Thursday, September 30, 2021

The First Weekend Of October

Georgetown's women's soccer team has played 10 games and won five of them. 

Is the Georgetown women's soccer team undefeated? Is this a trick question?

Yes, the Hoyas are unbeaten. They have no losses. They do have five ties to go along with their five wins, which makes their record a very unique 5-0-5 heading into today's game at home against DePaul.

If you look at the English Premier League standings (or should that be table), you'll see that a 5-0-5 record would belong to a .500 team, since it lists wins, draws and losses. If you look at the current table, you'll see both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs listed as 3-0-3, which means three wins, three losses and no draws.

Liverpool, if you're wondering, is the lone unbeaten team in the EPL.

Meanwhile, back at Division I college women's soccer, there is only one unbeaten, untied team, and that's top-ranked Florida State. Georgetown, at 5-0-5, is ranked 23rd. Hofstra, at 9-1-0, is ranked 11th. That's in the United Soccer Coaches' poll, by the way.

Princeton is in the "others receiving votes" category after having been ranked earlier this season. The Tigers are 8-1-1 after a 6-1 pasting of Bucknell Tuesday night behind two goals each from Gabi Juarez and Amy Paternoster, with the tie against Georgetown and a 2-0 loss to Hofstra on Sept. 16.

Since then, the Tigers have been rolling. In fact, in three games since the loss, Princeton has defeated Delaware, Yale and Bucknell by a combined 14-1. 

Being ranked now would be nice. It's not essential, though, for what Princeton is trying to accomplish. It starts with an Ivy League championship, and that's not something that's going to be easy to do, not in the league this year.

Harvard is currently unbeaten at 7-0-1 and ranked 20th. Brown, the defending champion, is 6-3-0. Penn is 5-2-2. Those three, along with Princeton, are ranked in the top 75 in Division I RPI right now. 

No Ivy team is ranked in the bottom 100. Every game in the league is a challenge, especially on the road.

Princeton's next one is at Dartmouth Saturday. The Big Green are 4-3-1 after falling to Brown in their own Ivy opener last weekend. 

Princeton has seven regular season games remaining, and six of those are in the Ivy League. The remaining non-league game is Tuesday, Oct. 19, at Lehigh. The next two weekends feature the long rides to Dartmouth first and then to Brown.

The Princeton-Dartmouth women's game Saturday begins at 1 and is the opening game of a doubleheader that features Princeton-Dartmouth men at 5. Because the men's NCAA tournament begins a week after the women's tournament, the Ivy League season also begins a week later for the men. That means this is opening weekend for men's Ivy games.

Princeton is 3-4-0 after a 1-0 loss to St. John's Tuesday night. Dartmouth enters the game at a very uncharacteristic 0-6-0, but keep this in mind: Dartmouth has played both the No. 1 team in the country (Georgetown) and the No. 2 team in the country (Washington). 

Oh, and Georgetown is unbeaten in men's soccer as well, though this time it's a perfect 7-0-0 record.

The doubleheader, as TB said, is in Hanover. The first October weekend does offer some good events on the Princeton campus as well, with the women's volleyball team home tomorrow and Saturday against Dartmouth and Harvard. The Tigers are 1-0 in the Ivy League after defeating Penn last weekend.

There is home men's water polo against Brown and Harvard Saturday at 10 and 5, so you can go to those before and after the football game against Columbia at 1. The men's water polo also hosts MIT Sunday at 11 a.m.

Meanwhile, the field hockey team is home twice this weekend, against Yale tomorrow at 5 and UConn Sunday at noon.

Yale comes in at 4-3, having won three of its last four, including a 2-1 win over Brown in the Ivy League opener last week. UConn is ranked 16th, one spot ahead of Princeton.

Princeton's dynamic freshman Beth Yeager leads the Ivy League in goals, assists and points and is in the top six in Division I in all three.

The full schedule for Princeton athletic events is HERE.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Happy Birthday Gary

TigerBlog would like to wish a happy birthday (one day late) to Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus Gary Walters.

In fairness, TB did reach out to Gary yesterday to say happy birthday. If TB is correct, then Gary is now 76. 

As you probably know, Gary was the AD at Princeton from 1994-2014, a 20-year span that trails only Ken Fairman (1941-1972) in length of tenure among those who have held the position. Not that you need TB to review Gary's resume, but he played for Pete Carril at Reading High School before coming to Princeton and being the starting point guard on the 1965 NCAA Final Four men's basketball team.

He graduated in 1967 after having his picture, along with teammate Chris Thomforde, on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He then began a career in coaching, which included being an assistant coach to Carril at Princeton for the 1975 NIT championship and coaching future Tiger head coach Bill Carmody at Union before serving as head coach at Dartmouth and Providence.

After coaching, he had a long career in business and television before he came back to Princeton as the AD. 

It's been more than seven years since Gary left that position, which means it's long past the time when any current athletes were here who started during his run. Still, even if they don't know him, they see his legacies every day, whether in some of the facilities whose construction he oversaw and even more so in the "Education Through Athletics" banners that are in those facilities, or in the relationships they've built with their Faculty Fellows.

It was Gary who coined the phrase "Education Through Athletics," which he used to sum up the life lessons that are learned through intercollegiate athletics. One of his favorite things to say was that athletics were "co-curricular," not extra-curricular. He thinks of coaches as teachers and playing fields as extensions of classrooms.

As for the Faculty Fellows, Gary began that program based on his own experiences with then-Princeton sociology professor Marvin Bressler. It has grown since its inception to provide several University faculty and staff members for each of the 37 current varsity teams who are there to give another mentoring voice to each of the athletes on those teams. It has been a wildly successful program that has brought together people throughout the campus and created tremendous relationships that have helped the athletes learn to navigate Princeton.

Gary also has the distinction of having had a direct impact on the careers of three of the eight current Ivy league Directors of Athletics. 

Peter Roby, who is the interim AD at Dartmouth, played for Gary when he was the coach for the Big Green in the late 1970s. In fact, Roby was the senior captain of the 1978-79 Big Green, which was the last of Gary's four years as head coach in Hanover. 

Gary also was the AD at Princeton when Erin McDermott, now the Harvard AD, was here. John Mack, Princeton's current Ford Family Director of Athletics, began his post-Princeton career in 2000 by working in the athletic department under Gary's watch. 

This is something that Gary in which Gary takes a great deal of pride, and he rightfully should.

TigerBlog and Gary started at Princeton on the very same day back in 1994. TB first met Gary earlier than that, during his newspaper days, when he wrote a story in 1990 on the 25th anniversary of the 1965 team's Final Four.

TB most recently saw Gary in the press box at the football game against Stetson Saturday. Gary may be retired, but he is still very much invested in the Princeton athletic program. 

It's amazing to TB how long it's been since Gary was the head of the department. Time flies, right? And it's also amazing to think about how many people work in the department now who were hired in the seven years since Gary left. 

For those who never met him or worked with him, TB would say this: There haven't been too many people who have ever come around who have been as big a fan of the Tigers as Gary has been. For all of his different roles here, that's what he's always been - a Princeton fan, of every team, every sport, every athlete.

After all of the time he's spent at Princeton, that's probably a legacy that he's very comfortable having.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Stat Update

When TigerBlog first started at Princeton, all stats were kept by hand.

In football, this was a particularly arduous process. There were different charts and spreadsheets (the real kind, not the Excel kind), and lots of different colored pencils.

When the game was over, TigerBlog had to go into the office of the late Marge DeFrank, a longtime departmental secretary, and use her somewhat state-of-the-art computer to manually enter the stats into a program that totaled up season cumulative numbers. 

It was a huge pain.

There was also a form that had to be filled out to submit to the NCAA (via fax machine) to have Princeton's stats included in the national leaders. Of course, back then, those national leaders would be available through a service called "Fax On Demand." 

There was a time when Fax On Demand - sort of a primitive way of downloading information - was a really, really important part of college athletic communications. 

The NCAA football form made no sense at all. Every player was assigned a code number, and these numbers were somewhat random. They weren't uniform numbers. They weren't by position. They didn't correspond to alphabetical order. 

Filling out the NCAA football form took forever. Then you had to fax it to the NCAA, only you were doing this at the same time that everyone else around the country was also trying to do this, so you often got something that was known as a busy signal. If you're under 30, do you ever know what that is? 

And, of course, you couldn't leave after the game until you got your little confirmation fax back saying it had been received. It's not like you could do something like, oh, scan it and send it electronically from the laptop you had with you at all times.

Ah, how things have changed. These days, the NCAA form is something that hardly anyone remembers. The NCAA gets its stats automatically when the XML file from a game is generated and uploaded to the website. 

