Friday, May 27, 2022

Championship Weekend

The Princeton men's lacrosse team was getting ready to play its April 2 game at Brown when the Tigers were milling around outside their lockerroom, inside the Bears' basketball arena.

TigerBlog saw shortstick defensive midfielder Beau Pederson and told him that despite TB's recommendation, he had not made the Inside Lacrosse midseason All-American team. There was always the actual USILA team to come out at the end of the season though.

That team was announced yesterday. As it turned out, it wasn't after the end of the Princeton season, and Pederson was on it, where he absolutely belonged.

If anything, he was sold a little short as he was a third-team All-American.

In many ways, Pederson is sort of a microcosm of the Princeton men's team's season. He started out on nobody's radar, as did the team as a whole, and now he is recognized among the best in the country, as are the Tigers.

The 6-3, 205 pound Pederson has had a monster year, one that can't really be summed up in statistics. He's had the kind of season that you have to have seen up close to really appreciate, and so TB was really happy for him that he got the recognition he richly deserved.

Pederson and the Tigers began the year unranked. They are now one of four teams who are still playing in Division I men's lacrosse, as they have reached the program's 11th Final Four and first in 18 years. 

The national semifinals will be played at Rentschler Field in West Hartford (it's the home of UConn football) tomorrow. Game 1 is at noon, as sixth-seeded Rutgers plays seventh-seeded Cornell, followed by the game between No. 5 Princeton and top-seeded and unbeaten Maryland at 2:30.

The winners of those games will play Monday at 1 for the national championship. In between it'll be RIT and Union for the Division III title and Mercy and Tampa for the Division II title. 

Princeton has been dominant defensively in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, having defeated Boston University 12-5 and Yale 14-10. The Tigers now face the biggest challenge there is, having to figure out the 16-0 Terps, with their six Premier Lacrosse League draftees and 12 All-Americans.

Maryland is loaded all right. The Terps are the No. 1 scoring offense team in the country, the No. 1 shooting percentage team in the country and the No. 1 scoring margin team in the country, among other things. 

So should the Tigers bother making the trip? Yes.

Princeton lost 15-10 to Maryland back on Feb. 26 in College Park. The team that played that game is not the same team that will be there for the rematch, not by a long shot. Princeton has made some position changes, gelled as a team, weathered a two-game slump to end the regular season and now is playing the best it's played all season.

How can Princeton beat Maryland? Well, Princeton needs to get another big NCAA effort from goalie Erik Peters, who has saved it at just short of 70 percent the last two weeks. Princeton needs to balance possessions, which means winning face-offs and/or causing turnovers (the Tigers are third in the country at doing so) and getting the ground balls (the Tigers are first in the country at that). 

Princeton took a season low 23 shots in the first game against the Terps and still got to 10 goals. The  Tigers average more than twice that many (46.3 per game). Sometimes scoring is a volume shooting business. 

Both teams come in with confidence, the kind that comes with winning games at this time of year. NCAA tournament experience favors Maryland in a big way, as the Terps are playing to win the championship that got away by a single goal last year. 

Princeton is in its first NCAA tournament since 2012 and first Final Four since 2004. This team is certainly enjoying the moment and getting the most out of the experience.

The Tigers play with toughness and togetherness. They are athletic. They have great leadership, from the senior class and coaching staff. They have depth. They have no real weaknesses.

Is Maryland a great team? Of course. There are some who are mentioning this team with the best of all time.

That just makes this an even more intriguing date for Princeton. There was pressure in Round 1 to not end the season with three straight losses. There was pressure in Round 2 to overcome an opponent that nobody on the team had ever beaten.

Now? There's no pressure, only opportunity.

The Tigers and the Terrapins, tomorrow at 2:30. It's been a remarkable season so far for this team, who a year ago watched everyone else play. This is their time, and they're making the most of it.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The New Lead Singer

The task that Jenn Cook is undertaking is a daunting one.

It was announced yesterday that Cook has been named the successor to Chris Sailer as the head coach of the women's lacrosse team. When TigerBlog first heard the news, he thought of Cook's most daunting task:  

Can she read the Lawrenceville Home Improvement spot on the podcast as well as Chris always did?

TB is kidding of course, but as in all jokes, there are kernels of truth. He doesn't wonder if Cook can actually do the live read obviously. He just is aware of the difference between being the associate head coach and the head coach.

Jenn Cook is now the lead singer. She's going from being Steven Van Zandt to being Bruce Springsteen, as it were. The E Street Band wouldn't have been the greatest ever without Van Zandt, but it's still Springsteen's show.

It's Jenn Cook's show now too. That means making the ultimate decisions. That means being the face of the program. That even means doing the podcasts.

When any assistant steps into the head coaching spot, it's a big jump. In case's like this, it's a bit different.

Cook is mega-prepared to run the Tiger program. She's been a part of it for 10 years, the last five as the associate head coach. The team has won seven straight Ivy League championships, and Cook's fingerprints have been all over every single one of them. 

She's recruited. She's coached. She's scheduled, games, practice times, fields, all of it. She's made sure there were uniforms. She's worked in player development. She kept the team culture going during a pandemic that saw 19 of the 32 players take the year off.

There are no surprises within this program for her. She knows exactly what to expect. She understands the details.

It's just that now she's the one with the mic at the center of the stage.

TB is happy for her. She's earned this, and she's clearly ready. 

What's different about this move is that Cook is taking over for Sailer, who spent 36 years as the former lead singer. Just seeing "Princeton head women's lacrosse coach" and not following it with "Sailer" seems a bit odd.

There have only been three head coaches in the program prior to Cook: Penny Hinckley in the early 1970s, Betty Logan after that and then Sailer, whose first season was 1987. Sailer coached Princeton for seven seasons more than Pete Carril coached the men's basketball team.

It is never easy to take over for the legend, but Cook knows what she's getting into. She had her official introduction yesterday, and she addressed that. She spoke about her friends all told her they'd be big shoes to fill, and she understood that.

She also smiled broadly as she started her remarks, which was a dead giveaway about how invested she is in Princeton women's lacrosse and how much she wanted this opportunity.

The team she inherits has a lot to replace. The Tigers graduated 10 seniors, five of whom were four-year starters. She has to replace Kyla Sears, the program's all-time leading scorer, and then four others on the other side of the field, with three starting defenders (Mary Murphy, Olivia Pugh and Marge Donovan) and the goalie (Sam Fish) all having received diplomas Tuesday as well.

It will be a team that returns a great deal on offense and some young defenders who will have bigger roles. Cook talked about that as well.

John Mack, the Ford Family Director of Athletics, spoke about how he wasn't looking for another Chris Sailer. He was looking for someone who understood Princeton and what the athletic department is about and was her own person.

He mentioned a meeting he had with Cook when he first started last fall and how she felt that she could be the next head coach. 

He just didn't realize how soon he'd have to make that call. 

There's a new lead singer with Princeton women's lacrosse. She hit all the right notes yesterday at her introduction. Now the real work begins.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Persistent One

The parties and the P-Rade had given way to the pomp and pageantry as so much of what makes Princeton such a special place played out over the last week.

Now it was nearing the end Commencement, the 275th such event the University has had, and Princeton president Chris Eisgruber was addressing the Class of 2022.

He spoke of "the finish line," which is a term that TigerBlog had used so often — exclusively to himself, mind you — during the last four years. Commencement, 2022. The finish line, as it were, for his own daughter.

There she was yesterday, one of the 1,234 undergraduates who in fact were crossing their own finish line. How did she get there? Eisgruber also had that covered perfectly, this time with a single word:

Persistence. 

In fact his speech was entitled "The Power of Persistence." Each word he said on the subject resonated so strongly with TigerBlog.

His daughter had undertaken a daunting double as a Princeton undergraduate: mechanical and aerospace engineering and varsity lacrosse. How did she reach her finish line? Just as the University president said, she persisted.

Her best quality is her persistence, her grit. She takes on challenges, and she grinds her way through them. Ultimately, she cleared every hurdle, as well as a Princeton diploma, two Ivy League championship rings in the two full seasons her class had and a lifetime of best friends and memories, all while having her experience interrupted by a pandemic.

TigerBlog wondered if maybe this was too much for her. He never admitted to her, of course. He just wondered. Would she reach the finish line, he'd ask himself over and over. He didn't even look up when Commencement would be until the very last minute he could, for fear of getting ahead of the process and being disappointed if she didn't get there.

Ultimately, he should have realized that her persistence would win out.

TB was asked a bunch of times yesterday how he felt watching his daughter graduate from Princeton. He was moved by it. He was so proud, so happy for her. That doesn't even do it justice.

This was so special for him to watch and soak in. Every one of the graduates earned their place at the finish line, and they all had life-altering experiences that they will take with them forever. They all have a story to tell.

