Monday, April 30, 2018

Coming This Weekend To Sherrerd Field

TigerBlog was out on the bike yesterday, on John McPhee's 15-mile loop around Princeton.

There are some pretty steep parts of it, places that don't look like they would be brutal but are, especially when the wind is whipping in your face. Very little of the ride is actually on the Princeton campus, though the exact midway point is the Streicker Bridge, the one that goes over Washington Road.

Just before that, there is one lap around the concourse of the football stadium. As they reached that part of the ride, John asked how long it takes to take down the bubble.

Hey, the bubble was gone. TigerBlog hadn't even noticed it. And yet it was gone, stored somewhere until the end of next football season.

And with that, the first year of the bubble has come and gone. As TB has said before, the bubble is amazing on the inside, and there's the strange sensation of knowing you're standing on the middle of Powers Field without having any realization that you're in the middle of the football stadium.

The bubble accomplished everything it was meant to do, offering outdoor teams a home when the weather was awful, for practice or for conditioning. The athletes TB talked to about it universally loved having it there, and there were numerous occasions when teams were able to get things done that they otherwise would have had no chance of doing if they'd had to be outside.

It doesn't seem all that long ago that the two lacrosse teams were doing individual workouts in the bubble, waiting for practice to start. Now the regular season for both has come and gone.

Both teams are playing their best right now. Only one has a chance to keep it going. The men have been blisteringly hot in April, going 5-0 - all by at least five goals, including a 14-8 win over sixth-ranked Cornell Saturday - while trying to climb out of an 0-3 Ivy start. In the end, Princeton finished in a three-way tie for third with Penn and Brown but didn't have the tiebreaker on either of them.

As a result, Princeton is excruciatingly not part of the Ivy tournament this weekend at Columbia.

As for the women, they're playing their best right now and will have their season continue. And it will continue on the Tigers' home turf.

Princeton has won six out of seven, with the only loss by one goal to defending champ Maryland. Included in that run was a 21-8 win over Penn last Wednesday in what was a must-win for the Tigers to have a shot at an Ivy title.

Of those six wins, five came in the month of April, leaving Princeton lacrosse a combined 10-1 in the month. That's pretty good. 

The Penn win set up this past weekend, the final one in the regular season. Heading into it, Princeton was tied with Penn and Dartmouth for first place in the league, while Columbia and Cornell were alive for the fourth spot in the tournament.

On the women's side, the tournament was still going to be played at the home of the highest seeded team.

Princeton entered the game with scenarios by which it could win and not host the tournament and lose and still host the tournament. As it turned out, the one that played out saw Princeton and Penn win and Dartmouth lose. And Cornell lose to Harvard.

When it all unfolded, Princeton and Penn were the Ivy League co-champs, and Princeton's win last week over Penn put the tournament on Sherrerd Field.

Princeton will immediately turn around and play Columbia again, since Columbia finished ahead of Cornell. If it's anything like the first game, expect lots and lots of offense, since it was 22-16 Princeton Saturday.

The rematch will be the second of Friday's doubleheader, which starts with Penn, the two seed, and third-seeded Dartmouth at 4.

The winners meet Sunday for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The final will be at 11.

If you're looking for some individual news, freshman Kyla Sears had six goals in the game the other day, giving her 53 for the season. That's sixth all-time on Princeton's single-season list, one back of tying Olivia Hompe for fifth (and tying the men's record for a single-season, set in 2017 by Gavin McBride). It's also the most ever by a Princeton freshman, male or female. Michael Sowers holds the men's record at 41, by the way.

As for Chris Sailer, this was Ivy League championship No. 14. That's one more than Pete Carril won in basketball and equal to the number Bill Tierney won in men's lacrosse.

Sailer is hoping to come out of next weekend with her 25th NCAA tournament appearance. That's another insane number.

First, though, there's the Ivy League women's tournament, this weekend on Sherrerd Field. Once again, that's Penn-Dartmouth Friday at 4, followed by Princeton-Cornell at 7. The winners meet Sunday at 11.

The winner of that is assured a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Weekend In Lax

If the question is "what was the score," the answer usually is met with something along the lines of "oh."

Every now and then, though, you get more than "oh." You get "wow." That was the case Wednesday night after the women's lacrosse game.

Princeton 21, Penn 8? Wow. That'll get everyone's attention.

For starters, Penn was the lone unbeaten team in the Ivy League, while Princeton had one loss. That made it something of a championship game, or at least a "have a shot at a championship game" for Princeton.

For another, Princeton and Penn are huge rivals.

For another, there's the possibility of a rematch not that long from now.

Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth will all be in the Ivy League tournament next weekend. The questions remaining are: 1) who will join them, 2) where will it be and 3) how many teams will enter as the league champ?

The answer to one is Columbia (if it beats Princeton tomorrow or if Harvard beats Cornell) or Cornell (if it wins and Columbia loses). Yale can finish in a three-way tie with Cornell and Columbia at 3-4, but Yale has lost to both.

The answer to the third is that Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth (who plays Brown) are all 5-1. Should they all win or all lose, they'd be tri-champs. If two win, they'd be co-champs. If one wins, it would be the outright champ.

As for the last question, should there be co-champions, then the tournament would be hosted by Princeton (if it's tied with Penn), Dartmouth (if it's tied with Princeton) and Penn (if it's tied with Dartmouth). If there's a three-way tie at 6-1, then Princeton would host, since it has the edge in goal differential. If there's a three-way tie at 5-2, well, then TB isn't sure, because he's not sure what order the tiebreakers go.

If it's goal differential before how you did against the other teams going down the standings, then it would still be Princeton. If it's how you did against the other teams in the standings, then it would be Penn, because Columbia would be fourth, Princeton would have lost to Columbia, Penn and Dartmouth have already beaten the Lions and Penn beat Dartmouth.

Still, TB has a really hard time imagining it would get to three teams at 5-2.

Meanwhile, there's the small matter of what happens if Princeton and Penn play again. Well, let's see what happened a year ago. Penn beat Princeton 17-12 during the regular season. Then, a little more than two weeks later, Princeton beat Penn 17-8 in the Ivy semifinals.

So yeah, the game the other night doesn't guarantee anything in the future.

Anyway, it'll all be sorted out tomorrow. The same is true on the men's side, where Yale will be the top seed, Cornell will be the second seed and then four teams are left for the last two spots, including Princeton, who can only get in should Dartmouth defeat Brown.

Princeton hosts Cornell tomorrow at 1. The game will showcase two players who have done extraordinary things in their first two years of college lacrosse.

It's not fair to say the game is Michael Sowers against Jeff Teat. They won't be guarding each other. You can't even say that whoever has the most points had a better game, since there are a lot of factors involved.

What you can do is simply enjoy their talents.

Right now, Teat is averaging 6.12 points per game for his career, slightly ahead of Sowers at 5.96. Does that sound impressive? Do you want some context?

Well, for all of the great players in college lacrosse right now, that makes Teat No. 1 and Sowers No. 2 among current scorers. And that also makes Teat No. 5 all-time and Sowers No. 6 all-time in career points per game. That's in NCAA history - and no player since 1981 has averaged more for a career.

That's extraordinary.

Sowers and Teat are also 1-2 in points per game this year (Teat first) and 1-2 in assists per game this year (Sowers first). They're also on pace to finish 1-2 all-time in the Ivy League in points scored in a career.

Sowers will enter the game needing three points to tie the Princeton single-season record for points of 82. Of course, Sowers already has that record, which he set last year as a freshman.

Beyond the two super sophs, it's also Senior Day for the Princeton men. And there will be a halftime ceremony honoring Cookie Krongard, a longtime supporter of the program, a 1961 first-team All-America, a 1985 US Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee and 70-something year old who still jumps in as a goalie in the annual alumni game.

Actually, TB has watched Cookie play in those games. The players start out shooting gingerly, but then instinct takes over and they start firing away. It's quite a sight.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Next Stop

TigerBlog can speak for, presumably, a great number of listeners of WFAN sports radio in New York City when he says the following three things:

First, he can say that he can't stand Mike Francesa, who is nothing but a gigantic ego maniac who knows about 20 percent of what he thinks he knows.

Second, he used to listen to Francesa a lot.

Third, he never once has listened to the show that replaced him after Francesa retired.

There. That about sums up why Francesa is coming back to WFAN.

Even if you're not from the New York area, you're probably familiar with Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo. They were "Mike and Mad Dog," and they were the ones who started sports talk - radio and TV, and ultimately social media - down the path it has gone.

Francesa is all the things that TigerBlog said he is. He's also the best who ever did sports talk, or at least he and Russo are.

Without him, rating went down on WFAN. TigerBlog certainly doesn't listen anymore. He'd rather sing show tunes as he leaves work.

The big news earlier this week was that Francesa was coming back to save WFAN. Apparently, from what TB read, Francesa's ego has taken over, he made a big power grab, he didn't care about the three people who replaced him, blah, blah, blah.

The bottom line, though, is that if Francesa is back on in the afternoon, TigerBlog will probably listen again. So will, he presumes, much of the audience WFAN lost when Francesa left.