The NCAA provides great team-by-team stats on its webpage. It's easy to find national leaders, where your own players stand, everything that used to be next to impossible to find years ago. And it's all updated pretty much daily. 

By the way, also back then, the two worst stats kept were tackles in football and face-offs in men's lacrosse. Today, if you add up the number of face-off wins and face-off losses for everyone in college men's lacrosse, it'll come to the same number. Every face-off has one winner and one loser. 

The home team is responsible for keeping official stats. Back then, each team did their own stats, so both teams could record a face-off win on the same face-off if they wanted. TB would guess that if you added up total face-offs won and total face-offs lost for every team in, say, 1995, you'd find out that 55 percent were wins and 45 percent were losses.

Football tackles were even worse. These days, you can only enter two players for tackles on any given play (you can enter zero or one, but not more than two). Even on one of those plays were it seems like seven guys converge on the ball carrier, only two can get credit.

Back when TB first started, tackles during the game weren't official. Instead, the coaches would review the film and give you the tackle stats on Monday, and then it was back to the computer to reenter them.

Of course, coaches could give as many tackles per play as they wanted to, and many often did. TB once saw an unnamed opponent's coaches tackle sheet from the game against Princeton the previous week, and it had more than three times as many tackles as Princeton had run plays. For its part, the NCAA didn't even count tackles as an official stat until 2000.

Anyway, the whole point of this is to call your attention to THIS page. You can find so much information there that it'll keep you busy all day. It has current stats, national leaders, active career leaders, pretty much everything. You can select the year, the sport, whatever you want.

Are you as into this as TB, or is he just a bit different when it comes to stats?

Monday, September 27, 2021

Highly Defensive

In deference to Bill Carmody, TigerBlog did not look up the last time the Princeton football team had consecutive shutouts and opened a season with consecutive shutouts.

What does Princeton's former men's basketball coach – in fact he was the head coach when current head coach Mitch Henderson was a junior and senior – have to do with the 2021 Princeton football team? 

Well, Carmody believed strongly in something he called "The Whammy," which essentially means "don't jinx anything." Looking up a stat like consecutive shutouts before it happened would fall squarely in "The Whammy" camp.

As it turned out, TB did look it up, right at the start of the fourth quarter of Saturday's 63-0 win over Stetson on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. And as it turned out further, the answers were this:

* consecutive shutouts? That would be 1965, when Princeton shut out Colgate and Penn back to back. If you go back a year earlier, Princeton actually had four straight on its way to a perfect 1964 season.

* consecutive shutouts to start a season? That goes back a bit further, all the way to 1933, when Art Lane captained the team to a 9-0 record and the national championship. 

Princeton shut out Amherst and Williams to start that 1933 season. TB doesn't like the current Tigers' chances of matching the 1933 team's mark after that, as those Tigers actually pitched shutouts in the first seven games of that season.

Princeton's defense through two weeks has been insanely good. Princeton's shutout this week followed last week's 32-0 blanking of Lehigh in the season opener. Between the two games, Princeton's opponents have rushed the ball a total of 48 times. How many yards rushing did they have between them? One.

That's one yard. That's 36 inches. That's actually 109 yards gained and 108 yards lost. Keep in mind, in college football sacks count as negative rushing yards, while in the NFL they count as negative team passing yards. 

Through two games, Princeton has sacked the opposing quarterback 12 times, for a loss of 80 yards. Even taking that away, Princeton's numbers against the run would be 36 opponent attempts for 81 yards, or 2.3 yards per attempt.

Maybe TB's favorite early-season stat for the Tigers is that no player on the team has more than eight tackles. How insane is that? 

There is so much balance and depth that nobody needs to be the dominant player. As a result, they all are, at least collectively as a unit. In all 35 different players have made at least one tackle. They all swarm, and do so quickly and aggressively. It's fun to watch them.

Offensively, it is more of the same. At one point early in the third quarter, Princeton had only two starters on the field – right guard David Hoffman and right tackle Connor Scaglione. The Tigers had five different quarterbacks play in the game. There were 12 different players who carried the ball at least once and seven different players with at least one reception, including a touchdown reception for each of the Big Three of Jacob Birmelin, Dylan Classi and Andrei Iosivas.

Princeton led 35-0 at the half on Saturday. In the second half, Princeton ran the ball on 31 of 35 plays, including 16 of 17 in the fourth quarter. Part of this was that there was no need to pass. Part of this was to play things closer to the vest. 

With no offense to Lehigh or Stetson, the stakes will be raised considerably this weekend, when 2-0 Columbia comes to Powers Field for the Ivy League opener. After that is a non-league Top 20 team in Monmouth (on the road) and then six more Ivy League games.

The first two games have been a great opportunity to come back from a year off and play a lot of players. It's been a great chance to see what a new quarterback can do (Cole Smith is 45 for 65 for 637 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions). 

For the next game, it's back to 0-0, both on the scoreboard and the record. The same is true for Columbia, which also goes back to 0-0. Harvard and Yale already have impressive league wins. There have been strong non-league performances. In the Ivy League, no game will be easy. 

On the other hand, every game in the league will also be exciting. There's a long way to go until November, and the goal is to play meaningful games when you get there.

The road to that begins at home this coming Saturday.

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Home Opener

TigerBlog begins today with a quick field hockey note.

As Princeton prepares for this afternoon's Ivy League opener at Penn, it does so with sophomore Bridget Murphy back in the lineup. If you were at the season-opening game against North Carolina, you saw Murphy suffer what appeared to be a season-ending injury just six seconds into the game. This was after her freshman season was lost to the pandemic.

Instead, she was able to come back in far, far less time than anyone would have imagined. She made her collegiate debut this past Tuesday at Maryland, and she made a huge impact immediately.

You can read her story HERE.

The field hockey team has games today and Sunday (home against Rutgers at noon). In between, the football team has its home opener tomorrow at 1 against Stetson.

When that game was originally scheduled, it was to be a homecoming day of sorts for former Princeton head coach Roger Hughes, who led the Tigers to the 2006 Ivy League championship. Hughes coached Stetson from the program's inception in 2013 until last year, when he left to become the president of his alma mater, Doane College.

Actually, it wasn't the inception of the program. Stetson had a football team all the back in 1901, but the program was dropped in 1956. Stetson played in the 1952 Tangerine Bowl (which TB believes is now the Citrus Bowl), defeating Alabama State 35-20. 

The final game the Hatters played before dropping the program was a 64-0 win over the University of Havana. At least that's what it says on Wikipedia.

The current Stetson team is 2-0, with big wins over Warner and Ave Maria, a pair of NAIA schools. Stetson had last week off.

Princeton, on the other hand, made its debut last week and shut out Lehigh 32-0. Tiger quarterback Cole Smith won the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week award, and why not? This was his stat line: 30 for 41, 412 yards, three touchdowns. Those are Pat Mahomes numbers.

Smith's 412 yards were the 12th-best single-game total in program history. TigerBlog, being the historian he is, wondered if that was the record for a Princeton quarterback in his first start.

When he checked the games above Smith, the only one that might have been better was Doug Butler's 417 in 1983. There were two issues with this.

First, those 417 yards came against Bucknell in Week 2 of the 1983 season, and TB was pretty sure Butler didn't start in Week 1. Once he confirmed that, he saw something interesting. 

In some places he looked, Butler had 417 passing yards in the game. In others, Butler had 411.

Why the discrepancy? TigerBlog isn't sure, but he would guess it has something to do with the hand-kept stats back then. Perhaps in the final stats, someone had trouble distinguishing the "1" and the "7?"

So now what? Seriously, what are the odds that the 412 yards Smith threw for would fall in between the two totals TB saw listed from Butler in the game 38 years ago? 

TB tried to find the box score in the archives room, but that's the only game that wasn't in the folder. Again, what are the odds. He'll reach out to Bucknell to see what they have.

Meanwhile, Princeton is looking to improve from last week's effort, as team's often do from Week 1 to Week 2. Yes, a 32-0 win is convincing, but the Ivy League looks strong and there are challenges in every week to come. And there were certainly things that needed to be cleaned up from last week. It was the kind of opener coaches love. A big win, with some clear areas that need to be addressed. 

One of the areas is not depth. Princeton may have its deepest team ever this year.

Beyond Stetson is the Ivy League opener against Columbia next Saturday, also on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. The final non-league game is at Monmouth on Oct. 9, and Monmouth is a top 20 team.

Princeton is not. No Ivy team is ranked, partly because of the late start and partly because there was no Ivy football last year. That's going to change as the season goes along. Who will move into the rankings? It could be any one or two or three in the league. 

