Monday, March 12, 2018

Where To Start? Men's Hockey? Women's Basketball?

TigerBlog is feeling a bit indecisive right now.

He can't even decide whether to nominate Austin Sims or Michael Sowers for Ivy League men's lacrosse player of the week. How is he supposed to decide whether to start today with women's basketball or men's hockey after the weekends they had?

At least he knows not to start with men's lacrosse, even after the dramatic 15-14 win over Rutgers Saturday in which both Sims and Sowers were dominant. Or does that count as starting with men's lacrosse?

No. It doesn't.

Since he can't make up his mind, he'll just start with Abby Meyers. The freshman on the women's basketball team nearly outscored Penn in the first half of the Ivy League tournament championship game by herself yesterday at the Palestra.

The final score was 63-34 Princeton, and this was one that basically over after the Tigers led 19-3 after the first quarter. By halftime it was 35-16, by which time Meyers had 15 all by herself on her way to a game-high 18.

She plays with complete control, composure and confidence, not to mention extraordinary skill. As great a shooter as she is - and it was almost stunning yesterday when the ball didn't go in when she shot it - she might be a better ballhandler. 

The way she plays reminds TigerBlog of someone he's seen wear a Princeton uniform. He sort of thought it all along, but it was really solidified by one move she made yesterday against Penn.
She started to drive the baseline and, finding it cut off, turned back the way she came. Then, without ever picking up her dribble, she doubled back, finishing with a reverse layup.

Mix that with the three-point shooting with the someone unorthodox release and the way she carries herself on the court, and she is the women's team's version of? ... TigerBlog will let you think about that for a few seconds.

Hint - this is really, really high praise.

As for the women, they couldn't have been more impressive in the Ivy tournament. They are the definition of a team, one that plays together so well, with pieces that complement each other exactly as necessary, all with a head coach - Courtney Banghart - who sets very high standards and never backs away from them.

The challenge this weekend was a Yale team that had beaten Princeton once this year already and then a Penn team that was the defending champ.

It started out with a 17-point, 17-rebound game from Bella Alarie in a 78-57 win. Then it was the game yesterday, in which Alarie, the tournament MVP, pulled own 17 more rebounds, while adding eight points and six blocks.

Princeton went 3-0 this year against Penn, with a 15-point win on the road (the Palestra), a 20-point win at home (Jadwin) and then a 29-point win on a neutral court (the Palestra). That's three wins by a total of 64 points.

Princeton played 16 games against Ivy teams this year. All 16 were decided by double figures, included two losses. Even with those, though, there was no doubt who the best team in the league was in 2017-18.

The reward is a seventh trip to the NCAA tournament in nine years - the other two featured WNIT bids. The selections will be announced tonight at 7.

And then there is the men's hockey team. And don't worry. TB is still letting you think about the Abby Meyers comparison.

The women's basketball team was the favorite all weekend. The men's hockey team was an underdog all weekend, not that it mattered.

Not to Ron Fogarty anyway. Like Banghart, Fogarty has set very high standards for his program. Like Banghart, he is not backing away from them.

The goals for both are very high every year. And then it becomes a matter of working to achieve them.

In the case of the men's hockey team, there was a very steep hill to climb. And yet climb it the Tigers have.

In fact, you want to hear a great stat? Princeton's current seniors have won as many ECAC playoff games this year as they won games their entire freshman season.

Princeton is 4-0 in the ECAC playoffs, following up the sweep against Brown in the opening round with a ridiculously impressive sweep at Union this weekend. Princeton was 0-17-3 in its last 20 games against Union, dating back to 2009, and 0-6-0 against Union the last two seasons combined, including a two-and-out in the ECAC quarterfinals last year.

This time? Princeton swept Union, advancing to Friday's ECAC semifinals in Lake Placid, where the seventh-seeded Tigers will take on top-seeded Cornell. It's Princeton's first semifinal appearance since 2009; the Tigers won the ECAC title in 1998 and 2008.

Princeton did this the hard way, twice snapping a tie game late, first in the final 2:09 on a goal from Liam Grande (followed by an empty net goal) in a 5-3 win in which the Tigers trailed 3-2 after two.

Then, in Game 2, the winner came with just 9.5 seconds left, the heroics provided by David Hallisey, in a 3-2 win.

You know what that's the sign of? A really, really tough team. That wasn't easy, what Princeton did this weekend.

Right now Princeton is an up-and-coming team, one that's playing with nothing to lose and a lot of confidence. It's a team that can score goals with any team in the country.

The game Friday should be a fun one.

The women's basketball team could also be playing Friday. Whenever they play, it will also be a fun one.

So congratulations to both teams. They both had extraordinary accomplishments.

And Abby Meyers?

She's the female Brian Earl, the 1999 men's Ivy League Player of the Year.

Like TB said, that's really, really high praise. 

1 comment:

sacrebleu62 said...

Slightly bathetic. Brian Earl was a great shooter, and now a successful coach! But as a freshman? Abby Meyers has such a future!