Monday, February 28, 2022

Teammates Helping Teammates

First it was Mitch Henderson, assist to Brian Earl. Then it was Brian Earl, assist to Mitch Henderson.

For TigerBlog, it was the late 1990s all over again.

It was a great weekend for Princeton men's basketball, both the current generation and for two alums who were part of many great weekends together. – Princeton head coach Henderson and Cornell head coach Earl.  

Their interests will diverge in two weeks, of course, but this weekend? They relied on each other like they used to, and they both came away with big prizes.

It wasn't an easy weekend for the Princeton men, who had to gut out two wins over Harvard. First there was Friday night on Senior Night at Jadwin, when the Tigers trailed at the half before winning 74-69. Then there was the trip up to Cambridge and the thrilling 74-73 win there yesterday.

In between, on Saturday, Earl's Big Red team had its own Senior Day, defeating Yale 71-65. When the weekend ended, Princeton had clinched at least a share of the Ivy League championship and Cornell had clinched a spot in the Ivy League tournament.

The two Princeton alums had each other to thank for how it all played out. At least partly.

Cornell went into the weekend needing Princeton's help to leapfrog Harvard for the final Ivy tournament berth. The two wins made that happen.

Princeton went into the weekend tied with Yale with two league losses. The Big Red win Saturday meant that a Tiger win yesterday would clinch 1) at least a share of the league title for Princeton and 2) the Ivy tournament for Earl.

When Tosan Evbuomwan's layup with five seconds left meant the last lead change of the day, both Princeton and Cornell could celebrate. 

By the way, has there been a game in Division I basketball this year that took less time to play than the game yesterday at Harvard? There were hardly any stoppages at all in the second half, and media timeouts backed up and were replaced by called team timeouts. It made the game fly by. 

Princeton won the game ion Evbuomwan's layup, which gave him a game-best 18, after Jaelin Llewellyn had 29 Friday night and 16 more yesterday (giving him 986 for his career, 14 away from joining the 1,000-point club).

The key numbers in the game yesterday involved three-point shooting. Princeton was 3 for 12 in the first half and then 8 for 14 from distance in the second half, with one huge three-pointer after another whenever Harvard threatened to take control.

Henderson and Earl were, of course, backcourt mates from 1995-96 through 1997-98. Their three seasons together (Earl was a year behind Henderson and was the 1999 Ivy Player of the Year) saw Princeton reach the NCAA tournament all three times, winning games against UCLA in 1996 and UNLV in 1998. The 1998 team went 29-2 and was ranked in the national Top 10.

The two are extremely close, which makes competing against each not such an easy thing to do. This weekend, when they were able to help other out, was awesome.

The league tournament will be held in two weeks at Harvard, and it will feature Princeton, Yale, Penn and Cornell on the men's side. There is still one week to go in the regular season, but those four teams are locked in.

Princeton is currently 11-2 in the league, followed by Yale at 10-3 and Penn at 9-4. The Tigers are at Penn Saturday, while Yale takes on Brown (Cornell has Columbia and Harvard has Dartmouth). 

As TB understands it, Princeton will almost surely be the No. 1 seed no matter what happens. Cornell is 100 percent the four seed, which will in all likelihood result in a Princeton-Cornell matchup in the semifinal. The two split their regular season games.

Before Princeton can worry about the Ivy tournament, there's time to celebrate the championship. For the Tigers it's the 28th Ivy championship in program history. 

TB was watching the game Friday night on TV, and at one point there was a shot of all of the banners in the Jadwin rafters. It's easy to take all of that tradition for granted when you're in the building as much as TB is and when you've seen as much Tiger basketball as he has, but it's important to keep in mind what has gone into winning each of those championships. It's always special to add to those banners.

It was an incredible weekend for Princeton Athletics, and there were so many different possible places to start today. TB wanted to go with the men's basketball results, and the way the old Tiger teammates helped each other out the way they and their teams did.

Friday, February 25, 2022

What A Weekend

TigerBlog can't begin to calculate how many hours he's spent doing two things at Princeton.

One is driving to and from away games. The other is broadcasting. 

TB has thousands of hours of broadcasting time under his belt he supposes. At various times he's done radio for Princeton football, basketball (men's and women's) and lacrosse (men's and women's - not an easy sport to do by yourself), with a handful of other assignments mixed in. 

His first broadcast of a Princeton game was in 1984, when he did Princeton-Penn football on the radio. His first basketball broadcasts were in the 1989-90 season.

He never did hockey, which is something he'd like to try one day.

He's never been a professional announcer, but he does give himself a solid "B" as a grade. What he gives himself higher grades for is identifying others who would get an "A" or "A+."

Among those TB helped along the way were current Major League announcers Tom McCarthy and John Sadak, current Minor League and soon-to-be Major League announcer Patrick McCarthy, current Princeton basketball announcers Derek Jones and Noah Savage and current NFL and college football megastar Ross Tucker. 

