Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Getting Oriented

The first time TigerBlog carried his daughter's refrigerator into her dorm room, he cut his finger on one of the sharp edges.

This isn't a standard little mini-fridge. This one is sort of one-and-a-half times that size, and it's old, with said jagged edges around it. The fridge isn't overwhelmingly heavy, but it is very bulky, especially since you need to watch where you put your fingers or else you'll end up with another cut.

He remembers that when he put the fridge down in Forbes that day, he thought to himself: "Hmmm, only seven more times carrying this thing." He figured he'd have to carry it back out of that room and then in and out three more times after that.

TB carried the darned thing again Saturday during move-in day. After he put it down, he said to himself "one more to go." Then he followed that with "how the heck did that happen so fast?"

It does seem like yesterday that TB was first helping Miss TigerBlog move into a dorm for the first time as a college student. Now, suddenly, she's a senior. 

Where does the time go? TB has interviewed so many Princeton seniors and alums who say "the time flew by" that he long ago lost count. Now here he is own daughter, suddenly a senior. That's crazy.

By the way, TigerBlog would like to say something to whoever it was who organized move-in over the weekend: You did a great job. Seriously. That was the most organized set-up TB has seen for anything in a long time. 

The best part were the signs that had the names of the different dorms on them with arrows pointing where to park. And the people who were directing the cars were very friendly and well-informed of who should be where. TB presumes that most of the time whoever is in charge only hears complaints, but that was a job well done.

Meanwhile, the newest generation of Princeton Athletes gathered together yesterday in McCosh 50 for new student-athlete orientation. If you've read this for a few years now, you know it's always one of the more fascinating events for TigerBlog.

For one thing, there are so many different sports represented, and it's so interesting to consider that each athlete in the room took a different path to finding that sport and excelling in that sport and as a student. It's fun to glance at them and figure out what sport they play. The only sport where it seems really easy to do that is hockey, for some reason. Hockey players seem to carry themselves a bit differently. 

As he's written so many times before, there are not many times where the entire athletic class is assembled together. This is one of them. So is the Gary Walters PVC Senior Award Banquet at year's end. 

The juxtaposition of the two is what really strikes TigerBlog. There they sit, in McCosh 50, with no idea of what to expect. And then they gather for the banquet as seniors – the last two times virtually, hopefully in person for every year moving forward – having had their entire Princeton experience play out for them, with graduation just a few days away. 

It goes by in a blink. They'll all be amazed by that fact. They'll all have that in common.

Their roads will diverge, of course. They won't all have the same experience. It's not possible. Some will be starters. Some will work for more playing time for four years and never get it. Some will stay healthy. Others will be nagged by injuries. Some – most, TB hopes, and if history is an indication, most will win at least one championship. 

There will be commonalities. They will make friends who become friends for life. They will learn lessons through being on Princeton teams that they will take with them forever. They will learn about struggling and what they need to do to work through it. 

They come from all over, from 30 states and 17 countries to be exact. They're still getting to know each other and know the University.

TB is envious of them. He hopes they appreciate the great good fortune they have to be Princeton athletes. He hopes they all make the absolute most of this opportunity.

He's looking forward to seeing them all at their senior banquet. 

It'll be here before they know it.

Monday, August 30, 2021

That's Three For Jesper Horsted

Had it been any other week of preseason NFL football, then the highlight that would have intrigued TigerBlog the most would have been the one of Justin Reid's kickoff.

Reid is a safety for the Houston Texans. Because the Houston placekicker had a slight injury and wasn't used in the game against Tampa Bay, Reid kicked off - and reached the end zone. Houston went for two after its touchdowns and never punted, by the way.

It used to be that placekicking was often done by players who played other positions. Most notably, there was Lou Groza, who was a placekicker and offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns from the 1940s through the 1960s. 

Groza, a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, is the one for whom the college football Placekicker of the Year award is named. Groza kicked at Ohio State before serving for three years in World War II, and he joined the Browns when he returned. At the time, the team was in the old All-American Football Conference, which existed for four years and which had Cleveland win all four years (1946-49).

Cleveland then joined the NFL in 1950 as part of a merger that also included the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts, and the Browns won the NFL title in their first season in that league as well.

Meanwhile, back at Saturday night, this was not any regular NFL preseason week. This was the NFL preseason week where Jesper Horsted caught three touchdown passes for the Chicago Bears in a 27-24 win over Tennessee.

Horsted, a third-year tight end from Princeton, had an incredible game in his push to make the team's final 53-man roster, with cuts due by tomorrow at 3. In all he was targeted five times and caught all five, totaling 104 yards in addition to the three touchdowns.

His first TD was on a 20-yard catch on which he tip-toed the end zone while hauling in a pass from first-round pick Justin Fields. It was an impressive throw by Fields, who had to create something out of nothing by rolling to his right and then floated the ball to Horsted, whose reception while staying in bounds was equally as impressive.

Touchdown No. 2 came on a six-yard throw from former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. This also wasn't an easy catch, as Horsted had to catch it in traffic on a dart from Foles.

The final one came on a 54-yard play on which Horsted first made a tough one-handed catch and then outran the Titans' defense to the end zone. It came midway through the fourth quarter with the Bears behind 24-20 and provided the winning points. 

If you're wondering the last time Horsted had three touchdown receptions in a game, it was in his final game at Princeton, when he caught eight passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-14 win over Penn. That win capped Princeton's perfect 2018 season. 

It wasn't his only three-TD game at Princeton. Horsted, Princeton's career record holder with 28 touchdown receptions (nobody else has ever reached 20), had three against Monmouth that same season.

What's even more impressive about Horsted's school record is that he had exactly one TD reception for his first two seasons combined. That means he ended up with 27 his last two years, with 14 as a junior and 13 as a senior.

A great athlete who was also a first-team All-Ivy League selection in baseball, Horsted is in Year 3 with the Bears. To date, he has eight career receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown he hauled in on Thanksgiving Day 2019 against the Lions. He spent all of last year on the practice squad.

Where will he spend this year? 

Well, pretty much every story that TB read yesterday that projected the Bears' final 53 has Horsted on it after his performance Saturday. At worst, if Horsted does get cut, he has a great chance of being picked up by someone else who saw the film from Saturday, and if that doesn't happen (unlikely), he'll be back on the Chicago practice squad.

Horsted is one of those guys who only needs a chance. He is a touchdown magnet. He finds the ball. He finds the end zone. That's just how he is. Give him regular playing time, and he'll put up numbers. TB has no doubt about that. 

He's also another of those athletes who is just a nearly perfect ambassador for Princeton. Here he is after the game Saturday:

Again, the only thing that's changed since his Princeton days is that his hair is longer. His ability to catch any ball that comes his way and turn it into points has not.

Friday, August 27, 2021

It's A New Year

Here is something that TigerBlog did not mention yesterday when he wrote about new Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack: He used to be a student worker in the Princeton Office of Athletic Communications.

If that sounds familiar, it should be, because Mack's predecessor, Mollie Marcoux Samaan, was also an OAC student-worker during her undergraduate days. 

Does that mean the road to being the Director of Athletics starts in the OAC? If history repeats itself next time, you can look to a short list that includes former women's basketball players Maggie Langlas, Kate Thirolf, Tessa Ho, Lauren Rigney, Andrea Razi and Susan Rea (who also played soccer), softball player Katie Bay, soccer player Romy Trigg-Smith and rower Dave Mackasey. That's off the top of TB's head, and he knows he's forgetting a few people.

In all seriousness, the fact that the two most recent ADs are OAC alums is a great source of pride to TigerBlog. Is there something to it, or a coincidence? 

Well, at the risk of stretching things just a bit, maybe there is something about being in the office that is the most public facing that either appeals to someone like Marcoux Samaan or Mack, who both so clearly developed a love for Princeton Athletics at a young age. Or, possibly, maybe the OAC is where that love was born and allowed to grow.

