Friday, October 27, 2017

Park, Watch - And Grab A Nosh

To show you how fast things can chance in the world of sports, Tiger Blog was having a conversation with someone earlier this week about Ivy League football and it included this sentence: "Would it shock you if Harvard beat Columbia?"

Think about that statement, and it tells you a lot about sports - and about 2017 Ivy League football.

Harvard has beaten Columbia every year since 2003, and that Columbia win is its only in the series since 1999.

Ah, but what does that have to do with this year? Princeton is on a roll, yes, but for the Tigers to win the Ivy League title for a second straight year, then Columbia will have to lose at least once - and that's if Princeton wins out.

Columbia, if you haven't been paying attention, is 6-0, 3-0 in the Ivy League. Princeton is 5-1, 2-1, with the lone loss to Columbia 28-24 in Week 3.

Columbia's next two games are Yale and Harvard. Princeton is home tomorrow night, kickoff at 7, against Cornell.

In fact, the football team isn't the only Princeton team having a big year who nevertheless needs a Columbia loss to have a shot at a league title. The women's soccer team finds itself in the same situation, only two weeks later in the league season than football.

Those are two of the big storylines from an incredibly busy weekend for Princeton Athletics, and Ivy athletics in general. In fact, if you get to Princeton's campus tomorrow before noon, you can park and then see field hockey at noon, women's soccer at  2:30, women's hockey at 3, men's soccer and women's volleyball at 5 and finish up at football at 7 without ever having to go back to your car.

Admission to all but football is free. You can get a nosh whenever you can fit it in. 

The first two Ivy League championships of the 2017-18 academic year will definitely be crowned today, at the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships in Van Cortlandt Park in New York City (women's race at 11, men's race at noon), and there could be as many as four teams who are celebrating championships by the end of the day tomorrow.

One of those is the Princeton field hockey team.

Princeton is the lone unbeaten in the Ivy League in field hockey after last weekend's dominating performance against Harvard in what at that point was a showdown of undefeateds. Princeton hosts Cornell tomorrow (that's the game at noon) on Bedford Field, and a victory would mean two things: 1) at least a share of the Ivy title and 2) the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Princeton would win the outright title with wins in its last two games, including next weekend at Penn, or a win and a Harvard loss in one of its last two.

As you recall, the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Final Four a year ago. Princeton, who has to have played the toughest non-league schedule in the country, might be primed for another good November run. Securing the league's automatic bid would be the first step.

Columbia's women's soccer team is in the same position as Princeton's field hockey team, meaning that a win tomorrow against Yale would clinch at least a share of the league championship and an automatic NCAA bid. The Lions are 5-0-0 in the league, ahead of 4-1-0 Princeton. The Tigers host Cornell tomorrow (that's the game at 2:30) and are at Penn next weekend, while Columbia has Harvard in soccer next week as well.

Princeton has had a great year in women's soccer, and it's hard to imagine the Tigers won't get an at-large NCAA tournament bid - probably even a home game - at this point. Still, the Ivy title is the first goal, and it's still out there, though some help is needed.

The women's game is the first of the doubleheader. The second game will see the men host Cornell, a team that is in the crowded hunt for the league championship.

The men's game will start at the same time as women's volleyball. The Tigers host Yale tonight at 7 and then Brown tomorrow at 5, and every match now is crucial.

The match tonight against Yale features the first-place Bulldogs (7-1) and second-place Tigers (6-2, tied with Harvard). Princeton handed Yale its lone league loss, up in New Haven.

The women's hockey team is 0-0-2 after a pair of 2-2 ties with Providence last weekend. This weekend, Princeton hosts Harvard tonight at 6 and Dartmouth tomorrow at 3. If you want to see a lot of hockey this weekend, then you can see the men's season opener against Holy Cross at Baker Rink Sunday at 4.

TigerBlog saw both games last weekend, and he did something he never imagined he'd do: He watched Princeton hockey in Baker Rink while wearing shorts.

It's hard to think that the women's hockey season that started a week ago will play on for just about five months, and that's if the team doesn't make it to the ECAC playoffs. This Princeton team has its goals set much higher than that, which would mean hopefully playing into March.

If you can't be in Princeton, by the way, or if you're at another event but want to watch women's hockey on the Ivy League Network, recently graduated All-America Kelsey Koelzer will be making her debut as a commentator.

And then there's the football game, which can be seen on NBC Sports. Princeton has scored at least 50 in each of its last three games, something that hasn't been done since the 1890 team did it four straight times.

Cornell is one of four teams who is 2-1 in the league right now, along with Princeton, Yale and Dartmouth.

The game on Powers Field tomorrow night will match the No. 1 offense in the league (Princeton's, at 485.8 yards per game) against the No. 1 defense (Cornell's, at 308.7 yards per game allowed). Games like that are always fun.

And it's huge. The winner stays in the Ivy hunt. The loser needs a lot of help.

It'll be the last game in a long day on Princeton's campus.

Take advantage of it. And let TB know if you see at least some of all six of those games.

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