There's something about a potentially good announcer that just seems pretty obvious, before you ever hear him or her on the air. There was also former Princeton men's basketball player Ahmed El-Nokali, whom TB is positive would have been a great broadcaster (you know, instead of doing whatever it is he does in the financial world).

To the mix of people TB thinks would be great you can add the name Michael Sowers. Princeton's all-time leading scorer in men's lacrosse, Sowers made his debut Tuesday night, during Princeton's 22-9 win over Binghamton. 

Sowers, who was the color commentator with Cody Chrusciel, was awesome. He has an overwhelming knowledge of the game, and he did a great job of communicating that without resorting to cliches or "ums and likes." He was strong right from the start. TB hopes that game was the start of something big for him.

On the most recent women's basketball podcast, TB told Grace Stone that he thought she would be a good broadcaster as well. Stone then went out and had her career high of 19 points in the women's basketball team's 73-53 win over Columbia Wednesday afternoon.

This weekend features a lot of Princeton-Harvard basketball. There's one game each day between today and Sunday in fact, with the men home tonight at 7, the women at Harvard tomorrow at 2 and the men at Harvard Sunday at noon.

A win by the women means an outright Ivy title, as the Tigers are 12-0, two games ahead of 10-2 Columbia with two games to play. No matter what, Princeton has already clinched at least a share of the title and will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Ivy tournament.

As for the men, they're in the middle of a great race for the league championship. After Princeton's big win at Yale last weekend, the standings now have the Bulldogs at 10-2, Princeton at 9-2 and Penn at 9-3. All three have clinched spots in the Ivy tournament; the fourth team will be either Harvard, Cornell, Brown or Dartmouth. Clearly the Crimson have a lot at stake in the two Princeton games this weekend.

This weekend has a laundry list of important events in addition to basketball.

The men's hockey team plays three games in three days, with Colgate at home tonight (7), Cornell at home tomorrow (7) and then Harvard Sunday at 4. Princeton is playing for home ice in next weekend's ECAC playoffs.

Princeton is tied for seventh right now with Brown with 23 points. Next up is St. Lawrence and Union with 22 points and then Dartmouth with 20 and Yale 19. Every point is big now.

The women's hockey team is already in the ECAC playoffs with a best-of-three at Harvard this weekend.

This weekend is also championship weekend for several teams. The women's squash team is competing for the Howe Cup. The men's swimming and diving team is hosting the Ivy League championships. 

This is also indoor Heps weekend, at the Armory in New York City. The Princeton men are the prohibitive favorites to win a seventh straight title and should be amazing to watch.

There is also the women's lacrosse home opener against Temple tomorrow at noon, while the men are at No. 1 Maryland at 1.

If that's not enough spring for you, the baseball and softball teams have both headed south to open their seasons this weekend as well. HERE is the full schedule.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Ivy Champs, Again

TigerBlog turned on his TV yesterday afternoon just in time to see the Princeton women's basketball starting five huddle together after introductions.

They looked calm, he thought.

Then the camera panned out, and TB got his first look at the crowd gathered in Columbia's Levien Gym. It was enormous. It was like every Columbia student was in the building.

This, TB figured, would be a great test for the Tigers, and not just physically. How would Princeton respond in such a hostile environment, against a team whose only hiccup in the league to date was a Tiger wipeout in Jadwin?

Princeton came into the game unbeaten in the league. Columbia had only that one loss at Jadwin. A Princeton win meant another Ivy League title. A Columbia win meant the teams were tied for first in the league with two to go.

Those were high stakes. 

Columbia scored first. 2-0. The crowd erupted. Princeton's first two possessions came up empty. The crowd was ready.

And then, in a blink, it was basically over. It took Princeton less than a quarter to build the lead to double figures, less than 15 to push it out to 25 and less than 17 to get it to 30 (at 43-13, which would be the biggest lead). Even after Columbia put some offense together late in the second quarter, it was still a 47-21 Tiger lead at the break. 

Final score: Princeton 73, Columbia 53.

It's hard to imagine anyone can have a better first half than Kaitlyn Chen did. In fact, as the teams went into the locker rooms at the break, Chen had the same number of points that Columbia did: 21. Her previous career-high of 15 didn't make it through the second quarter, as Chen scored in basically every way you can.

She hit three three-pointers. She drove through the Lion D in transition. She hit floaters. She even posted up. As remarkable as her 21-point first-half explosion was, it would have been 24 had 1) her shot at the first-quarter buzzer not been waved off and 2) she hadn't had her foot on the line for what otherwise would have been a fourth three-pointer.

Grace Stone had a huge first quarter, with 13 of her own. Princeton's two leading scorers, Abby Meyers and Julia Cunningham, had just seven in that first half between them.

The nearly perfect first half did not stop Columbia from trying to attempt what would have been the second-best comeback in Division I women's basketball history. How does TB know this? He looked it up during the third quarter, when Columbia got it back under 20.

That largest comeback, by the way, was from a 2006 game, when Texas State rallied from 32 down (40-8) to beat Texas-San Antonio 73-71. Only five times in Division I history has a team ever rallied from as many as 24 down.

