Friday, April 19, 2019

A Gutsy Win

TigerBlog learned a rule from women's lacrosse during his podcast with Chris Sailer from yesterday.

He couldn't figure out why all the yellow cards in the last nine minutes of Princeton's game against Penn Wednesday night were non-releasable until she told him that all yellow cards after your fourth as a team become non-releasable.

It's a good rule, if you think about it. Of course, it's easy to say that now, after the way those last nine minutes played out.

In the moment, it seemed like the non-releasable yellow cards were going to be the Tigers' undoing in a hugely important Ivy League game. Instead, they revealed just how tough this women's lacrosse team can be.

How big a game was it? The winner would be tied for the first with two games left. The loser would be a game back, in need of help to get a share of the championship. 

TigerBlog is a big fan of the analytic models that predict win probability at any given moment of a game. So what would it have been after Penn tied the score at 11-11 with 5:13 to go?

You also have to keep in mind that 4:13 earlier Princeton led 11-8 and had shut Penn out for the entire second half to that point. It seemed like Princeton was on the verge of putting the game away - and then it all changed quickly.

First Penn scored, 58 seconds after Princeton's third yellow card, which was still releasable. Princeton 11, Penn 9.

Then Princeton was called for a fourth yellow, the first non-releasable one, and Penn scored again, this time 20 seconds later. Princeton 11, Penn 10.

It only got worse after that.

Princeton was called for another yellow with 6:05 to go. And then another after that with 5:38 to go. Now Princeton was going to be down two players for 1:33 and then one player for 27 more seconds after that.

And this time it took Penn just 25 seconds to score. Princeton 11, Penn 11. And still 1:08 of being two players up for the Quakers.

What would the win percentage model say that point? Penn 90 percent?

Instead, Princeton did what you have to do to win a huge game. Actually, the two things. First, it made the smallest play at the biggest moment, as Nonie Andersen made it her mission to earn the draw control. That was the biggest play of the game. Had Penn gotten possession, the train was already rolling downhill in a big way.

Penn had scored three straight times on yellows, averaging 34 seconds to do so. Princeton had to have the ball, and Andersen made sure Princeton got it.

But now what? Well, that's the second thing. Princeton made the toughest play when it was needed most.

Princeton had 90 seconds of possession, which meant that Princeton could try to kill off all of the remaining penalty time for both penalties with no time to try to score, or try to run an offense and risk turning it over.

Princeton executed perfectly, running out the first to get back to just one player down and then scoring a stunning goal, as Elizabeth George took a feed from Kyla Sears and almost threw it through the goal. Such shots are best described as "angry." Princeton 12, Penn 11.

For George, it was goal No. 6 on the night, tying her career high.

Andersen then got the next draw and, after Tess D'Orsi scored in an empty net with 39 seconds left, the one after that. Princeton 13, Penn 11. Final.

You could play that game out from when Princeton got the card to go two players down a lot of times, and Princeton wouldn't win too many of them. But they won the only one that will actually count.

Sailer used the word "gutsy" to describe it afterwards. It's the perfect description.

The win improved Princeton to 4-1 in the league, tied for first with Dartmouth and Cornell, who play Saturday in Hanover. Princeton has a quick turnaround to play Yale Saturday in New Haven and then is in Ithaca next Saturday against Cornell.

Should Princeton win out, it would be at least Ivy co-champion and would definitely be the No. 1 seed in the Ivy League tournament at Columbia. Should Princeton lose twice, though, it could still miss the Ivy tournament (if Dartmouth beats Cornell or if Cornell beats Dartmouth but Dartmouth then beats Yale, Penn beats Columbia and Harvard and Brown beats Harvard and Columbia).

As for the Princeton men, they're home tomorrow at 1 against Harvard. If you're a Princeton fan, then you need Princeton to win that game and Brown to beat Cornell in Providence, which would make next week's Princeton-Cornell game an Ivy tournament play-in game.

If Harvard beats Princeton and Cornell beats Brown, then Princeton is eliminated. If Princeton wins and Cornell wins, then Princeton can still get in with a win at Cornell, depending on how much Cornell would beat Brown by and then what Princeton's margin of victory over Cornell would be.

Anyway, it's a huge weekend for both lacrosse teams.

For the women, it'll be three days after a great win, an improbable win, a gutsy win.

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