Someone that TigerBlog knows listened to "Mike and the Mad Dog" was Joe Scott, who himself would be really good at doing sports talk radio, now that TigerBlog thinks about it. Scott actually would be a natural at it.

Instead, Scott is a basketball coach. His career has been the kind that coaches often have, with a lot of stops along the way.

Scott played for Pete Carril at Princeton before graduating in 1987. He then went to law school before starting down the path of his coaching career. In fact, according to a story that TigerBlog just read, Scott has been in the coaching profession for 27 years.

Carril spent 29 years as the head coach at Princeton. In his 27 years as a coach, Scott has gone from:
Monmouth to Princeton to Air Force (head coach) to Princeton (head coach) to Denver (head coach) to Holy Cross and now to his latest stop, Georgia, where he was just hired as an assistant coach.

Scott's most recent position, at Holy Cross, was under former Princeton head coach Bill Carmody. Now he moves on to the Southeastern Conference with, TB presumes, the hopes of getting a head coaching job again.

Joe Scott is one of TigerBlog's favorite people. He's a driven, competitive guy, but he also has depth to him that very few people TB has met can match. He's a very deep thinker, and he's extremely loyal. And he's hilarious.

Coaching isn't the easiest profession. Scott has been lucky actually, since so many other coaches spend a year here, two years there, another year someplace else, and never get to be a head coach.

Carril could have left Princeton during his nearly 30 years here. He chose not to, and it's part of what his legend is. TigerBlog has often said that he's not willing to concede that John Wooden was a better college coach than Pete Carril, and he'd love to somehow know what Princeton basketball would have looked like had Wooden been its coach for those 29 years.

Instead, Carril stayed loyal to Princeton, where he coached players who benefited from the way Carril ran his program - tough, no BS, everything earned.

Would Carril have stayed for 29 years if he got here today?

It's been 22 years since Carril retired from Princeton. That alone is sort of whacky.

Since then, Princeton has had Bill Carmody, John Thompson, Joe Scott, Sydney Johnson and now Mitch Henderson as its head men's basketball coach. Each time they were hired, TB thought they'd be here as long as Carril. He still thinks there's a chance Henderson will be.

The first four, though, all left to become head coaches someplace else. It's just how it works, TB supposes.

If you're looking for someone who could be Carril-like, it might be Courtney Banghart. She's already been here 11 seasons, and she's built a program that has won six Ivy titles and played in seven NCAA tournaments and two WNITs. Carril, if you forgot, won 13 Ivy titles and played in 11 NCAAs and two NITs (winning it in 1975).

Banghart is starting to get in the neighborhood of those numbers.

At the same time, it's a lot to imagine a coach who stays at the same place for nearly 30 years. Who knows? In another 19 years, it wouldn't really shock TB if Banghart is still here. Then again, it also wouldn't shock him if she was a United States Senator.

In the meantime, Joe Scott is off to another stop along his road.

And TigerBlog can now add Georgia to the list of teams he'll be rooting hard for come next basketball season.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Big Games On Sherrerd Field

The Princeton men's lacrosse team is in an odd spot as it heads into the final weekend of the regular season.

The Tigers can win and not reach the Ivy League tournament. The Tigers can lose and still reach the Ivy League tournament.

As Princeton heads into its regular-season finale Saturday against Cornell on Sherrerd Field (1 face-off), its reality is that it cannot get into the Ivy tournament at all if Dartmouth does not defeat Brown. The Big Green, who have lost 22 straight Ivy games, did push Penn to overtime a week ago.

If Dartmouth beats Brown, then Princeton is in the Ivy tournament with a win over Cornell or a Harvard loss to Yale. Simple, right?

Well, no. There are all kinds of possibilities, including three-way and four-way ties at 3-3, and Princeton is on the short end of the tiebreakers for most of those situations.

Basically, it comes down to the fact that Princeton doesn't hold the tiebreaker with Penn or Brown, because of losses earlier in the season. Princeton would have the tiebreaker with Harvard in a head-to-head situation after last week's win, but then Princeton and Harvard could only end up in a three-way tie and Brown would get to 3-3 with a win over Dartmouth and Penn is already 3-3 and on and on and on. It gives TB a headache. The bottom line is that Dartmouth has to win.

Yale is locked in at No. 1. Cornell is locked in at No. 2. Dartmouth will not be in the tournament.

That leaves Princeton in a battle with Penn, Brown and Harvard for the last two spots.

The Ivy League men's coaches voted to add a few layers to the tiebreaking procedures from years past, with the goal to eliminate ever having to rely on a random draw. You can read the tiebreakers HERE.

Princeton would have benefited greatly from a slight change in the order of those tiebreakers, at least for this year. If the goal-differential tiebreaker had been inserted before, instead of after, the one about how teams did against the team at the top of the standings and then on down, then Princeton would be in great shape.

Oh well. Even if Dartmouth doesn't come up with a win, TigerBlog is still in favor of tiebreakers that don't include random draws. There should never be one of those.

Meanwhile, the women's side is a bit different.

Princeton hosts Penn tonight (7) on Sherrerd Field. The Tigers know they will be in the Ivy tournament next weekend regardless of what happens tonight, or what happens Saturday at Columbia.

What Princeton doesn't know is where the Ivy tournament will be. And whether or not they'll win a championship this year.

The Ivy women's tournament will either be at Princeton, Penn or Dartmouth. Right now, Penn is 5-0, followed by 5-1 Dartmouth and 4-1 Princeton. Should Princeton win out and Penn and Dartmouth win Saturday (Penn is at Yale, Dartmouth is at Brown), then there'd be a three-way tie for the championship.

Where would the tournament be in that case?

Well, it would be an unbreakable tie, since the teams would all be 1-1 against each other and then unbeaten against everyone else, and, like last year when it was Princeton with Penn and Cornell, it would come down to goal differential between those three.

Penn has already beaten Dartmouth 13-11. Dartmouth has already beaten Princeton 15-12. The math is somewhat obvious at that point. Princeton needs to win by at least five tonight to take the lead head-to-head on goal differential.

Right? Maybe it's not obvious. Anyway, TB is pretty sure that's the case. Dartmouth is plus-1 (beat Princeton by three,  lost to Penn by two). Princeton is currently minus-3. Penn is plus-2. Princeton, TB is pretty sure, would lose the tiebreaker to Dartmouth with a win over Penn that puts the Tigers even with the Big Green, because they lost the game to them earlier this season.

On the other hand, if Penn wins tonight, then it clinches at least a share of the title and would be the host team for the tournament. Princeton would then be locked into the third seed and would definitely play Dartmouth in the Ivy semifinals, no matter what happened Saturday.

By the way, if you're wondering when the last time there was a year in Ivy women's lacrosse where one of either Princeton, Penn or Dartmouth didn't win at least a share of the title, it was 1992. In fact, Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth have combined to win 15 Ivy titles in the last 10 years.

Princeton, also by the way, has won the most Ivy League championships of any women's lacrosse team with 13.

Anyway, there are two huge games this week on Sherrerd Field, tonight against Penn for the women and Saturday against Cornell for the men.

Will there be others beyond that on that field?

You'll have a better sense after tonight's game.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In The Nation's Service

TigerBlog will get to the video he saw on yesterday in a second.

First, there was huge news out of Princeton yesterday.

The academic calendar is changing, after a vote by the faculty. You can read the University's official story HERE.

The main change, of course, is that beginning in the 2020-21 academic year, first semester exams will no longer be after the holidays. They'll be in December instead, like they are essentially everywhere else. There's more to it than just that, but that's the most notable part of the change.

If you're a Princeton alum, then you spent four years going home for the holidays and then coming back to campus for reading period and then final exams. This was your ritual each of your four years, when all of your friends who went to other schools had already taken their exams.

This, of course, probably leaves you with some pretty strong feelings about the change of the calendar. Did you love it? Hate it? Do you love the fact that it was something very unique to Princeton? Did you want your winter break back?

Miss TigerBlog will, hopefully, be a junior in the 2020-21 academic year, which means she'll have two years the old way and two years the new way. Perhaps after graduation she'll write a guest TigerBlog about what she thought of each.

TigerBlog, of course, went to Penn, which has long had a traditional academic calendar. He only knew having first-semester exams before the holidays, and that was fine with him.

Since he's been at Princeton all this time, he's gotten used to the way the academic calendar has been. And one of the more unique components of it was the way it impacted athletic schedules.

Most college teams shut down their athletic programs for first semester exams in December. At Princeton, that break came in January.

As you know as a Princeton fan, this would mean that there would be no athletic events during basically a three-week stretch in January. It's always meant that the winter season was broken up into completely separate components - and that Princeton would be sidelined while the rest of the college athletic world would be at its busiest.

What will the effect be on the athletic calendar? TigerBlog isn't sure. He hasn't talked to enough people - coaches, administrators - to get a real feel for things.

He does know that he'll miss the winter breaks. They come at a very good time and have always provided a natural break for those who work here.

Of course, he also got to take his exams before Princeton, so what does he know? Actually, one thing he does know is that the post-holiday exam break went back decades and decades and that he's not sure exactly when it first started to be like that. Maybe it goes back centuries.

And now it'll be changing. That's huge stuff.

And now he can talk about the video.