It's not easy to make those kinds of comebacks. It's even tougher against a team that defends the way Princeton does. 

Columbia got it down to 15 during the third quarter. The crowd was back into it. Was there a chance for something historic?

Nope. Any hope that the Lions had vanished when Cunnigham hit a jump shot and drew a charge, leading to a gorgeous feed from Chen to a cutting Meyers for a basket and the and-one. That made it 20 again.

The win improved Princeton to 12-0 in the league. Columbia, at 10-2, can still tie the Tigers should Princeton lose to Harvard Saturday in Cambridge and then at Penn next Friday and the Lions sweep Brown and Cornell. No matter what, Princeton will be the No. 1 seed in the Ivy tournament.

Princeton also is assured at least a share of the Ivy League championship. the program's ninth in the last 12 seasons and Carla Berube's second in two years as head coach. 

Chen finished with 27. Stone had a career high too with 19, and Meyers was in double figures, as she has been in every game this year, with 12. Ellie Mitchell did her thing, with 13 rebounds, eight on the offensive end.

It wasn't a night about stats, though, as impressive as some of them were.

It was a night about rising to the moment, about walking into a full gym filled with students who wanted nothing more to storm the court after it ended.

Instead, they all filed out quietly. Maybe a few of them considered that they had just seen a pretty special team, one that did what special teams need to do to become champions.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Sunday Morning In The Chapel

TigerBlog remembers a lot of Tuesday night Ivy League basketball games.

They involved Princeton and Penn, and they were either near the halfway point or on the last night of the season. In fact it was a rarity for a long time when Princeton and Penn would play on a Saturday.

Wednesdays? That's another story. TB can't remember any Wednesday league games. Maybe there have been some and they're just slipping his mind?

Whether or not Princeton has ever had a Wednesday Ivy League game before, there is definitely one tonight. It's a big one too, in New York City, where the Princeton women will take on Columbia this evening. Tip-off is at 5, and the game can be seen on ESPNU.

The stakes on this one are pretty simple. Princeton is 11-0. Columbia is 10-1. Every other team has at least five league losses. 

If Princeton wins, it clinches at least a tie for the Ivy title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Ivy tournament. If Columbia wins, there'll be a tie at the top with two games to play.

Princeton and Columbia are meeting on a Wednesday because of a postponement of their originally scheduled Jan. 7 game due to Covid issues. Princeton dominated the first meeting between the teams, winning by a 57-39 count. You can be sure Columbia has learned something from that meeting and will be a different team this time around. You can also be sure Princeton knows that and will be ready as well.

It's a wildly busy time for Princeton Athletics, with winter championships to be won and spring teams who are getting underway. It's a whole weekend of huge events across the board.

Still, TigerBlog would be remiss if he didn't share with you what he experienced Sunday morning in the Princeton University chapel.

TB has seen pretty much everything through all his years with Princeton Athletics, or at least he thought so until Sunday. That's when he saw Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack deliver the sermon during the chapel's weekly Sunday service.

Mack's father was a longtime minister, and John took over for him at their church in Michigan after he passed away several years ago. His turn on the pulpit Sunday morning was hardly his first time doing so, that much was clear.

It was also clear that he has a gift for speaking. If you've heard him speak at all since he became the AD back in September, whether it was in a small meeting or in front of a large group, then you know what TB means.

To be a public speaker is one thing. To grab an entire congregation the way he did Sunday morning is quite another, though. 

As TB watched him, he couldn't but think back to what it must have been like on March 13, 1960, when Dr. Martin Luther King gave the sermon from the same spot, telling an overflow crowd that "an outward concern for the welfare of others" should be a defining characteristic of life.

This past Sunday TB looked around at the incredible building, seeing the beautiful stained glass, the marvelous architecture, the glorious columns. It's almost like the echoes of Dr. King are still up in the rafters there somewhere, and there on the elevated stage Sunday was John Mack, doing his best to honor the standard that was once set there.

Mack was nothing short of mesmerizing. He spoke about a verse from the Book of Genesis, one that included this passage:

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked?

TigerBlog is hardly a biblical scholar in the least. He'd never read that particular verse before, and he won't pretend to be the most informed as to its meaning.

Mack explained that its significance is that it speaks not to the fact that Adam had done the opposite of what he'd been instructed but instead to the idea of who told him he had done wrong. He then went on to speak about it more modern terms, about how so many people allow outside factors to determine their worth, rather than to simply feel worthy in who they are. 

There are applications to the world of athletics, of course. Did you win? Did you do your best? Can you be satisfied with winning if you haven't done your best? Must you feel badly about losing if you did?

Beyond the words themselves, there was the delivery. It was powerful. It was moving, even for someone like TB, who is not a very religious or spiritual person.

It was quite an experience. TB says this not because the person at the pulpit was the one who runs the athletic department. He says this instead because the person who gave the sermon Sunday was amazing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Lax Openers

So today is 2/22/22. 