When TB says "public facing," what he means is that the OAC is responsible for producing content that is shared with all of Princeton's many constituents. It's a clearinghouse of Princeton Athletics pride, and that pride is something permeates through Mack and Marcoux Samaan. Make no mistake, Mollie may no longer be the AD here, but her love for Princeton will only continue to grow. The same is true of Mack as he becomes the AD.

Someone else who feels a great source of pride about Mack's new role is men's track and field coach Fred Samara. He was definitely emotional Wednesday when Mack was introduced, with a sense of fatherly pride at the achievement of someone he mentored so deeply. 

There have been six ADs in Princeton history. All six have been former student athletes. Samara is the first active head coach to have an alum become the AD. Yes, that is good reason to be emotional in the moment.

It's also a statement on just how amazing a career Samara has had, but hey, you already knew that and TB has written about that many times. TB spoke to Samara just before Mack started to speak and again later in the day. It was easy to see how much this was impacting him, and in such an amazing way.

TB heard from a ton of people after the announcement Wednesday. Those texts and emails fell into two categories. 

First, there were the people who don't know Mack who said they were impressed by his introductory remarks and the things people said about him. Second, there were the ones who do know him, and they were simply thrilled about the hire.

Mack is still transitioning into his new role. By the time he moves into Room 1 of Jadwin Gym, the new academic/athletic year will have begun. Actually, by the time today ends, the new athletic year will have begun.

The women's soccer team gets things started tonight, when the Tigers host Loyola at 7. There is another women's soccer game Sunday at 11 against St. Joe's.

This is from the preview story on goprincetontigers.com: 

The Tigers, who have won two of the last three Ivy League titles awarded, have 12 players on the roster of 28 who could see their first collegiate competition this weekend. Among the returners, the scorers of 14 of the team's 23 goals from the 2019 season are back, as are previous All-Ivy honorees in 2019 first-teamer Madison Curry, three-time All-Ivy pick Lucy Rickerson and 2018 honorable mention Emma Davis.

Remember, the men's and women's soccer teams are playing on Sherrerd Field this season during the construction of the new stadium. Also, admission to regular season soccer games is free.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Ford Family Director Of Athletics John Mack

The crowd in the Jadwin Gym lobby had been milling around for nearly a half hour. 

There was a sense of renewal in the air. For starters, it had been awhile since all of these people had been able to be together in person. Even if they were all masked, they were still together again. 

There was excitement and optimism everywhere. Had that been all there was to it yesterday morning, had it just been a chance to be together again as an athletic department, that would have been nice all by itself.

There was more, though. Much more. 

After those 30 minutes passed, the man of the hour walked in, flanked by his wife and their three little kids. The applause began immediately and got steadily louder. 

John Mack was home.

Mack, Princeton's new Ford Family Director of Athletics, was introduced yesterday morning in Jadwin Gym. A former Roper Trophy winner from the Class of 2000, Mack is an all-time Princeton track and field great who also worked in the Department of Athletics before going on to work at Northwestern and then ultimately go to law school there.

He was a practicing attorney outside of Detroit when Mollie Marcoux Samaan left to become the commissioner of the LPGA. He jumped at the chance to come back to Princeton though, since the AD job here was, as he has called it so many times, his "dream job."

Knowing why that is tells you a great deal about who Princeton's new Director of Athletics is. 

John Mack grew up outside of Detroit in a small town of a little more than 4,000 called, ahem, New Haven. His father worked in an automotive plant and was a church pastor, and his mother raised seven children - John and his six sisters. 

He was a high school running back in football in addition to running track and field. Fred Samara recruited him to Princeton, and it was on his visit that Hank Towns, then the head equipment manager, met John's father. 

"Send him to Princeton," Hank said, "and we will take care of him."

TigerBlog has heard that story before, from both Hank and John. He heard it again yesterday, when John Mack told it during his 10 minutes of introductory remarks. In fact, Hank was there too, looking good after a tough battle against COVID several months ago. 

John Mack attributes that experience, of being taken care of at Princeton while he grew from an uncertain student into a dominant athlete and graduate, to being fundamental to the person he has become since. He is driven now to provide that same transformational experience to the current and future generations of athletes at Princeton.

During his talk he spoke candidly about feeling that he didn't fit in at first. He spoke about how Princeton is a challenging place. He spoke about the hurdles one has to cross to get to the finish line, and not in a track and field context.

And then he talked about how being a student-athlete helped him get past all of that. He spoke about belonging, being part of a team, being mentored, being able to draw from that Tiger family.

It's what fuels him. It's why from Day 1 when Marcoux Samaan announced she was leaving that he said he was interested.

He will bring that passion with him every day on his new job. He was bring more than that too.

TigerBlog has known John Mack since he was a track and field athlete here. He's referenced him many times through the years here in this space. If you don't know John Mack, he is a man of incredible character and integrity. He has a great sense of humor. He is down to earth. He is humble. He is, as anyone who watched yesterday saw, a great public speaker. 

He can speak to anyone, something that was clear yesterday as he did, literally, speak to everyone. There were coaches there. There were others like TB with whom he goes way back. There were new staff members. There were some athletes. 

"Come to Jadwin and introduce yourself," Mack told them all. And he meant it too. He wants to know them. He wants them to know he's there to support them. It's why he's coming here in the first place. 

This is why whenever anyone asked TB what he thought about a new AD, he said the same thing he said seven years ago when Marcoux Samaan was hired. You need a Princetonian in this job. 

Princeton is a special place. It requires someone who can appreciate what makes it so special to run the athletic department. At least TB firmly believes that. 

John Mack is Princeton's sixth Director of Athletics. There was a manager of intercollegiate athletics in the Dean of the College's office prior to 1941, when Ken Fairman became the first to hold the new title of AD (Fairman left shortly after that to be a tank commander in World War II by the way). Royce Flippin succeeded Fairman in 1972. Then it was Bob Myslik in 1979, Gary Walters in 1994 and finally Marcoux Samaan in 2014.

They were all athletes here. Fairman played three sports (football, basketball and lacrosse). Flippin was a football player. Myslik played baseball. Walters was on the 1965 NCAA Final Four basketball team. Marcoux Samaan was a soccer/hockey player and an All-Ivy one in both. Now Mack, a track alum, is here.

TigerBlog is positive that Princeton's great athletic success has been helped along by AD's who went through it themself. Don't undersell how important that was. 

Mack now has to turn his attention to relocating his family here from Michigan. His wife Alleda is a 1999 grad and an oncologist. They have three children, Jacobi, Jabari and Anaiah, who happen to be 6, 5 and 4. 

He'll be back in Jadwin next week to start to put his stamp on the Ivy League's most successful athletic program. There will be a lot of listening and a lot of learning on his part. 

Through it all, though, he will be John Mack, the person who was introduced yesterday morning, the one who spoke from the heart, the one who was engaging, the one who reached the people he was speaking to with his passion and enthusiasm. Those who didn't know him until yesterday were impressed. Those who knew him long before that weren't surprised.

Princeton Athletics has been turned over to one of its very best. 

John Mack is coming home.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Hockey News

The 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles were held three years after the start of the Great Depression.

Because of the worldwide economic collapse, it was difficult for some countries to send teams to the United States for the Games. The result in men's field hockey was that only three teams were able to compete - India, Japan and the host Americans.

The result was that all three countries were guaranteed a medal before the start of the competition. The gold went to India, which isn't surprising. In fact the only surprising part is that India managed to put together the funding to get there at all.

India won in 1928, when nine teams competed. India won again in 1936, in a field of 11. There were no Olympics in 1940 or 1944 due to World War II (India crushed the German team 8-1 in the 1936 final), and the Indian team won again in 1948, 1952 and 1956. Since then, the only other two times India won were in 1964 and 1980, while European teams have won seven of the last eight, including Belgium most recently in Tokyo. 

Meanwhile, back in the three-team field of 1932, Princeton was well represented on the American team, with four alums who were on the team that won bronze (and went 0-2, to be fully transparent). 