Here's hers:

She went to nursery school a few hundred yards away from Princeton Stadium, where Commencement was held, at U-League Nursery School. She went to her first bonfire when she was six years old (and broke her collarbone in front of Nassau Hall). She went to field hockey and lacrosse camps there when she was little. 

She had a chance to go to some Division III schools to play lacrosse, most notably MIT, but she wanted Princeton instead. On that December day in 2017 when she found out she was admitted, she logged on to her computer with her father on the phone and shouted "I got in" about 10 times. 

That afternoon TB stopped at the equipment room in Caldwell Field House and asked the staff if they could give him any shirt at all that said "Princeton" and had the No. 22 on it. After all, she'd be in the Class of 2022.

Who knew what was to come? Courtney Banghart, then the Princeton women's basketball coach, gave her this advice: "Never worry about your GPA. Just get through." It was then, TB supposes, that he first began to think of a "finish line." Also, because of that, he chuckled when Eisgruber broke the bad news to the graduates that there is little correlation between GPA and future success. Courtney was right. 

TB saw his daughter at freshman athlete orientation, and he's pretty sure that was the first time that he figured she wanted nobody to know they were related. Eventually, her teammates figured it out, but he kept his distance as much as he could for someone who, you know, did a podcast each week with her coach.

She had her rough times, of course, academically and athletically. She found her way through it. Persistence, remember?

By the time she was starting to feel comfortable, Covid struck. She made the difficult choice to stay enrolled. She finished her engineering requirements. She wrote her thesis: "Planar Laser Induced Fluorescence Measurements of CH2O in Ozone Assisted Cool Flames." Yeah, TB has no idea what that means either.

She became a member of Cannon club. She made a wide circle of friends. She matured as a lacrosse player, a teammate and a student. She learned and grew. She embodied the very best of what Princeton Athletics is trying to teach and what Princeton University is all about. And she did all this on her own.

Through it all, TB was on the same campus, able to see it all with a much closer view than most parents get of their child's college experience. Ultimately, she'd come to tell him that she liked knowing he was there, even if her eye rolling for four years suggested otherwise.

As TB watched Commencement, all of that went flying through his head. He remembered every detail. He remembered every trying moment, every tearful phone call, every laugh, every achievement. He remembered her one collegiate lacrosse statistic, a ground ball against Columbia her freshman year, and how he had entered it into the stat program. He remembered every cold weather game where she stood shivering on the sideline. He remembered the stresses of finals. He remembered all of it.

She picked up her diploma back at her Residential College, which in her case was Forbes. There was a reception on the patio there, just as there had been on the day he'd dropped her off in 2018. She teared up that day, nervous, anxious, a bit scared, a bit overwhelmed. 

She beamed yesterday on that same spot, as she stood there with a Princeton University diploma. She knew what it took to reach her finish line. She knew what she'd been through. 

TigerBlog? He tried to sort out the emotions. Ultimately, he guesses the main emotion was marvel, if that is an emotion. He sat there and watched his daughter, and he marveled at the magnitude of what she had done her at Princeton. He smiled. He laughed. He also beamed. He even cried a little. He was in awe.

Mostly, he marveled. 

So wherever you are, raise a glass of something to salute TB's daughter. You've known her first as Little Miss TigerBlog and then, as she grew to six feet tall, as Miss TigerBlog.

Now you know her as Annie Price, Princeton graduate, Class of 2022. She crossed the finish line yesterday.

Annie, your persistence has paid off. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Dancing With Vietta

The first time TigerBlog saw Vietta Johnson, she was just a face in a small box on an eight-screen Zoom call.

It was the heart of the pandemic, and TB had been invited to be on the Class of 1982 Zoom to talk about women's athletic history. He was in the early stages of writing his book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton (cheap plug- you can order it HERE).

Vietta wasn't one of the leaders of the event. She simply spoke near the end, during the Q&A portion of the evening. 

TB's first thought was "whoa, that's an impressive person with a lot of energy." He had no idea just how right he was.

He immediately decided to include Vietta in the book. When he interviewed her, she spoke about her time as women's track athlete and so much more, including her childhood in Brooklyn and her path to becoming one of the few Black orthopedic surgeons in the country at the time. She talked about justice and fairness and connecting with people on a human level. She talked about the hurdles she had to overcome and how she did it.

When TigerBlog has given presentations of his book, he has mentioned that the chapter on Vietta is what the book is all about. It's about her time as Princeton student-athlete and how it has shaped her ever since, and it's about the impact that Princeton women's athletes have made here.

Since he first met her, TB and Vietta have been in touch a few times, including a year ago, when she was honored with the Class of 1967 Citizen-Athlete Award. He had never, though, met her in person.

That's why when he got a text two weeks ago that Vietta was going to be at Reunions, he made it a point that he would find a way to connect, even though he'd be away for almost the entire time at the men's lacrosse quarterfinals at Hofstra.

It was a 90-degree day out on Long Island, and TB was completely wiped out and sweaty from standing on the sideline in his black lacrosse pullover (long sleeves at that). Still, he was not going to miss out on saying hi to Vietta after he got back to Princeton.

That's what he envisioned. A quick hello, how are you?

That's not how it turned out.

Nope. Vietta was having none of that. And so it was that TB found himself at the 40th Reunion tent, right up at the front, dancing with Vietta Johnson as the band played (really well by the way) "My Girl," the Temptations hit.

You can ask pretty much anyone TB has ever met if he likes to dance, or if he's any good at it. The answer to both would be "no," but only once that person stopped laughing.

And yet this time, there he was, out there in front. It was the Vietta Johnson effect. She's simply a force of nature. A wonderful, positive, energetic, force of nature.

That was TB's Reunions experience, standing in the 40th tent and dancing with Vietta, while also seeing some familiar faces (loyal reader Duncan Yin, who was Vietta's 1982 classmate, among them). 

What was your Reunions experience? Judging by what TB saw on campus over the weekend, he's guessing it was overwhelmingly positive.

After two years of virtual Reunions, how could it not be? As TB wrote last week, he was sorry to have missed the P-Rade (though the lacrosse win was a good reason).

In general, it was just amazing to see the campus hopping the way it was and to see everyone back together again. 

Reunions started the night of the Gary Walters Princeton Varsity Club Senior Banquet, as always. As always, it ran through Saturday night, and in fact TB got back to campus just in time for the fireworks. 

Sunday night was TB's first-ever prom in Jadwin Gym. He was at Class Day yesterday for the first time as well.

These are the traditions that mean the most to Princeton. They go back a very, very long way, and the fact that they were taken away for two years only made them that much more important when they returned these last few days.

Today is Commencement. TB has been to a lot of them during his time here. It's always been one of his favorite events, though he does have a sense this one will be a little more special.

Monday, May 23, 2022

A Men's Lacrosse Reunions Party On Long Island

The ball was hurled high in the air. The Princeton men's lacrosse team raced onto the field. The scoreboard said "Princeton 14, Yale 10." The clock said ... "0.6."

The official nearest to where the ball went out of bounds could have tried to clear the field and have a restart. Instead, he signaled to let the clock run out. He knew. Everyone at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium knew.

There was no holding back this party from starting.

It was one 18 years in the making. The win over Yale Saturday vaulted Princeton into the Final Four for 11th time in program history but the first since 2004, as the Tigers will now play Saturday in the semifinals against top-seeded and unbeaten Maryland.

Everywhere you looked on the Princeton side, you saw former players, alums who never had the chance to play on this stage, who were locked in on how much they wanted it for the current generation. There were professional players, international players, former All-Americans, an army of All-Ivy picks — and they all were 100 percent invested in these Tigers.

It was like a separate Reunions tent was set up on Long Island.

It's not always easy to be the modern iteration of a program with one of the greatest traditions the sport has ever seen. In Princeton's case, that tradition means six NCAA championships and 10 previous trips to Championship weekend, all of which occurred between 1992 and 2004.

It can go one of two ways really. That tradition can weigh heavily, perhaps coupled with some unreasonable expectations of those who built the tradition. Or it can serve as the foundation of the program, with a base of alums who are supportive at every turn.

For Princeton men's lacrosse it's the latter. It was clear Saturday at Hofstra, on a sweltering afternoon, just how much the program means to all those who have gone through it. Those championship teams remain its cornerstone, and as the years have gone along, those groups have added everyone who has come along since.

They were all there Saturday, ready to help will the current group to take that next big step. For the current members of the program, they're all aware of what came before them. They speak about it. They ask about it. They embrace it.

Together, they all made it happen Saturday, against a team that had been a nemesis in every sense of the word. Matt Madalon, in fact, had never beaten the Bulldogs as head coach heading into the game, including a 14-12 loss earlier this season in New Haven.

TigerBlog spent a lot of time around this team during the week, and he picked up on something that was obvious. Confidence. This team was confident.

Not cocky. Not phony tough. They were confident, in themselves, in their teammates, in their gameplan. You could sense it. 