TB's colleague John Bullis did a piece on two Princeton female athletes who are also in ROTC, sophomore Casey Bersh of the women's water polo team and junior Mikayla Blaska of the softball team. You can watch the video HERE.

By the way, TigerBlog puts links to stories and videos here all the time. He always has the links bold and italicized. Do people click on them?

Anyway, Bersh and Blaska talk in the video about their decisions to take a path that most college kids would never even consider. It's a calling for them, and they are embracing that piece of their experience. They also talk about the connection to their athletic experience at Princeton.

The University's official motto is "In the Nation's Service and the Service of All Humanity." In the Department of Athletics, the goal is to give those who compete here the opportunity to "Achieve, Serve, Lead." These two young women clearly buy into both aspects.

TigerBlog especially liked when they talked about what they were going to do in the future, after graduation, when they're in the Army. Blaska talks about active duty and the infantry. Bersh talks about military intelligence or the JAG Corps, which is military law and justice.

The best part is the way both smile as they say the words. They are very serious and very proud of what they want to do - but at the end they both sneak in a small smile, one that says they're really looking forward to it.

They're definitely special. That's for sure.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Championships For Women's Golf And Women's Tennis

TigerBlog starts today with men's lacrosse. Navy men's lacrosse.

Actually, it's not a men's lacrosse story. It' s a heartwarming story.

It's actually one of the nicest moments TigerBlog has ever seen in a sporting event.

Navy played at Syracuse Saturday. The Mids had the lead for most of the first three quarters, trailed by two in the fourth and then tied it with 9. 5 seconds to play. That set up the final drama and ultimately the heartwarming part.

The two face-off men in the game were brothers. Joe Varello took all 27 face-offs for Navy. Dan Varello took all 27 for Syracuse. Joe is the older one.

Joe would win 16 of them, including the last one. It set up this (and you need to watch it all the way until the end):
Is that great or what? If it doesn't touch you, then you need to rethink some things.

And that's all TigerBlog has to say about lacrosse today. He'll be back with more lax another day.

For today, he wants to talk about Ivy League championships won by Princeton this weekend.

Princeton won two Ivy titles, in women's golf and women's tennis. They are the seventh and eighth Ivy championships of the academic year for the Tigers.

As a reminder, Princeton has also won Ivy titles in 2017-18 in field hockey, women's soccer, women's volleyball, men's cross country, men's indoor track and field and women's basketball.

The women's tennis team won the Ivy title for the fourth time in five years with wins over Harvard Saturday and Dartmouth yesterday. The Tigers went into the weekend at 5-0 in the league, tied with Harvard, which meant that the match Saturday wasn't quite winner-take-all but might as well have been.

Princeton and Harvard could have finished in a tie for the championship had the winner of Saturday's match lost yesterday and the loser of that match won yesterday. Regardless, the winner Saturday was headed to the NCAA tournament.

With that on the line, Harvard started out the day winning the doubles point, which meant Princeton needed to win four of the six singles matches to get the team win. And that's what the Tigers did, with wins by two sophomores (Clare McKee, Gaby Pollner), a freshman (Nathalie Rodilosso) and a senior (Katrine Steffensen).

You can see a video of the celebration HERE.

Princeton then defeated Dartmouth yesterday 5-2 to wrap up a perfect run through the league. That is not easy to do in women's tennis. 

Princeton head coach Laura Granville is one of the best collegiate women's tennis players ever, with two NCAA singles championships when she played at Stanford. She was also a long-time touring pro.

This is her sixth year at Princeton. She is completely humble and understated, always with a smile and a sincere "how are you?", and she and assistant coach Elizabeth Begley just continue to churn out championship teams year after year. And run a program that represents all of the good things that Princeton Athletics special.

As for the women's golf team, Erika DeSanty has a lot of the same friendly qualities that Granville does. DeSanty is in her fourth season as the Princeton head coach. She led Princeton to its first Ivy title in 12 years when the 2017 Tigers sprinted away from the league, defeating second-place Harvard by 31 strokes. That was just one off the record for the largest margin of victory in Ivy women's golf history.

This year, it was Princeton in first and Harvard in second, though it was quite a bit closer than it was a year ago. Like, tied after 54-holes close.

Princeton and Harvard were tied for second heading into Sunday's third round, and they were tied for first after it. Both teams shot a six-over 294 Sunday, going from three back of Brown to six ahead of Brown in the process.

And did you see the round-by-round scores?

Harvard shot a 313 for the first round; Princeton shot a 314. That's a one-shot difference. Then, in Round 2, it was Princeton 303, Harvard 304.

So Princeton lost by a shot in the first round and then won by a shot in the second round. Then Princeton and Harvard tied in the third round.

TigerBlog finds that extraordinary.

It set up a playoff for the championship, with four golfers from each team on the same hole. Amazingly, two teams that were inseparable for 54 holes were then separated by six shots on the 55th, as Princeton's four shot two-under and the Harvard four shot four over.

Championship to Princeton.

Actually, for this weekend, it's two championships for Princeton.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Click HERE For More Info

TigerBlog attended the monthly head coaches' meeting yesterday.

He decided that he would leave his phone in his desk while he was there, and so he spent about two hours disconnected from the world outside of the room where the meeting was. It's actually a pretty fascinating experience.

TigerBlog was nearly 40 when he got his first cell phone. It was one of those giant analog phones. He was well past 40 when he got his first smart phone, and he was hesitant about that because he knew how addicting it would be.

The average kid these days goes from learning to walk to learning to talk to learning to text and use Snapchat. Back when TB was a kid, and even when he was a younger adult, communications were vastly slower.

TigerBlog can hardly remember what it was like to feel disconnected. The phone has become a method of speaking, writing what used to be considered letter-writing (when was the last time anyone actually wrote a letter?) and so much more. Like an encyclopedia. Like a newspaper. Like a camera. Like a wristwatch. It's all those things and more obviously, which is the point.

As TB has said before, there a million times where he's watching something on TV and sees someone who has been in another show or movie at some point. What does he do? He goes to IMDB to figure out who it is.

He's started watching the show "Nurse Jackie," which is pretty good. It stars Edie Falco, who of course was Carmela Soprano on "The Sopranos," which might just be the best show ever. On this show, she's a nurse in a hospital who is balancing some pretty interesting dynamics in her life. There's another character from the hospital who looked really familiar. TB checked it and then gave the "oh yeah" when he figured out who it was - Father Intintola from "The Sopranos."

What did he do before? Nothing. Just was annoyed that he couldn't figure it out.

Really, what did he do in high school or college when he was running late or was lost or was trying to get in touch with someone?  How about when he first started in the work force, or here at Princeton? It's fascinating to think back on how radically life changed with the advent of just the smart phone.

Or did it just get more convenient, and really things would have been the same anyway? Philosophy 101?

When you're used to having your phone around all the time, you tend to reach for it a lot when it isn't there. You feel phantom vibrating, as if you're getting endless text messages, even though you don't have it with you.

It's a very strange experience actually.

When he got back from the meeting, he had a bunch of texts and emails. He hadn't checked laxpower or Twitter or even played one of his two-minute scramble word games.

And yet he survived.

As for the coaches in the meeting with him, a bunch of them have busy weekends, with some huge games to be played and some championships to be decided.

Where to start? How about with the three championships that will definitely be decided this weekend.

Women's Tennis
Princeton and Harvard enter the weekend at 5-0 each as they meet tomorrow in Princeton. Harvard will then to go Penn, while Princeton will host Dartmouth Sunday. Regardless of what happens Sunday, the winner Saturday will get at least a share of the Ivy League title and will definitely get the Ivy League's bid to the NCAA tournament. So this is a huge one. You can read more HERE.

The Ivy League golf championships get underway for both the men and women today and run through Sunday. Princeton's women are the defending league champs. The women's event will be at the Metedeconk National in Jackson (about a half hour from Princeton), and the men will be playing in Elverson, Pa., at Stonewall. TigerBlog had no idea where Elverson was, so what did he do? He looked on his phone (it's a map too) and went to the Waze app, which shows that it is 83 miles from Princeton, out the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Both Princeton teams have been here before, with three of the top four women and four of the top five men back from last year. More info is HERE.

Men's Volleyball
Princeton upset top-seeded George Mason in the EIVA semifinals and will now face Harvard tomorrow at 7 in the championship match. Princeton last won the EIVA title in 1998 and started out this season at 0-4 in the league. HERE is the recap.

The league championships are still a few weeks away, but every Saturday is busy for the rowing teams. The lightweight men and women are both home this weekend, while the men's heavyweights and women's open are away. There's a ton of information HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Women's Lacrosse
When last we left the Princeton and Cornell women's lacrosse teams, they were playing three wildly intense games in four weeks, including the Ivy League tournament final and the NCAA tournament second round. Princeton won all three. The teams meet again tomorrow (1) on Sherrerd Field in a huge matchup for the Ivy championship and tournament. Princeton (3-1) is in a three-way race for the title with Penn (4-0) and Dartmouth (4-1), while Cornell is one of three 2-3 teams (along with Yale and Columbia) looking to get into the postseason, which will be here very shortly. For more info, click HERE.