For some reason, only three of those athletes - Horace Disston, Samuel Ewing and David McMullin III - were listed as bronze medalists on the official Princeton list on goprincetontigers.com. The fourth Tiger, Warren Ingersoll, was omitted, something that was corrected yesterday.

Ingersoll, in the Class of 1931, rose to the rank of Major in World War II. He passed away in 1995 at the age of 87.

Ingersoll led a very accomplished life. From his PAW obituary:

He had been chairman and president of F. G. Okie, Inc., a pharmaceutical service company headquartered in Ft. Washington, Penn., until his retirement in 1978. He served on the advisory board of the Girard Bank and the township park board and as a director of the Bryn Mawr Hospital for many years. Waddy was a member of the 1932 U.S. Olympic team, won the U.S. Amateur Racquets Championship in 1940, and held membership the Gulf Mills and Pine Valley Golf Clubs, where he won championships several times. He was president of the U.S. Seniors Golf Assn. from 1973-75.

One note - Ingersoll is not the most famous Princetonian to come from his high school. Nope. Ingersoll went to St. Paul's in Concord, N.H., which is the same prep school that had sent Hobey Baker to Princeton 20 years earlier. 

While the subject today is hockey, TigerBlog has been following the current women's hockey world championships in Calgary, especially the Canadian team. Canada features two Princetonians, current player Sarah Fillier and recent grad Claire Thompson.

TigerBlog doesn't pretend to know much about international hockey, but his sense is that the Canadians and Americans are the favorites. Maybe that's because there have been 19 previous World Championships for women's hockey, and Canada has won 10 times while the U.S. has won nine times. The only time those two didn't finish 1-2 was in 2019, when Finland upset Canada in the semifinals.

Canada started the tournament with a 3-0 win over that same Finland team and then a 5-1 win over the Russians before yesterday's game against Switzerland, a team Canada was 11-0 all-time against prior to the game and had outscored 100-2 in those games. Next up is the final game of the group stage, against the U.S. tomorrow before the knockout round begins with quarterfinals Friday. The semifinals would then be Sunday, followed by the final Monday.

Fillier, the youngest member of the Canadian team, had a pair of goals in the first two games, while Thompson had two assists. 

Also, these World Championships come only six months prior to the start of the Winter Olympics. Women's hockey was first added to the Winter Games in 1998, and either the U.S. or Canada has won every gold and finished 1-2 each time except for when Sweden won silver and the U.S. won bronze in 2006.

Fillier and Thompson were key reasons why Princeton won the 2020 ECAC tournament championship and was positioned to make a serious run at the NCAA championship before the pandemic.

For all of the information on the women's tournament, click HERE.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Game Week

TigerBlog has always said that if he didn't work for Princeton Athletics, then he'd still be a huge fan. 

As he does work here, he's both. It's a pretty good way to make a living. 

Someone else who is as big a Princeton fan as anyone is also someone whose work you've seen regularly, even if you don't realize it's hers or know her name. That would be Shelley Szwast.

In case you don't know the name, she's a photographer who has done a great deal of work for Princeton through the years, especially with men's and women's hockey and men's and women's lacrosse. Beyond that, she's just a huge fan, as you can tell by this tweet of hers from yesterday:

That made TB laugh. By the way, if you ever see Shelley at a game, say hi. She'd love to talk to you. That's just how she is, always upbeat, always smiling and always happy to be at Princeton game.

Photographers, by the way, see games in a unique way, through a lens. They're always looking for the picture that tells the story of that game, in much the same way that the a sportswriter is looking for the right words to sum things up. TB has always loved seeing photographers who beam when they know they got just the right shot. 

The composite schedule to which she refers is one of the most clicked on pages on goprincetontigers.com. In fact, at times it's the most clicked on page.You can click on it HERE.

The composite schedule is just what you'd think it would be. It's a listing of all upcoming Princeton athletic events sorted by date, with every event for that date listed on the calendar.

If you go there now, you'll notice that there are events already scheduled for this weekend. How about that? 

Princeton opens the 2021-22 academic year with women's soccer games Friday and Sunday at home. The season opener is against Loyola Friday at 7, and St. Joe's is at Princeton Sunday at 11.

Also, as a reminder, the men's and women's soccer teams are playing this season on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium while construction of the new facility near Jadwin Gym is ongoing.

The start of any new academic year is always an exciting time. It's what has kept TB in this profession for so long. Each year when he first started out at the newspaper, he said he would keep doing this for one more year. Then that year would go by and another one would be ready to start, and he'd say "okay, one more year." Now he's approaching 40 years in sports.

This year will be even more special, for obvious reasons. And it'll be a reminder that none of this is to be taken for granted.

The women's soccer team plays its third game a week from Thursday with a trip to George Mason. The next day, five more Princeton teams will make their debut - men's and women's cross country, women's volleyball, men's soccer and field hockey. One more team, the men's water polo team, plays the next day.

The men's soccer team opens at home against Rutgers. The field hockey team opens at home and has a lot of field hockey for you to watch in a short span, as Princeton will host Penn, Louisville and North Carolina in Ivy vs. ACC doubleheaders Friday and Sunday.

UNC, by the way, has won three straight NCAA titles, including one this past spring, when the NCAA's fall teams had their championship seasons due to the pandemic. Princeton's most recent game was the NCAA championship game in 2019 against the Tar Heels, whose only loss in the spring 2020 season came against Louisville. 

And that weekend is just the start for September. 

You can follow it all on the composite schedule.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Sadak, Carlson And Two McCarthys

TigerBlog awoke Saturday morning to the news that John Sadak had, to quote his tweet: "had an accident running and suffered breaks in my elbows." 

The good news is that Sadak said he would be sidelined only for a few days and in fact should return tomorrow. Sadak, by the way, is in his first year as the Cincinnati Reds' play-by-play voice.

Sadak has, by everything TB has seen, gotten great reviews in his debut season in the Major Leagues. TB is now rooting for the Reds because of Sadak, who used to be the voice of Princeton men's and women's basketball. 

There was other news Saturday morning as well. Patrick McCarthy was making his Major League debut.

No, not as a player. Turns out the market for 6-5 submarining righthanders isn't quite what it used to be.

Patrick was making his debut as the Philadelphia Phillies TV voice. He was replacing his father Tom, who usually does the Phils games but who was instead doing an NFL preseason game for his other gig on CBS.

The McCarthy name is another one that is very familiar one to Princeton fans. Both of them have a lot of experience broadcasting Tiger games, particularly football and men's basketball. 

Tom, as you probably remember, was the men's basketball play-by-play man when Princeton defeated UCLA in the 1996 NCAA tournament. Patrick has been involved with Princeton Athletics much more recently, and he was doing Princeton games while he was still finishing up at TCNJ.

These days, Patrick is the voice of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate. It seems somewhat logical that the call up to replace the Major League broadcaster would go to the Triple-A guy, right? 

Patrick is not getting ahead because he is Tom's son. He's getting ahead because he's a great broadcaster. That much was clear to TB from Day 1.

And so it was that Saturday night, TB tuned into the game between the Phillies and the San Diego Padres to see how Patrick would do. TB was actually nervous beforehand; he can't imagine how Tom was feeling. 

Patrick's Major League announcing career began with a lead-off home run by the Phils' Odubel Herrera. There have been 130 Major League player who have homered in their first career at-bats. How many broadcasters have there been whose first Major League game started with a lead-off home run?

Not surprisingly, Patrick was great. He did what his father suggested he do, which was be himself and not try to imitate anyone else. 

Patrick did the game with Tom's regular broadcast partner Ruben Amaro Jr., who joined a very small club of people who have been a broadcast partner of both the McCarthy father and son. TB is the charter member of that club.

The NFL game that Tom McCarthy went to was the Giants-Browns game in Cleveland. This could have been a Princeton vs. Princeton matchup between Giants' offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Cleveland tight end Stephen Carlson, except for the fact that Carlson suffered a season-ending knee injury last week against Jacksonville.