When Yale went up 3-1 in the first quarter, there was no panic. When Yale kept cutting it to two goals in the third quarter, Princeton simply answered with one of its own. A team with no postseason experience until a week before played with poise and composure and grit.

This was a team win in every sense of the word. Nine different Tigers scored. Eight different longsticks and four shorties played. Three different face-off men took the draws, and two of them won six each. 

There were standouts, of course.

Goalie Erik Peters was sensational, with 15 saves and 10 goals against. In two NCAA games, Peters now has made 32 saves and allowed 15 goals, a save percentage of .681 after he was below 40 percent for the last two games of the regular season.

Defenseman George Baughan was again ridiculous, holding Yale's Matt Brandau to one goal and one assist after Brandau had torched the Tigers for five goals and three assists two months earlier. 

This wasn't about individual performances, though. This was about Princeton Men's Lacrosse, from top to bottom, from players to coaches to staff to alums to fans to everyone. This was their day.

Well, maybe it was about one person, actually. Maybe it was about the head coach, Matt Madalon, who has understood from Day 1 the history of the program and what it means to everyone associated with it. He's embraced it and cultivated it, and he built a team and a culture that has worked hard — and together —to get where they are now.

Even in the middle of the celebration in the locker room afterwards, his focus wasn't on reaching the Final Four. It certainly wasn't on him.

It was something that he said, that he might not even realize he said.

"One more week together as a group." 

They'll cherish it. And then they'll be ready to take their shot at the big prize on the biggest stage in lacrosse. They'll all be there together, the Tigers of the present and the past, just like it always is with this program.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Missing The P-Rade

There is a vibe that exists on the Princeton campus during Reunions that is unmatched by anything else TigerBlog has ever experienced.

He's mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again: There's nothing remotely like this at TB's alma mater, which itself generates a great deal of alumni loyalty (though not necessarily in the case of a certain departmental historian and, for that matter, a certain men's track and field coach).

Reunions at Princeton is a time of shared joy between the institution and the people who attended it. It's nearly impossible to walk anywhere on this campus during the three days of Reunions without seeing people laughing and hugging — but if you do, you'll see people who are lost in the total fondness that they have for Princeton University itself.

What really makes it special is the way that each class is almost its own organism, an independent entity with its own unique features and mannerisms. Nothing sums that up like the Reunion jackets themselves. When you throw in all of that color and pageantry, and it ratchets up the emotion even more.

Reunions kicked off yesterday. Just being on campus was special.

The Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Banquet was held last night in Jadwin Gym. The big winners were women's lacrosse player Kyla Sears and men's soccer player Kevin O'Toole, who won the top senior athlete awards.

Sears is Princeton's career leader in goals and assists (and therefore also points), accomplishing this in three seasons and five games of another. O'Toole is a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and now a professional soccer player, in Major League Soccer.

What TB will remember most about both of them is the way that they elevated their teams as seniors. They didn't carry their teams, because they didn't have to, but they elevated them. They led through their example as competitors, with maximum effort at all time. 

As such, they both led their teams to Ivy League championships and into the NCAA tournament in their final seasons. There was no other way that they were going to let their senior seasons end.

One of the best parts of the banquet is when all of the seniors get their letter sweaters and then head out to enjoy Reunions. TB always loves the photos of all the graduates in their new sweaters. 

For TB, the best part of Reunions weekend is the P-Rade. He always loves the P-Rade, the march of classes down Elm Drive. It's always a great moment.

Sadly, TigerBlog won't be there tomorrow to see it. Or, actually, make that "happily he won't be there tomorrow."

Shortly after the Old Guard starts its walk, Princeton and Yale will face off in the NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals. The game is the second of a doubleheader at Hofstra, one that starts with Penn-Rutgers at noon, followed by the Tigers and Bulldogs at 2:30 or so.

There are two more quarterfinal games Sunday, at Ohio State. There are four Ivy League teams among the final eight, as Cornell takes on Delaware and Maryland plays Virginia.

This will be the second meeting of the year between Princeton and Yale. The first one, back on March 26 in New Haven, went to the Bulldogs 14-12.

What are the takeaways from that game? Yale did what it does, which is to cause its opponents to have failed clears (Princeton had seven) and to get big production from its attack (10 goals, three assists). Yale also got a big day from goalie Jared Paquette, who made 19 saves.

As for Princeton, the Tigers had a big edge in ground balls (44-31), which is what you'd expect from the No. 1 ground ball team in the country. Princeton also won 18 of 28 face-offs, something you might expect if you knew how much Yale has dominated Princeton there for the last two decades.

The teams are also two of the highest scoring teams in the country, averaging more than 30 per game between them. 

Will any of that matter in the rematch? Who knows. This is the time of year when intangibles matter most, when unsung players make huge contributions that change outcomes of games.

No matter what, it's been a huge step forward for Princeton to be back in the tournament and to have advanced to the quarterfinals. Now is the time to do whatever it takes to advance, something both teams will try to do — but only one will.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Banquet Is Back

Just to let you know how much time has gone by since the last time the Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club banquet was held in person, the winner of the Roper Trophy as the top senior male athlete that night was ... John Lovett.

Just in case you forgot, John Lovett currently is with his third NFL team and has already earned a Super Bowl ring. It does seem like a long time ago that he was winning two Bushnell Cups as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and leading the Tigers to a perfect 10-0 season as a senior.

And yet he's the most recent in-person Roper winner, having won the award in 2019. The banquets were virtual in 2020 and 2021, and it's now back in person for 2022. In fact, it happens to be tonight.

The banquet kicks off at 5 with a cocktail hour and then features the dinner and awards ceremony at 6:15. 

There are six awards to be given at the banquet. There are the Marvin Bressler Award and the Class of 1967 PVC Citizen-Athlete Award, whose winners have already been announced.

The Bressler Award, which is given each year to someone who has been overwhelming supportive of Princeton's athletes, is named for Marvin Bressler, a longtime sociology professor who was the model for the Princeton Athletic Fellows program that Walters created when he was the Director of Athletics, based on his experiences with Bressler when Walters was on the basketball team in the 1960s. 

TigerBlog knew Bressler, who passed away in 2010, very well. If ever an award matched the person for whom it is named, it is this one. This year's winner is Alec Dun, the Associate Dean of the College.

The Citizen-Athlete Award is given each year in recognition of outstanding contribution to sport and society. The winner this year is Sari Chang-Guthrie, a former track and field standout who became an actress and is now an architect. 

For more information on the winners, click HERE.

There are also four awards given to undergraduates, and the finalists for those awards have been announced. 

There is the Class of 1916 Cup, which is given to the senior athlete in the highest academic standing at graduation. Those finalists can be found HERE.

The Art Lane Award is an undergraduate version of the Citizen-Athlete Award and a testament to the kinds of young people who come to Princeton to compete. HERE are those finalists. 

The top two awards are the Roper Trophy and the von Kienbusch Award, which is given to the top senior female athlete.

The Roper Trophy dates back to 1936, when Hugh MacMillan was the first winner. Who was Hugh MacMillan? He was a football and basketball player (who also happened to be a football teamamte of Art Lane, for whom the service award is named) while at Princeton, and he then went to medical school and became a surgeon (medical school at Harvard), first in the Army Medical Corps in Europe in World War II and then in Colorado. 

The von Kienbusch Award turns 50 this year. The first winner, back in 1972, was Helena Novakova, a tennis player and swimmer who came to Princeton after escaping from Czechoslovakia during the 1968 Soviet invasion there.

There are four nominees for the von Kienbusch Award: fencer Maia Chamberlain, basketball player Abby Meyers, soccer player Lucy Rickerson and lacrosse player Kyla Sears. You can read all about them HERE.

There are five nominees for the Roper Trophy: lacrosse player George Baughan, squash player Youssef Ibrahim, shot putter C.J. Licata, soccer player Kevin O'Toole and football player Jeremiah Tyler. You can read about them HERE.

The winners of those four awards will be announced at the banquet.

As always, TigerBlog goes back to freshman athlete orientation when he thinks about those awards. The entire athletic class gathers together very infrequently, the first time during orientation. They're wide-eyed and uncertain about what to expect, and there's no way to predict what experience any of them have.

Throw in for this class that they had no idea that a global pandemic was going to interrupt their time here. For some who are now seniors and graduating next week, this is all a year later than they expected. 

But they're here now. Theses are finished. Finals are taken. Dean's Date has come and gone. They've had as normal a senior year as any of them could have hoped 12 months ago. 

Now it's time the banquet, reunions and graduation. They've all earned this celebration.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A Chris Sailer Farewell

As the final seconds ticked away on Sunday's NCAA women's lacrosse second-round game between Princeton and Syracuse, TigerBlog was not looking down at his stat computer in the Sherrerd Field press box.

