Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Best Of 2017, Part 1

This is it, the last two times TigerBlog will be coming to you in 2017.

As with the end of any calendar year, it's a good time to look back at the best of the previous 12 months. Which best, though?

Is it the best games? The best stories? The best moments?

Depending on what definition you want to use, the order can be wildly different. That's in most years. In 2017 for Princeton Athletics, all three are the same.

You can see that tomorrow, in Part 2 of the countdown. For today, TigerBlog offers up the best of 2017 in Princeton Athletics.

By the way, does it have to be a top 10? How about 17, since 1) Princeton has 37 teams and 2) it's 2017.

Also, this countdown will only take into account athletes who competed in Princeton Athletic events in 2017. This lets out, among other things, the long list of accomplishments of Princeton alums in pro sports and current Tigers in international competition the last 12 months. On the other hand, maybe those could have been entries by themselves?

Lastly, TigerBlog picked this list himself, so if you disagree with it (or agree with it for that matter), you'll know whose decisions they were. So here you go, the top 17 of 2017:

Honorable mention
The first seven will be given honorable mention status, so they are in no order. Either that, or they're all tied for 11th.

* there was the women's golf team, which won the Ivy League championship by a near-record 31 strokes. Maya Walton then became the second Princeton women's golfer to qualify for the NCAA championships.

* Ashleigh Johnson solidified her status as one of the greatest athletes in Ivy League history by winning the Cutino Award, the top award in college water polo.

* the women's basketball team qualified for the postseason for the eighth straight year

* Michael Sowers set the Princeton men's lacrosse record for points in a season with 82 (41G, 41), also becoming the first player in program history with at least 40 goals and 40 assists in a season. Sowers also set the Ivy League records for points and goals by a freshman. Gavin McBride broke the 21-year old school record for goals in a season with 54. Zach Currier became the first player in program history with at least 50 points and 100 ground balls in a season with his unbelievable senior year.

* the softball team won its second straight Ivy League championship and advanced again to the NCAA tournament.

* Gabi Forrest earned a stunning win at the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships, an accomplishment made even more special by the fact that her mother had flown from Australia to watch the race. Forrest went on to advance to the NCAA championships and earn All-America honors.

* Steph Neatby made a program-record 60 saves in an ECAC opening-round series game against Quinnipiac. Princeton would advance to the league semifinals for the first time in 11 years.

And now the top 10. TigerBlog will give you 6-10 today and then the top five tomorrow.

No. 10 - women's volleyball wins playoff at Yale to reach NCAA tournament
Talk about doing it the hard way. For the second time in three years, actually. The women's volleyball team lost three of four Ivy matches in midseason and missed a chance to clinch its NCAA spot on the last night of the regular season, but none of that mattered when Princeton came back to sweep Yale 3-0 in the Ivy League's one-game NCAA play-in match. Even that wasn't easy - Princeton trailed 17-7 in the first game. The Ivy title was the third straight for Princeton, including one two years earlier in which Princeton went from a 3-4 league to start to win its final seven matches.

No. 9 - field hockey
The field hockey team raced through the Ivy League with a perfect 7-0 record. Included in that run was some serious drama, including two Ryan McCarthy goals in the final three minutes of a 3-2 win over Yale, a 3-0 win over Harvard in a matchup of Ivy unbeatens and a 2-1 win over Penn to clinch the outright title after Princeton had trailed 1-0 at the half. Princeton reached the NCAA quarterfinals with a 3-2 win over Virginia on McCarthy's goal in the second OT.

No. 8 - men's cross country
It can often be difficult to figure out which team is going to win as the throng of runners comes across the finish line at a cross country race. The 2017 Ivy League Heptagonal championships were different. This time it was simple. Princeton came in second, third and fourth and then added two more in the top 10 to literally sprint away from the field and win the Ivy title. This came after Princeton won its own invitational and before another spectacular performance, as Princeton would win the NCAA regional meet for the second time (the other was in 2010). The Tigers ended the season with a 28th place finish at the NCAA championships.

No. 7 - The wrestling team finishes third at the EIWA meet and advances seven to the NCAA championships
Princeton finished third at the 1977 EIWA meet and then won it the next year. Between then and 2017, Princeton would not have a top three finish. That changed this past season, when Princeton added another chapter to the rebuilt program's success by taking third. In addition, Princeton sent a program-record seven wrestlers to the NCAA. Jordan Laster would win his 100th career match, and freshman Matthew Kolodzik earned All-America honors.

No. 6 - fencing
The men's and women's fencing teams both brought home Ivy League championships. Then, as a combined entity, the Tigers finished fourth at the NCAA championships, making it seven straight years of finishing in the top four nationally. On the individual side, Princeton had four national semifinalists, including a pair of finalists in the women's epee. Anna Van Brummen would become Princeton's first female NCAA epee champion, defeating her teammate Kat Holmes in the final.

Coming tomorrow, 1-5. Can you guess what they are?

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