TigerBlog has no reason for mentioning that other than that it looks cool. The last time there was such a day was Jan. 11, 2011 (1/11/11). The next time? 

Well, unless someone adds two days to March in the next 11 years, thus creating 3/33/33, you're going to have to wait 89 years, until Jan. 11, 2111.

Having said that, the Princeton men's and women's lacrosse teams combined to score 39 goals in their opening wins this weekend.

The final scores were Princeton 22, Monmouth 6, in men's lacrosse Saturday. Then, on Sunday in Charlottesville, Princeton's women knocked off No. 10 Virginia 17-11.

Sam Fish made 15 saves, one off her career high, in the women's win. That's a great sign for the Tigers. 

Those 39 goals were spread out among 16 players. Of those 16, almost half - seven - scored his or her first college goal. One of them was a senior, Marge Donovan, who is one of the best defenders Princeton has ever had. 

She also happens to be one of the best players on the draw that Princeton has ever had, and she turned one of those draw wins into her first career goal. It's a defender's dream come true.

Among the other first-time goal scorers were Nina Montes, whom TigerBlog wrote about last week. McKenzie Blake, a freshman, had three goals in her debut, and Sophie Whiteway had one. 

So, too, did Ellie Mueller. If that last name is familiar to you, it should be: Her father Kit Mueller is one of Princeton's legendary men's basketball players. Kit was the Ivy League Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991. He also led Princeton to Ivy League championships in his final three seasons (1989-91) and was a key part of the NCAA tournament 50-49 loss to No. 1 Georgetown in 1989 (and maybe he got fouled at the end).

Kit Mueller is also one of the first Princeton athletes about whom TB wrote (but not the very first; that was a different Princeton center, current head football coach Bob Surace, back in 1989). Back then, TB would never have considered that one day both he and Mueller would have daughters who would be Princeton teammates.

On the men's side, Princeton had two first-time goal scorers. One was freshman Coulter Mackesy, who scored twice and had an assist. The other was Christian Ronda, a junior who had played in one game in 2020 without taking a shot. Against Monmouth he had five goals (and an assist) on just six shots.

The win over Virginia move Princeton from 16th to 11th in the coaches' poll. The Princeton men were unranked in pretty much every preseason poll other than the coaches' poll, in which they were 18th. Their win over Monmouth got them to 20th in the media poll.

For the Princeton men, there are few things that matter less than what current polling says. The Tigers will have every chance to prove themselves moving forward.

Princeton is home this evening at 5 against Binghamton. After that, there will be five straight Saturdays of a different team ranked in this week's media poll Top 10.

It starts this weekend at No. 1 Maryland. Then it's a trip next weekend to No. 3 Georgetown. Then it's home against No. 5 Rutgers. Then the Ivy League starts with No. 10 Penn at home. Then it's a trip to No. 6 Yale.

If you're wondering how good Princeton is, you're about to have every chance to find out. This is a someone rebuilt Princeton team with a lot of new faces and several older faces in new roles. The next five weeks will be fascinating, though it hardly gets easier after that, as the sixth Saturday has Princeton at Brown, the team that has kept the Tigers out of the Ivy tournament the last two seasons.

The women are home the next two Saturdays, against Temple and then Cornell in the Ivy opener before their trip to California for spring break.

Monday, February 21, 2022

The Weekend In Hoops

This weekend was the opening weekend for Princeton lacrosse, and the men and women both started with impressive performances, with a 22-6 win for the men over Monmouth Saturday and then a 17-11 win over No. 10 Virginia for the women yesterday.

And if you want anything else on Princeton lacrosse from TigerBlog, you'll have to wait until tomorrow. 

Lacrosse season, like football season, is a sprint. In a blink, it'll go from Week 1 to May.

The basketball season, though, that's another story. It was back on Nov. 9 when the men played their first game. It was the next day when the women tipped off.

For a little perspective, a few days later the football team played its home game against Yale. In Week 9. There was still the game against Penn a week later, and then the bonfire. Does that seem like awhile ago? 

The basketball seasons, though, are approaching their peak drama. It was a great weekend for the Princeton men and women, and they are both looking ahead to what is to come in the next few weeks.

TB supposes that there are basically four goals for an Ivy League basketball team. The first is to clinch a spot in the four-time Ivy League tournament, which is something that both Princeton teams mathematically did this weekend, when they both swept Brown and Yale.

Next up is winning the Ivy League championship. After that is the Ivy tournament championship. Then there is getting to the NCAA tournament.

It's all right there for Princeton, though it won't be easy. It'll be fun to watch, though.

It's already been a great year of Princeton basketball, as the teams are 38-9 between them, including 20-2 in the league. Clinching their spots in the Ivy tournament was nice, but it was something that was pretty much sewn up for both most of the way anyway.

As for the Ivy championship, they are both doing what former head coach John Thompson III used to say: Be in first place the end of the weekend.

One of the great traits for JTIII's teams was the way that they improved during the course of a season. How about the current Tigers? 

The men defeated Brown 76-74 in their first meeting. They also lost to Yale 80-74 in their first meeting. Both of those games were in Jadwin Gym.

