Thursday, December 9, 2021

Meeting Josie

TigerBlog is a fan of great sports photography.

There have been epic photos through the years of Princeton Athletics. There is, of course, perhaps the most iconic, the one of current men's basketball head coach Mitch Henderson as he leaps in exaltation at the final buzzer of Princeton's win over UCLA in the opening round of the 1996 NCAA tournament.

TB tracked that picture down from the AP photographer who took it in Indianapolis that night. Maybe he'll try to reach out to him now and see where that picture ranks all time on the ones he's taken.

The shot of Henderson was so perfectly timed that if you watch the video clip after Toby Bailey's airball that ended it, you'll see just how small the window was to take it. That's something that's always impressed TB about the shot. 

As for the photographer, grrrr, he can't remember his name right now. He'll find it.

Maybe the best Princeton picture he's seen is the one of Gevvie Stone, wrapped in the American flag, after she won the silver medal in singles rowing in the 2016 Olympic Games. The look of pure joy on her face is awesome.

To the list of those two photos and all of the other great ones, you can add this:

Okay, okay, it's not quite a game action shot. It's still pretty good.

Say hello to Misty, the dog of Josie Ziluca, who is both the new women's rugby coach and the existing women's rugby coach. It is Ziluca who will be leading the program from its longstanding status as a club team into a varsity program, beginning officially in the fall of 2022.

Ziluca's announcement was made official earlier this week. You can read about her HERE.

Summing it up, Ziluca grew up in Northern Virginia. She first excelled in equestrian, and she'd go on to play lacrosse and tennis at Longwood University. It was there that she was first exposed to the sport of rugby.

From there, she went on to carve out a highly successful playing and coaching career. She's been at Princeton since 2019, which means she's had one on-field season and then the Covid year to navigate. Next up is the transition to the varsity level.

The picture of Misty the dog is cute, but it is also telling. It shows you that there already exists in Princeton women's rugby a team culture and chemistry, something that was solidified during the Covid year. The jump to varsity status is big, but it helps to have a foundation in place.

As for Ziluca, her passion for rugby in general and Princeton rugby specifically is obvious. She loves the idea of the next challenge, and she is certainly going to give it her all.

Her original Princeton connection is her grandfather, Kurth Sprague of the Class of 1956. Kurth was a poet and novelist who spent the majority of his career as an English professor at the University of Texas.

As for Ziluca, she was an art history major who originally figured she would go into work in a museum. Instead, she was sidetracked by rugby and coaching, but she still has the artistic side as well. It seems to be a good combination.

If you're not familiar with college rugby, there are two seasons - the 15s in the fall (which is the main championship season) and the 7s in the spring. There are currently three other Ivy schools with varsity women's rugby (Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard), and Princeton will join them in the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association.

There are eight teams currently in the league. Dartmouth was the champion this fall at 7-0, followed by Harvard at 6-1. Army-West Point is also a traditionally strong team, and the Cadets tied Brown for third place (you can't get more tied, as they both lost to Dartmouth and Harvard and beat the other four teams while tying each other). The other four, by the way, are Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, LIU and Mount St. Mary's.

The first challenge for Ziluca is the spring 7s season, the last on the club level. Then it's on to the varsity, for the team and its coach. 

The culture is already there. The alumni base is strong. And to that you can add Josie Ziluca. Talk to her for five minutes, and you can't help but be impressed.

1 comment:

Dean said...

Way to go , Josie! And Misty too!