Princeton only has four home games this year (though there are still two more away games within an hour drive). The weather tomorrow in the Princeton area is supposed to be perfect. The team is certainly worth checking out.

Kickoff is at 1. See you there.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Ivy Openers

It was around 12:20 or so yesterday when TigerBlog pulled up to the light at the corner of Ivy Lane and Washington Road.

It was about 12:30 when he finally made it to the light at Washington and Faculty. 

Why is this? Because classes had just let out, and the area was a sea of Princeton students, leaving one class, hurrying to another, getting to lunch, going on with their days.

They were a big mass of great young people who have the amazing honor of studying at the country's No. 1 university. TigerBlog assumes they all take some time to appreciate that fact. He also assumes that, in the hustle and bustle of a regular school day, that's not what they're thinking.

They seemed to cross the streets where TB needed to turn in one huge wave after another, which was fine with TB. For one thing, his 12:30 meeting had been pushed to 12:45, so he had some time.

For another thing, it was just great to see all the students out like that. He's seen it a million times before, and it always registers with him. Yesterday was no different.

He could see some familiar faces, athletes from some of the teams. Even some other athletes whose faces are unfamiliar were dressed in their team Nike gear, which made them also recognizable.

Here, though, they were the first half of the "student-athlete" designation, and at a university that values undergraduate education and the integration of all of its students into the educational experience, it was again impressive. 

Princeton's football players these days have backpacks that have their last names on them, which is a good thing, since it's not always easy to tell who is who without the helmet and uniform numbers. TB saw one of those players with one of those backpacks who was walking along with three other students who did not have a Nike backpack of their own. That's what it looks like when the university blends everyone together the way it does.

There are no athlete dorms or athlete dining halls. There are no separate athletic academic buildings. At Princeton, you are a student first and then an athlete.

TB has always thought that being better at the first helps you be better at the second. That's sort of the core of what Education Through Athletics is all about.

The athletes who compete in the fall will be busy yet again this weekend, as they are every weekend. There is a twist though - for the first time, there will be Ivy League competition.

In fact, there are three teams who open their league seasons, and all three are hoping that this is the start of a championship run. In recent years, all three have had more seasons that end that way than not.

The first Ivy League game will be the field hockey game tomorrow afternoon at Penn. If you were planning on going, keep in mind that the game was previously listed at 3 but is now a 4 pm start. Princeton has won 26 Ivy League field hockey championships, which is by far the most in the league.

The Tigers are ranked 17th in the country, with overtime losses to two top 10 teams, most recently a 4-3 decision at Maryland Tuesday. That was the fourth straight game in the series that went to overtime. Though the loss stung, among the Tiger bright spots was the return of sophomore Bridget Murphy, who had been injured in the opening six seconds of the season opener against three-time defending NCAA champ North Carolina. At the time, it looked like she might be out for the year, but she made her return against the Terps and even scored the goal that put the Tigers up 3-2 in the third.

Later on tomorrow at Dillon Gym, the women's volleyball team will also take on Penn. The Tigers have won four of the last five Ivy League championships, and getting off to a good start at home would be a great step along the chase for five of six.

Princeton is 7-3 overall, while Penn is at 3-6. Non-league scheduling being what it is, it's difficult to tell where the teams stand as league play begins. Actually, it's sort of easy to tell. Everyone is 0-0.

The third team to start its league play is the women's soccer team, which has risen from unranked at the start of the year to the national Top 25. The Tigers bring a 6-1-1 record into the Ivy opener against Yale on Sherrerd Field at 7, and that record includes a 1-1-1 mark against ranked teams. 

The women's soccer game caps a very busy Saturday on campus. Before that game, there is home women's golf (all day), football (against Stetson at 1, more on that tomorrow), men's water polo (Navy at 1:30, Wagner at 6) and men's soccer (against Penn State at 4 in the opener of the doubleheader on Sherrerd).

You can see the entire composite schedule HERE.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Sunday Son Day


When TigerBlog took his seat at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon, he saw to his right a young couple with a child on their laps. 

He was remarkably well-behaved for a two year old, by the way, as he hardly squirmed and never once whined or cried.

He looked to be almost two, which is what he in fact turned out to be. TB learned this when he asked the parents. After they said the child's age, TB then pointed to his left, at his own 24-year-old son, and said "that's how old he was when he went to his first lacrosse game."

The occasion was the Premier League Lacrosse championship game. TigerBlog Jr. had bought tickets for TB's birthday, which was several months ago. 

TB of course was rooting hard for there to be Princeton representation in the game, which meant one of three teams: the Waterdogs (Zach Currier, Michael Sowers), the Archers (Ryan Ambler, Tom Schreiber, Chris Bates) or the Whipsnakes (current Director of Lacrosse operations Chris Aslanian, one-time Tiger Mike Chanenchuk).

As it turned out, it was Chaos vs. Whipsnakes. Aslanian, who played college lacrosse at Hobart, was active for six games this summer, scoring five goals with one assist. Unfortunately, with the minuscule 19-man rosters in the PLL, he was on the sideline for the championship game. 

Still, TB was rooting for the Whipsnakes. They didn't win, falling to Chaos 14-9. On this day, the better team clearly won.

Much was made about how the Whipsnakes were trying to win for the third straight year after having won the first two PLL titles. When Chaos won, it pointed out again just how difficult it is to win a championship three straight times. 

Prior to the PLL, there was Major League Lacrosse. In its 20-year history, only twice did a team win back-to-back championships, and on both of those occasions, the team going for three straight did not even reach the championship game.

The University of Virginia has won the last two NCAA men's lacrosse championships. Should UVa win again this coming year,  it would become the first team to win three straight since ... Princeton, who won in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

TBJ saw some of those games. He has no way of remembering them of course, but he was there for a few of them. He saw a lot of Princeton sports before he was old enough to remember and then a ton more after he was.

He was a ballboy for Princeton basketball for five or six years. He was a regular at football and lacrosse games. He loved going to pretty anything. Soccer. Squash. Hockey. Men's. Women's. Home. Away. He just liked being there.

From the time he was, say, five, until he was in high school, he and TB would look forward to a game all week and then go and have a great time there. 

TBJ was eventually too busy with his own games and being a high school kid to want to go to Princeton games all the time. Then he was off to college, and now he's down in DC, on his own, starting to make his own way in the world. 

Those days when he was a wide-eyed kid exist now in pictures and memories. It's as it should be.

Still, for one Sunday afternoon, it was like old times, father and son at a lacrosse game, talking about the players and the way the game was going and remembering other games they'd been to together through the years. 

After the Chaos won, they walked across the street to Nationals Park to see if they could get into the Nationals-Rockies game, which was in the fourth inning at the time. As it turned out, they were able to get $5 tickets. They might have been for the top of the section furthest from home plate, but that didn't matter. They went in and and sat downstairs actually, just a few rows behind the leftfield fence, slightly in foul territory.

From there it was off to a sports bar for food and some NFL games. And then TB got in his car and made the drive back.

Among the many other wonderful things Princeton Athletics has brought to TigerBlog through the years, the bond it helped created with his son is something for which he can never be grateful enough. As he spent his Sunday with his son, he was reminded of all of the great times they had together all those years ago and how much he'll always love them.

TB often looks at the pictures he has from back then, and they always make him smile.

For one more Sunday, he was there again, maybe in a more modern context, maybe with his grown up son, but back there nonetheless. It felt as good as ever.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A Home And Away Tuesday

The Princeton field hockey team defeated Delaware 3-2 Friday night in a very dramatic and very entertaining game between two Top 20 teams. 

There were two extraordinary plays that made the difference, the second by Hannah Davey to stop a counter one way and then dribble all the way back into the circle and set up Claire Donovan perfectly for the game-winner midway through the fourth quarter. The other was a great individual effort on Princeton's second goal, scored by freshman Beth Yeager, to tie it at 2-2, after Delaware had scored two straight of its own.

It was a big win for Princeton, who had started out 0-3 – albeit against highly ranked ACC schools. The Tigers didn't let up Sunday, scoring five times in the first quarter en route to a 7-0 win over Boston University. For her part, Yeager scored three more goals while assisting on two others in that game, earning her the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week award for the first time in her career (TigerBlog suspects there will be others in her future).

With the successful weekend behind them, this is a busy week for the Tigers, who move from the ACC to the Big Ten, with the Ivy opener in between. Princeton is at Maryland today at 4, and Princeton is home again Sunday against Rutgers. Both the Terps and Scarlet Knights were in the Top 10 last week, as Princeton's schedule is never easy.

