to beat a team three times in a season. 

Notre Dame lost to Princeton at Princeton earlier this season, which means that Notre Dame 1) is familiar with this trip, 2) knows what to expect from the Tigers should they play them again and 3) would be, like Cornell, happy to have another shot at a team to whom it has already lost.

* TB was right

TigerBlog was right. Neither Zach Currier nor Michael Sowers made the list of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy on the men's side. Both were on the list of 25 players that was trimmed to five yesterday.

TB is also right that Currier is the best player in college lacrosse right now. Finalist or not. 

This isn't a knock on the finalists. They're all great players. TigerBlog has liked Yale's Ben Reeves from Day 1. Reeves is like a lefthanded Kevin Lowe, the all-time scoring leader at Princeton, and that's saying a lot. TigerBlog has nothing bad to say about any of the other four - Connor Fields of Albany, Trevor Baptiste of Denver, Matt Rambo of Maryland, Pat Spencer of Loyola.

And he understands that Princeton didn't reach the NCAA tournament, which worked against Currier. It's why TB was so sure that neither Princeton player would be among the final five.

Still, TigerBlog is pretty sure that nobody will ever match the season that Currier just had.

And if you're going to give an award for someone who had the best season in college lacrosse in 2017, well, then TigerBlog will forever believe that the winner should have been Zach Currier, by whatever definition you want to use - best player, most valuable player, best season.

It's not even close.

* By the way

TigerBlog thought before he saw the NCAA draw that this was the year Maryland would end its long NCAA men's lacrosse championship drought. Then he saw two things - the draw and Ohio State. Now he's not as certain.

If he had to pick one team that is the surest thing to get to the Final Four, it would be Ohio State. He also thinks Denver will be there. He thinks Syracuse is vulnerable but will figure out a way to win two close games to get to Foxboro. And that leaves the Maryland-North Carolina-Albany group. TigerBlog could see any of those three getting through and going all the way for that matter.

Ask him to pick one of those three, and he'll still go with Maryland. The Terps are the most complete team, and the most experienced.

For the final, he'll go with Maryland-Ohio State. For the winner, he'll go with Ohio State. No. Maryland. No. Ohio State. Hmmm.

* Trivia answer

Olivia Hompe is actually Princeton's first Tewaaraton finalist since 2005, when Lindsey Biles made the list. Princeton's other finalists were: Julie Shaner in 2001 (the first year of the trophy), Rachael Becker in 2002 and 2003 (she was the winner in 2003) and Theresa Sherry in 2004.

* And finally ...

As you may have heard, this Sunday is Mothers' Day. TigerBlog would like to wish the best to moms of Tigers everywhere.

TigerBlog has seen mothers at sporting events from the littlest of little kids all the way through college. Some, of course, have been overbearing helicopter moms. Most are just nice and friendly and very supportive of their kids, their kids' teammates, their kids' coaches, everything.

They are a vital part of what goes on at Princeton. They do a lot of the behind-the-scenes things that you don't always see. They bring a lot of foundation to the programs.

And, much like their kids, they also make friendships that start here for four years and then last a lifetime.

So the best to all of you out there come Sunday. And thanks for all you do.

As for TigerBlog, this will be the 23rd Mothers' Day to go by since MotherBlog passed away. He'll be thinking about her, as he does every day, wondering what she would have been like at age 77, what kind of grandmother she'd have made, what direction her life would have taken had she lived.

As he typed that last paragraph, he smiled and felt sad, both at the same time.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Charging Maya

Congratulations go out to men's lacrosse coach Matt Madalon and his wife Ashleigh on the birth of their first child.

Waverly Rose Madalon was born Monday, and according to her dad, everyone is doing great. Isn't that what new fathers always say?

Here is TigerBlog's advice to new parents:

If you have a television in your bedroom, leave it on, with the sound turned off, all night long. That way, when the baby wakes up, you won't have to turn the lights on for feeding and changing and such, so the baby starts to get a sense of the difference between night and day. Also, you can watch the TV while you're feeding the baby. Win-win.

TigerBlog's other piece of advice is if you have a baby boy. Create a flap about 1/2 inch wide at the top of the diaper and then fold it back towards the baby's tummy. Trust him on this one. It'll come in handy one day.

Actually, it was Amy Campbell, who works in Nassau Hall, who gave TigerBlog that tip.

Ah, babies. They're so cute and so much fun and make you feel all warm and cuddly - especially when they're someone else's. Thinking back on his own experiences of baby-raising, TigerBlog is left with one thought - how in the world did he ever do all that?

TigerBlog's first effort at changing a diaper didn't go well. By the time he got to the end, he could change one faster than they can changes tires at the Indy 500. He was an expert.