Carlson is one of the great success stories from Princeton football. He wasn't a top recruit, and he hardly saw the field his first two seasons. Through sheer hard work and effort, he made himself into one of the best wide receivers Princeton has ever had and a regular in the end zone on the receiving end of TD passes.

His senior year was the 10-0 2018 season. After that, he built on that hard work to make himself into an NFL level tight end after being an undrafted free agent with the Browns.

He made himself into a key member of a team that has gone from struggling each year to a Super Bowl contender. He could block and catch passes, and he was extraordinarily valuable the last two years on special teams. 

As you probably remember, he recovered onsides kicks last year on back-to-back Sundays against the Steelers, on the final day of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot and then in a win in the opening round of the playoffs. He caught his first NFL touchdown pass as a rookie.

Now his third season is over just as it was about to start and just as he had really established himself as a key member of the team. If his track record is any indication, then you haven't heard the last of Stephen Carlson as an NFL player. 

If he doesn't make it back, it won't be because he didn't make the necessary effort. 

The same applies to Patrick McCarthy after his two days in the Majors.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Picture Day

The first Princeton football player TigerBlog saw as he walked out to the football stadium yesterday was defensive lineman Samuel Wright.

TB's first thought was that he would not like to be tackled by Sam Wright. Then he briefly thought "hey, maybe it would be interesting to see what that was like" before he went back to "no, no way."

There's a reasonably good chance that at this time next year, Sam Wright will be in an NFL training camp. Yesterday, he was in the Powers Field at Princeton Stadium visiting locker room, which was being used for picture day for football.

Here's everything you need to know about picture day: It never goes as smoothly as you imagine. In some ways it's like trying to estimate how long it takes to get from Princeton to Long Island. You always need to add some time to the drive.

There were lines here and there for varying photo and video stations. Some were jacket and tie. Some were uniforms. It's a bit messy. 

At the same time, it's also a lot of fun. There were hugs and handshakes everywhere for teammates who were returning from the summer, or even longer for those who were not enrolled last year. 

For freshmen, there were even introductions as they met for the first time.

There were players who looked a lot bigger than they did the last time TB saw them. There were players with different haircuts. They were all in masks, which made it hard to recognize some of them anyway.

And there were players who ... didn't know how to tie a tie. TB has gone through this for years with men's lacrosse players too.

Some of the football players from yesterday do now, after TB taught them. Hey, it's an important life skill. Hopefully they'll always remember who taught them to tie a tie when they are at their corporate jobs one day. 

It's not easy to teach someone to tie a tie, since you're facing the person and everything is mirror-imaged. If TB tried to teach they reaching over them, well, they were a little too big for him to do that.

At one point his job was to keep the corridor clear and have those waiting in line for their jacket and tie shots to stand in the tunnel, letting one or two in after one or two came out of the room. TB felt like a bouncer, though in fairness if he was going to be an actual bouncer, he'd probably do so in a place that had much smaller people going in and out.

The picture day preceded the start of football practice. The season opener is four weeks from tomorrow, when the Tigers will be at Lehigh. 

Between now and then, Princeton's other fall teams will all have had their seasons begin. It's that time of year again, and it's even more special this time around, given that a year ago at this time there were no fall sports and nobody on campus.

It feels like it usually does at this time of year, as the campus awakens from the summer months. The arrival of the fall athletes has always been a reminder for TB of why he has stayed in this business all these years, as the opportunity to be a part of that has always been such a special thing for TB and everyone who works in college athletics.

After last year, it's not something will ever take for granted again. 

The football pictures yesterday were followed by pictures for women's soccer and women's volleyball. For TigerBlog, they're more than just a chance to take care of some business and get the photos and video needed for the webpage and other places.

It's that, but what he saw yesterday was more about what is meant by the student-athlete experience. It's not just about the games. It's about the moments away from the games, when friendships are made and renewed and then last forever. 

It's possible, TB supposes, that the guys he showed how to tie their ties yesterday will joke about that 50 or 60 years from now, when one of them still can't do it well. What TB saw yesterday was all a big part of what it means to be on a team at Princeton, and it was again so special to see.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Princeton Pros

TigerBlog took a stroll down the "Princeton Pros Weekly" page yesterday.

There's a lot of great stuff there. If you haven't seen it, you can find it HERE.

Where to start?

The NFL preseason is moving along, which means that Jesper Horsted (Chicago), Caraun Reid (Carolina) and Stephen Carlson (Cleveland) are working towards roster spot and playing time. One former Tiger who also was in an NFL camp was former captain Graham Adomitis, who was with the Colts until he was released earlier this week.

While Adomitis did not make the team's final roster, that he was in camp at all was a testament to just how hard he had worked to turn himself into an NFL-level player. Hopefully he'll get another shot at it.

here's this clip of Bella Alarie with the Dallas Wings of the WNBA:

That's nothing Princeton fans haven't seen many times before from Alaire. Get the rebound at one end. Score in transition at the other end. How many times did she do that in her time as a Tiger?

Only one person who has ever played basketball at Princeton scored more points than Alarie did, and that was Bill Bradley. Alarie is Princeton's women's career leader with 1,703, while Bradley scored 2,503 (that's 800 more points, which if further confirmation that Bradley's Princeton accomplishments are in all likelihood unbreakable and get more impressive the more time goes by).

Alarie's Dallas Wings are currently in eight place in the WNBA standings. There will be eight teams who reach the postseason. To give you a sense of how tight things are with a month left in the regular season, the Wings are two games out of fifth and one game out of 10th. 

One league that reached the end of its regular season this past weekend is the Premier Lacrosse League. Princeton is represented by five players in the league, all five of whom are thinking championship in what is a very wide-open field.

The No. 1 seed in the PLL playoffs gets a bye to the semifinal round, and that turned out to be the Waterdogs, who feature two Princeton alums. One of those two is Michael Sowers, who scored twice in the season opener before being cross checked in the back of the head. He has, unfortunately, not been able to play since. 

The Waterdogs do have Zach Currier (11 goals, 11 assists, 51 ground balls, seven caused turnovers), which means they have the best all-around player in the league (you can possibly debate this) and the world's most tenacious player (you cannot possibly debate this). As TB has said many times before, you can't help but love Currier when he's on your team and can't help but hate him when he isn't. He does so many things well (scoring, assists, everything), and he is nonstop tireless effort. He way more often than not comes away with every loose ball, and he hounds opponents who have the ball every step of the way.

Currier was the only PLL player to reach double figures in goals and assists and have at least 50 ground balls. Or, if that doesn't work for you, he was also the only player in the league with double figures in goals and assists and at least seven caused turnovers.

The Waterdogs will play the winner of the Whipsnakes-Redwoods quarterfinal game in the semifinals on Sunday, Aug. 5. The Whipsnakes feature Princeton Director of Operations Chris Aslanian, who had five goals and an assist in the regular season.

The playoffs start with tomorrow night with the game between the Archers and Chaos, with the winner to play the winner of the Cannons and Atlas. The Archers feature Princeton alums Tom Schreiber and Ryan Ambler, who between them have 27 goals and 15 assists. Schreiber, with 14 goals and 13 assists, ranks eighth in the league in points with 27.

TigerBlog is rooting for as much Princeton in the championship game as possible. He'll be there, at Audi Field in Washington on Sept. 19, as his son bought him tickets for the game as a birthday present.

It will put TB into somewhat rare company, he presumes, of people who have attended an NCAA championship game (TB's been to a ton of those) as well as championship games in Major League Lacrosse and now the PLL. 

As he said, he's rooting for Princeton.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Going Back To 2015

TigerBlog learned something yesterday about Blake Dietrick that he didn't previously know.

Dietrick, of course, is one of the greatest women's basketball players Princeton has ever known. She was the 2015 Ivy League Player of the Year, after leading the Tigers to a 31-1 record in a season that featured a 30-0 regular season and the first NCAA win in program history.

TB already knew all that.