This weekend, on the road, Princeton defeated Brown 69-50 and Yale 81-75. Those scores suggest a team that is peaking.

The game against Yale was huge for the goal of an Ivy League title. It was almost a must-have, for that matter. The Bulldogs came in at 9-1 in the league, against the 8-2 Tigers. Penn, which beat Brown 89-88 Saturday night after losing to Yale Friday, is at 9-3. 

That meant that it was either going to be three teams within a half-game of each other, or Yale two games up with two or three to play. Clearly, it was huge.

Princeton was led by the seemingly unstoppable Tosan Evbuomwan, who put up a 26-point, 11-rebound, five-assist performance Saturday night that wasn't anything out of the ordinary for him. The same is true of Ethan Wright, whose wildly impressive senior year continued with 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists of his own.

Princeton has a home-and-home against Harvard that begins Friday at home at 7 and then continues at Harvard Sunday at noon. After that is the regular season finale March 5 at Penn.

Harvard, by the way, is playing to get into the tournament and desperately needs each win. There are big, dramatic games to be played.

Another one of those is on the women's side this Wednesday at 5 against Columbia in New York City on ESPNU. What's at stake in this one? Princeton is 11-0. Columbia is 10-1. A Tiger win secures at least a share of the Ivy League championship and clinches the tournament's No. 1 seed.

A Columbia win? That ties the teams for first with two more games to go, which for Princeton is at Harvard Saturday and home against Penn a week from Friday. Columbia still has Brown and Cornell after the Princeton game and will be prohibitive favorites in both.

Princeton won its two games at home this weekend against Brown and Yale. The game Friday night was an 88-42 final. The game Saturday was against a Yale team that had stayed with Princeton for three quarters in New Haven the first time between the two. This time, it was all Tigers, with a 74-36 final. 

Princeton's defense continues to be outrageous (the Tigers allow 50.0 per game, 42.4 in Ivy games). For a note on the other end of the court, there's Abby Meyers, who is averaging 18 points per game. If she does so for the remaining three Ivy games and then two Ivy tournament games, she'd have 504 for the year. Only Meagan Cowher (532) and Bella Alarie (525) have ever reached 500 for a single season. 

And that's the basketball update. As TB said, there are huge games on the horizon, beginning Wednesday with the women's game. 

It's what you want to see at the end of a long season.

Friday, February 18, 2022


TigerBlog was tired all day yesterday.

Why? It's because he stayed up to watch the gold medal Olympic women's hockey game obviously.

TB was always a "stay up really late, sleep really late" guy during college and his 11 years in the newspaper business. All that flipped when 1) he started to work at Princeton and had to be at work in the morning and 2) when he had kids, who messed up his ability to sleep late forever.

If you've had kids, you can understand this. Even though it's closing in on 25 years, TB has never been able to sleep late again once they came along. 

Ever since then, he's been a "early to bed, early to rise" guy. Has that made him healthy, wealthy and wise?

That's why it was so tough for him to stay up until close to 2 Tuesday night to watch the game, because he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep late yesterday morning. As it turned out, he was right.

But so what if he was dragging a bit. It was worth it to see the two Princeton women win their gold medals. 

Speaking of the Olympics, Charlie Volker had this to say about his first Olympic event, and the next one coming up: 

The four-man competition begins tomorrow evening Eastern time. It would be great to see Volker in contention for a medal.

This will be the end of the Olympics until the 2024 Paris Games, which, by the way, BrotherBlog is hoping to attend. If he does, TB will have him file updates. 

Ah, but that's getting ahead of things, and why do that when there are so many great Princeton events about to happen. HERE is the composite schedule.

This weekend will see an Ivy League champion crowned in women's swimming and diving. It won't see Ivy champions in basketball, but there continue to be huge games that lead up to the Ivy tournaments, which are three weeks away. 

This is an old-fashioned travel-partner weekend. The Princeton women are home against Brown tonight (7) and Yale tomorrow (6), while the men are at opposite sites (7 both nights). The women are unbeaten in the league at 9-0, one game up on Columbia, whom the Tigers play Wednesday at 5 in New York City.

Yale, on the other hand, is 6-4, tied with Harvard for third place. Penn is 4-5, still hoping to get a spot in the four-team Ivy tournament. Yale and Princeton played a tight game in New Haven on Jan. 28 for three quarters until Princeton pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 61-49.

On the men's side, Yale is in first place at 8-1, one game ahead of Penn (8-2) and Princeton (7-2) in terms of losses. Cornell (five losses) is in the mix with Harvard and Brown (six losses each) for the fourth tournament spot, so clearly every game is huge now.

The men's hockey team is at Dartmouth and Harvard as the Tigers continue to chase home ice in the upcoming ECAC playoffs (currently in seventh, two points ahead of Union and Brown with one extra game still to play). 

The women are home this weekend (tonight at 6 against Brown, tomorrow at 3 against Yale). Princeton will almost surely be at Yale in the ECAC quarterfinals in two weeks, though that's not 100 percent set mathematically.