Track and Field
Princeton will be hosting the Larry Ellis Invitational today and tomorrow, which means nearly 50 teams will be competing in the men's and women's events. For a lot more info, and especially the schedule, click HERE.

There's more this weekend, of course. The men's lacrosse team is at Harvard. The baseball and softball teams play at Columbia. The men's tennis team is at Harvard and Dartmouth.

You can follow it all on your phone.

Just make sure to keep it with you at all times.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Court Report, Spring Version

TigerBlog noticed that this is entry No. 2,503 in the history of this little venture of his.

If you're a Princeton fan, specifically a Princeton basketball fan, you know that the number 2,503 is a special one - and not for how many times you've been here to read something.

No idea? Well, TigerBlog will get back to you on that one in a few paragraphs.

In the meantime, you know how when you reset your password on certain things you'll get a text message with a code in it? This happens all the time. It happened to TB yesterday.

You request a new code, and it gets texted to your phone. The one TB got yesterday was 8059.

When TB saw the code, it also made him think of Princeton basketball. Specifically, a men's game back in the 1998-99 season between Princeton and Maryland.

Why? The final score. It was 81-58. He couldn't remember an 80-59 game, and that was the closest one he thought of.

Do you remember that game? It was at the Baltimore Arena. Princeton shot 56 percent for the game and lost by 23, largely because of 29 turnovers against the fierce Terps pressure.

Did you figure out what 2,503 stands for by the way?

That was the career point total for Bill Bradley. It's worth the reminder every now and then of Bradley's accomplishments, which include that astonishing point total in just three years, with no three-point shot.

He remains, 50 years later, 878 points ahead of the next-best total in program history, the 1,625 scored by Ian Hummer.

Devin Cannady will go into his senior year with 1,224 career points. If he matches this past season's point total of 484, that would leave him in second, at 1,708, which would still be 795 away from Bradley.

While TigerBlog is talking basketball, he'd like to mention that he and Princeton head women's coach Courtney Banghart did their first off-season podcast yesterday.

This episode is the first in what will be a semi-regular series of them as the spring and summer roll along. They are a follow up to the regular podcast that TB an Banghart did each week through the season.

As TigerBlog says near the end of this episode, he's been asked a million times through the years if the jobs of the head coaches at Princeton are full time or not. The answer is yes, of course.

Banghart followed that up by telling a story of her own, one that involved Katie Couric and an awards banquet. It's a really good story.

Oh, by the way, HERE'S the link to the podcast.

The point about how coaching is a year-round profession can be seen throughout TB's talk with Courtney. It's always there with her, what she can be doing for her program at any given time.

Princeton is coming off a huge season, one that saw the Tigers win the Ivy League regular season championship, with the Ivy League tournament championship and return to the NCAA tournament, someplace Banghart has taken the Tigers seven times, with two WNIT berths mixed in.

The big news from Princeton women's basketball since the end of the season was that Leslie Robinson was chosen in the third round of the WNBA draft. It's a huge honor for Robinson, who had a monster senior year and who improved herself as a player as much as anyone TB has seen around here has, in any sport.

Perhaps you remember that it was Robinson who had the first triple-double in program history this past season, en route to first-team All-Ivy League honors. Now she'll have to a chance to try to compete in the WNBA.

It'll be interesting to see what the pro future is for other current players, especially Bella Alarie, the Ivy League Player of the Year this past year. Alarie, luckily for Princeton fans, has two more years left at Princeton.

Banghart also talked about the NCAA tournaments, especially the drama of the women's Final Four and the dominance on both ends of the Villanova men. She talked about the NBA playoffs; she is a huge Celtics fan, but more than that, just a huge basketball fan. There were other subjects too, including the way she tries to go to as many other events as she can. 

TigerBlog enjoys doing the podcasts, and Courtney is really good at them. TB wasn't really sure what to think when they first started doing them, but they've been really well-received. The off-season ones seem to be worth it as well, at least the first.

Coaching, after all, is a year-round thing, so why not podcasting too.

Oh, and blogging. That's 2,503 of them.

When you've done something as much as Bill Bradley scored points at Princeton, then you've done something a lot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The First Fish

TigerBlog has spent countless hours riding countless miles on his bike with author John McPhee.

It's given the two plenty of time to talk. The subjects of their conversations have run the gamut of pretty much every conceivable topic, though there have been some recurring themes.

You know. Like Princeton sports, both contemporary - usually from TigerBlog's perspective - and historic - usually Mr. McPhee put a personal spin on coaches, teams, players and games that are from before TB's time.

And writing. And books, especially the ones that Mr. McPhee has written. And places around the world that one or both of them have visited.

Oh, and fishing. There's been a lot of talk about fishing.

A lot of that talk has focused on McPhee's decades and decades of being a successful, knowledgeable fisherman literally all over the world and all of the writing he's done about it through the years. And a lot of that talk has focused on the fact that TigerBlog had never, ever caught a fish.

It's not that he hadn't been fishing. He even knew what it was like to hook something on his line.

One time he reeled in a wooden plank. Another time he actually saw the fish on the end of the line and was about to get him out of the water when he got loose. TB is pretty sure the fish rolled his eyes at him as he swam away.

One day, TigerBlog always vowed, he'd catch one. One day, Mr. McPhee said, he'd take him out on the water and see for himself.

That day was supposed to be more than a year ago, except a hurricane wiped out that plan. An actual hurricane.

It led to more miles on the bike where the subject was fish, and the hope that one day, the big one wouldn't get away. Or even the little one.

That day was last Thursday.

Mr. McPhee arranged for a guide, the extremely affable Captain Dieter, to take him and TB out on the Delaware, fishing for shad. If you're a McPhee fan - and Captain Dieter definitely is - perhaps you've read his book "The Founding Fish," about the history of the American shad.

TigerBlog read it. He learned a lot from it. The storytelling was, of course, fascinating. As with everything else TB read of McPhee's about fishing, it made him wonder what it would be like to be out there with him.

And then he got to find out.

It was really windy out on the river, but it wasn't cold, though it would have been freezing had it been about five or 10 degrees cooler. Captain Dieter found a spot he liked, and then it was time to drop lines into the water.

TigerBlog of course had no idea what he was doing. He was just hoping to find some wandering shad that happened to swim onto the end of his line.

Shad apparently don't eat in the river, so they aren't drawn to bait. Instead, they snap at the hook because it's annoying them as they swim. In other words, TigerBlog was going to nab his first fish by annoying it.

Mr. McPhee got one first. Then it was TB's turn. The line in the water snapped back and forth. "Fish On," Captain Dieter yelled.

And so TigerBlog gingerly started to reel him in. The fish put up quite a struggle, something that shad are known for doing. TB figured this one was going to get away too, but he kept reeling anyway.

Then he could see it, the shad, coming closer to the boat. This was it. A lifetime of wondering what it was like to actually catch a fish, and it was just seconds away.

Now it was up to TigerBlog not to lose this one. He kept figuring something would happen, that the fish was just toying with him.

Only this time, that wouldn't be the case. Eventually TB got him out of the water, and Captain Dieter scooped him up in the net.

Or her, actually. TigerBlog figured the fish was about 20 pounds or so. Okay, so it turned out to be about three pounds.

But it was TB's fish. His first fish. Captain Dieter took a picture of TB and Mr. McPhee with the fish - and then he tossed her back in the river.
At one point, there was a big lull, with nobody who was biting. Mr. McPhee explained that at that time, they were waiting for "the 6:14 from shadville to come by." And it did.

By the time they were done, TigerBlog had caught 14 shad, all of whom were released back into the Delaware. Mr. McPhee and Captain Dieter assured him he hadn't caught the same fish 14 times.

Mr. McPhee caught 11 of his own. He could have caught twice that many if he wanted, TB presumes.

It was a mesmerizing afternoon on the river. The boat stayed anchored just above the rapids, no matter how fierce the wind. Had TB just stat on the boat that entire time it would have been worth it, just for the scenic beauty all around him. It was really relaxing, even as the river churned furiously.

Throw in the fact that he also managed to do something he'd always wanted to do, and, well, it was an even better Thursday evening. And to do so with someone who knew how much TB wanted to do this, and who is so accomplished with a rod and reel, made it even better.

Eventually it was back to the dock and the parking lot where they'd started.

As TB started to get into his car, he heard Mr. McPhee call to him from behind.

"Hey," he said. "Have you ever caught a fish?"

TigerBlog just looked back and smiled.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Two Degrees For Every Goal

TigerBlog promises that this will be the last time he talks about the weather this month.

Okay, if there's more snow he'll bring it up, but hey, what are the chances of that?

With the way this month has gone, it can't be more than 50-50.

Look at the last two weeks or so. There's been any kind of weather you might want - snow, ice, torrential rain, sun, wind, heat. Heck, most of those have been in the last three days alone around here.

The temperature Saturday around 9 at night was 38 degrees. About four hours earlier, it was around 80, with sunshine. It was summertime, if only briefly.

The high Saturday, in fact, was 84. That would be two degrees for every goal scored by Princeton's men's and women's lacrosse teams in their doubleheader.

The men defeated Dartmouth 24-13. The women defeated Yale 18-4. That's a combined 42-17.

That's a pretty good day on a pretty nice day.