There is also the matter of the game against Penn Friday night in Philadelphia. Princeton has won 26 Ivy League field hockey championships, by far the most in league history. 

TB has always liked field hockey. The rules make for a very fast-paced game, especially on the lightning-quick turf fields of today. It wasn't always that way, of course. 

In fact, TB used to cover Princeton field hockey games often in the fall when he was still in the newspaper business, back when the team played on the grass of Gulick Field. If you have no idea where Gulick Field was, it's not where Plummer Field (the practice soccer field) is near the tennis courts and Class of 1952 Stadium.

Gulick actually stood next to Lourie-Love Field, which was the soccer field for several decades. Both fields had natural grass and wooden stands, with nothing else – no bathrooms, no press box, no permanent concession stands. For big games, there might be a concession table set up.

TigerBlog is trying to remember what was on the spot where Sherrerd Field now stands. Bedford Field, the field hockey field, was just a dirt and rock staging area for equipment and vehicles. Perhaps Sherrerd was too? 

The field hockey bus will probably be back at Princeton just after the end of the men's soccer game. Those Tigers are home against St. Joe's at 7, on Sherrerd Field (admission is free). 

Like the field hockey team, the men's soccer team has been righting the ship of late. The Tigers dropped their first two games, against Rutgers and Vermont, but since have beaten Colgate and Fairfield by a combined 5-0.

Also like the field hockey team, the men's soccer team has a huge shot advantage over its opponents on the young season. The field hockey team has outshot its opponents 80-45. The soccer team has done so 69-30. That's 149-75 between them, or just short of two to one.

The men's soccer team has held its opponents scoreless for 188:10 of game play dating back to the final minutes of the 2-0 loss at Vermont. For its part, Princeton did not score a goal in the first five halves of the season but since have scored those five goals in just 127 minutes.

Francis Akomeah-Sirleaf has scored to of the goals, while Walker Gillespie, Daniel Diaz Bonilla and Moulay Hamza Kanzi Belghiti have one each.

The game tonight is the second of four straight at home to round out the end of September. Princeton will host Penn State Saturday at 4 and then St. John's a week from today at 8 (the second game of a doubleheader that begins with the women's game against Bucknell) before heading to Dartmouth Oct. 2 for the Ivy opener.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Opening Kickoff

There was something of an eeriness in the Princeton football locker room at Lehigh's Goodman Stadium in the moments before the opening kickoff Saturday afternoon.

Usually football locker rooms prior to kickoff are places of hollering and loudness. That wasn't the case Saturday at all. TigerBlog kept waiting to hear it, but instead he heard what he figured was the sound of something else: appreciation.

It was the first Princeton football game since Nov. 23, 2019, against Penn. As he watched warmups on the grass field of Goodman, TB thought back to that day and to one relatively minor but telling fact. As it was, the Penn athletic communications contact for that game was Chas Dorman, who has worked at Princeton for a long time now. TB was struck by that as something of a marker for how long it's been.

For the players, then, there was a great sense of appreciation that the new season was here, that they were finally back in uniform, some for the first time in three years. The sound of appreciation was a bit more subdued.

When the game finally began, TB could tell what everyone in orange and black was thinking: It was really great to see Princeton football again. 

And the Tigers weren't just playing. They were playing really well.

It was a dominant 32-0 win over Lehigh, one in which Princeton had all kinds of big performances. There was Cole Smith, who in his first career start threw for 412 yards (30 for 41, three touchdowns, no interceptions). Smith's 412 yards were the 12th most ever by a Tiger quarterback in a single game and were the most by any Princeton quarterback ever in his first start. He also became the 10th Princeton quarterback to complete at least 30 passes in a game.

Jacob Birmelin did what he does, which is to say caught everything thrown his way and then turned those catches into big yardage. He ended up with eight catches for 139 yards and one touchdown, moving him within 50 yards of 1,000 for his career (767 of which came in 2019).

Andrei Iosivas, who is a decathlete in the spring and an Ivy indoor Heps champion, caught four passes, but he turned them into 117 yards and two touchdowns. That's an average of 29.3 yards per catch, not to mention the play of the day, a 52-yard TD strike on a beautiful thrown deep ball by Smith that Iosivas simply ran under by outrunning the Lehigh defense.

The offense put up 516 yards, which is 20 yards fewer than the perfect 2018 team averaged per game. As impressive as that was, it was the defense that really was amazing in the opener. 

Princeton held Lehigh to 92 total yards, including minus-25 rushing, which was close to the minus-28 Princeton allowed (do you allow minus yardage?) against Bucknell in a driving rainstorm and mud bowl in 1996. The only time other than that when Princeton allowed (again, allowed?) fewer yards was minus-42 in a game against Vermont (TB has no idea what the weather was in Princeton on Oct. 6, 1928). 

Wherever Lehigh went, Princeton was there. The Tigers were fast, and they tackled fiercely and effectively. 

What's perhaps most amazing about the Princeton defense is the fact that the team leader in tackles had, well, do you want to guess how many tackles the team leader had? Never mind. TB will tell you. The answer is four. Just four. 

That's how deep Princeton is. Wave after wave of Tiger defenders came after Lehigh. The defense took away the deep ball quickly, and Lehigh was forced to make quick throws to the outside. The result was 117 passing yards on 20 completions (5.85 per) and 31 attempts (3.77 per). Compare those to Princeton's numbers: (13.73 per completion and 9.81 per attempt).

All in all, it was a great way to start the season for Princeton. It was hardly a perfect game, which is even better news for Bob Surace and his staff, since they'll be able to get everyone's attention easily. 

Now it's on to the home opener this Saturday at 1 on Powers Field in the first meeting between the Tigers and Stetson. As you probably realize, Stetson was coached until this season by former Tiger head coach Roger Hughes, who is now the president of Doane University.

Stetson comes to Princeton with a 2-0 record, after wins over Warner and Ave Maria. Stetson also had this week off prior to heading north.

Beyond that is the Ivy League opener against Columbia Oct. 2 and then the rest of the season beyond that. For one game, Princeton looked great all over the field - and looked great just to be back on a field.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Last Summer Weekend

Well, it's the last weekend of the summer.

Officially, anyway. Summer seems to end when a new school year begins, or at least after Labor Day. 

Little by little, the days are getting shorter. Sunset today is at 7:06 this evening.

Autumn is a great season. It'll cool but not yet cold. The next few weeks will bring what is annually the best weather of the year in the Princeton area. The leaves will be changing into brilliant colors. Spring is a season of rebirth; fall is a season of beauty. 

But hey, you have one more weekend of summer to go. You can still go to the beach if you like. Or you can follow the Tigers this weekend, but to do so, you'll need to take to the road.

There is one word that pretty much sums up the weekend in Princeton Athletics. That word? It's "At." 

Between today and Sunday, there are eight Princeton teams who will be competing, and all eight of them will be playing on the road. One of them, the field hockey team, will follow a road game today (at Delaware) with a home game Sunday (against Boston University).

For some of these teams, there are airplanes required. The men's tennis team is at an event at Alabama, and the men's water polo team is playing in California. 

For others, it's a short bus ride, including two to Delaware. The women's soccer team is also heading on the road to play the Blue Hens, Sunday at 1. 

The women's soccer team has made a big statement in the start of the new season. The Tigers moved into the Top 25 nationally this week at No. 22, and the reward was a game last night against No. 23 Hofstra at home. Even though the Tigers fell 2-0, this is sill shaping up to be yet another special season for Sean Driscoll's team.

It's a big weekend for the field hockey team. The Tigers have dropped their first three games, to North Carolina, Louisville and Duke, all of whom are highly ranked ACC teams. Princeton is 0-3 on the year; with a different bounce here or there the Tigers could be 2-1, after falling to Louisville in overtime and then Duke in a game in which Princeton outshot the Blue Devils by nearly a two to one margin.

The final weekend of the summer is also the first weekend for Ivy League football. As TigerBlog mentioned yesterday, Princeton opens the season at Lehigh tomorrow (kickoff at noon).

The 2021 Princeton football team will play four home games and six road games. It's an interesting schedule, with three of the road games essentially an hour drive from campus - the one tomorrow in Bethlehem, the one Oct. 9 at Monmouth and the season finale at Penn (Nov. 20). The Hawks, by the way, are ranked 20th this week in the FCS poll.

Princeton is also at Cornell and Dartmouth on consecutive Friday nights (Oct. 29, Nov. 5) in games that you can watch on ESPNU.

There are all kinds of storylines for the season opener. There is the fact that two of the classes on the team have yet to play in a game. It'll be interesting to see what a gameday is like after missing out on last season.