Of course, this weekend is also the first weekend of lacrosse season. The men are home tomorrow at 1 against Monmouth, followed Tuesday at home at 5 against Binghamton.

After that, it's a five-week stretch against teams with these rankings in this week's USILA poll: No. 1, No. 3, No. 8, No. 10 and No. 7. It starts next Saturday at No. 1 Maryland. 

The women are at Virginia Sunday at noon and then have their home opener against Temple next Saturday. This is, as you know, the final season of the Hall of Fame career of Tiger head coach Chris Sailer.

If you're interested in lacrosse, you can see season previews for both teams and an A to Z look at the season HERE

Also, TB has been doing a series of features each Thursday this month for Black History Month. This week's feature was on women's lacrosse freshman Nina Montes. You can read it HERE.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Feeling Golden

It was midway through the second period of the Olympic gold medal women's hockey game between the United States and Canada. 

The announcers had just finished talking about Sarah Fillier, the Princeton player who was one of Canada's leading scorers in the tournament. Among other things, they mentioned that Fillier was the youngest player on her team at age 21.

Shortly after that, Princeton's other Canadian team member, Claire Thompson, took a shot that was blocked. Suddenly the Americans were coming the other way, and Thompson was skating backwards into her zone. In the next few seconds, Thompson dove fully extended behind the goal to try to knock the puck away from an American skater and then, having gotten up and to the front of the net, blocked a shot to end that threat.

The Canadians then cleared the puck and immediately scored. It was a huge moment in the game. Instead of possibly a 2-1 game, it was now 3-0 Canada and the hole would prove to be too deep for the U.S.

What Thompson did on the defensive end was subtle and went largely unnoticed. TigerBlog wouldn't have paid much attention to it were it not for the fact that the player involved was a Princeton alum. 

Still, it was the kind of effort you make when a gold medal is on the line. It's the kind of play that makes it a gold medal on the line to a gold medal around your neck.

And that's where the gold was afterwards. Final score: Canada 3, USA 2. Gold medals to the Canadians, including Fillier and Thompson.

In winning, Fillier and Thompson doubled the number of Princeton women who have won Olympic gold medals, as they joined rower Caroline Lind (2008, 2012) and water polo player Ashleigh Johnson (2016, 2021) as Princeton women to have won gold. 

When Fillier returns to Princeton, she'll become the third athlete to compete as a Tiger after winning Olympic gold, joining Johnson and basketball player Bill Bradley. 

Also for Fillier and Thompson, this continued an incredible stretch of success together. It started with the ECAC tournament championship – Princeton's first – in 2020. The pandemic erupted the next week, which prevented Princeton from going for the NCAA title that was the Tigers' as much as anybody's that year.

From there, the two were again teammates on a championship team, this time Canada's team that won the World Championship last summer in Calgary. And now, to that, you can add the Olympic championship.

They were hardly bystanders on the Canadian team. Fillier finished the tournament with eight goals and three assists, which left her second in the tournament and one away form the Olympic record. 

Thompson had an assist on Canada's first goal of the night, her 11th of the tournament (a record for defenders) in seven games. For a little perspective, Thompson had 16 assists in 31 games her senior year at Princeton.

The game marked the sixth time in the seven Olympiads that have featured women's hockey that the U.S. and Canada played in the final. The goal that put Canada up 3-0 made it the first time in all of those games that either team led at any point by three goals.

The Americans wouldn't go quietly. A shorthanded goal late in the second period made it a 3-1 game after two, giving the Americans the momentum as the third period started. 

The U.S. team swarmed to start the final period but couldn't get any closer. As time wound down, Canada seemed to be in control but never comfortable. The Americans pulled their goalie in the final two minutes and had a power play on top of that, which made the drama build even more.

Shot after shot was drilled at the Canada goal. Finally, the U.S. was able to score – but it came with only 13.5 seconds left. Was there time for another? Do you believe in miracles, as it were?

Not this time. The U.S. didn't get off a shot as the buzzer sounded.

In the end, the better team won, both the game and the tournament. Canada was dominant the entire time, with blowout wins over every other opponent and two wins over the U.S.

And, also in the end, there were the two Princetonians, draped in gold, champions together - again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Go Canada

So here's something that TigerBlog is having trouble understanding. 

Twice in the last week or so, his blog has had the wrong date on an entry. What TB does is write during the day and set the post to go live after midnight, so it's on the correct day. There should be one entry per day.

He's done it this way for a very, very long time, more than a decade. It's never come up with the wrong date stamped on it until last week, and then again yesterday. He's fixed it both times, but he can't figure out why it's done this. If you go to read here and see the wrong date, it's still a new entry. The other thing is that both times the wrong day came up, the entry under it had no date selected. Oh well. TB will figure it out. He's just giving you a heads up.

As for his day yesterday, TigerBlog was doing his introduction to his women's basketball podcast when he momentarily forgot which podcast it was.