The men's team had three players reach pretty significant milestones. Actually, Michael Sowers reached more than one.

Sowers had a 10-point game (3G, 7A), making him the ninth player in program history to reach double figures in a game. To give you a sense of how extraordinary he is, Sowers now has five games of at least nine points, in 26 career games. The rest of Princeton men's lacrosse combined for its entire history has 17 such games.

Anyway, the milestone TigerBlog was originally referring to was the 48 assists that Sowers now has, a number that ties the school single-season record, set in 1997 by Jon Hess and equaled in 2003 by Ryan Boyle.

If you'd like a little perspective, then 1) Hess and Boyle both played 15 games those years, while Sowers has gotten there in 11 and 2) Hess and Boyle are two of the greatest feeders in college lacrosse history.

Sowers, named the Ivy League Player of the Week, now has 72 points for the season, which ties him for fourth-best in program history, with Jesse Hubbard in 1996. Ahead are only Hess (74 in 1997), Mike MacDonald (78 in 2015) and Sowers himself (82 last year as a freshman).

The other two players who had major milestones? Riley Thompson and Austin Sims, seniors who both reached 100 career points Saturday. It reminded TigerBlog of the two times that the women's basketball team has had two players reach 1,000 career points in the same game.

TigerBlog was rooting for Thompson and Sims to get there on the same goal. Instead, they had to settle for the same quarter - the third - when Sims fed Phillip Robertson for one his 13 goals in the two games last week and then Thompson fed Dawson McKenzie (his fellow Canadian and high school teammate at Culver Military Academy).

Princeton is at Harvard Saturday and then home against Cornell April 28. Both games are a must to even think about getting into the Ivy League tournament.

As for the women, the game against Yale was 8-1 at halftime. Kyla Sears continued her amazing freshman year with four more goals and an assist, running her season totals to 35 goals and 13 assists.

Princeton had great balance in the game, getting goals from eight different players. Even beyond that, there was great balance between classes, as each one produced a player who had at least three goals: Sears, sophomore Tess D'Orsi, junior Allie Rogers and senior Ellie McNulty.

Seriously, how often has that ever happened, anywhere, in any sport? One player from each class with at least three goals? TigerBlog wishes he had a way to look that up.

In the league race, every team except for Princeton and Penn has played five league games. The Tigers and Quakers will finish the regular season with three games in eight days, including a matchup between the two a week from tonight on Sherrerd Field.

Before that, Princeton hosts Cornell Saturday at 1. A year ago, Princeton went 3-0 against the Big Red, the last two in the final of the Ivy tournament and then in the NCAA tournament second round.

This year, Penn is unbeaten, and Princeton and Dartmouth have one loss each. Should Princeton win out, it would have no worse than a share of the league title.

Princeton has not clinched a spot in the Ivy tournament yet, but a win over Cornell would take care of that. At least TigerBlog thinks so.

Hey, it's also possible that Princeton could host the women's tournament.

For now, there are two huge home games coming up, Cornell Saturday and Penn in a week.

The weather for those games should be, well, TigerBlog has no idea. He refuses to look.

Whatever it is, he won't be shocked.

And that's it for the weather talk for this month.

Monday, April 16, 2018

TV Time

TigerBlog remembers Johnny Newman, the former basketball player.

Just not Johnny Neumann, the former basketball player.

Johnny Newman played for, among others, the New York Knicks, back when the Knicks were a watchable team. Before he was in the NBA, he played at Richmond, and TigerBlog remembers when he scored somewhere around 30 against Rider in the 1984 NCAA tournament first round. Richmond then beat Auburn and Charles Barkley in the next round.

That game against Rider, by the way, was part of an NCAA doubleheader at the Palestra. Princeton defeated San Diego 65-56 in the other game, backed by 38 points from Moon Mullin. It remains the most points a Princeton player other than Bill Bradley has scored in an NCAA game.

That was that Johnny Newman.

The other one, with the different spelling, was a Memphis high school legend who went to Ole Miss, where he led Division I in scoring as a sophomore in 1971. Then he left for the ABA, where he started out with a $2 million contract that was unheard of back then. He never really became a star, though he bounced around for awhile in the ABA and then into the NBA after the merger.

He was a very selfish, very immature player in college, and he didn't have many friends. It took him a long time - and five marriages - to mature a bit, to the point where he went back to Ole Miss and eventually graduated nearly 45 years later.

TigerBlog didn't know any of that until yesterday, when he saw a documentary about Neumann on ESPNU. It was a pretty good story.

It also taught TB something else he never knew.

During the course of the documentary, a still picture appeared on the screen of Neumann's coach when he was with Memphis of the ABA. It was a really familiar face to TB - Butch van Breda Kolff.

TigerBlog did not know that van Breda Kolff coached in the ABA.

He did know that van Breda Kolff was Bradley's coach at Princeton and that he led the Tigers to the 1965 NCAA Final Four. He also knew that he coached the Lakers and the Jazz in the NBA before coaching Lafayette and Hofstra.

He didn't realize that he'd also coached in the ABA. And there he was, somewhat running Neumann out of Memphis.

The documentary on Neumann came on immediately after the Princeton women's water polo team defeated Harvard on the same network.

Princeton has had a relationship with ESPN that goes back a long way. It has given Princeton a minimum of seven events each academic year on one of the networks, almost always on ESPNU.

Somewhere along the way, ESPN began to love doing water polo, and so each of the last five or more years, TB supposes, there has been a men's game in the fall and a women' game in the spring on ESPNU from DeNunzio Pool.

The difference between the game yesterday and the games in previous years was that Becca Dorst was the interim head coach for this one, as she has taken over for Luis Nicolao, who left Princeton to become the men's coach at Navy.

After Princeton's 13-9 win over Harvard yesterday, Dorst was interviewed on TV. She came across not as an interim coach but as someone who has been doing television for years. In fact, TB thought she'd probably make a great color commentator for water polo.

She didn't stumble over her answers. She didn't speak in cliches. She complimented Harvard's effort without coming across as disingenuous. She talked about what the season is building to and how she is challenging her team.

Her best comment was about how practice is hard and games are fun, the opportunity to compete and do so in front of family and friends. That was really good.

As for her team, Princeton's win over Harvard was followed by a 12-5 win over Bucknell later in the day that gave the Tigers the top seed in the upcoming CWPA tournament.

For the day yesterday, Chelsea Johnson and Haley Wan had five goals each. Linsdey Kelleher had four, all against Bucknell, whom Princeton would shut out for the second half.

Princeton, who recently ended Michigan's 20-game winning streak, came in ranked 11th in the country.  It's been a very good spring for the Tigers.

And all of that was showcased yesterday on the ESPNU game.

Princeton - its pool, its team and its interim head coach - couldn't have come across much better.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Instant Summer

The monthly Princeton Department of Athletics staff meeting was held yesterday at the boathouse.

As TigerBlog walked from Jadwin to the meeting, he walked down the back stairways behind the building. And what did he see?


Not a lot, but snow nonetheless, still in a few small piles.

When Princeton played men's lacrosse at Siena Tuesday, there was a huge snowbank on the far side of the parking lot. And it snowed during the game on top of that.

Yeah, it's been a strange April so far. Or a cold one. There have been two separate snowfalls, and it's been insanely cold, pretty much like it was February. Actually, it was worse than February, because your body knows it's supposed to be really cold in February. In April, the body isn't ready for it to be as cold, and so it just seems like it's way colder.

At least that's what TB's theory is. A 35-degree night in April feels a lot worse than a 35-degree night in February. 

Then, after all that, along came yesterday, when it was in the 60s. That would make yesterday spring, TigerBlog supposes. 

Actually, if you look at the 10-day forecast, it'll be mostly in the 50s and possibly around 60 next week, with one day where the high will be 46.

Ah, but today and tomorrow? Instant summer, if not endless summer.

The high today and tomorrow in Princeton will be 80. Where in the world did that come from?

Either way, it's just in time for another busy weekend at Princeton.

The forecast calls for rain Sunday, so some games have been shuffled around. The softball and baseball teams had their weekend games moved up a day, which means the softball team will play a single game at Yale today and then a doubleheader tomorrow.

The same schedule applies to the baseball team,  who will be home against Penn today at 3:30 and then for a doubleheader tomorrow, with Game 1 at 11:30.

The Ivy League baseball standings show that four teams have played six games and four teams that have played nine games. Princeton is one of the six-game teams, with a league record of 4-2 now.

Remember, this is the first year of the new format, where the top two teams in the standings will meet in the Ivy League championship series. Each team is now playing three games against each of the other seven teams, for a total of 21.

Right now, Yale is 7-2, followed by 4-2 Princeton and 3-2-1 Dartmouth. Princeton is about to enter the busiest stretch of the year, with the three against Penn this weekend followed by three more in the middle of the week at home against Harvard - those are makeups due to the great weather this spring - and then three more at Columbia next week.

That's nine league games in eight days. That requires a lot of arms.

Princeton has home events this weekend in baseball, men's tennis, women's open rowing, men's lightweight rowing, both lacrosses and women's water polo.

Of particular interest on that list is the matchup between third-ranked Princeton and top-ranked, and defending national champion, Cornell in men's lightweight rowing for the Platt Cup.