What he didn't realize was that Dietrick's high school team, Wellesley High School in Massachusetts, went 84-9 during her time on the basketball team there. If you add together Princeton's rather gaudy 98-22 record in her four years here, you get a total between high school and college of 182-33.

That's a lot of winning, and not a lot of losing mixed in. that's 215 games and 182 wins. That's a winning percentage of .847. That means winning 85 percent of your high school and Division I college basketball games.

How many people can make that claim?

The fact about her team's record has been sitting on her goprincetontigers.com bio page for years now, but TB either never noticed it or never thought to add it to her success at Princeton. When he finally did, he has to admit - he was very impressed.

Dietrick was a great athlete at Wellesley, where she is the school's all-time leading basketball scorer while also being a three-time All-American lacrosse player, not to mention finishing 10th in the state in cross country as a freshman.

She went from Princeton to a professional career that has seen her play in Europe and in the WNBA. She currently is playing professionally in 3x3 basketball, and this past weekend she played for Team USA in an event in Romania.

Dietrick was one of four players on the team that went 2-2 in the tournament, falling to eventual champion Germany 15-14 in the semifinals. Dietrick's teammates in the event were N'Dea Jones from Texas A&M, Jordan Reynolds from Tennessee and Breanna Richardson from Mississippi State.

If you talk to Dietrick for a few minutes, you'll be struck by how unassuming and laid-back she seems to be, especially if you've seen how tenaciously she plays. That fire, plus her obvious athleticism, combined to turn her into a player who has been able to make an impact on the professional and now international levels.

Look at the picture of her on the women's basketball page of goprincetontigers.com right now. Does that player look unassuming? Nope.

Her 2015 Princeton team was an extraordinary one, obviously. Here's a trivia question for you: that team had two players who started all 32 games. One was Dietrick. Who was the other? 

Your hint is that it wasn't Annie Tarakchian or Michelle Miller, who both started 31 of 32 (neither would start on Senior Night).

The 2014-15 season saw Princeton win two of its first three games by the same 59-43 score, against Pitt and Drexel. Only twice in that regular season did a team stay with 10 of Princeton, American in a 63-56 game in November and Yale 56-50 in the first meeting between the two. In fact, Princeton defeated the Bulldogs by 18 two weeks later in the rematch, making Yale the only one of the other seven Ivy schools whom Princeton did not defeat by at least 20 in at least one of the two meetings that season.

Princeton also reached the 100-point mark for a game for the first time in program history in a 104-33 win over Portland State. The Tigers would eclipse that in a 107-44 win over Wagner in three seasons later.

It still bothers TigerBlog, and most Princeton fans, that the Tigers had to play at Maryland in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Princeton was a No. 8 seed despite its perfect record, and TB was hoping for a four or five, which would have meant avoiding one of the top seeds (in this case Maryland) on their home court in Round 2, which is what came to be.

Princeton did defeat Wisconsin-Green Bay 80-70 in the first round of the tournament (Miller had 20 and Tarakchian had 19). The season ended with an 85-70 loss to the Terps in a game that had been four points at the break. Dietrick had a huge night, finishing with 26 points on 10 of 18 shooting.

It's always fun to look back on season's like that. It clearly was one of the greatest seasons any Princeton team in any sport has ever had.

And the trivia question? Dietrick, Miller and Tarakchian were usually joined in the starting lineup by two others, Alex Wheatley, who missed a few games that year due to injury, and the other who started all 32 games - Amanda Berntsen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Gentleman Taken Too Soon

As you probably know, TigerBlog has stayed in college athletic communications all of these years largely because of how much the profession has evolved over time. 


Long gone are the days of mailing out releases, producing printed media guides, placing photos into boxes through an obsolete desktop publishing software known as “PageMaker,” satellite coordinates for televising games, fax machines and, more than anything else, relying on others to do the bulk of your storytelling. Of all of those, the one that makes TB chuckle the most is the one about the satellite coordinates.


It used to be that if a game was televised by a local cable outlet, it was possible to share it with alumni groups by purchasing satellite time and uploading the game. It was up to the Office of Athletic Communications to then share those coordinates with the various groups who wanted to watch out outside of the Princeton area.


TB can still hear the conversations in his head:


TB: The channel is “Transponder C, channel RX5”

Alumni group leader: “Huh?”


There was probably a 30 percent success rate, followed by irate calls during and after the game by groups who had gathered to watch test patterns. These days, of course, there is simply the Ivy League on ESPN+.


There are some things about those days that TB misses. One of those is Ivy League football media day at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Connecticut.


The football media day always followed Ivy League sports information rosters, which meant the annual knock-down, drag-out over standardized rosters. Hah. Those were hilarious.


After the meeting, before which the late great Kathy Slattery of Dartmouth would proclaim that this was all for “the good of the clan,” there would be an Ivy SID dinner, and then the next day would be football media day, followed by 18 holes of golf.


The 2019 Ivy League football media day was held on the campus of ESPN and included athletes, in addition to coaches. The 2021 version was yesterday, and it was done via Zoom. Princeton head coach Bob Surace appeared from the Levine Broadcast Center in Jadwin Gym, and rising seniors Collin Eaddy and Jeremiah Tyler, the two Princeton representatives, weren’t yet on campus.


As was announced last week, Princeton is the 2021 preseason Ivy League favorite. The Tigers will be seeking out Ivy championship No. 4 under Surace.


The media day at Lyman Orchards was special for a lot of reasons. In what might seem like a bit of a contradiction given what TigerBlog said before about telling his own stories, one of the things that was special was the presence of a group of longtime, old-school, traditional sportswriters. Maybe it’s because that was TB’s introduction to the business, but he still does cherish those memories. And he’ll always have a soft spot for those who made the business so special.


You know, people like Jay Greenberg.


When TB was told by his former colleague Craig Sachson that Greenberg would be covering Princeton football a few years back, his response was “Which Jay Greenberg? The Jay Greenberg?”


When Greenberg left the New York Post, he began to cover Princeton football for the Princeton Football Association. In doing so, he brought with him decades of experience – make that “Hall of Fame” experience – after he had written for some of the biggest papers in the country. He came to New York to write columns for the Post, and his hockey coverage during his career landed him in the Hall of Fame for that sport.


TB was impressed by Greenberg’s credentials. As he began to get to know him better, he became more and more impressed with Greenberg as a human being. There was no hint of ego, no sense that he was above it all, none of that at all.


There was just an unassuming manner, a welcoming smile and a disarming, friendly personality. He talked to everyone, and there was nobody he came in contact with who didn’t like him.


Jay passed away last week at the very young age of 71 after a battle with West Nile Virus. TB had heard a few weeks earlier that Jay was ill and not doing well, and then he heard after that Jay was in hospice.


Still, the news that Jay was gone stung. TigerBlog has read a great number of tributes these last few days about Jay from his former colleagues, and he wanted to add his own thoughts here as well.


As TB pictures Jay Greenberg in his mind, he sees a man in a football press box, notebook in one hand, stat sheet in front of him, smiling, engaging in conversations and swapping stories. It’s exactly who Jay was, and TB would imagine Jay would be happy to be remembered that way.


He was a true gentleman and a great sportswriter.



Monday, August 16, 2021

Icy Forecast

It's officially the second half of the month of August.

If you look at the 10-day forecast for Princeton, you'll see that there is not a single 90-degree day in sight. After last week, that's a it refreshing. 

Are there are many 90-degree days left for this summer? Probably.

Still, the highest forecasted temperature in Princeton in the next 10 days is "only" 86. While it's not quite time to break out the sweaters and coats, it might be a sign that there is an autumn out there on the near horizon.

August is a fascinating month. Most people love the summer, but weeks last last week sort of suggest that cooler temperatures will be a welcome thing. Which month do you like better, June (summer just starting) or August (summer blazing down on you for week after week)?

September has a lot going for it. While January 1 is the official start of a New Year, everything seems to begin again in September - a new school year, a football season, the end of vacation season. 