If you like to read about Princeton football, you have a lot of options this fall. There's, which will have all of the usual content (including game notes for Week 1 by TB's colleague Warren Croxton). There's TigerBlog, who likes to write about the football team. And there's also, where twice a week you can read pieces from TB's former colleague Craig Sachson. In fact, Craig wrote THIS PIECE prior to the opener.

It's almost time for the opening kickoff. TB definitely won't mind the drive. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

It's Game Week

It's game week for the Princeton football team, and that by itself with no context or follow up at all is a fun sentence to write.

It's game week. Sounds great, right? 

The Princeton football team is at Lehigh Saturday for the first game of the 2021 season. Opening kickoff is at noon in Bethlehem.

If you want to see the Tigers on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, then you need to wait another week. Princeton will host Stetson next Saturday, and then the Ivy League opener comes up Oct. 2 against Columbia.

Lehigh will be playing its third game, and the first two came against ranked CAA teams Villanova and Richmond. Here are three facts for you:

* Lehigh is 56-29-1 all-time against Ivy League schools
* Lehigh has won five of the last seven meetings against Princeton
* Lehigh enters the game on a nine-game losing streak

Does any of that matter now? Nope. Not in the least. Why? Because Princeton is back to playing football.

The Tigers did not get to play in the 2020 season. The last time Princeton went an entire fall without playing any varsity football was 1871, two years after the Tigers played Rutgers in the first football game.

When Princeton football last competed, it was in the 150th anniversary season. Princeton went 8-2 in 2019, on the heels of a 10-0 2018 season. Bob Surace has coached Princeton to the Ivy League title in three of the last seven seasons, and his 2021 team is the league's preseason favorite.

There's plenty of time for the league race later. For now, it'll all about the fact that there is a game to be played this weekend, and that alone brings joy to everyone associated with Princeton football, from the players to the coaches to the fans and everyone else.

Speaking of Surace, here's one thought. He enters this season with a 56-44 record in 10 seasons as Princeton, which is extraordinary considering he started out with two wins in his first 22 games. Since then? That adds up to 54-22, or a winning percentage of .710.

He is currently fifth all-time in football coaching wins at Princeton. Regardless of what happens this year, he will still be in fifth when the year ends, as he is 14 away from tying Charlie Caldwell in fourth with 70. Ahead of Caldwell are Dick Colman in third with 75, Steve Tosches in second with 78 and then Bill Roper in first with 89. Roper last coached at Princeton in 1930, so his record has stood for a very long time.  

And what about the 2021 team? There are holes to fill at quarterback and along the defensive line, but there are candidates everywhere to fill them. Beyond that, it's an incredibly deep team with a lot of returning talent.

One of the best players on the team is Jeremiah Tyler, the linebacker who was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy League selection and Bushnell Cup finalist two years ago. TB wrote a feature story about Tyler for yesterday, and you can read it HERE.

Here's what two of his teammates said about him:

“I’d use two words to describe him,” says James Johnson, a fellow Princeton linebacker who has also been Tyler’s roommate. “Love. And positivity. He oozes both.”

“His energy radiates,” says safety Trevor Forbes, another close friend. “His positivity radiates. He is a genuine soul, an extremely loyal soul.”

In the story, TB refers to Tyler as a "magnet," someone to whom others are just naturally drawn to. It reminded him a bit of when Pete Carril used to call players "light bulbs," because when they walked onto the court, the lights went on.

The Princeton football team is filled with light bulbs. It's an entire lockerroom filled with players who work hard and believe in the culture that Surace and his staff have built. Now they get to play again.

Because there was no Ivy football last year, this year will be even more uncertain than most. Every team has two full classes of players who have never played in a game, plus two other classes of players who haven't played a game in nearly two full years. Some players took last year off, so class years are a bit murkier than they've ever been.

As TB said before, none of that matters now. He's just excited about the fact that there's a game coming up in two days. 

Lehigh has always been a great place to watch a game. It'll be a little bit more special to be there this time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Show Must Go On Again


TigerBlog has always been a sports fan. 

Some of his earliest memories are from sporting events of the late 1960's. What else has he also always been a fan of in addition to sports? 

Theater. Specifically musical theater. Some of his earliest memories are attending Broadway shows with his brother and parents. He definitely remembers all of the hours spent in the car with his family when his parents would listen to show tunes. "Fiddler on the Roof." "Oklahoma." "South Pacific." "West Side Story." He heard so many of the great classics so many times, and they're still to this day committed to his memory.

TB has written about the connection before, often in fact. Putting a show on the stage and a team on the field have a great deal in common.

They both require lots of practice. They require teamwork. They require a cast, or a lineup, where everyone knows his or her role and executes that role to the betterment of the whole. They both put their finished product out front for an audience to observe and offer positive or negative response.

The major difference, of course, is that in sports, somebody wins and somebody loses. Score is kept. In theater, the goal is simply entertainment, but hey, other than that they're both very similar. 

There are really only three musicals that TB has seen since his childhood that he's really liked. Loved, actually.

Two of them are easy to guess - "Les Miserables" and "Phantom of the Opera." Those are among the absolute greatest musicals ever put on the stage, and TB loved both from the first time he saw them.

The other one? "Wicked." If you've never seen it, then you should definitely go, for more than one reason.

First, the story is pure genius. It's "The Wizard Of Oz," only it's told from the idea that maybe the Wicked Witch Of The West was just a misunderstood woman who had a really, really rough life. Second, the music is incredible. 

And lastly, and most importantly, there's the guy who's currently playing the male lead in the Broadway production. That would be Sam Gravitte, Princeton Class of 2017.

Gravitte was a four-year letterwinner for the men's lacrosse team. He played at various times every longstick and shortstick defensive position, and he played them all very well, in a very unsung way. 

He finished his career with 28 caused turnovers and 100 ground balls, as well as three goals and an assist. He is very much one of Princeton head coach Matt Madalon's favorite kind of players - big, fast, strong, fearless.

Gravitte was a record-setting running back at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut who scored 23 touchdowns as a senior and had more than 400 career points in football. He also comes from a big-time theater family, as both his father Beau and mother Debbie have both had huge careers in show biz. Debbie Gravitte is in fact a Tony Award winner for Best Actress in a Musical. They don't just give those away.

Sam has a rare combination of exceptional athletic talent and exceptional theatrical talent. As such, he starred on the McCarter stage while at Princeton, including playing the male lead in "Once." After graduation he toured with the national company of "Wicked" before landing on Broadway for the first time in late 2019.

By the spring of 2020, he was playing Fiyero (the lead) on Broadway. And then the pandemic hit, and Broadway was shut down.

Before it was, TB had a chance to see Sam, and he can say that he was flat-out incredible. It was one of the most impressive things TB has ever seen, a Princeton lacrosse alum playing the lead in a Broadway musical. For all of the impressive accomplishments of Princeton athletes through their post-graduate careers, Gravitte's work as a Broadway star is up there with anything.

It doesn't hurt that Gravitte is also one of the most likeable athletes TB has met at Princeton. He's just a superb all-around young man, someone who is the perfect teammate, first in lacrosse, where he played whatever position the team needed, and now in theater, where he worked his way from the chorus to the lead.

And now you can see him again on Broadway. Gravitte is back as Fiyero, as the theaters reopened yesterday. 

TB couldn't find any video of Gravitte on Broadway, but he did find this from when he was with the touring company. It's not the greatest quality video, but it gives you a sense of what he is capable of on the stage (and should make you want to go watch him if you're in the New York area):

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Look, It's Margie

TigerBlog watched more tennis than any other sport this weekend.

This is significant, considering that it was the opening weekend of the NFL season and Week 2 of college football, not to mention the last weekend with no Princeton football until just before Thanksgiving.

He watched all of both of Leylah Fernandez' final two matches at the U.S. Open, and he also watched both of Novak Djokovic's final two matches as well. Fernandez, turned 19 last week, defeated Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals in a thrilling three-set match before falling to Emma Raducanu 6-4, 6-3 in the final. 

Raducanu, for her part, is still 18. She started out having to go through three rounds of qualifiers to get to the main draw and ended up standing at center court with the big trophy and a check for $2.5 million. Along the way, she dropped exactly zero sets.

Watching the two teenagers play with such emotion and joy was fascinating. During the semifinal the commentators on ESPN (including Chris Evert and Pam Shriver) focused on when Fernandez was going to fade physically and mentally against Sabalenka, the"old" one in the match at 23, only she never did. 

In the final, it was pretty clear that the crowd was still very much in love with Fernandez. Raducanu, who might not have had the same relationship with the New York fans as her opponent, still wore down Fernandez and in doing so became 1) the first qualifier ever to win a Grand Slam tournament and 2) the first British woman to win a major since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977 and the first from her country to win the U.S. Open since Wade in 1968.