The sound of a baby crying never bothered him, or at least never bothered him as much as the sound of a whiny toddler. On the other hand, there were plenty of other things about babies that did bother him - you know, like the fact that folding one load of baby clothes takes about three times longer than folding a normal load of laundry. And when you have a baby, you do a lot of laundry.

Anyway, good luck to the Madalons. And, as the nights get a little long, at least they can know what their future holds, such as text messages like this one from TigerBlog's own precious little baby - "hey. my car is almost out of gas. Can you come get it and fill it up and then leave me some money so my friends and I can go out to lunch?"

Yeah. Precious.

The first game to be played on the Princeton campus since the birth of Waverly Rose will be, of course, between Cornell and Notre Dame. Who else would it be?

That game is tomorrow night at 7 on Sherrerd Field in the opening round of the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament. The winner of that game will get Princeton Sunday at 1 in the Round of 16, and the winner will head to the quarterfinals.

If the seeds on the other bracket hold, that would be against Penn State. If they don't, then it would be Louisville or James Madison. It could also be at Princeton, if the Tigers win and Penn State loses, but that is getting way, way, way ahead of things.

The game Sunday will be a rematch for Princeton, as the Tigers have a win over Notre Dame from March, the 11th, to be exact, the day of the Ivy League basketball tournament semifinals. If you recall, it was really, really cold that day. Princeton is also 2-0 against Cornell, which isn't necessarily a comforting thought if you have to try to beat a team three times.

In other NCAA news, the women's golf team competed in the NCAA regional in Georgia the last three days.

There were four regionals of 18 teams each, with the top six teams advancing to the NCAA championships, to be held next weekend in Illinois. Princeton, the Ivy League champion, did well but would not finish in the top six.

In addition to the teams, though, there would also be three other individuals from non-qualifying teams who would advance from each regional. In the event of a tie, there would be a playoff.

Princeton freshman Maya Walton birdied three of the last four holes Tuesday in the second round to put herself into contention for one of those spots. Then, yesterday afternoon, she birdied the final three.

These weren't the same holes, either. In Tuesday's round, she started at the first hole and finished on 15-18. In yesterday's round, she started on 10, which meant she finished on 7-8-9.

With her two great charges, Walton finished at minus-two for the 54 holes. This left her in a four-way tie for sixth at the time with golfers from Northwestern, Alabama and Baylor, all of whom were comfortably in the team qualifying range and therefore none of whom could impact Walton's path to the championships.

Walton trailed two golfers whose teams would not be advancing - Jennifer Kupcho of Wake Forest was the overall winner at minus-nine, and Laura Fuenfstueck of the College of Charleston, who was in fifth at minus-3. There were golfers still on the course who could catch her, and so TigerBlog followed along on the live stats.

As he did, it dawned on him that Walton was in pretty good shape, since the most likely challenger, Tennessee's Blakesly Warren, would have pushed the Vols from behind North Carolina to ahead of North Carolina for the last team spot if she caught Walton, because Warren was four shots back of Walton and Tennessee was three shots back of UNC. In other words, Warren couldn't impact Walton.

This meant that the closest threat came from Natalie Nygren of North Florida, who was nine shots back of Walton with four holes left. It seemed unlikely that Nygren would make up that many shots in so few holes.

And she didn't.

And Walton's group ultimately ended up fifth.

And so Maya Walton is off to Illinois. She becomes the first Princeton women's golfer to qualify for the NCAA championships since Kelly Shon did in 2013. Shon, by the way, has earned just short of $400,000 on the LPGA tour so far.

So congratulations to Maya.

And mazel tov to the Madalons.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Spiked, Part II

TigerBlog was recently asked to comment on where he thought Michael Sowers ranks as a player among the ones he's seen play at Princeton.

It's an interesting question. Sowers just completed his freshman year with 82 points, with 41 goals and 41 assists. The list of his accomplishments is incredibly long, so this isn't nearly complete:

* first player in program history with a season of at least 40 goals and 40 assists
* second freshman in Division I history with at least 40 goals and 40 assists (Canisius' Randy Mearns was the other, in 1990; Mearns is now the Canisius coach)
* Ivy League freshman records for points and goals
* Princeton record for points in a season (by any player, not just freshmen)
* unanimous Ivy Rookie of the Year; first-team All-Ivy League

Princeton went from 10.0 goals per game last year to 14.7 per game this, with Sowers. Princeton's 220 goals are the third-best season total in program history.

So where does Sowers rank?

Well, there are things he does that no other player at Princeton has ever been able to do, like change direction as quickly as he can. His field vision is as good as anyone's.