Plus, around here at least, the weather in September and October is the best weather of the year. Of course, the cold and shorter days are looming beyond there, and it'll soon be Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then the New Year. 

If you think TigerBlog is getting ahead of himself here a bit, consider that, as amazing as it might seem, you know what is exactly two months from today? How about the return of Princeton hockey to Hobey Baker Rink. 

Hockey? No. Yes.

It's an exhibition game between the Princeton women and a National Women's Hockey League opponent. And while it might be a game that counts in the standings, it's still a game, one that will be followed shortly after that by the real ones. 

In fact, by the end of October, both the Princeton men and women will have played regular season games. Both teams start on the road, with the women at Yale and Brown Oct. 29 and 30 and the men at Army Oct. 30. 

If you want to see the Tigers play in person, fret not. You'll have plenty of chances in the month of November. Between the two teams, there will be 10 home games on the Baker Rink ice in November.

The 2019-20 COVID shutdown didn't come at a good time for either Princeton hockey team. 

The men had just finished taking out Dartmouth in the opening round of the ECAC playoffs. In fact, the Tigers had swept the Big Green, winning both games in overtime. The momentum from that performance in Hanover would have given the team confidence heading into the quarterfinals, which if TB is recalling correctly would have been at Quinnipiac.

As for the women, they had just won their first ECAC tournament championship, knocking off top-ranked Cornell in overtime in the final. Up next was going to be a trip to Northeastern to start the NCAA tournament, and there is nobody who will ever convince TB that Princeton didn't have as good a chance as anyone at taking home the top prize.

Fast forwarding, the women have been represented on the international level by several current players and recent alums. The men, for their part, have seen another Tiger have his name etched on the Stanley Cup, as Jeff Halpern won a second-straight NHL championship as a Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach.

And now, somewhat amazingly, the new season is just around the corner. Both teams released their schedules for the 2021-22 season last week.

For the men, their schedule is HERE. The women's schedule is HERE. Oh, and the women's schedule includes home games against Northeastern, that would-have-been NCAA opponent, for the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.

One change for this season is that there will be ticket sales for women's hockey. You can get ticket information HERE.

There aren't many places where you can have a better hockey experience than at Hobey Baker Rink. 

Last week's schedule release made the 90-degree weather seem a bit cooler. Call it an icy forecast, and it'll be here soon enough.


Friday, August 13, 2021

New Mentors, 1977 Edition

If you've never used the Daily Princetonian archives, then you're definitely missing out on some great stuff.

Maybe it's the historian in TigerBlog, but he can get sidetracked and re-sidetracked and sidetracked yet again when he goes into those archives. He'll start out looking for information on one subject related to Princeton Athletics, and then the next thing you know, he's reading about something fascinating that happened on campus in 1891 or 1919 or something like that. 

Of course, the archives are a great source of information on any historical events involving the Tigers. TB would like to thank all of the students who wrote for the Prince through the years, whether they went into writing or not (most did not).

Did they realize when they wrote their stories that the department historian would come to rely on them in 2021? Did they even comprehend how much help they'd be in the writing and fact-checking of the women's history book? 

Nope. They were either practicing a skill that would serve them well professionally or doing something that was fun at the time and that they probably look back on now with great fondness.

If you spend any time in those archives, you will see the evolution of newspaper writing and design, by the way. That, though, is a subject for another day, or for a senior thesis.

Oh, and HERE is the link, in case you want to get get lost in them yourself.

TB found himself there yesterday, in search of the earliest mentions of Peter Farrell, the longtime women's track and field coach. As was typical, he found himself reading a few stories that had nothing to do with Peter, as they were written before he was even born.

Eventually, though, he got back to the point at hand. And so it was that he found a story from Oct. 10, 1977, introducing new eight Princeton coaches – "mentors," the story called them. 

One of the coaches mentioned was Betty Logan, who was hired to coach field hockey and lacrosse. Logan's story is told in the history book, and it is a fascinating – and sad – one at that, as it talks about how Logan was born in London in 1942, sent to Scotland as a baby to get away from the war and then raised in an orphanage there. 

Another of the coaches was Kris Korzeniowski, a former Polish Olympic rower who would have a huge impact on the overwhelming early success of the Princeton women. There was also a new head women's swimming coach, a graduate of the University of Tennessee – and it wasn't Susan Teeter, another Volunteer who would coach the Tigers for 33 years. Instead, this one was Jane Tyler, an Olympic gold medalist in 1968 and 1972 who led the Tigers to a 44-9 dual meet record and five Ivy titles in six seasons. 

Then there were the two track and field announcements. Both of them would become legends.

One was Fred Samara, hired as an assistant coach under Larry Ellis. The announcement described this way: 

The 27-year-old athlete is a four-time Penn Relays champion and 1975 national AAU decathlon champion, ranking sixth in the world that year.

Samara of course is still at Princeton, still winning league championships and producing athletes of the highest quality. In fact, two of his current athletes recently competed in the Tokyo Olympic Games. 

The other coach was Peter Farrell, hired to be the first coach of varsity women's track and field. The release said this:

An NCAA indoor All-American in 1967 and 1968, he was the IC4A champion in the 1,000-yard run, and was ranked fifth in the country and 14th in the world in 1967.

As you probably know, Farrell coached at Princeton for 39 years, winning 27 Ivy Heps titles - nine each in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field. Farrell and Samara are the only two Ivy League track and field coaches who have ever led their programs to the "triple crown" of winning all three titles in one academic year, something both accomplished multiple times.

Farrell was recently named as a member of the US track and field coaches' association Hall of Fame Class of 2021. He'll be inducted this December in Orlando.

Peter Farrell has given so much of himself and his life to the sport of track and field, and he has impacted the lives of so many athletes on his watch. If anyone deserves to be in that Hall of Fame, it's Farrell.

From TB's perspective, he can tell you that one of his absolute most favorite things to do during his more than 30 years of being associated with Princeton Athletics has been to spend time with Peter Farrell. He is a very, very special human being and a real Princeton treasure in so many ways.

Hall of Famer? He's long been one to TigerBlog.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Remembering Royce Flippin


The 1981 Princeton-Yale game was named the best game of the 20th century by Princeton Athletic News, which is another way of saying that TigerBlog thought it was the best Princeton football game of the 20th century.

If you recall that game, Princeton won 35-31 on a touchdown run on the final play to snap a 14-game losing streak to the Bulldogs. All of the details from that day can be shortened to two words: Bob Holly.

That 1981 game has not been the only dramatic end to a Princeton-Yale game of course. There have been many others.

Take 1954 for instance. On that day – Nov. 13, 1954 – Princeton and Yale were tied in the final minute. The Tigers had the ball and were driving, and they had the ball on the Yale 4 after Dick Emery's pass to Don MacElwee.

The next play saw Royce Flippin run it into the end zone. It was his third touchdown of the game, including one that came on a 70-yard run.

This is how the Daily Princetonian article two days later began:

On Thursday night Princeton's team physician Dr. Harry R. McPhee stated that the Tiger's ace tailback, Royce Flippin, would be available for "spot duty" against Yale Saturday. Dick Colman, one of the assistant coaches, came up with the quote of the day yesterday when he remarked that the "spot must have been the Yale Bowl." Saturday was Flippin's day. In his press conference yesterday coach Charlie Caldwell commented, "Flip really let out on his third touchdown."

There's a lot in that paragraph, by the way. There's a mention of not one but two Hall of Fame coaches, Caldwell and Colman. Caldwell, by the way, referred to that game as his second best win as Princeton coach, after a 17-14 win over Penn in 1946. There's also Dr. Harry McPhee, who is of course the father of a different sort of Hall-of-Famer, writer John McPhee.

As for Royce Flippin, he went on to win the Roper Trophy as Princeton's top senior male athlete of 1956, after winning the Poe-Kazmaier Trophy as the football team MVP in 1955. He was drafted by Washington in the NFL, and he went on to graduate from Harvard Business School and serve in the Marines before beginning a career in business.