And, weather notwithstanding, it's a big weekend of women's water polo, including an ESPNU match against Harvard Sunday at 10:30.

HERE is the complete weekend schedule, by the way.

As for the lacrosse doubleheader, the men are home against Dartmouth at noon tomorrow and the women are home against Yale at 3. It's Military Appreciate Day for the men's team, with military members admitted free and with a halftime ceremony to honor Princeton's lacrosse alums in the military.

The games are both huge.

The men are currently 0-3 in the league, as is Dartmouth. Princeton does lead the all-time series with the Big Green 56-9, including 31-1 all-time in Princeton.

The last two years in this series have been relatively strange, as Dartmouth has outscored Princeton 8-3 in the two first halves, only to have Princeton outscore the Green 20-1 in the two second halves.

Princeton finishes the regular season with games against Harvard and Cornell. The Tigers desperately need to get back to 3-3 in the league to get into the Ivy tournament.

As for the women, Penn is the lone Ivy unbeaten at 3-0, followed by one-loss Dartmouth (13-11 to Penn) and one-loss Princeton (15-12 to Dartmouth). Then there are three other teams - Yale, Columbia and Cornell - with two losses.

The top four reach the Ivy tournament.

Princeton is thinking of league championship, as well as tournament bid. The game tomorrow directly impacts that.

Clearly there are huge events on campus this weekend, ones that will impact the directions that seasons will take. That makes them worth seeing.

So will the weather.

It's summer. For two days, anyway.

Maybe the last of the snow will disappear?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Finishing Second, And That's Just Fine

TigerBlog has kept his "Homeland" record perfect. He's seen every episode of every season of the show.

Way back when, Season 1 was as good as any season of any show he's ever seen. It was riveting, with its story, its writing and its acting. Now in Season 7, it's not nearly what it was. In fact, TB hardly knows anyone who still watches it besides him.

It's not that it's bad. It's still really good. It's just that it set the bar so high from where it started that it couldn't possibly maintain that level.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that there's one more season and then that will be it for the show. That's a really good run.

He just finished Season 1 of two other shows - "7 Seconds" and "Imposters." They're both really good.

The first one is about cops in Jersey City who get involved in a cover up. This one has great acting, and the show is very, very gritty. It has a great pace to it, and right up until the end you're not really sure what's going to happen.

The same is true of "Imposters," though minus any grittiness. This one is much lighter, a story of grifters who get a taste of their own medicine. It's worth your time as well.

"Homeland" is the only show that TB still watches at the specific time it's on each week - Sunday at 9. That's how all of television used to work, by the way. A show was on, say, Tuesday night at 9, and that's when you had to watch it.

Now, with everything on demand, TB isn't even sure why networks schedule shows at all.

Actually, there is something else TB watches at the same time each week - the NCAA Lacrosse Plays of the Week. It's released each Tuesday at 2.

The NCAA solicits highlights from schools across a bunch of different sports. Each Monday, TigerBlog will upload the best Princeton highlight of the weekend to the NCAA, and then each Tuesday he checks to see if it was chosen.

His record is decent.

This past week, he nominated Tyler Blaisdell, the goalie, after he made back-to-back-to-back saves from close range in the win over Stony Brook. Then he went back Tuesday to check.

Actually, he checked later than 2, because he was at Siena for the Tigers' midweek game.

By the way, there was still snow piled up in the parking lot there. And it flurried during the game.

But this weekend? Can it be true? Will it really be sunny and in the 70s Saturday, when Sherrerd Field hosts a big Ivy League doubleheader?

The men get it started at noon when they take on Dartmouth on Military Appreciation Day. There will be several Princeton alums who have been or still are in the military honored, and current military members with a military ID will get four free tickets.

The women will then play Yale at 3 in the second game of the doubleheader. Princeton lost a really tough 11-10 decision to defending NCAA champ and second-ranked Maryland Tuesday night.

He would look on the NCAA site while the game was going on, which meant that he was doing the color commentary on the radio, Tweeting updates and checking out the top highlights all at once.

TB is a highly accomplished multitasker.

The NCAA takes all the nominations and then makes it into one video with 10 plays, men's and women's combined. It isn't always five of each either.

As you watch the video and don't see your nominated play as the countdown unfolds, then it either means you're closer to the top - or left out altogether. TB was pretty sure that Blaisdell would be on there, and he was also pretty sure he wouldn't be No. 1.

Blaisdell, who is No. 2 on the men's lacrosse team, ended up in that spot on the countdown. It was well-deserved.

This past week, though, the No. 1 spot could only have gone to one person, and that was Noelle Lambert of UMass Lowell.

If you're not familiar with her story, Lambert lost her leg in a moped accident two years ago. Now she's back on the UMass Lowell team, and last week against Hartford - with her prosthetic left leg - scored her first goal since the accident.


You can see for yourself. This is extraordinary stuff.

You can tell there's a lot to this story. You can see how much her teammates love her. You can sense just how hard she had to work to get back to playing lacrosse. You can tell how much spirit she has, how special she must be to have endured all that and come back.

For this week, being second was more than good enough.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

What Drives Winning?

So Miss TigerBlog was invited to a reception for admitted Princeton students later this month.

It reminded TigerBlog of when he was a college senior and he was invited to a similar gathering. It was held at the house of an alum, about a half hour from where TB lived.

He was thinking back to that night as MTB was talking about RSVP'ing to her own. There were two parts of it that really stand out.

First, her invitation came by email. TB's came through the United States Postal Service. That's obvious.

Then there's the other thing. He still remembers, all these years later, driving up to the house and walking in.

He doesn't remember what he wore. He's not sure if he said something along the lines of how much he was looking forward to spending four years at Penn and then the next several decades vehemently rooting against Penn and for Princeton. He probably didn't.

Mostly, as he looked back, he had no memory of how he got there.

Now this seems simple enough, right? He was at his house. He had to get to someone else's house. He drove his 1977 Dodge Diplomat with the red top. That he knows.

How, though, did people back then figure out how to get from Point A to Point B? There was no GPS. There wasn't even, or

These days, the idea of having to go someplace unfamiliar is hardly intimidating. You simply enter the address into your phone, and off you go. Hey, on TB's phone, there are three different options for a GPS.

Back then? Nothing like that. There were maps. TB supposes that the hosts included printed directions in the invitation. If not, then he had to find it on an actual map, one made of paper that needed to be folded up.

It seems so prehistoric, right?

These days, people have become so reliant on the GPS that they blindly follow them, even when they're already sure about where they're going. Do you do this?

If you have the app "Waze," then you know it's designed to take you around traffic. But what do you do when you want to go one way but the app is taking you another. Do you simply give in and follow it? 

Of course, with the ease of GPS, there's an entire generation of young drivers who can't find their way home from the nearest store, but that's for another day.

You can set your GPS tonight for McCosh Hall, Room 10, for the Princeton Varsity Club's Jake McCandless Speaker Series. The featured speaker is Brett Ledbetter, who has written a book called "What Drives Winning."

The talk is entitled "A conversation about building culture, developing character and the link to high performance." It is free and open to the public.

One thing that TigerBlog is fascinated by is the quote he saw on the "What Drives Winning" website, where it speaks about learning "how to separate the person from the player." This directly contradicts one of Pete Carril's best quotes, which is that you can't separate the player from the person. TB is definitely interested in hearing more about that. 

The concept of high performance is a big one these days at Princeton. There has been a lot of time and resources put into the area, with the hope of developing for the University's athletes a foundation that addresses many of the physical and emotional challenges that are unique to them and proposes ways of maximizing performance.

That, though, is only half of the discussion. The other part of performance at Princeton is tied to promoting the common values of the department and the University.

These issues are right in Ledbetter's wheelhouse and form the framework for his talk.

It's an interesting topic, and one that raises some really good questions. How much can on-field performance be dictated by an analysis of various factors? How important is it to tie that to the values of your organization?

Princeton Athletics is invested in finding out the answers.

The talk tonight figures to ask the right questions.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Men On The Road, Women At Home

You probably saw over the weekend that much was made of UMBC and its ability to beat the No. 1 team in the country.

As you recall, UMBC became the first No. 16 seed in the men's NCAA basketball tournament to defeat a No. 1 with its stunning - by both its historic significance and its relative ease - win over Virginia in the openign round.

Well, the Retrievers did it again this past weekend, knocking off Albany in men's lacrosse. Albany had been unbeaten and ranked No. 1 and had taken on something of an air of invincibility before UMBC controlled the game from start to finish, winning 11-7.

And what would a big UMBC win be without something funny from the school's official athletic Twitter feed:

Yeah. The UMBC Twitter guy continues to change the way the game is played. UMBC, by the way, had 5,000 Twitter followers the day before it played UVa in basketball. Then it went up to 111,000. Now it's at 95,600, which means that a bunch of people unfollowed the Retrievers and yet the overwhelming majority did not.

UMBC men's lacrosse, by the way, is coached by Ryan Moran, who is the brother of Princeton men's lacrosse Academic Athletic Fellow Pat Moran. They are both the nephews of legendary former Cornell coach Richie Moran.

