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.

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