As for the men's side, the drama was much different. Instead of two teenagers who had never been on the big stage before, there was a 34 year old (almost as old as the two women's finalists combined) chasing history by trying to finish off the Grand Slam. Djokovic had already won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon, and now he was trying to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 and the first men's player since Rod Laver to win the Grand Slam (Laver did so in 1962 and 1969).

Standing in the way in the final was Danill Medvedev, a 6-6, 180-pound Russian. Yes, that's 6-6, 180. 

From the start, it was all Medvedev, who never let Djokovic get into a rhythm. Part of it was the fact that Djokovic had played with fire for much of the tournament, losing the first set in five straight matches. As a result he had played a lot more tennis than Medvedev, and he certainly looked tired, both physically and mentally. In the end, it was Medvedev, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

The New York crowd never really could make up its mind about Djokovic. They seemed like they sort of wanted him to win but didn't love him. Maybe they wanted to see history more than anything else.

Of course, none of any of that was the best part of the tennis this weekend. You know what was?

It was when the ESPN cameras showed the celebrities in the stands. In one row were Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper. The row in front of them featured Ben Stiller.

And who was in the row in front of Stiller? There was Stan Smith, the former Wimbledon and U.S. Open champ. And who was sitting next to Smith?

Why of course it was his wife, the great Margie Gengler Smith. By TigerBlog's count, Margie made it onto the broadcast three times.

Margie Gengler Smith is one of the great woman athletes in Princeton history. She's also from one of the great Princeton athletic families of all time, as her sisters Louise and Nancy were also great Princeton athletes (and Louise coached the women's tennis team for 25 years).

Here's one part of the upcoming women's history book, about Margie Gengler Smith:

Their family dates back with Princeton Athletics to another the time of an iconic figure, perhaps the most iconic figure Princeton has known. Gengler Smith’s maternal grandfather was John Logan, who was a football teammate at Princeton of none other than Hobey Baker, a member of the college football and hockey Halls of Fame. When Gengler Smith was a Princeton senior in 1973, her picture was on the cover of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, with a captain reading “Princeton’s Best Athlete.” This prompted a letter from her grandfather. “He said he never thought in his wildest dreams he’d ever see a woman on the cover of the Alumni Weekly, or for that matter at Princeton at all.”

Margie Gengler Smith was one of the first two women to compete for Princeton, along with Helena Novakova, back in October of 1970, when they played in the Eastern Intercollegiate tournament in New Paltz. Margie won the singles, and she and Helena won the doubles together.

Novakova was Princeton's first von Kienbusch Award winner, in 1972. Margie won the following year, in 1973.

She and Stan Smith have been married for nearly 50 years now. Their son Trevor (one of their four children and somewhere around 11 grandchildren) was a first-team All-Ivy League tennis player at Princeton before graduating in 2003.

In the end it would be Stan Smith who presented the trophy to Medvedev. 

It was a great weekend of tennis at the U.S. Open. Seeing Margie on TV made it that much better.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Thoughts On A Sad Anniversary

TigerBlog was in the press box for the field hockey game Saturday afternoon when PA announcer Rob Hegner asked the crowd to join in a moment of silence on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

As TB stood there for the few seconds of silence, all of the memories of that awful day in 2001 came flooding back to him. 

The weather Saturday in Princeton was perfect. In fact, in the official stats of the game, TB wrote this under the "weather" heading: "Crystal Clear, low 70s." It didn't dawn on him until the moment of silence that the words "crystal clear" also took him back 20 years.

When you ask anyone at all who was old enough to remember that day what they think, they're almost unanimous in the first thing they say: The weather was crystal clear. Extended out a bit, they say that their next thought was this: "How in the world could a plane fly into the World Trade Center on a day this clear?"

That's certainly what TB thought as he stood in the parking lot outside of the University League Nursery School, on the far end of the parking lot that used to be outside of Jadwin Gym. It was a thought that at first was confusing - how could a plane fly into a building on a day that clear.

Then, as his mind started to process it, things quickly went from "confusing" to "panicked" when it became apparent that this wasn't something innocent. TB is pretty sure that those thoughts and emotions were shared by so many other people that morning as they also stood outside and felt the warm sunshine as the news first broke.

As TB looked out at the players on the field from Duke and Princeton as they stood on Bedford Field in polite observance, it also dawned on him that so much time has gone by that here is a generation of college student who either were babies at the time or weren't even born. Lily Webb, who scored the Princeton goal in the game, is a freshman who wasn't born until 2003. Hannah Davey, who assisted on the goal, was less than a year old on 9/11.

He hopes that these young people paid close attention to the emotions of the day from those who were adults back then and that those emotions resonated in some way.

TB couldn't bring himself to watch any of the specials or the TV reviews of the events of that day. They're too seared into his memory to have to watch them again anyway. 

He did spend a great deal of time thinking about John Schroeder and his father Jack Schroeder. TB wrote about the father and son last week, in advance of the anniversary. John Schroeder, who had been near the top of the North Tower on 9/11 and was killed that day at the age of 31, was a defenseman on the Princeton men's lacrosse 1992 NCAA championship team.

TB heard from a lot of people who read the story. Some of them were people he didn't know. Some were current and former Princeton men's lacrosse players. He wants to share some of the comments with you:

From a former player:

I just wanted to reach out and let you know how moved I was by your piece about John Schroeder today. It took me a while to get through it because I kept tearing up. 9/11 is a difficult day for my dad, who lost dozens of friends and colleagues that day. I remember my parents becoming emotional at my graduation when they realized that the award I received was in memory of a 9/11 victim. I obviously never met John but I now feel like I know him after reading his story. He sounds like someone you want to be around, someone you want on your team. I now have an even greater appreciation and respect for him and his family. I look forward to reconnecting with the PU lacrosse family at games and reunions this spring after a much too long hiatus. Reading the anonymous comments from John’s teammates served as a jarring reminder of the special fraternity that is Princeton Lacrosse.


From a former administrator:  

Schroeder was one heck of an athlete and under Tierney became not just a better athlete, but a better Princetonian a better man.  He was a good man. 9/11 hit all of us and especially those who knew folks who worked in the two buildings. Your story was a reminder to cherish the memories of those people.  Thanks.


From a stranger:  

My son has always worn the Number 14 in every sport he played.. we never understood why – but he chose that number when he was about 5… Maybe some divine inspiration from “Stinky." Since we live maybe 500yds from the Commack Memorial at Commack HS… I will take a ride this evening and thank John in person for looking after our son.


From a current Princeton lacrosse parent: 


Last night, I drove by the Pentagon and they have a beam of light shining into the sky where the building was hit on 9/11.  It’s hard to believe it all happened twenty years ago.  I wanted to thank you for writing the piece on John Schroeder as I did not know his story and connection to Princeton lacrosse.  


From a former player: 


I hugged my two boys just a bit tighter last night after I finished your piece. I never got the chance to meet Stinky, but I see his name all the time on my old helmet, and I remember all-too-well what it felt like to wear his #14 onto the field against Cuse in 2002.


Friday, September 10, 2021

Remembering John Schroeder, 20 Years After 9/11

The first person TigerBlog saw when he walked into Jadwin Gym on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, was none other than John Mack.

At the time, John was working in the Department of Athletics a year after graduating from Princeton. Today, of course, he is the Ford Family Director of Athletics.

TigerBlog had just dropped his then-four-year-old son off at the nursery school on the other side of the parking lot, after he dropped his then-one-year-old daughter off at her babysitter. When he walked into the nursery school, the office manager told him that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. 

Actually, she said a "small plane" had hit the World Trade Center. TB remembers walking outside and looking up at the sky and thinking what so many others thought when the news first reached them: "How in the world did a plane hit the World Trade Center on this, the absolute most stunningly clear morning of all time?"

TB sat in his car and listened to the radio for a few minutes to try to hear if there was news about this. He had on "Imus In The Morning," and the crew there was as confused as anyone as to what kind of plane it was.

By the time TB got to Jadwin, the second plane had already hit the second tower. When TB came into Jadwin, none of it seemed real. 

Back then, the Office of Athletic Communications was on the mezzanine level of Jadwin. John worked then in the outer office of Room 1, down the hall. He walked down the hall and was standing by the stairway when TB walked by and asked him if he knew what was going on.

The rest of that day was spent looking for answers. There were no TVs in Jadwin Gym at the time, or computers that could stream the news. The only TV was in the Caldwell Fieldhouse training room, and that was a crowded place to be that Tuesday.