As TigerBlog said yesterday, both the men's and women's teams play today, and both are coming off of weekends in which something happened for each team that had never happened before.

TigerBlog will start with the men, who are at Siena today at 3.

Princeton snapped a three-game losing streak with a 16-8 win over Stony Brook Saturday afternoon. The Tigers took the lead on the first possession, pushed it out to 3-0 early and never let the Seawolves tie it.

The Tigers meet Siena for the first time ever with today's visit. After that there will be three straight Ivy League games to end the regular season, and the Tigers, at 0-3 in the league, will need all three to get back into the Ivy tournament conversation.

That run begins this Saturday at home, when the Tigers host Dartmouth. 

What was the thing that happened for the first time in program history?

Michael Sowers had four goals and five assists for the Tigers, giving him nine points on the day and making him the first player in program history to have at least nine points in a game four times. In fact, Sowers has played 24 career games and has nine points four times; every other player in program history combined in the 1,180 games that the Tigers have played has one it 17 times.

There have been two other players who did it three times each. Can you name them?

In the meantime, there is the women's team.

Princeton also has a game today, with a 6:00 start on ESPNU against No. 2 Maryland. The Terps, who are the defending NCAA champs, are 12-1 on the year, with only an early season loss to North Carolina. The Tigers are ranked 20th.

And what did the women do last weekend that had never been done before in program history? When the Tigers defeated Harvard 20-15 Saturday in Cambridge, it marked the first time in program history that the team won a game in which it allowed 15 or more goals.

The game tonight could be another high-scoring one. Maryland is fourth in Division I in scoring at 16.33 per game and has scored at least 13 in every game so far this season.

TigerBlog checked out the NCAA stats pages for the men's and women's teams, and it seems that the women's teams score way more goals than the men. Cornell leads Division I in goals per game on the men's side with 15.3, a figure that would rank 14th on the women's side.

Pick a number, any number, and compare. It doesn't even have to be a round number.

The 34th-ranked teams? St. John's men, at 10.64 per game, and the Villaova women, at 13.36.

Even if you want to go with round numbers, the No. 50 team on the men's side is Detroit Mercy at 9.09. On the women's, it's Lehigh, at 12.17.

What accounts for this?

Can it just be that the women's game has a shot clock? TigerBlog will revisit this later in the year.

For now, he has to go to Siena.

But first - the answer to the trivia question is Mike MacDonald and Jesse Hubbard.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Weekend Review

TigerBlog got a pizza the other night.

It was a large pie, with onions, roasted red peppers and mushrooms. Not bad, right?

He ordered it and got it right out of the oven. Then he drove a very short distance to eat it.

It was good. And then, when he got into his car again more than 24 hours later, it still smelled like the onions on the pizza.

What's up with that? Still, he'll go sight unseen that it smelled better than either of his kids' cars, so there is that.

Speaking of food, TigerBlog had laugh out loud at this tweet from former Princeton football player Ross Tucker:

He's right, you know. In a diner, you can never, ever go wrong with ordering breakfast, day or night. And the pancake/omelette combination never lets you down.

The best part about Twitter, of course, is the ability to have former Princeton athletes who have become media superstars and have nearly 200,000 followers tell you about their food choices.

And in-game highlights.

For instance, there was Princeton's win over Michigan in women's water polo yesterday. See for yourself:

That was Chelsea Johnson, the younger sister of Ashleigh Johnson, the Olympic gold medalist who played for the Tigers and graduated last year. 

This year, Princeton is under the direction of interim head coach Becca Dorst. Whoever was coaching the Tigers this year was going to be faced with the tough task of the first season without Ashleigh Johnson, but Dorst has handled it well.

In fact, the Tigers were ranked 15th heading into this weekend and now figure to move up a bit after first beating No. 12 Hartwick 14-12 and then No. 9 Michigan 8-7 on Johnson's goal in the second OT.

Michigan had won 20 straight prior to that.

The Tigers end the regular season this weekend with four games, two each Saturday and Sunday, including one Sunday at 10:30 against Harvard that can be seen on ESPNU.

The water polo wins were part of a busy weekend in Princeton Athletics that had several highlights.

Among the others were the two wins from the women's tennis team, which is now 3-0 in the league heading into matches next week at Yale and Brown and then, in two weeks, home against Harvard and Dartmouth. Right now, Harvard is the only other unbeaten in the league, also at 3-0.

There was a lot of rowing going on Saturday, and Princeton did very well.

The women's lightweights defeated Harvard to win the Class of 1999 Cup. The women's open defeated all four of its Ivy opponents.

The heavyweight men defeated Penn and Columbia to win the Childs Cup in advance of a trip to Harvard this coming weekend. The men's lightweights, ranked No. 2, won as well and have a big weekend coming up as well, with No. 1 Cornell in town.

The baseball team did what TB figures it needs to do. It won two of three more, this time against Brown.

As TB said last week, there's no way to know in this new Ivy format of three games against each team exactly how many wins it's going to take to finish in the top two to advance to the Ivy League championship series. TB does figure that 14 should put you in the, um, ballpark, as it were.

So far it seems to holding up, since every team in the league has at least two losses. It figures to be a pretty tight race to the finish.

Oh, there was hockey. Not Princeton hockey per se, but some great news about Princeton hockey players.

Eric Robinson, who was the captain of the Tigers' 2018 ECAC championship team, made his NHL debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In addition, Ryan Kuffner and Max Veronneau were both named second-team All-Americas, after a season that included that ECAC title and the NCAA tournament berth. Veronneau led Division I in assists per game and was second in points per game after finishing with 17 goals and 38 assists for 55 points. Kuffner had 29 goals and 23 assists, finishing second in Division I in goals per game.

What else happened this weekend? Well, there was the lacrosse, but TigerBlog will get into that tomorrow.

As a bit of an advanced notice, tomorrow is a game day for both the men (at Siena) and the women (home against Maryland) after both got wins this past weekend.

Oh, and both teams had things happen this past weekend that had never happened before.

TB will keep you hanging on that until tomorrow ...

Friday, April 6, 2018

Another "Spring" Weekend

If you're a regular TigerBlog reader, then you know he drifts into talking about religion every now and then, especially the experiences and traditions of his people.

It's coming up on the end of Passover, for instance, an eight-day celebration of the time Moses delivered TB's people when they had been slaves in Egypt. As part of the holiday, TB is supposed to go eight days without eating anything leavened, most specifically bread, pasta, grains, that sort of stuff.

There is something called matzoh brei, which is basically matzoh - unleavened bread - that is crumpled up and cooked with eggs. TB remembers when MotherBlog used to make it, and he had to laugh when he saw a story about matzoh brei that said "you either love it or loathe it." TB is in the "loathe" category.

So it's a no-carb week, or at least supposed to be. TigerBlog can fast for 24 hours on Yom Kippur without a problem, but going eight days without any bread products isn't easy. In fact, he can't remember a time that he was actually successful in accomplishing it.

Which would you rather do? Go eight days without eating a staple of your diet or 24 hours without eating or drinking at all? 

This year TB got off to a good, well-intentioned start to the holiday. Then it fell apart, slowly at first. But it fell apart anyway.

Anyway, Passover will be over soon. There will be other holidays of TigerBlog's people soon; there always seems to be another one right around the corner.

While religion is the topic of the moment, TigerBlog wants to tell you about a sign he saw outside a church. It said this:

"Honk and drive if you love Jesus. Text and drive if you want to meet him."

Now that's genius.

And that's enough religion for one day.

Maybe TB should focus on a safer topic.

It was Mark Twain who said "everybody talks about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it."

It was Ben Franklin who said "some people are weather-wise. Some people are other-wise."

Or maybe it was the other way around.

Either way, whoever said the part about how nobody does anything about the weather obviously didn't work in college athletics in the Northeast in the spring. Already events all over the place are being changed in advance of tomorrow's possibly bad weather.

The softball team, for instance, will host Dartmouth today for a doubleheader at 2 and then a single game Saturday at 12:30. The Sam Howell Invitational track and field meet is now a one-day event today. There's also the men's golf invitational, which will now start today as well.

TigerBlog has talked a lot about the weather of late. As he looks at the forecast, it looks like it might not be as bad next week as was originally thought.

Hopefully it cooperates this weekend too. There is a lot on the schedule.

Mostly there's a lot of rowing at home. In fact, all four teams - men's heavyweight, men's lightweight, women's open and women's lightweight - will be on Lake Carnegie.

The women's open crew is ranked fourth nationally and already has a win over Brown. This weekend the Tigers host the Ivy Challenge, an event in Year 1 but one that figures quickly to become a big part of the annual schedule.

Princeton will host six other Ivy teams - all but Brown - in a series of races. The Tigers, for instance, will go against Cornell and Harvard at 11 am and then Penn and Dartmouth at 3 pm.

The day actually starts at 8:15 with the heavyweight men, who take on Columbia and Penn for the Childs Cup. The last races go off at 4:10.

In all, there will be 16 teams there, which means that the boathouse parking lot will be closed. For more information about the day, including parking information, click HERE.

For TigerBlog, one of the best parts of working at Princeton has always been what has been referred to as "broad-based athletic participation." There are nearly 1,000 athletes each year, on 37 different teams, playing wildly different sports. There's always something there to be seen.