Nor was he following the path of the ball. In the moment, he was pretty sure nobody was. All eyes had to have been focused on the same place — the Princeton sideline.

It was there where Chris Sailer stood, watching as time ran out, on the 2022 season and on her 41 years as a lacrosse coach, the last 36 of which have been as the Princeton head coach. This was it, now, as her Tigers fell to the Orange 13-9.

How would she react? Would her emotions be obvious? Nope. It was like any other game, win or lose. The game ended. There were handshakes. Her face and her body language gave nothing away.

There was a large ovation that awaited her, and her team, which had put together a great run to finish the season. The Tigers went 15-4, including a 7-0 run through the Ivy League that ended with the team's seventh straight championship and then an Ivy League tournament title as well.

Last Friday night Princeton knocked off UMass in the opening round of the tournament 15-9 in a game that was never really in doubt. And then, looking to extend the season another week, the Tigers jumped out on Syracuse 4-1 and then trailed 7-6 at the half before the Orange, last year's NCAA runner-up, pulled away just enough in the second half. 

And just like that, Chris Sailer's tenure had reached its end. 

The numbers she put up in her 36 years at Princeton are staggering.

Think about that. There were 433 separate days on which her team won a game here. She played in 27 NCAA tournaments. She won 16 Ivy titles. Three times her teams won it all, in 1994, 2002 and 2003.

She was Princeton's coach through four athletic directors and, for that matter, seven U.S. Presidents. 

Her first team went 3-9 back in 1987. By 1989, she had them in the Final Four. She earned her way into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. She is by any standard one of the true legends of women's lacrosse.

And that's why watching anything other than her reaction in those final seconds was out of the question.

TigerBlog and Chris Sailer did their final podcast yesterday. You can listen to it HERE.

What would be the first question you would have asked her if you'd been TB? It's probably the same one that he did ask. How did you feel the next day? 

TB presumes that the day after the season ends is rough for any coach. There's probably a feeling of emptiness, but it also has to be combined with a fire to get started again. When you lose that fire, then it's time to get into a different line of work, right?

But what about when time just catches up to you? Not many coaches last for 36 years. Not many leave on their own terms. 

Sailer talked about what's next for her, how she's "retiring to be retired." She'll be leaving the area, moving to Rehobeth Beach, and possibly becoming a snowbird. She'll pursue her interests, look to travel some, do more things for herself.

She's earned it all, obviously. 

She said it would be difficult to live around here and not be part of Princeton Athletics. That was interesting. 

Princeton women's lacrosse will go on, of course. Nobody has ever been bigger than any program here. That's not how it works here. 

It'll look really different though with someone else on the sideline. There haven't been many coaches who have ever coached here who were as much a part of one program as Chris Sailer has been.

At the game Sunday, Syracuse was technically the home team, because the Orange were the highest seeded team here (the Dome wasn't available due to graduation). As such, they were listed as the home team on the scoreboard.

After TB watched the game end, he looked back up at the scoreboard, and it showed the "13" under "Tigers" and "9" under "Guest." It seemed appropriate. 

Chris Sailer might not have won that game, but she it just seemed right to have the Tigers with the higher total for her last game, just as had been the case for those 433 times.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Tossing Lori, Again

There were a lot of moving parts around Princeton Athletics this past weekend.

Start with the four NCAA tournament lacrosse games on Sherrerd Field. The broadcasts of the women's games were produced by Princeton, which means Cody Chrusciel and his staff. The men's broadcast was produced by ESPN, which meant that the video equipment in the press box had to be taken down after the first day and then put back up after the men's game Saturday.

Then there was softball. One game Friday and then two Saturday became two Friday and one Saturday, which became one inning Saturday and six more Sunday. And a track and field meet, not to mention a baseball tripleheader.

Throw in the driving rain and all the tickets that had to be sold and all of the other logistics, and it wasn't easy. Major credit goes to Cody, and the event staff of Karen Malec and Kyle Koncar and the ticketing and marketing staff and grounds crew and everyone else (including communications).

It was a huge undertaking, and it all went off smoothly, largely because of the professionalism of TigerBlog's colleagues. They don't like being in the spotlight, preferring to let it shine on the athletes and coaches, but without them, this weekend wouldn't have been what it was.

One of the teams who did not compete on campus this weekend was the women's open rowing team, though they weren't that far away. The Tigers were on the Cooper River in Pennsauken, which is in South Jersey. 

It might not have been home, but it has been a home away from the women's open rowers through the years. This season was no different.

Once again the Tigers won the Ivy League women's rowing championship by taking the first varsity 8 race, making it five straight for the program. As TB said yesterday, nothing beats a good selection show reaction shot, but "tossing the rowing coach in the river after a win" is up there as well.

Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny has to be used to this by now. She probably learned a long time ago not to have her phone or her keys in her pocket once the race gets past 1,000 meters or so.

Beyond the five straight, Princeton has also now won seven of eight. That's a lot of times being tossed into the water for Dauphiny.

There was certainly drama on the river Sunday afternoon. Princeton entered the first varsity 8 final actually in third place in the team points standings, which would determine the league's automatic NCAA championship entry. To get that spot, Princeton needed to win the race, which by itself would determine the Ivy champion. In other words, there were two prizes at stake.

Princeton sprinted out to an open water lead and ended up more than two seconds ahead of second-place Brown. The final team standings had Princeton, Brown and Yale all even, but Princeton took the league title and the NCAA bid.

For Princeton Athletics, one of its best and most impressive streaks is that the women's open rowing team has never missed an NCAA championship regatta, going back to 1997, a feat matched only by Brown and Washington. The Tigers were there even in the Covid-shortened year last year.

The NCAA selections are this afternoon at 5. The championships themselves are next weekend in Sarasota, Fla.

The three Ivy League rowing championships (the men's championships were on Lake Quigsigamond in Massachusetts) were the final ones of the 2021-22 academic year. First and foremost, TB wants to say that it was great to see the league be able to crown champions in 33 sports once again, and he's thrilled that the athletes got to have that experience back.

Also, for Princeton, it was another standout year of success. 

Princeton won three Ivy titles in the fall (football, men's soccer, men's cross country) and then four in the winter (women's fencing, women's basketball, men's basketball, men's indoor track and field) and finally six more in the spring (women's golf, women's lacrosse, men's outdoor track and field, softball, women's open rowing, women's tennis). That's 13 Ivy League championships.

Princeton also won league titles in men's water polo in the fall and women's lightweight rowing and men's volleyball in the spring. That's 16 championships total, which makes for another outstanding chapter in Tiger history.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Off To The Land Of Opportunity

The Princeton softball team began its Sunday knowing that it could be heading home when it was over.

Instead, the Tigers found out that they'll be heading to Arkansas instead.

Princeton won two games where it knew if it lost its season would be over as the Ivy League playoff series unfolded in Princeton against Harvard this weekend. The reward was a spot in the NCAA tournament, whose pairings now see the Tigers taking on Arkansas Friday at 6 Eastern in a regional that also includes Oregon or Wichita State.

There's nothing in college sports like a good NCAA selection reaction, right? 

 The Ivy League playoff was originally scheduled for a single game Friday and then two Sunday (with the second one obviously if necessary). Because of the forecast for rain Saturday, it was moved to two Friday and then one Saturday if necessary.

Game 1 looked like it was going to Harvard when the Crimson led 2-0 into the bottom of the seventh, only to see Princeton tie it 2-2 when Lauren Sablone tripled home Cate Bade and then Serena Starks doubled home Sablone. 

It stayed that way until Harvard put up three in the top of the 10th and then closed out the Tigers, winning 5-2. Would Harvard pull off the sweep? Nope. This time, Sablone snapped a 4-4 tie in the sixth with a two-run home run, and Princeton would add two more for an 8-4 win. 

This set up a winner-take-all situation Saturday. Princeton got on top 3-0 in the bottom of the first, with a  two-RBI double from Ali Blanchard as the big hit. 

Ah, but remember the rainy forecast? It turned out to be true. It rained in the morning, paused ever so briefly, and then erupted, pouring down pretty much all afternoon. And so, the rest of the game was postponed, pushed back until yesterday, when the forecast was much better.

As it turned out, it was warm with no rain. The game picked up where it was stopped from the rain, which meant the Tigers had their three-run lead, and from there it became a 6-1 win to take the series. Alexis Laudenslager went all seven innings, allowing three hits and striking out six.

The NCAA selections were announced last night at 7, and that's where Princeton learned its draw. Out of curiosity, TigerBlog wonders what would have happened had Princeton and Harvard not been able to finish yesterday because of rain? Would the selection just have said "Ivy wnner?"

The challenge this week is significant. Arkansas went 44-9 this year, including 19-5 in the SEC to win the championship. Any time you have "SEC" and "championship" on your resume, that's gets your attention. Arkansas also won the SEC tournament, making it equally as impressive. This is the first time Arkansas has been the SEC champion, by the way.