Can you compare him to players like Kevin Lowe? Jesse Hubbard? Ryan Boyle? Just having him in that conversation after his freshman year is extraordinary.

The player TB can most compare him to is Tom Schreiber. They're probably the two most ambidextrous players TB has ever seen. They are both equally as dangerous as shooters and feeders. They have the most incredible ability to see a teammate who doesn't even realize he's open that TB has ever seen. Plus, every time they touch the ball, you can sense that the crowd is starting to wonder what they're going to do this time.

And here's the thing about Schreiber - right now, he might be the best lacrosse player in the world. And that's who TB would compare Sowers to at this point, so you can draw your own conclusions.

Sowers finished his freshman year with 82 points. If you multiply 82 times three years, then at this rate Sowers would have 246 career points at the end of his junior year (if he stays healthy; please join TigerBlog on knocking on any and all wood surfaces). The Princeton career record is 247, held by Lowe.

Sowers could very well be the best player TigerBlog has seen here. If he's not a first-team All-America, it will be because he's a freshman, not because he's not one of the three best attackmen in the country.

Having said all that, Sowers has not had the best 2017 season of any Princeton player. That would be Zach Currier.

And TigerBlog will go further - Currier has had the best season of any player in Division I. And, going even further, it's possible no Division I men's lacrosse player will ever equal what Currier did this year.

By the way, here is the feature story "Spiked" that TB wrote about Currier in mid-season. Spike is his nickname.

TigerBlog, of course, is biased towards Princeton guys. And he's had the benefit of seeing every game that Currier has played this year.

Maybe if he saw every game Connor Fields played at Albany, for instance, he'd feel like Fields, whose 106 points are 24 more than the next-best total (that would be the 82 that Sowers has, as well as Loyola's Pat Spencer and Duke's Justin Guterding), was the best player in the country this year. Until he saw Currier's numbers, anyway.

TigerBlog isn't sure what's more ridiculous - Currier's numbers, or the fact that his numbers don't really begin to tell the story of how he plays the game.

Let TB start with the numbers.

Currier leads all Division I midfielders in scoring with 24 goals and 34 assists for 58 points. Those are, by the way, Schreiber-like numbers for a middie. In fact, Schreiber's best season at Princeton - actually he did it twice - was 60 points.

Then there's the rest of it.

Currier led Princeton in caused turnovers with 21. Only one other player, Bear Goldstein with 17, had more than 14.

Currier won 114 of 202 face-offs, a .564 percentage.

And then, there are the ground balls - all 130 of them. To give you a sense of context on Currier's ability to pick up ground balls, he's had 10 games in his career with at least 10 or more. No other Princeton player since John Cunnigham in 2010 has had even one.

Currier is one of 11 players in Division I with at least 100 ground balls. The other 10 players are face-off specialists, who between them have 53 points, or five fewer than Currier by himself. None of them has more than 11 points.

TigerBlog has no way to look this up, but he suspects that the list of players who have ever had 130 ground balls and 58 points isn't a very long one. It might just be Currier.

For more context, the school record for ground balls at Princeton is 131, set in 1991 by Greg Waller, also a face-off man. Waller had six goals and three assists that year. 

TigerBlog is asked a lot to put Currier's numbers in a context for another sport. It's like leading the NBA in assists and blocked shots or Major League Baseball in stolen bases and home runs. These are not normal numbers.

Then again, he's not a normal player. Like TB said, his numbers don't tell the story.

To see how unique Currier is, you actually have to watch him play. He is fearless. He plays with ferocity. His fingerprints are on every piece of every game his plays. He is the most relentless lacrosse player TigerBlog has ever seen.

His ground balls are not usually the result of simply winning a face-off. His are from scrums. His are from piles. His are when opposing players are pushing, shoving, holding, slashing. He turned picking up a ground ball from something TB never really considered to one of the most beautiful elements of the game.

Beyond all of that, Currier elevated his game during the second half of his senior year in a way that was extraordinary. And he saved maybe his best for last with this insane line against Brown: two goals, four caused turnovers, 21 for 34 on face-offs and 16 ground balls.

Currier is no doubt headed for first-team All-America honors. The five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy will be announced tomorrow. TigerBlog doubts that Currier or Sowers, who are both among the final 25 nominees, will make the cut. He hopes that at least one of them will, but Princeton didn't make the NCAA tournament, which is usually a measuring stick.

Whether Currier is a finalist or not isn't the issue. Take it from someone who saw every game he played this year.

He is Division I's best men's lacrosse player in 2017.

You'll never be able to convince TigerBlog otherwise.