He also served as the Director of Athletics at Princeton from 1972-79 before spending 12 more years as the AD at MIT.

Flippin passed away last week at the age of 87. The last time TigerBlog spoke with him was a few months ago, when he interviewed Flippin for his role in the growth of women's athletics during his tenure. His record in that area was tremendous.

Princeton women's athletics was in its infancy when Flippin became the AD, having only two years earlier had its first events. When he left, the program had 11 varsity women's teams.

Flippin worked closely with Merrily Dean Baker in building that women's athletic program. When TB spoke with Baker after Flippin's death, she talked extensively about how much Flippin had cared about the women athletes at Princeton. Beyond that, she spoke about how much he invested in her own professional development and career growth and how he did so for everyone in the department. She called him a "gentleman."

It's the same word that Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters used as well. He described Flippin as "a gentleman, a great athlete and a scholar."

He was certainly all of those things. He established himself as a great athlete before he even came to Princeton after his time at Montclair High School, where he was one of New Jersey's great prep athletes of his generation.   

TB dealt with Royce Flippin many times through the years. He was certainly what Baker and Walters said he was, which is to say he was a great gentleman, a very caring man, a very loyal man. He always had time for TB whenever he needed him, and presumably there are literally hundreds of others who knew Flippin who can say the same thing.

TigerBlog is glad he had a chance to know Royce Flippin. He's very glad he had a chance to include him in his women's history book.

He was sad when he heard the news of Flippin's passing. Baker told TB about what a great family man Flippin was and the family he and his wife of better than 60 years Louise built together. 

Flippin was also a great member of the Princeton family, and not just for his successes on the field.

TB wishes the Flippin family his deepest condolences. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Football Links

TigerBlog saw a story yesterday on CBSsports.com that listed the top college football program in each state. 

It's a website that likes to stuff like that. It's always listing the top this or that or the best NFL team you could make if you took one player from each team but had to fill out all positions. It's fun and innocuous, even if it ultimately means very little.

The one TB saw yesterday, of course, means a lot more, since it included Princeton as the top college football program in the state of New Jersey. Even beyond that, you know who was the choice in Connecticut? Sacred Heart.

Clearly whoever chose this list knows what he or she is talking about obviously.

Here's what it said about the Garden State:

New Jersey was a low-key difficult choice. Princeton won 18 games between 2018 and 2019 and has a pair of Ivy League titles in 2016 and 2018. Monmouth has three FCS playoff appearances in the last four years. Even Rutgers is better under coach Greg Schiano. But Princeton has the last head-to-head over Monmouth and has been a pretty consistent winner lately.

In all seriousness, Princeton football has been in a very good place the last few years. Head football coach Bob Surace has built an outstanding program and has done so in the best way possible – by bringing in the right fits athletically and as people. 

It's a program that routinely produces championship-level teams and does so with a lockerroom of guys who are easy to root for if you're a Princeton fan. You can't really ask for much more.

Surace, as you might recall, started with back-to-back 1-9 seasons in 2010 and 2011. His overall record is now 56-44, which means he is 54-26 since. You can add to those numbers Ivy League championships in 2013, 2016 and 2018 (a perfect season to boot). Princeton has won at least eight games in four of its last seven seasons.

You don't put up numbers like that accidentally. The CBS Sports piece is a recognition of that.

Princeton will begin practice for the 2021 season in a few weeks. When it does so, none of the preseason honors or accolades will matter. For now, they're fun, to wit:

* the CBS Sports piece, which you can read HERE

* the preseason honors that linebacker Jeremiah Tyler has earned, which you can read about HERE

* Princeton's selection as the Ivy League preseason favorite, which you can read HERE

And while this isn't really a story about a preseason honor, you can click HERE to listen to Surace and TB's colleague Cody Chrusciel talk about the program prior to the start of training camp.

The Ivy League poll was released yesterday. The Tigers were named the preseason league favorite in a vote of Ivy media members, receiving eight of 16 first-place votes and 113 total points. Yale, with six first-place votes and 104 points, was second, followed by Dartmouth with 88 points and one first-place vote.

With no games last year, there are two classes of players who have yet to see action. There are also a slew of players who took last year off and are back, as well as others who didn't and who have graduated. There is probably more uncertainty going into this season than in pretty much any other for awhile, which possibly explains Columbia, who was voted seventh but also got a first place vote. 

The preseason FCS Top 25 was released this week, and no Ivy League school received even a single vote. One team that received a lot of votes was Monmouth, who started off the season ranked 13th. 

Princeton is at Monmouth on Oct. 9, which makes for a pretty intriguing in-state matchup. Will the Hawks be motivated by the CBS Sports story? 

Like most other things in the preseason, that won't matter at all once the ball is on the tee. But again, like most things preseason, it was fun to check out.  

Of course, they're not as much fun to check out as the games themselves, and those will be here in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The End Of The Tokyo Games

Today starts with two corrections from yesterday.

They were both bad mistakes, in hindsight. Thanks to a pair of loyal readers for catching them. 

The first one came from Tad La Fountain, who has written several highly entertaining blogs in the past here. Tad pointed this out about a Princeton double gold medalist whom TB said won in shooting, not sailing:

Herman "Swede" Whiton '26 won the Gold Medal in 1948 and again in 1952 sailing his 6-meter sloop. No firearms were involved.  

Then there was this from Mike Knorr, when TB mentioned Princeton women alums who had won more than one Olympic medal:

Ummm...didn't you forget a certain soccer player who also won multiple medals at the Olympics? Or does she not count because she did it for Canada? 

Yes indeed. TB somehow forgot to mention Diana Matheson, who won a pair of bronze medals for Canada. Luckily TB didn't forget her for the upcoming women's history book; there's an entire chapter devoted to Matheson's soccer career.

So with those two corrections out of the way, here are a few more Olympic thoughts now that the Games have ended:

 * Bruce Springsteen's daughter Jessica ended up winning a silver medal in equestrian team jumping. TB has two things on this. First, he didn't read any story about her accomplishment that didn't include badly forced puns that reference Springsteen songs. You know, something like "she may have been born to run, but she ended up being born to ride as well." To be fair, TB actually wrote a sentence like that last week and then deleted it because of how trite it was. Second, TB appreciates what goes into the equestrian events and really enjoys watching them. It makes him wonder what sort of all-around athlete an equestrian rider is. Maybe they're great athletes. TB just doesn't know.

* Princeton's contingent in Tokyo ended up producing three medals, one gold (Ashleigh Johnson's in water polo) and two bronze (Tom George and Fred Vystavel in rowing). TB finds something very extraordinary about the fact that George (heavyweight 8s) and Vystavel (lightweight pairs) won their medals in two different events while representing two different countries (George is from Great Britain and Vystavel is from Denmark). That makes their common denominator being Princeton Tigers. The rowing program is like the University itself, drawing in students from all over the world who can pursue excellence in all of their passions, and the results are often incredible. Winning Olympic medals is no different. To do so as former Princeton teammates with that similar foundation for their experience and mindset speaks a great deal about the Tiger rowing program, especially the coaching, as well as the University.

* For all of the great Olympic moments TB saw, maybe the most impressive was in synchronized swimming, er, making that artistic swimming, as it's now known. Did you happen to see the Russian Olympic Committee women in the team competition? There were eight swimmers, and their performance cannot even begin to be described. And then there's Svetlana Romashina, who has now competed in four Olympic Games and between the pairs and team categories has competed in eight separate medal competitions. Her Olympic tally? Eight medals, all eight of which are gold. That's pretty good.

* Two athletes who didn't go home with medals were Princeton's Julia Ratcliffe and Lizzie Bird, women's track and field teammates in the Class of 2017. As was the case with George and Vystavel, the two track athletes were also from different countries. Ratcliffe is a New Zealander. Bird is from Great Britain. They both reached the final of their events (Ratcliffe in the hammer, Bird in the 3,000-meter steeplechase), and then they both finished in ninth place. They were both remarkable performances for the two, who both hold their country's national record in their events. Not every athlete is in a position to win a medal, and success can't only be measured that way. In the case of Ratcliffe and Bird, they seem like big-time winners in Tokyo.