Arkansas' roster is loaded with players from the South and West. There is no player on the team from the Northeast or North. What jumps off the stat sheet? Arkansas has hit 102 home runs as a team; Princeton has hit 15. On the other hand, Princeton has only allowed five all year. Arkansas has allowed 46. 

Going by total home runs, Arkansas ranks fourth in Division I. Going by home runs per game, the Razorbacks are third. Who is second in both? Wichita State.

Also by the way, the Razorbacks' stadium looks like a nice place to play. See HERE.

Arkansas was ranked fourth last week in the coaches' pole. Oregon is also a top 25 team (22nd actually). 

Princeton has been the most successful Ivy League program in softball, with 20 championships all time. No other program has more than eight.

Princeton has played in the Women's College World Series twice, back in 1995 and 1996. The Tigers most recently have been to the NCAA in 2017.

There was a lot on the line yesterday, and because of Saturday's rain, there was a lot of time to think about it. Laudenslager had it under control once things got started again.

And now Princeton gets the reward, which is a trip to the NCAA tournament. Win or go home? It turned out to be win and go to Arkansas, whose state nickname, by the way, is the Land of Opportunity.

Friday, May 13, 2022

At Home For The NCAA Tournament

NCAA women's lacrosse tickets
NCAA men's lacrosse tickets

Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, tweeted out his congratulations and best wishes to the Rutgers men's and women's lacrosse teams in the upcoming NCAA tournament Wednesday night.

Yo, Gov, what about Princeton?

Here are two facts about Phil Murphy that are interesting:

1) he went to Harvard undergrad
2) he went to Penn for his MBA 

This might explain why he didn't mention Princeton, no? At the same time, is he rooting for his alma mater or the state university of the state for which he is the chief executive, since Harvard is playing Rutgers in the first round of the men's tournament. 

By the time that game begins Sunday at 5, there will have been four NCAA tournament games played on Sherrerd Field, with two today, one tomorrow and another Sunday. Only two of those games are guaranteed to have Princeton in them.

The whole thing starts this afternoon at 4, when Syracuse and Fairfield kick things off, to be followed at 7 by Princeton and UMass. If you recall, Syracuse would have been the host team, except that there is graduation this weekend on campus.

The men's tournament weekend of eight games begins tomorrow at noon, when fifth-seeded Princeton hosts Boston University. The winners of the games today meet Sunday at noon, and the winner will advance to the quarterfinals this coming Thursday.

Also, remember that there is the Ivy League softball playoff series on campus this weekend as well, as Princeton hosts Harvard in a best of three with two games today, starting at noon.

As for the lacrosse, the Princeton men and women are here under vastly different circumstances. For the women, it's the final season for head coach Chris Sailer, who is making her 27th appearance in the NCAA tournament as Tiger head coach. For the men, this is the first appearance as a head coach for Matt Madalon.

If you want to read more about the women, click HERE. If you want to read more about the men, click HERE.

The Princeton women are coming in after two perfect weekends. There was April 30, when the Tigers defeated Yale 17-14 in a matchup of 6-0 Ivy teams to win the team's seventh-straight Ivy title (Sailer's 16th). That win was followed by a Senior Day recognition of the team's 10 seniors and then a long party honoring Sailer, complete with several hundred alums.

Then, last weekend, Princeton knocked off Harvard 13-6 and Yale 19-9 to win the Ivy League tournament. Records fell everywhere, as Kyla Sears obliterated all existing Princeton scoring records as Marge Donovan did so in draw controls. It was another big Tiger party, one that figured to be the team's last for the year on Sherrerd Field.

Then the selections came out, and suddenly Princeton was home again. 

The Princeton men are home as well, something the team secured by having more wins over seeded teams than anyone else. Princeton is the only team to beat Georgetown. Princeton is the only team to have beaten Rutgers other than No. 1 Maryland. Princeton has a win over Ivy tournament champ Penn and Ivy tournament top seed Brown.

What Princeton also has is a week off after not making the Ivy tournament field. Princeton tied for fourth but lost out way down on the tiebreakers to Penn, who of course then won the tournament. 

There will be six Ivy teams who play in the men's tournament. Princeton is the only Ivy team in the women's tournament.

The Princeton-BU game will be a rematch of a game from April 9, won by the Tigers 12-7. It was a statistically even game in many respects (turnovers were 23-23, shots were 43-43). BU, who won the Patriot League tournament last week, is the No. 1 team in the country in caused turnovers per game. Princeton is second. Princeton is third in the country in ground balls. Boston University is fourth.

TigerBlog wrote this in his postgame story that day:
The final was third-ranked Princeton 12, 13th-ranked BU 7. If the teams are hoping to play in the NCAA tournament next month, they got a sense of what it might feel like in this one.

Now they are in the NCAA tournament. That game in April did have that kind of feel. This time it's the real thing. The same is true for the women.

There are six teams who will be playing on Sherrerd Field this weekend. Four of them will have their seasons end. Two will be playing on.

It's what makes this time of year great. It's what every player on all of these teams has worked for.

It'll be a great weekend of lacrosse.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Trivia Day

In advance of the three teams that are hosting postseason events this weekend, TigerBlog presents a bit of a trivia contest. The answers will be at the end.

As a reminder, this is the home postseason schedule for this weekend:

Ivy League softball playoff series between Princeton and Harvard:
Game 1 tomorrow at noon
Game 2 Saturday at noon
Game 3 Saturday if necessary

NCAA women's lacrosse tournament:
Opening round tomorrow
Syracuse vs. Fairfield - 4
Princeton vs. UMass - 7
Second round Sunday
winners meet at noon

NCAA men's lacrosse tournament opening round Saturday
Princeton vs. Boston University, noon

And with that, here's some trivia to get you ready. Even though the answers are at the end, as with everything else at Princeton, the honor code applies here:

Question No. 1
The Princeton softball team is the only Ivy League team to reach the Women's College World Series, something the Tigers did twice. What were those two years?

Question No. 2
Who was the only Ivy League softball player to win the league's Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year awards in the same year? 

Question No. 3
Princeton's Ali Blanchard (144) and Alexis Laudenslager (128) rank 1-2 in the Ivy League in strikeouts. They also rank third in strikeouts in a season by Princeton teammates; there is one combination in Princeton history that is in first and second. Name the two pitchers.

Question No. 4
Freshman Lauren Sablone leads Princeton and is tied for eighth in the Ivy League with 21 RBIs. Who holds the Princeton single season record?

Question No. 5
The Ivy League playoff series between Princeton and Harvard will determine the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. No matter what happens, Princeton is the 2022 Ivy League champion. How many Ivy League titles has head coach Lisa van Ackeren led Princeton to in the last five seasons?

Question No. 6
Between them, the Princeton men's and women's lacrosse teams have won nine NCAA championships, of which five have been won in overtime. Name the five players who scored game-winning goals in overtime of NCAA finals.

Question No. 7
Kyla Sears holds the women's lacrosse team records with 299 career points and 202 career goals. What are the men's career records?

Question No. 8
Marge Donovan was the MVP of the Ivy League women's tournament last weekend, becoming the sixth Princeton women's player to be so honored. Who were the other five?

Question No. 9
Junior Kate Mulham has 32 goals this season. How many did she have for her career prior to this year?

Question No. 10
Grace Taukus and Kari Buonanno have combined for 65 goals this season. They also have something in common beyond being Tiger teammates. What would that be?

Question No. 11
Princeton ranks third all-time in NCAA championships won with three (in 1994, 2002 and 2003). Who won the first NCAA women's tournament, back in 1982?

Question No. 12
The Princeton men's lacrosse record for goals in an NCAA tournament is six, shared by two players, one of whom did it twice. Name the two players. 

Question No. 13
Princeton has played 44 NCAA men's tournament games. How many were decided by one goal?

Question No. 14
Princeton's Coulter Mackesy is fourth in Princeton history for points by a freshman with 38 (24G, 14A). Who are the three players he trails? 

Question No. 15
Where do Princeton and Boston University rank in Division in caused turnovers per game?

TigerBlog hopes you enjoyed the trivia — and that you learned some things about the teams who are playing in the postseason this weekend. He also hopes you'll be on campus for the big games, or at least watching them as part of the Ivy League on ESPN. 