It was a busy day yesterday, with the podcast overlap season officially here. TB spoke with Erik Peters of the men's lacrosse team at 10, women's basketball head coach Carla Berube at 11, head men's lacrosse coach Matt Madalon at 11:30 and then Paige Morton of the women's basketball team at 2:45. Today's lineup includes women's lacrosse head coach Chris Sailer and player Olivia Pugh.

That's a lot of talking.

By the way, Morton talked about the videos she makes that chronicle her team's experiences, which are called "Princeton Diaries." You can see them on her YouTube channel HERE. They're very clever.

The women's basketball team is home this weekend, Friday night at 7 against Brown and Saturday night at 6 against Yale. 

The lacrosse teams open their seasons this weekend, with the men at home Saturday at 1 against Monmouth and the women at Virginia Sunday at noon. The men are then home again Tuesday at 5 against Binghamton, and that is followed by this stretch for the Tigers: at No. 1 Maryland, at No. 3 Georgetown, home with No. 8 Rutgers, home with No. 10 Penn, at No. 7 Yale. Those rankings are based on this week's USILA poll.

This season, of course, is the final one for Sailer, who has won 418 games, 15 Ivy League titles and three NCAA titles in her 36 years with the Tigers. It's also the last season for the nine seniors on the women's team, a group that includes five players who will be starting for their fourth season: goalie Sam Fish, defenders Pugh, Marge Donovan, Mary Murphy and attacker Kyla Sears. 

TB has been putting together season previews for both lacrosse teams, and so it was understandable why he stumbled for a second before he remembered he was talking women's basketball with Carla Berube. She thought it was funny.

She also said that there is no way in the world you would ever get her to try bobsled - like Princeton's Charlie Volker – or skeleton - like Princeton's Nathan Crumpton. She and TB also spoke about the women's hockey gold medal game, which faces off at 11:10 Eastern time tonight (or 12:10 pm Thursday in China).

This puts TB in position of either staying up until 1 or so when the game ends and then writing about it or waiting to write about for Friday, by which time it will be more than a day later. What should he do? 

Also, what if he tries to stay up to write about the game but falls asleep before he has a chance to write about it? Then what? He'll have to have a backup plan.

Meanwhile, he and Berube talked about rooting for Canada or the United States in the hockey game tonight. TB told Berube that he was definitely rooting for Canada, whose team features Princeton alum Claire Thompson and current Princeton women's hockey player Sarah Fillier.

Thompson (12) and Fillier (11) rank fifth and sixth in the Olympics in points. Thompson leads in plus/minus at +22, three ahead of anyone else. Fillier is second in the tournament in goals, with eight, one behind teammate Brianne Jenner. 

Both Princetonians have had great tournaments. Their team is also unbeaten, with a 4-2 win over the U.S. in the round-robin portion of the event. As TB said yesterday, they're both already assured of Olympic medals.

It was pretty clear from Day 1, or even from four years ago, that the 2022 final would be between the U.S. and Canada. Now it's here. TB is rooting for Princeton, which means rooting for Canada.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

More Medalists

TigerBlog was going to include in yesterday's weekend round-up that the Canadian women's hockey team had advanced to the Olympic gold medal game.

As you know, Princetonians Sarah Fillier and Claire Thompson have been having incredible tournaments for Canada. 

The only issue with writing about it for yesterday was that the semifinal game hadn't started yet when TB was writing and wouldn't be over until the middle of the night. What if Canada had actually lost? The Canadians were overwhelming favorites against Switzerland, but hey, it's sports. You never know.

Back when TB was a sportswriter, in his early, early days of doing it, he covered a high school baseball game in the afternoon. The team that won that game would win a share of the league championship only if the worst team in the league beat the best team in a game that was being played that night. 

TB wanted to write something like "the win wasn't enough to get a share of the championship because Team A beat Team B in the late game" and was going to do it, but he decided not to because hey, you never know, right? And what happened? The lights on the field didn't work and the game had to be pushed to the next day. Lesson learned.

As it turned out, Canada beat Switzerland 10-3 to in fact advance to the championship game, which will be played Wednesday night at 11:10 pm Eastern time (or basically noon in China). Thompson had the first goal of the game and added two more assists

The Canadians' opponent will be, unsurprisingly, the United States, who defeated Finland 4-1 in the other semifinal, played yesterday morning (Eastern time).

It's hardly shocking stuff that the U.S. and Canada meet for the gold medal. As TB wrote back when Fillier and Thompson were named to the team:

Sarah Fillier and Claire Thompson were named to the Canadian women's hockey Olympic team, which sort of guarantees them either a gold or silver medal. This will be the seventh time there has been a women's Olympic ice hockey tournament, and Canada currently stands at four gold medals and two silvers. 

This will be the sixth time the final is the U.S. and Canada, by the way. Canada defeated the U.S. 4-2 in the round robin part of the tournament.

Perhaps in four years it would be better if the U.S. and Canada play a best-of-seven for the gold medal and all the other teams play for the bronze? 