Now it's 20 years later. There is no Princeton student who is old enough to remember that day, and half of them weren't even born yet.

If you are old enough to remember, then each year Sept. 11 brings with it an eerie feeling, and all of those same emotions of that day come rushing back. 

For those who lost family members that day, those emotions never leave. If there was anything TigerBlog learned from the time he spent with Jack Schroeder, it's that the emotions never leave, even after 20 years.

Ever since Twitter came around, TigerBlog has tweeted out a photo of Jack's son John Schroeder on 9/11. John was a member of the 1992 Princeton men's lacrosse NCAA championship team, and he was 31 years old when he was killed in the North Tower.

For the 20th anniversary, TB decided to do a little more and write a story about John. He wanted to capture who John Schroeder was, and not just as a lacrosse player.

To do so, he drove out to Suffolk County to meet with Jack Schroeder. It turned out to be an extremely emotional few hours, as Jack talked about his late son and about the day that he died.

You can read the story HERE.

TigerBlog covered the teams that John Schroeder played on at Princeton. He was a starter his first two years, including an honorable mention All-Ivy selection sophomore year. He didn't play quite as much his final two years, but he made a huge play late in the fourth quarter of the NCAA championship game against Syracuse with a caused turnover that stopped a six-goal Orange run. Princeton won 10-9 in double overtime.

Schroeder – he was called "Stinky" by pretty everyone who knew him – worked in finance in New York after graduation. He also loved to have fun. TB has heard from a bunch of his former teammates, and they all confirm that.

One of TB's favorite stories that he learned about Schroeder was that a group of Princeton lacrosse alums once brought a football to the Baltimore Zoo and started playing an impromptu game of touch. Schroeder, at quarterback, called this play: Go deep, then hang a left at the House of Primates.

You can't help but laugh when you picture that. Then you can't help but cry when you realize that his life was cut so tragically short. As TB spent time with Jack Schroeder, they bounced back and forth between both ends of that spectrum.  

TB has written a lot of stories in his life. He hasn't written too many that were more emotional than this one. He can think of a one or two others and that's it.

John Schroeder was a big-hearted, fun-loving person who brought so much to the people who knew him. Now, 20 years after he's gone, that's still how they think of him, and make no mistake – they still think of him. In fact, they will never forget him.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Get The Picture

Okay, so the women's history book is just about at the finish line.

It's been such a long and involved project, albeit one that TigerBlog has loved doing. Through it all, he has kept telling himself that he can't wait until the book is here and he can finally actually see it, and that time is coming closer.

The final product is going to be well worth your time as a Princeton athletic fan. There are 55 chapters that are separated into nine sections with a total of right around 130,000 words, as well as photos throughout. 

The book tells stories from every decade in the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton, and, as TB mentioned before, it begins with this: 

This book begins with an apology to all of the amazing women who competed at Princeton in the first 50 years whose stories are not covered in these pages. There are so many compelling stories to tell about women’s athletic history at Princeton that all of the stories collected here could be deleted and replaced by an entirely different book of the same length – and still have more stories to tell.

As TB said, there is way more than one book's worth of great stories about the women athletes in Princeton history.

For TigerBlog, the writing part was the easy part. The subjects were all so fascinating, and so he had so much to work with in the first place.

The editing and layout? That's been a whole other story. TB has been fortunate to work with two people who very much know what they're doing in those areas: editor Kathy Taylor and designer Mike Trunzo. 

Kathy herself is a member of the Class of 1974, so she knew first-hand some of the early pioneers about whom TB wrote. As for Mike, he knew nothing about Princeton women's athletics when he started working on the project and now is something of an encyclopedia himself.

The toughest part has been tracking down all of the photos. For starters, there are thousands and thousands of pictures here, either in storage on Jadwin E-level or already scanned on servers. Unfortunately, the majority of them are either not ID'd or have file names like "IMG.3124" or something like that. 

TB has tried to get a balance of action shots and current pictures of the athletes through the years, as well as some pictures of athletes whom he unfortunately was not able to write about. 

One of the best things about this project, probably the best actually, is that TB has had a chance to meet some of the women whose athletic achievements he knew about but had never spoken to and to meet some of the women who have done incredible things post-Princeton who he had not yet been aware of prior to starting the book.

He's also had a chance to randomly meet some people who have helped him during the process. That brings him to the story of the random field hockey picture.

Here it is:

Now that's a pretty good picture, right? The problem is that it was labeled "field hockey 80s?"

So how does one go about finding who that is in the photo? 

Well, it certainly looks like 1980s field hockey. It's being played on grass, and it certainly looks like Gulick Field, the very old home of the Tigers, which sat next to Lourie-Love Field, the home of Princeton soccer before Roberts Stadium. 

TB saw Princeton field hockey play at Gulick, before Class of 1952 Stadium was built in the mid-1990s. The only thing he's wondering about from the picture is that Gulick was above Lourie-Love with a small hill in between, and he thinks the fans were on the other side of the field from the soccer field. But hey, assume that's Gulick Field for now.

Who is the player? TB can see the coach in the background, and he thinks that's Betty Logan (whose tragic story is covered in the book). If so, that puts this game solidly in the late ’70s/early-to-mid ’80s.

To find out who it was, TB reached out to four women who played field hockey at Princeton during those years. They in turn included a few other teammates on the email thread. 

Eventually one of them suggested it might be "Mirna." TB went to the records section and found that Mirna Goldberger of the Class of 1988 was a four-time field hockey letterwinner.

He then emailed Mirna, and she in fact confirmed that she was the one in the photo. Mirna thought the game was played her sophomore year in 1985, but TB believes it was actually a year later, at home in 1986. For starters, the 1985 game was played on a rainy day at Brown, whose field hockey field was on the roof of another building.

The 1986 game was a 4-2 Princeton win. When TB looked back in the Daily Princetonian archives from that game, he found this:

"We were very aggressive in this game, pushing up and using the big hit rather than little plays in which it's easy to lose the ball," junior midfielder Mirna Goldberger noted.

And this:

"We were looking for the intercept in the midfield," added Goldberger, who along with sophomore Demer Holleran played a very strong game in the midfield.  

Demer, by the way, is featured in the book in the three-sport athlete section. Her name should be familiar as a three-time national squash champion who also played lacrosse.

As for Mirna, she was more than just someone who found herself in the right place at the right time for one photo. She was actually the 1984 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and then a three-time All-Ivy League selection, including first-team honors in 1985 and 1986. 

She came to the United States in high school, after growing up in Argentina, where field hockey is the biggest sport for girls and women. Betty Logan recruited her from Dwight Englewood in North Jersey. 

She majored in architecture, which isn't easy to do at all, and after graduation she worked in art and architecture conservation. After getting married and moving to Boston to start a family, she has been a high school and middle school Spanish teacher and field hockey coach.

That's her abbreviated story. It's just another one TB would have loved to have included in the book.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The 1951 Backfield

TigerBlog saw two people in the supermarket the other day who were wearing NFL football jerseys.

This is not an uncommon sight. What was very surprising was who the players were whose jerseys they were wearing.

First, there was a New York Jets Chad Pennington jersey. The other one, even more stunningly, was a Bobby Hoying Philadelphia Eagles jersey.

What the heck? 

Both Pennington and Hoying at one time were considered to be franchise quarterbacks for those two teams, and, well, neither really was. Actually, as TB looked it up, he learned that Pennington had a much better career than he thought.

Hoying? He didn't last quite as long, though he did make a dramatic impact in the 1997 season. In fact, he played in two games that year and threw 11 touchdown passes. Unfortunately for him, those would be the only 11 TD passes he would throw in his carerer.

Pennington, for his part, actually had a pretty good career, highlighted by three facts:

1) he played for 11 seasons, eight with the Jets and three with the Dolphins

2) when he retired, he had the NFL's career record for completion percentage at 66.0 percent. Today he's still second. Can you tell TB which quarterback is now first?

3) Pennington himself is the answer to an extraordinary trivia question. Did you know that he is the only quarterback between 2002 and 2019 to lead his team to the AFC East championship other than Tom Brady? Pennington did it in 2002 with the Jets and 2008 with the Dolphins.

As for the NFL record-holder for career completion percentage? It's now Drew Brees.

So Chad Pennington did just fine for himself in the NFL. Maybe the surprise is that you don't see more Chad Pennington jerseys in the supermarket? 

Speaking of quarterbacks, TigerBlog received a call yesterday from a man named John who asked about the starting backfield of the 1951 Princeton football team. The conversation started when the man, whom TB had never spoken to before, said "so you're the department historian?"