This weekend, there's a lot to see. HERE is the complete schedule.

That includes the rowing. If you've never seen rowing, it's definitely something worth your time. And tomorrow, you'll have plenty of chances to do so.

Rain or shine, it'll be quite a show. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Ivy League Network On ESPN+

Back when TigerBlog first started at Princeton, there was something called Fax on Demand.

It was cutting edge. If you worked in athletic communications, you could fax something - a release, game notes, stats - to a central number and then a mailbox. Then those who were interested in that information could have it faxed to them.

Oh, if you don't remember fax machines, they were basically a way to transport information across phone lines. TB was really fired up the time that Princeton got a new fax machine, one that would take up to 20 pieces of paper at once, scan them and then send them, as opposed to the old way, which was to feed one sheet at a time. Now that was progress.

Anyway, with Fax on Demand, there was a small fee for the service on the part of the user.

There was also a way in those days to listen to Princeton's radio broadcasts if you lived outside the area. You would call into a number and then listen on your phone as the game played. This would be your landline, since nobody had a cell phone yet.

Again, there was a fee for the service.

TigerBlog isn't sure how much they cost, but he'd guess it was more than $5 per month. Ah, how times have changed.

Fax on Demand is long since gone. So is whatever that "listen to the game on the phone" thing was called.

So is basically any way of communicating that existed before the birth of the internet, which of course changed everything about TigerBlog's business. He considers himself fortunate to have been here before and after the internet, so he remembers what things were like before technology evolved.

Of course it all has evolved. The number of ways to present that information has skyrocketed, and it continues to change again and again and again. TigerBlog's favorite thing about this evolution is that it has allowed Princeton, and the rest of the league, to go directly to those most interested in the content, bypassing any other provider of this information.

And of all of the things that have come along in the years since Fax on Demand and the phone thing, very few of them have had the impact of the Ivy League Network. It has been the perfect vehicle to, as TB said, bring Ivy League games directly to those who want to see them, while at the same time giving the eight schools and the league office the ability to tell their stories of athletic success and the uniqueness of the Ivy model.

Yesterday's big news from the league office and the eight schools is the news that the Ivy League Network will, for the next 10 years, be moving to ESPN+. You can read the whole release HERE.

This is huge on a lot of levels.

The Ivy League Network moves onto the ESPN platform with the start of the 2018-19 academic year. It'll be sort of like the Netflix of sports programming, with access paid monthly for a ton of content, not only from the Ivy League.

Princeton has spent the last 15 years or so with its relationship with ESPN, which has had the Tigers featured on one of the networks - usually ESPNU - for at least seven home events per year. That arrangement has always been a great one for Princeton.

Now that relationship expands across the entire league, with the move of the ILN.

Princeton first started streaming video of football games though a local cable provider, a long time ago. TB's biggest memory of those days is that the camera stayed focused on the parking lot during halftime.

At one point, there was a coaches meeting, at which one head coach said that the whole point of videostreaming was to be able to tell recruits that Princeton was doing it.

Today the idea of watching streamed games is pretty much taken for granted. It's rarer when a game isn't streamed.

At Princeton the goal has always been to stream as many sports and as many events as possible, and that's something that has been a big success story. Now all of that content gets shifted over to what is clearly still the biggest name in sports media, a company with whom Princeton has had a great working relationship with for a long time.

What does this mean for you?

Well, if you have a current ILN account, it'll be good through the end of the academic year. Then you'll need to get a new account with ESPN+.

There will be Ivy League games on ESPN's TV networks, as well as on regional sports networks, like Princeton's games on NBC Sports Philadelphia. Everything will be on ESPN+.

It's exciting news for Ivy League sports fans.

Oh, and how much will all this cost? Yeah, it's $5 per month. That's next to nothing. It's less than half of what Netflix costs.

In fact, it's less than what Fax on Demand and the phone thing used to cost. TB is pretty sure of that anyway.

He's also pretty sure this is going to be a big step forward for Ivy League athletics.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Weather Wise

TigerBlog doesn't want you to think he's obsessed with the weather or anything.

Still, he did need to share with you what he was thinking when he saw that there were two - two - more snowflakes on his weather app. Well, he would, except he has never cursed in this spot before, and he's not going to do so now.

TigerBlog was out on his bike Sunday afternoon. It was a bit windy, but it was also 60 degrees. It was around 50 Monday afternoon.

In between it snowed about two inches.

How is that even possible?

In the strange world of Princeton weather, it's supposed to be a high of 67 today. And a low of 37. With thunderstorms mixed in there somewhere.

It's supposed to be in the 60s Friday too, with some rain mixed in.

The rest of the forecast for the next nine days has temps in the 40s. It's spring, right?

The five days after that are all in the 60s, but all of those days say it's going to rain. At least that's a little more springlike.

If you think April snow never happens, there was the men's lacrosse game against Stony Brook two years ago, on April 9, 2016. It snowed that day.

Princeton and Stony Brook meet again this Saturday, with face-off at 1 on Sherrerd Field. Stony Brook played St. John's last night at home.

TigerBlog was at Stony Brook back on Feb. 10, when the Seawolves played Sacred Heart. It was warmer that day than it was for the game last night.

It's been a bit of a struggle the last few weeks for the men's lacrosse team. The Tigers have lost three straight, all in the league, to Penn, Yale and most recently Brown.

Because of its 0-3 start in the league, Princeton is looking at an uphill climb to get into the Ivy tournament. Ahead are games against Dartmouth, Harvard and Cornell, all of which are pretty much must-haves for the Tigers.

Before that run, though, Princeton has games against Stony Brook Saturday and then at Siena next Tuesday.

Princeton has a pair of senior midfielders, Austin Sims and Riley Thompson, who are closing in on 100 career points. That's a lot of points for middies, even if Thompson has also played attack in his career.

Of course, any Princeton game these days is must-see, what with the remarkable sophomore attackman Michael Sowers. Just 23 games into his college career, Sowers is already 12th all-time at Princeton in assists and has more career points than great Princeton players like Zach Currier, Kip Orban, Jeff Froccaro, Mark Kovler and Jason Doneger.

His numbers have been staggering from the start. As a freshman, he set the program record for points in a season with 82, with 41 goals and 41 assists. The 82 points and 41 goals are also more than any other Ivy League freshman has ever had. Only four other Ivy League players have ever had a season of 40 goals and 40 assists, and none of those four did it as freshmen.

How good is Sowers? His vision is incredible, as is his balance, his change of direction and his ability to absorb punishment from defensemen who average, oh, six more inches and 60 more pounds.

At his current pace, and without factoring in any postseason games, Sowers is on pace for 348 career points. The school record is 247, held by Hall-of-Famer Kevin Lowe.

He's the rarest kind of player, the one who draws the entire crowd in with the anticipation of what he might do next. You can make comparisons between Sowers and Tom Schreiber, who made the crowd hold its breath every time he had the ball.
They're both ambidextrous. They both have great vision. They both make everyone around them better. Schreiber is bigger. Sowers is quicker. They also play different positions, so Sowers usually initiates from behind while Schreiber, a middie, usually starts from up top.

Oh, and they both shared the No. 22 at Princeton. Is it a flattering comparison for Sowers? Well yeah, especially if you consider that Schreiber - who is returning from a knee injury - is considered now the best player in the world.

TigerBlog has seen a lot of great lacrosse players. The one he'd most compare Sowers to is Mikey Powell from Syracuse, who is similar in size, quickness and style. Powell, by the way, is one of the greatest college lacrosse players ever.

If you meet Sowers, you can't believe he's the same person who has been shredding defenses since he got here - or before, for that matter, since he holds the national high school record for assists. Sowers is quiet, unassuming and humble, and he is without question the most polite Princeton men's lacrosse player TB has ever met. 

If you're a Princeton men's lacrosse fan, you can be pretty happy about having two more years of Sowers after this. If you haven't seen him play, make sure you do.

Princeton may have had a rough few weeks, but the future is definitely very, very bright. Sowers is just a sophomore, but he's not the only young player who is making big contributions.

In fact, Princeton has an army of good young offensive players, including Chris Brown, the only current player with at least one goal in every game so far. Brown is also second on the team behind Sowers in assists (Sowers has 31, Brown has 11).

There have also been two freshmen defenders who have been incredibly impressive in their rookie seasons. George Baughan plays without any fear, and if TB would use one word to describe how he plays, it would be relentless. Or maybe nasty. Those are high compliments for defensemen.

Andrew Song leads all Ivy League freshman and, for that matter, all Ivy League longsticks in ground balls per game. He also has scored two goals, something only two other longsticks have done in a season this decade (Sam Gravitte in 2015 and John Cunningham, who actually had five in 2010).

The promise of next year and beyond didn't really take the sting away from the 14-13 loss to Brown last week. Can Princeton get back into the Ivy tournament race? Sure. As long as there's a chance to get to 3-3, then that's possible.

For now, there's Stony Brook Saturday.

It'll be another spring day, which these days means an iffy weather forecast.

On the other hand, it's another chance to see Sowers. If you're a Princeton fan, or a lacrosse fan in general, the weather shouldn't stop you from being there.