* If you followed the Games on the Olympic app or Olympics.com and clicked onto the bio of an athlete, you saw an incredible amount of information. There were 10,300 athletes there. Maybe some of them didn't have in-depth information about them, but all of the ones that TB clicked onto had one. That's a lot of work. TB wonders how many people contributed to that effort.

* The next Olympics are only a few months away, as the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing are scheduled to begin Feb. 4. The next Summer Games are three years away, in 2024 in Paris. There's also a World Cup coming up at the end of next year.

* You can watch Princeton athletes compete in Orange and Black after their Olympic experience. Mohamed Hamza will be back to fence. Ed Trippas will be running cross country and track and field (cross country starts soon). Sondre Guttormsen will pole vault.

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Extraordinary Ashleigh Johnson

You do realize that you're seeing something completely extraordinary when you watch Ashleigh Johnson play, right? 

A water polo goal is three feet high and nearly 10 feet wide. The idea that anyone can tread water and then launch fully extended and reach the corners of that goal? Yeah, it's extraordinary.

Now imagine doing it 11 times on the 15 shots that are on goal in a game. Again, extraordinary. And if that game happens to be in the Olympic final? 

That's even more extraordinary. 

And now you have some understanding of what it is that Ashleigh Johnson can do that others simply cannot. 

The United States defeated Spain 14-5 Saturday afternoon in Tokyo to win its third-straight Olympic gold. Johnson has been the goalie on the most recent two of those teams, and she was dominant again in these games. She led the tournament in save percentage and goals-against, and she saved her best for last, with an 11-save performance against the Spanish.

There's something about being a goalie in any sport that has always fascinated TigerBlog. He always loves when fans or commentators exalt "great save," since he thinks any save is a great save. No matter the sport, the goalie has to put himself or herself in front of a ball that is traveling at presumably a high rate of speed with nobody else who can bail them out at that point. When a goal is allowed, everyone looks at the goalie, even when there was nothing that could be done about it.

The very best goalies make bad teams good and good teams great. They make enough saves here and there that swing results of games and ultimately championships. They demoralize the opponent. They pick up their team. They are as valuable as anything in sports. 

Ashleigh Johnson is all that and more.

TigerBlog doesn't know all that much about the history of international women's water polo, though he does know it only dates back to 2000 in the Olympics. He has to believe that Johnson is at least vaulting herself into the conversation among the best ever.

He does know a lot about the history of Princeton women's athletics and Princeton athletes in general. If you want to call Johnson Princeton's greatest female athlete ever, you can certainly make a strong case for that.

With the gold medal Saturday – by the way, TB has to find out which of his colleagues was the one who updated Twitter around 4 am or so when the game ended – she joins rower Caroline Lind as the only two Princeton women athletes ever to win two gold medals. Beyond that, only rower Anne Marden has also won multiple medals (silvers in 1984 and 1988) among Princeton women.

If you add in the men, here's the list of two-time gold medalists: Nelson Diebel (100 breaststroke and the medley relay in 1992), Herman Whilton (gold in the six-meter pistol in 1928 and 1932), Karl Frederick (gold in the 50 meter free pistol and 50 meter team free pistol in 1920) and Robert Garrett Jr. (gold in discus and shot put in 1896). 

Johnson was the leader of the U.S. team in Tokyo. She's grown into that role, from someone who was reluctant to get involved with the national team program when she first had that chance. She told TB about that when he spoke with her for the women's history book, which will be available soon.

Of course, he has to do a bit of updating before the final version is printed, now that Johnson is a double gold-medalist.

When he spoke to Johnson for the book, she was very candid about her background in the sport, what her experience at Princeton was, what the first trip to the Olympics was like. She talked about being the first Black U.S. Olympic women's water polo player, and she's addressed that subject repeatedly during these Games. She's a role model, and it's something that she has clearly embraced.

Wherever she has gone, she's been the perfect representative of Princeton University and Princeton Athletics. She seems to always be smiling, in picture after picture, with fans and teammates, with anyone really – other than in the pictures of her where she is about to make yet another save. Then she's laser-focused on the task at hand.

And it just happens to be a task that she can do better than anyone in the world. The result was a second gold medal, accomplished in dominating fashion Saturday in Tokyo, when her incredible talent was again on display for the world to see.

Yes, she was definitely extraordinary.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Ashleigh Johnson Goes For Two

TigerBlog has a new favorite non-Princeton story from these Olympic Games.

It seems that there is a statue of a sumo wrestler near one of the jumps on the equestrian course. This statue is one of several iconic Japanese features that decorate the course, and who could have imagined that there would be any issue, right? 

Well, it appears that the fake sumo wrestler is frightening the horses, causing that jump to have a disproportionate share of mishaps. No, seriously. TB isn't making this up.

Here's a quote from one rider:

"It does look like a person, and that's a little spooky. You know, horses don't want to see a guy, like, looking intense next to a jump, looking like he's ready to fight you." 

There are just some things that you cannot anticipate, right?  

When it comes to what you could have anticipated from these Olympics, it was the fact that the United States women's water polo team and the Hungarian men would be very much in the gold medal hunt.

Hungary has been the dominant team in men's water polo, with nine gold medals and 15 total medals already won through the years. No other country has won more four gold medals (that's Great Britain, who won the first four tournaments, with its most recent gold in 1920). Italy, with eight medals, is the closest to the Hungarians for the overall total.

Why is Hungary so good at water polo? TigerBlog did a search and found this:

A culture of aquatics and water sports, early adoption and innovation of the sport and the position of the sport in relation to the history of Hungary have all contributed to Hungary's profile in international water polo.

There are also several articles (and apparently a documentary) on the famous 1956 Olympic semifinal game between Hungary and the Soviet Union, which is known as the "Blood In The Water Game." The best of the stories that TB found is THIS one, which tells the story of Hungary's win shortly after the Soviet Union forcefully put down the Hungarian uprising.

The United States men have never won an Olympic gold medal in water polo, though they have won three silvers and three bronzes (the only medal since 1988 was a silver in 2008). There will be no American medal this time around, as the semifinals tomorrow are Hungary-Greece and Serbia-Spain. TB will take Hungary, knowing nothing about any of these teams.

Water polo was first contested in the Olympics in the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris. It would be 100 years later when women first had Olympic water polo, making this the sixth Olympic tournament. The only country to have won a medal in each of the first five Olympic women's tournaments is the United States.

If you're wondering, the Hungarian women have never won an Olympic medal, though they have lost the bronze medal game each of the three Games.

Australia won the first women's water polo gold (as the host nation as well). Then it was Italy and the Netherlands. The U.S. won its first gold in 2012 and then repeated in 2016. 

Of course, Princetonians have a special interest in the sport of women's water polo, as their own Ashleigh Johnson has been the dominant goalie in the world for several years now. In fact, she has been named the best player in the world on three occasions.

As a Princeton student, she was a first-team All-American and a Cutino Award winner as the top player in women's college water polo before graduating in 2017. Johnson competed as a Princeton senior after she helped the Americans to the 2016 gold medal. Now she's back chasing a second one.

She is assured of another Olympic medal after the U.S. defeated the Russian Olympic Committee team 15-11 in the semifinals yesterday. The game was 7-4 late in the first half before the Americans outscored the Russians 11-4 the rest of the way.

Spain defeated Hungary in the second semifinal, which means two things. First, the Hungarians play the Russians in the bronze medal game, hoping to break that streak of three-straight bronze medal losses. TB wonders how much the players in that game know about the "Blood In The Water Game."

That semifinal game also sets up a gold medal match between the United States and Spain, which will be tomorrow at 4:30 in the afternoon in Tokyo, or 3:30 am in Princeton. 

Enjoy the final weekend of these Olympic Games. TB will be back Monday with more on Ashleigh Johnson and her place in Princeton Athletics history.