Oh, and the answers:

Answers
1 - 1995, 1996
2 - Brie Galicinao, 2001
3 - Erin Snyder and Kristen Schaus, who combined for 502 in 2006 and 442 in 2005
4 - Amanda Pfeiffer with 68 in 1995
5 - Three
6 - Andy Moe (1992), Kevin Lowe (1994), Jesse Hubbard (1996), B.J. Prager (2001), Theresa Sherry (2003)
7 - Jesse Hubbard has 163 career goals, best in Princeton history; Michael Sowers holds the men's points record with 302
8 - Jaci Gassaway (2011), Olivia Hompe (2015), Ellie DeGarmo (2017), Elizabeth George (2018), Kyla Sears (2019)
9 - Six
10 - Both of their fathers played lacrosse in the Ivy League as well (Michael Taukus at Harvard; Bernie Buonanno at Brown)
11 - UMass, Princeton's opponent today
12 - Jesse Hubbard (against Towson in the 1996 quarterfinals and UMass in the 1997 quarterfinals) and Chris Massey (against Syracuse in the 1996 semifinals
13 - 24 of the 44 (Princeton is 19-5 in those 24 games)
14 - Michael Sowers (82), Kevin Lowe (55), Ryan Boyle (53)
15 - first (BU) and second (Princeton)

How'd you do?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Congrats To Fitz And Good Luck To The Tigers

TigerBlog sat between Chris Sailer and Bryan Fitzwater at last week's Princeton Department of Athletics staff meeting.

It turned out to be a fortuitous choice. 

Sailer, the head women's lacrosse coach, was honored, as all of Princeton's championship coaches are, with a replica gargoyle. She must have a drawer full of them somewhere. As this is her final season after 36 at Princeton, she received a long, loud standing ovation from the rest of the department.

Fitzwater, too, received an ovation of his own, and his was also well-deserved. 

Fitzwater, or Fitz, as he's known to everyone (or Fitzy, as TB calls him), is the department's information technology person. He's a one-man staff, for that matter. His office and TB's office share a wall between them, and about 85 percent of the people who come into the outer office are looking for Fitzy, often with a troubled look of desperation about the computer or phone issue that has come up.

What does he do? He calmly fixes the problem. That's what he does. He never seems to be stressed out. He just goes about his job, which is to keep the department connected to whatever it needs. 

The requests range include hardware and software and range from the most complex to the "try unplugging it and plugging it back in again." It doesn't matter. He gets to everyone and everything.

At the meeting last week, Fitzwater received the 2022 Lorin Maurer Award, which is given each year to a member of the department for exceptional performance. As TB reminds you every year, Lorin was the head of the Friends' Groups here at Princeton when she was killed in a plane crash in 2009 at the age of 30.

He's an incredibly deserving winner, given everything he does and how he does it.

TB thinks that the most shocked person that Fitzy won was Fitzy himself. He seemed almost confused about why his name was being called. That too is how he is. He wants no limelight, no accolades. He just wants to do the best job he can while being the best person he can be.

TB wanted to make sure he congratulated Bryan Fitzwater here, even if it is a week later. He is the exact guy you want on your side, and TB cannot think of one bad thing he could ever say about him.

Now that TB has embarrassed Fitzy enough, he can move on to this weekend, which will see the last Ivy League championships of the year crowned, in men's heavyweight and lightweight rowing and in women's open rowing. 

The men will be rowing in Worcester, Mass., on Lake Quinsigamond. The women will be rowing on the Cooper River in Pennsauken, in South Jersey.

If you've never been to a regatta like this, you should definitely circle it on your athletic to-do list. It's a day-long party essentially with boats and races and crews and fans everywhere. It's hard to watch all 2,000 meters of a race unless you're on the water too, but none of that matters. It's definitely worth it for the atmosphere and competition, much like Heps cross country. 

The Princeton women have won four straight Ivy titles and six of the last seven. This is the first Ivy League rowing championship since 2019. 

This weekend at Princeton will be the NCAA lacrosse tournaments, with the women against UMass in the first round Friday at 7 (after Syracuse-Fairfield at 4) and the winners to meet Sunday at noon. The men host Boston University Saturday at noon.

There will also be a trip to the NCAA tournament decided at Princeton this weekend, when the Tigers host Harvard in the Ivy softball playoff series. Game 1 is Friday at noon, followed by Game 2 at noon Saturday and then the deciding Game 3 if necessary after that.

There were times this year when it seemed like getting every Ivy softball team to 21 games played would never happen, but that's how it played out. When it did, Princeton was the league champion at 17-4, followed by Harvard at 15-6, just ahead of Dartmouth at 14-7. 

The Tigers are the league champion no matter what happens this weekend. The playoff series determines only the NCAA representative. 

Princeton took two of three from Harvard back on the last weekend of March, losing Game 1 2-1 and then winning 5-4 and 5-1.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Marge Donovan Says "Nah"

Marge Donovan was just across midfield with fewer than 12 seconds exactly left in the third quarter of Princeton's Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament final against Yale, a game the Tigers would win 19-9.

Exhibit 1:

That's Donovan in the tights with her foot on the shield.

At the time she was about 15 yards behind the ball, which was being advanced quickly toward the Princeton goal.

Exhibit 2:

 
Fewer than six seconds later, she was standing in front of the Princeton crease with the ball in her stick. Seriously.

Exhibit 3:
To recap, Princeton turned the ball over, starting a fast break the other way. The ball was passed ahead of Donovan, who sprinted (flew?) back on defense. At the last possible moment, she leapt and intercepted the ball, with her stick straight up in the air, with one hand, by the way.

Jeff O'Connor's call on the ESPN+ feed went like this: "Yale with a chance...Marge Donovan says 'nah.'"

It was an extraordinary play by Donovan. Actually, it's one of the best plays that TigerBlog has ever seen in a women's lacrosse game. The only thing it really lacked was impact in a key moment, since the Tigers had a 10-goal lead at the time.

The reason Princeton had a 10-goal lead was also directly related to Donovan. Yale is one of the best teams in the country on the draw, but Donovan also said "nah" there as well.

Princeton and Yale played in the final game of the regular season, a winner-take-all matchup of teams that were 6-0 in the league. Yale won 25 of 34 draws in that game, which became a 17-14 Tiger win.

That game gave Princeton the outright Ivy title and the host role in the league tournament, which would determine the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. It was also about more than that, though. Princeton was already going to be in the NCAA tournament win or lose, but the Tigers looked like a team that wanted to make a statement this weekend. Maybe it was because it's Chris Sailer's last year. Maybe it's because there is a senior class that runs 10 deep.

Whatever the reason, Princeton is clearly peaking at the right time. The draw numbers show that. Yale beat Cornell Friday night in the semifinal and won 16-6, winning 18 of 25 draws along the way. 

So what happened Sunday? Princeton won 21 of 31 draws. It was astonishing to watch the change. It started with Sophie Whiteway on the draw itself, but it was really the Marge Donovan show, as she set a Princeton record with 12 draw controls in one game.
 
It was a remarkable performance. The result was that Princeton, outshot 40-31 by Yale in the first game, outshot the Bulldogs 37-23. Yale scored first, but it was all Tigers after that. It was 15-3 at halftime.

When it ended, Sailer got the ice water dumped on her after her team finished 9-0 against Ivy opponents. Having perfection in the league in her final season has to mean a lot to her.

Goalie Sam Fish made 19 saves while allowing 15 goals in the two games. Kyla Sears did what she does, which means she crushed the national anthem and then added to her record-setting career with 10 goals and four assists for the weekend (she now holds program records for points, goals and assists despite playing three seasons and five games of another).
 
The tournament MVP was Donovan, though. The work she did on the draws and the way she and the Tiger D have tightened up made her a deserving choice.
 
That first game against Yale could have been the last ever on Sherrerd Field for Sailer. So could the one against Harvard Friday night and then the one against Yale Sunday. None of them were.
 
When the NCAA selections came out Sunday night, they revealed that Princeton would be home again. This time, it'll be the first and second rounds on Sherrerd Field, beginning Friday when Syracuse plays Fairfield at 4 and then Princeton plays UMass at 7. Syracuse, the highest seed at No. 4, could not host because of graduation, so Princeton gets another chance to play on its own field. The winners of Friday's games will play Sunday at noon.
 
It'll be a big weekend of NCAA lacrosse at Princeton, with the men also home, Saturday at noon against Boston University.

The Princeton women will bring momentum with them into the NCAA tournament. Their last two weekends have seen wildly happy, emotional celebrations by the Tigers. There are enough pictures and videos from those last two weeks to last a lifetime. 
 
The challenge a week ago was to put the excitement of the first Yale win and the celebrations of the seniors and of Sailer in the past and be ready to play. The Tigers got an A+ for that. 
 
Now it's back to business again. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Triple Crowns

So the subject for today is the Triple Crown.

The two-legged and four-legged variety. TigerBlog has gone through this before. 

What? You expected him to start with lacrosse? There's a lot to talk about in that sport, especially after last night's NCAA selections had the Tiger women and men both at home this weekend in the NCAA tournament. He promises you he'll get to all of that as the week goes along, leading up to the women against UMass Friday at 7 (Syracuse-Fairfield kicks it off at 4), the men against Boston University Saturday at noon and the women's second round game Sunday at noon, all on Sherrerd Field.

For today, though, there are other things to discuss.