TB has yet to have anyone start a conversation like that with him that hasn't gone in a fairly fascinating direction. 

The 1951 Princeton team was led, of course, by Dick Kazmaier, the dual-threat running/passing back who would win the Heisman Trophy that year after lead the Tigers to a 9-0 record. For Princeton it was the second-straight 9-0 season, and those 18 wins over two years were unmatched by the program until 2018 and 2019, when the team also won 18 games.

Also, since the two unbeaten seasons in two years, Princeton has had two unbeaten seasons in the 70 years since (1964, 2018). Unbeaten seasons are not easy to come by, even for great teams. 

Princeton might have been 9-0 at the end of the 1951 season, but at least one source didn't like the team's chances before the season began. This is from the Daily Princetonian of Sept. 24, 1951:

Ordinarily, this would be considered as a good Princeton team. This year Captain Dave Hickok and his famous partner, Dick Kazmaier, have to face comparison with last year's powerhouse. The chances of equalling last season's record look slim indeed. 

Meanwhile, back at the backfield in 1951, you first have to understand that that Kazmaier, despite being able to run or pass, was not considered the quarterback. In the single-wing, the quarterback was more like what you would consider an H-back today, a player who mostly blocks and can carry the ball every now and then, if ever.

This was also from the same Prince preview:

Russ McNeil still holds forth at fullback although he is receiving real competition from Soph Homer Smith. George Stevens' experience is enabling him to hold the quarterback spot in spite of the fine play of Francis Lovecchio, a vicious blocker. Dick Pivirotto has looked good consistently at wingback. He seems to have the job cinched—unless Dick Yaffa shows rapid improvement.

TB loved this, mostly because it is a combination of the same basic way of writing a preview story with a style of writing that long since vanished from sportswriting. 

Maybe TB could help bring that way of writing back?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

A New Year And A Birthday

TigerBlog begins today by wishing a Happy New Year to all of his Jewish readers.

Rosh Hashana is, obviously, the Jewish New Year. If TB is correct, his people are celebrating the Year 5782. 

This is also the start of the High Holy Days, an eight-day period of reflection that ends with a 24-hour fast on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The High Holy Days never seem to come on time. They are either early or late, and this year, they certainly come early. 

Because of the complexities of the Hebrew calendar, the Jewish holidays never fall on the same day each year. The earliest Rosh Hashana can ever be is Sept. 5, so yes, this year the Holidays are here early. The latest Rosh Hashana can start, by the way, is Oct. 5. A year from now, Rosh Hashana will begin on Sept. 25. It's easy to lose track of these things year by year. 

Today is Sept. 7, so while TigerBlog is sending out good wishes, let him also wish a happy birthday to his longtime (and sadly, former) colleague and dear friend Craig Sachson. Anyone who reads TigerBlog has also read stuff from Craig through the years on, with his great coverage of so many Princeton sports for all those years. 

If TB remembers correctly, Craig was the sport contact for 12 different sports in the OAC, which has to be a record for anyone in college athletics. His tenure at Princeton ran for nearly 20 years, and his legacy is a simple one and a great one: No athlete on any of the teams he ever covered ever had any reason to feel slighted by his coverage. 

Well, that plus he didn't just cover teams. He covered them extremely well. Craig moved on a few years ago to communications work outside of athletics, and in fact he stumbled into a medical field that 1) TB doesn't really understand and 2) had a lot to do with understanding COVID.

TB worked with Craig longer than he has with anyone else in the OAC, and some of his favorite moments since he's been at Princeton were shared with Craig, including many a lunch hour on the squash courts. To Craig, TB wishes the happiest of birthdays.

Meanwhile, speaking of new years, like every other Princeton fan out there, TB waited a long time for a weekend like this past one, where so many Princeton teams were in action. After the pandemic shut things down for so long around here, it was just so nice to see so many athletes who were competing.

In fact, between the women's soccer game Thursday and the games Sunday, there were 16 Princeton athletic events. Ah, it was heaven.

The women's soccer team actually kicked things off last weekend with its season-opening sweep of Loyola and St. Joe's. This weekend, the women's soccer team played twice more, defeating George Mason and tying No. 8 Georgetown. 

Besides women's soccer, there was also field hockey, men's soccer, men's water polo, women's volleyball and men's and women's cross country. The teams that played at home did so in front of huge crowds who share TigerBlog's happiness at the return of the Tigers. 

Weekends like this were pretty routine for many, many years at Princeton. Centuries, actually. They were just taken for granted. 

After the last 20 months or so, there's a different perspective for the people who attend these event and especially for those who compete in them. Now each opportunity to watch the Tigers, or better yet play for the Tigers, is to be cherished. 

At least that was how TigerBlog felt as he watched the games this weekend and read about the teams that he didn't see in person. He assumes that he will always feel this way moving forward. And so it is that he is looking forward greatly to what is coming next for Princeton and its teams. 

There are two midweek games involving Princeton teams this week. The first is this afternoon at 4, when the men's soccer team is at Vermont, a very good team that is already 3-0. The second is Thursday at 7, when the women's soccer team is at No. 16 Rutgers. 

You can watch the men's game today on ESPN+. The women's game is on BTN+.

And then after that is another weekend with 19 more events. You can find the complete schedule HERE.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Stat Time

It's been awhile since TigerBlog has kept stats at a game. 

Think he remembers how? Well, he'll find out quickly, as he'll be the official statistician for two field hockey games today. 

When it comes to doing the program called StatCrew, TB has done approximately one million games in his life. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. It's probably more like 100,000.

Actually, he wishes he knew how many games he's kept stats for in his life, because it's a relatively high number. It's one of the core functions of being in college athletic communications, not to mention being the team scorekeeper of his kids' teams as they were growing up.

The last Princeton game he did stats for was the Princeton-Rutgers men's lacrosse game on March 8, 2020. Princeton won the game 16-11 to move to 5-0 on the year, not to mention second in the national poll. 

There was no paper left in the Class of 1952 Stadium press box, so TigerBlog put some in his car to take over for the next game, which was going to be the Ivy League opener against Penn the next Saturday.

Instead, everything shut down due to COVID, and TB hasn't done a Princeton game since. He did do stats at the NCAA men's lacrosse championships this past spring, but he wasn't the one who was on the computer doing the entering.

He'll be that today. Does he remember how? It's like riding a bike, something he's done a lot of since March of 2020.

TigerBlog's field hockey stat keeping will be at an Ivy League-ACC doubleheader that begins at noon with Penn-Louisville, followed at 2:30 by Princeton-North Carolina. The first part of doing stats was getting the times right, something TB almost didn't do, because he thought it was 2:30 and 5. 

Now that he has it down pat, he's looking forward to these games. North Carolina is the three-time defending NCAA champion, including a 6-1 win over Princeton in the 2019 final. The Tar Heels won their most recent title last May, as the NCAA had its fall championships in the spring, and UNC went 19-1, with only a loss to Louisville in its second game.

UNC has already lost more games this year than it did all of last year – and the year before that and the years before that combined. North Carolina is 0-2 this year, with losses last week in Iowa against Michigan and Iowa, after going 23-0 in 2018 and 2019 before the 19-1 run last year. 

The game today will be Princeton's first since that NCAA final two falls ago. The four teams will be back on Sherrerd Field Sunday, when Penn will play North Carolina at 11 and Princeton will play Louisville at 1:30. The Cardinals are ranked fifth in the country after opening with shutout wins over Ohio and New Hampshire by a combined 9-0. Princeton is ranked 13th. 

It's actually a Class of 1952 tripleheader today. After the two field hockey games, you can flip from Bedford Field to Sherrerd Field (or simply face the other way out of the press box) and watch the Princeton men's soccer team in its season debut.

The Tigers host the Scarlet Knights at 7 (so you can get something to eat between field hockey and soccer). 

Rutgers comes into the game 1-0-1, though the Scarlet Knights have to allow a goal. RU opened with a 2-0 win over Delaware and then played a scoreless tie with Temple. 

Princeton and Rutgers men's soccer goes way back. This is the 59th meeting between the two, and Princeton leads 28-21-9.

The first meeting between the teams was on Nov. 20, 1951. Princeton won the game 6-2, but the big story the next day in the Daily Princetonian was about the Big Three football bonfire. That was a football team led by Dick Kazmaier.

As for the current Princeton men's soccer team, there are still 18 players on the team who were on the 2018 Ivy League championship team. There are also four returning players who have earned All-Ivy honors in their careers, including Kevin O'Toole, who was the 2018 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and a 2019 first-team All-Ivy League selection.

And remember - admission to regular season field hockey and soccer at Princeton is free. And the weather should be great. 

See you there.