Monday, April 22, 2019

A Banner Weekend

TigerBlog stood behind the volleyball court at Dillon Gym Saturday night on the side closest to the front door.

At one point he glanced over his shoulder, saw the orange and black signs hanging from the railing and heard the words of women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart in his head: the goal is always to hang a banner.

If you go into Dillon today, you'll see that the banner labeled "EIVA Champions" still lists just one year, "1998." So does the NCAA tournament banner.

They'll both need to be updated.

The men's volleyball team thrilled a packed house Saturday night, outlasting Penn State in the EIVA tournament championship in five sets, taking the final one 15-13. The Tigers dominated the league from start (they were the preseason favorite) to finish (regular-season champs by three games and tournament sweep), winning the second title in program history and advancing to the second NCAA tournament in program history.

It was a banner weekend for more than men's volleyball at Princeton. The Tigers also won Ivy League championships in two other sports, closing out a second-straight perfect women's tennis season with a 4-0 win over Yale and taking the Ivy men's golf tournament by a single stroke over Columbia.

TB will start with men's volleyball.

It gets warm in Dillon when it's filled, and it was hot Thursday night for the semifinals and then Saturday for the championship match, as Princeton and Penn State battled back and forth for nearly three hours before the Tigers closed it out.

Oh, and not only does it get warm. It gets really, really loud there too.

The energy level built at the same pace as the drama, and it was tense and hopping as the fifth game rolled around. Princeton played from ahead all night, winning Sets 1 and 3 and then being in control of the fifth set.

At the same time, it never really got anything close to comfortable, right up to the end, when Princeton took the point that would be the difference between a championship or what essentially would be overtime.

George Huhmann, the 6-11 junior, added tournament MVP to his EIVA Player of the Year award.

The prize for the win is an NCAA tournament spot, and the selections that were announced yesterday afternoon will see Princeton head to North Carolina to take on Barton College Thursday. The winner of that one will then go across the country to Pepperdine a week from Tuesday.

The two Ivy championship teams from yesterday will also compete in the NCAA events for their sports.

The women's tennis team finished up 7-0 in the league with the win over Yale. TigerBlog watched the last 45 minutes or so of the match, and it was clear that Princeton was in control. Sometimes in tennis, things change quickly, as a team that won the first set in a few matches suddenly loses the second. This time, it was all Princeton.

The championship was the 15th all-time, of which five have come in the last six years.

As for men's golf, TigerBlog finds it extraordinary that the tournament can be decided by a single stroke, as in Princeton 875, Columbia 876. Of course, it was just as remarkable as four years ago, when Princeton was on the losing end of a one-stroke difference.

Think about it. Princeton and Columbia separated by just one stroke after 875 shots over three rounds by five golfers? What are the chances of that happening once, let alone twice in five years?

And this was one year after Princeton and Harvard women went to a playoff. Maybe it's not as rare as it would seem.

Princeton's Evan Quinn finished second at 217, one shot ahead of his teammate Sam Clayman. For all five Tigers, though, any one shot would have made all the difference.


Anyway, for Princeton, that's nine Ivy League titles and 11 league titles so far this academic year. For the record, the Ivy champs are football, men's cross country, men's soccer, women's soccer, women's hockey, men's indoor track and field, women's basketball, men's golf and women's tennis. Men's water polo and men's volleyball also won their league titles.

Still left to be decided are softball, women's lacrosse, both outdoor track and fields and three crews.

Those are all in front of Princeton.

This weekend? It was a banner one for the Tigers in three sports.

That makes for a pretty good weekend.

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