First, there was the Kentucky Derby. If you watched it, you saw an 80-1 horse come out of nowhere to win the whole thing. And when TB says out of nowhere, he means it. If you saw the overhead shot, you saw how Rich Strike pass 16 horses from the final turn on to win, somewhat comfortably by the way.

It was a ridiculous comeback by the horse, who was so far out of it that he looked like he had a much better shot at last than first about three-quarters of the way through. TB might be wrong, but he's pretty sure he saw a look of sheer determination on Rich Strike's face as he flew to the front. Can horses show determination?

Winning the Triple Crown is not easy, in horse racing or in collegiate track and field. The Harvard women's track and field team found that out this weekend at Yale.

Penn passed Harvard, barely, in the final two relays, taking first place 137-136, with Princeton in third at 133. It was the first time in women's Ivy Heps outdoor history that three teams finished within four points of each other and the closest women's finish since 1997, when Cornell edged Princeton by half a point. Harvard's women had won the cross country and indoor Heps titles.

Princeton's Kate Joyce won the javelin Saturday, breaking records for the school, meet and Ivy League in the process while also earning Outstanding Field Performer honors. Princeton's Siniru Iheoma won both the shot put and discus; the freshman threw them both almost far enough to make it to her house in Richboro, Pa., just across the river. Well, not really, but she had a great performance to win two individual events as a rookie.

As for the men, well, what more can be said?

Princeton wiped out the field, scoring 231 points, with Harvard next with 136. That's a 95-point win. Penn was third with 86 points.

For Princeton, that completes three dominant victories, after taking the cross country Heps, with 28 points to second-place Harvard's 43 and then indoor track and field with 189 points to Harvard's 133.

As for Triple Crowns, Princeton completed another one, making it 10 for the Tigers all-time. No other men's team has done so even once.

With the Princeton men's track and field team, there are so many highlights that it's hard to know where to start. If you want to read about some of those highlights, click HERE.

Of course maybe TB should be with Samara. Is there anyone ever anywhere who has run a program at such a high level as he has for as long as he has? 

Samara now has been the head coach for 50 Ivy League Heptagonal championships. That's 50. That is insanity.

He's also not exactly living off past laurels either. That's another Triple Crown, which is his third in the last four years of Ivy track and field. 

These Tigers are what their coach Fred Samara said they were going to be: historically good. TB remembers when he told him that before the season started. He said it with such respect for his athletes. It wasn't bragging. That's not his style. 

Fred Samara is a soft-spoken, caring, loyal man who has a really dry sense of humor. He always has a pleasant word for everyone in the athletic department. He loves to root for all of Princeton's teams.

He also is driven, and highly competitive. He doesn't like to lose, and he doesn't do so often.

Sometimes, though, he even outdoes himself. This weekend was proof yet again of that.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Tournament Time

Before TigerBlog gets into this weekend's Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament, he invites you to read THIS story.

Actually, it's more accurate to say he implores you to read it. 

The subject is mental health, and the story talks to former Princeton great Crista Samaras about her struggles and even her contemplations of suicide. It's a chilling story, especially if you know Samaras, who is a bundle of non-stop energy and positivity. Depression? Crista? 

The bottom line is that it can be anyone. Crista's message is to get help, to realize that you're not alone, to be aware that so many are feeling the way you are. 

Here are two quotes from the piece (and they're not even the most brutal):

“I never use the word ‘fearless,’” Samaras explains. “We don't want our girls to be fearless. Being afraid is a natural human reaction, and trying to minimize it creates unrealistic expectations.”

And this one:

“I sat for hours in the freezing rain on the golf course in Princeton, New Jersey, purposely exposed to the elements, hoping they'd kill me. Because then I wouldn't have to kill myself.”

As TB said, it's chilling. Given the recent instances of highly successful Division I women athletes who actually have committed suicide, it's also a subject that needs all the attention it can get.

It's hard to segue from that into the games on the field, so TB won't even try. He'll just get into it.

First, there is the Princeton men's team. The Tigers will not be playing in the Ivy League tournament this weekend, having tied for fourth while losing out on a tiebreaker. Why are the Tigers not in? Here's why: Princeton, Penn and Harvard tied for fourth, all going 1-1 against each other. The next tiebreaker is comparing how the teams did to the top seed, which didn't break the tie. It was only because Penn beat second-seeded Cornell and Princeton and Harvard did not that Penn took the fourth spot.

On the bright side for the men, they're a near-lock to hear their names called on Selection Sunday, which happens to be this Sunday. Princeton has the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country, having played seven of the top 10 RPI teams (and they're one of the other three).

Yes, the men would love to be in the Ivy tournament. At the same time, a week off after a brutally challenging schedule isn't a bad thing. 

As for the Princeton women, they're the host school. It'll be Cornell-Yale at 4 this afternoon, followed at 7 by Princeton-Harvard. The winners meet Sunday for the league's automatic NCAA tournament bid.

Like the men, the Princeton women seem to be in pretty good shape to get into the NCAA tournament no matter what goes on this weekend on Sherrerd Field, but of course you never want to leave anything to chance. Princeton won the Ivy League championship last weekend with a 17-14 win over Yale, making it seven straight Ivy titles.

Also, it's a joint selection show this year, with the men's and women's brackets to be revealed Sunday at 9.

As Wednesday of this week came and went, it was the first time since April 13 that the Tigers didn't have a midweek game. They were a busy group in April, with three straight weeks of playing Saturday-Wednesday, for a total of seven games in 22 days. 

Princeton also played six of those seven games against Ivy opponents. For the entire time, it was chasing Yale, trying to match wins with the Bulldogs until they reached their season finale, with both unbeaten. That's how it played out. 

You could not have asked for a better weekend last weekend for the women's lacrosse team. It was a big win in the winner-take-all game; had the Tigers lost that game, the tournament would be at Yale instead. 

It was Senior Day and Chris Sailer Day, as TB wrote about earlier this week. There were alums everywhere. It was a big Princeton women's lacrosse party.

Now the task is to move past all of those emotions. At this time of year, pages need to be turned quickly. This is May, which makes it tournament time.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Schedule For May

Phyllis Chase came home last week to find a group of long-time friends and co-workers outside of her house.

Phyllis spent a quarter century as the Princeton Athletics travel coordinator. These days, as she splits her time between Princeton and Florida, she has been battling cancer in typical Phyllis fashion, which is to say with a combination of strength and good humor.

As she came back to Princeton last week, a welcoming party was organized in her honor. And so it was that one morning, there were a bunch of people who work at Princeton, used to work at Princeton or simply know Phyllis who were waiting for her, with balloons, cards, hugs and good wishes.

Of course Phyllis was all smiles as she got out of the car. That's how she is, always with her smiles.

And the person who organized all this? Kim Meszaros, who is now the assistant to her third Ford Family Director of Athletics. Kim loves a celebration, and she never disappoints when she sets out to plan one.

Among her favorites are the send-offs, the ones where Princeton teams are leaving for NCAA events. She's been busy of late, planning a few as the women's tennis team, women's golf team and men's tennis team are all heading out for the postseason.

As May begins to move along, the Princeton Athletics schedule will have fewer and fewer events. The ones that still are to be played will all be huge.

Oh, and mercifully, today is May 5, which means there are 364 days until TigerBlog is saturated with "May the Fourth be with you" memes. TB has only seen one half of one Star Wars movie (the original, and it was the second half, because he and BrotherBlog got the time the movie started wrong), and he respects everyone who loves those movies. But the whole "May the Fourth" thing? Tedious.

Anyway, as TB was saying, once the schedule gets to May, the quantity decreases considerably. This weekend has as somewhere between five and eight events, depending on how the first ones go for three different teams.

That's not a big number. An average April weekend has 20 or more. Crossover season gets over 30.

Again, though, these are all championship events this weekend.

It starts tomorrow with the men's tennis team's NCAA match against Arizona in Cary, N.C., a match that would be followed by another one Saturday against the winner of the opening round match between North Carolina and Navy if the Tigers win.  

Princeton enters the match ranked 39th in the country. Arizona, the Pac 12 regular season champion for the first time in program history, is ranked 17th.

Another note about Arizona - the Wildcats have 11 players on their roster, and at least eight come from cold weather climates, including three from Sweden and one from Norway. 

The women's tennis team makes it NCAA debut Saturday at Virginia, where the Tigers meet Army-West Point at 10 am, followed by UVa and Youngstown State. The winners meet Sunday in the second round.

Army-West Point won the Patriot League tournament despite being the third seed. The Cadets are making their 16th NCAA appearance. For what it's worth, there are 17 players on the women's tennis roster at Army-West Point, and 12 are from warm weather climates.

While it's not an NCAA championship event, the men's and women's track and field teams will be at Yale for the Ivy League Heptagonal championships. You can read the women's preview HERE and the men's preview HERE.

The women have finished second in both the Heps cross country and Heps indoor track and field. The men have won both. Should the men win the outdoor title as well, it would mark the 10th time in league history that one school has won the cross country/track and field "Triple Crown." Oh, and it would also be Princeton's 10th time doing it.

On the women's side, it's been done three times, twice by Princeton and once by Harvard.

The men's track and field team has been doing historic things this year. It's already produced an NCAA indoor champion (Sondre Guttormsen in the pole vault) and a fifth-place team finish at the NCAA indoor championships, where every Princeton athlete earned first-team All-American honors.

The Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament will be the only event on the campus this weekend. It also starts tomorrow, with the semifinals that match Cornell and Yale at 4 and Princeton and Harvard at 7. The winners meet Sunday at noon, and the winner of that game gets the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Princeton, the Ivy champion after going 7-0 in the regular season, is pretty much locked into an NCAA spot no matter what happens this weekend.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Senior Day


Family, sometimes, is about where you find it.

This past Saturday afternoon, TigerBlog found family all over Class of 1952 Stadium, and especially on Sherrerd Field after the Princeton women's lacrosse team had defeated Yale 17-14 to win the Ivy League championship.

He found it directly in front of him on the line with the 10 seniors on the women's lacrosse team, who were recognized after the game. They were introduced in numerical order, and as TB stood there, he saw three people wearing the No. 23 ahead of him.

The one in the middle was Tara Shecter, a women's lacrosse senior. Her parents couldn't be there to escort her, since they were at another event, where Tara's sister Dani was being honored at a ceremony at the vet school she attends.

So what happened? Tara turned to her extended family, the Princeton Athletic family, and there she was, escorted out to midfield by two other Princeton seniors, football players Trevor Forbes and Matthew Winston.

It was a really, really nice moment. It spoke volumes about what Princeton Athletics are all about, with, as Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack likes to say, "Tigers supporting Tigers." This time, it wasn't just being the cheering section at a game.

This was about being the family that was needed in the moment.

At one point during the game Saturday, TB was outside the press box when he saw former Tiger Tess D'Orsi. Actually, he takes that back. There really aren't any former Tigers. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger. 

D'Orsi was a 2020 Princeton graduate. That season ended after five games due to the pandemic, and hers ended earlier than that, as she didn't play at all due to an injury. Had she had a normal senior year and matched her junior year goal total, it would be her Princeton career record that Kyla Sears would be trying to chase down, not Olivia Hompe's.

D'Orsi scored 144 goals in three years, including 64 as a junior. Hompe finished with 198; Sears, who was named the unanimous Ivy League Attacker of the Year (unshockingly) brings 192 into this weekend's Ivy tournament.

TB talked to D'Orsi about how's she's doing, where's she working, how her family is doing. They talked about how former men's player (but always a Tiger) Connor McCarthy was in her second grade class outside of Boston.

Then they talked about TB's daughter. D'Orsi had been her teammate on the 2019 Ivy League championship team and again during the 2020 Covid-shortened season. TB thanked D'Orsi for all that she had done to help her feel welcome on the team and how much the older players then had inspired her, motivated her and guided her.

"We had her back," D'Orsi said at the time. 

Then she said something else that really told the story.

"We'll always have her back," she continued. "No matter where she is."

That's what being teammates is all about. Family, where you find it.

When Miss TigerBlog found the Princeton women's lacrosse family, she was unsure about what her role on the team would be, if anything. She was the ninth member of a nine-woman class, a walk-on who was trying to make Division I athletics work along with being a mechanical and aerospace engineering major.

Would she last through either one? TB wasn't sure. He thought there was a chance she'd end up as the manager of the men's team, or going down any one of Princeton's many other co-curricular avenues. He thought there was a chance she'd change majors.

She didn't, though. Not in either case. She summoned all the grit she has and made it all the way to Senior Day, now as one of 10, and a different 10, with six who had taken a gap year and she and three others who had stayed enrolled, all now making up the women's lacrosse Class of 2022.

She made herself into a legitimate Division I athlete. She worked hard in practice. She got into a handful of games. She became the best possible teammate she could be. She earned her place, and she earned the respect of everyone else in the program, players and coaches alike.

The women's lacrosse coaches give out shirts in the preseason with a defining word on the back for each player. MTB's word this year was "glue," as in, the glue of the team, the one who held everything together. 

It was the perfect word for her.  

Senior Day for TigerBlog has always been a combination of a pain (in writing the script) and anxiety (getting everyone in the right place at the right time, trying to get the timing right and more than anything else not leaving anyone out). He long ago lost track of how many of these Senior Days he's done from the perspective of someone from athletic communications.

This time, though, it was completely different. This time, he was on the field, along with his daughter, He'd describe it as surreal, to see his own daughter be a part of one of these moments, only there were so many other emotions that were dominant at the time.

As they walked out past a lineup of teammates on either side, TB tried to take as much of it in as possible. As special as this felt to him, this wasn't his moment. This was his daughter's moment.

As such, he found it hard to focus on anything other than her, and as they walked, he saw something that he'll never forget. It was the widest smile his daughter has ever had.

She knew how hard it was for her to get to that moment. And she knew that her Senior Day was something to cherish. 

TB smiled widely as well, all as he brushed away a tear or two.



Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Champions And Championships

The bar has been set pretty high for dramatic Princeton games in UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.

If you go back to the last week of December 1969, the Princeton men's basketball team played two epic games in the building. It was at the Bruin Classic, where the Tigers knocked off Indiana 82-76 and then the next night fell to eventual NCAA champion UCLA 76-75.

Those were two great games. The first one was the only game in Princeton history where two Tigers had at least 30 points (John Hummer had 32; Geoff Petrie had 31); the second came against the dominant team of the era.

So maybe the men's volleyball team's NCAA match against North Greenville isn't the top Princeton event the building has seen. That doesn't make it any less amazing.

Princeton fell in the opening round the tournament, but not before a third set that extended well beyond the usual 25 points. In fact, trailing two sets to none, Princeton and Crusaders put together something that would seem to be a bit historic, as North Greenville won that set 40-38.

TigerBlog has no idea how common it is for teams to play a set with 78 or more points. He looked in the NCAA record book, and there's no mention of most points in a set. Still, it seems like something fairly uncommon.

It was almost like one of those tennis matches at Wimbledon that went on and on, building the drama more and more as it did. Even though the Tigers came up short, they still had a remarkable run, winning 10 straight matches, and taking down second-ranked Penn State along the way, to reach the tournament in the first place.  

As TB mentioned a week ago, there were three Princeton teams that won championships that weekend, with the men's volleyball team's EIVA title joined by Ivy titles for women's golf and women's tennis. 

The women's golf team will be on its way to the NCAA Regional at Stanford May 9-11, where it will compete with Stanford, USC, LSU, Texas Tech, Kentucky, Iowa State, Northwestern, Purdue, UNLV, Cal Poly and Sacred Heart.

The women's tennis team found out its NCAA pairing last night, as it will head to Charlottesville, Va., to take on Army in the first round Friday. The winner of that match gets the winner of the match between UVa and Youngstown State; Virginia is ranked fourth in the country.

The men's tennis team is also NCAA bound, as the Tigers got an at-large bid last night. Princeton will take on Arizona in Cary, N.C., with the winner to play the winner of Navy and North Carolina.

This past weekend was also a three-championship weekend. As TB wrote yesterday, the women's lacrosse team won its seventh-straight Ivy League title with a 17-14 win over Yale. One thing TB omitted from that story: Tiger goalie Sam Fish had a career-high 17 saves in the game.

The women's lightweight rowing team did what the No. 1 team in the country figured to do at the Eastern Sprints Sunday, racing through the field to win the first varsity 8, second varsity 8 and overall team championships. It was the first time Princeton has won the team points trophy.

If you recall, the women's lightweights had just found out that they were ranked No. 1 in the country on the day that spring sports were cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020. The Tigers came out of the pandemic last year to win the IRA championship.

This year, Princeton showed that it's ready to defend that championship as it won the first varsity 8 race by nearly five seconds over Georgetown. The IRA championships are a month away (exactly a month, to be exact), and the only other competition for the women's lightweights will be at the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia on May 13.

The other champion this weekend was the softball team, which won the Ivy League outright title by sweeping at Columbia. With that championship comes the host role in the Ivy League Playoff Series May 13-14.

What's the winning formula for the Tigers? Well, consider that they have the highest team batting average in the Ivy League, and they also have the lowest opponent team batting average in the Ivy League. That's a good start. 

The sweep of Columbia was the third-straight weekend Ivy sweep for the Tigers, who finished their 21-game league season at 17-4. Who will the opponent be in the playoff, which will determine the automatic NCAA tournament bid?

It'll either be Harvard or Dartmouth, and it'll be Cornell, who is in eighth place now, who will play a big role in determining who it is. The Big Red have three with Harvard today and tomorrow and then three more with the Big Green over the weekend.