Regardless of what happens in the final, Fillier and Thompson are guaranteed to win a medal, whether it be gold or silver. In doing so, they will become Princeton's second and third women varsity athletes to become Winter Olympic medalists, after Andrea Kilbourne won a silver in ice hockey in 2002.

Should Canada win, they'll also double Princeton's women's gold medalists, as they'd join Caroline Lind (rowing) and Ashleigh Johnson (water polo). Both Lind and Johnson won two gold medals.

Chloe Kim is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist and is also a Princeton student, but the snowboarder is not a Princeton varsity athlete. Neither was Joey Cheek, a three-time speed skating medalist, including having won gold.

Charlie Volker, the former Princeton football and track star, made his Olympic debut in the two-man bobsled yesterday and was out of medal contention after the first two runs. He has a much better chance of being in contention in the four-man event later in the week.

TB texted Princeton head football coach Bob Surace and former colleague Craig Sachson about how amazing it is that Volker was in the Olympic Games less than three years after graduating from Princeton and less than two years after first becoming a bobsledder. Their pride in Volker is obvious, as is the pride of everyone at Princeton.

In the meantime, there is the women's hockey final. Fillier has been among the leading scorers of the tournament, and Thompson already holds the record for points by a defenseman in the Olympics.

TB's hope is stay up and watch the game, even with the 11 pm face-off. 

In a perfect world, you'll wake up Thursday morning and be able to read about it, but that might be a bit much. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

A Weekend Review

TigerBlog begins today with a congratulations to the women's fencing team on winning the Ivy League championship yesterday.

The Ivy League fencing championships are held in the form of a round-robin with each team in the league at the same site over two days (this year's host was Brown). The Princeton women came into the event as the No. 1 team in the country, and they did nothing to disappoint at the Ivy championships.

The Tigers were a perfect 6-0 over the two days, and none of the six matches was particularly close. Fencing matches consist of 27 bouts worth one point each, and Princeton won at least 18 of its bouts in every match, including three with at least 20.

Princeton also swept the three individual weapons titles, with Chloe Fox-Gitomer in the saber, Maia Weintraub in the foil and Jessica Lin in the epee. 

If you've never watched fencing, it takes an incredible amount of overall athleticism and stamina to excel at it. Princeton has a long history of winning Ivy titles (this one is the 11th in program history) and excelling on the international level, all the way to the Olympics.

Princeton's women have been part of one NCAA championship, back in 2013. The Princeton men went 1-3 in the Ivy round-robin, but the Tigers also lost 14-13 to Columbia, the No. 1 team in the country. 

The NCAA fencing championships are a coed event, with this year's regionals and finals next month. 

There is, by the way, a great deal of fencing in TB's women's history book, including the story of Maia Chamberlain, who earned first-team All-Ivy honors at the league meet this weekend. Chamberlain, who won an NCAA individual championship in 2018, is the last remaining active athlete to be profiled in the book. 

As TB said, congratulations to the women. Given how great Ivy League fencing is, it's not easy to run the table at all.

What else can TB tell you this morning? 

He spent his weekend at Class of 1952 Stadium, watching the men's lacrosse scrimmage Saturday and the women's lacrosse scrimmage Sunday. It's hard to believe those two games were 24 hours apart. 

Saturday? It was sunny and 60. Sunday? It snowed for the entire game. TB would like to thank the facilities crew who made the field playable and did so on a snowy Sunday morning.

This is game week for both teams, as the men open their season at home against Monmouth Saturday at 1 and the women are at Virginia Sunday. TB will have more here this week (probably) and a lot more on this week (definitely), including season outlooks for both and the first podcasts of the week. 

Oh, happy Valentine's Day everyone. You know how you can start your Valentine's Day? You can watch Charlie Volker in the Olympics. 

As the football team tweeted, Volker will be on live at 7 on USA Network, with the replay at 9:35 at night. Volker, an All-Ivy League selection in football and track and league champ in both, isn't even two years into his career as a bobsledder, but he's already made it to the biggest event in the world. 

Nathan Crumpton, another former Princeton track and field athlete, competed over the weekend in the Olympic skeleton, finishing 19th overall. Crumpton was making his second Olympic appearance, after running the 100 for American Samoa in Tokyo last summer. 

For everything you need to know about Princeton at the Olympics, including the Canadian women's hockey team, you can click HERE

Lastly, for today anyway, there were the Princeton hockey teams. The women played three games in three days, falling at Harvard and then sweeping Dartmouth. That was grueling. It also cemented Princeton in the ECAC playoff field, with a first-round matchup at Yale almost a certainty.

The men did what they do, which is to show considerable resilience. The Tigers were beaten 7-1 by Clarkson Friday night but then came back to defeat St. Lawrence 3-2 Saturday, getting a big save with two seconds left from Aidan Porter, who had to come in with 2:41 to go after Jeremie Forget was injured.

In less than a month, Princeton has lost games to Quinnipiac 9-0 and 6-0, to Union 7-3 and the 7-1 game to St. Lawrence. What did Princeton do after each of those games? Bounce back and win. That's really impressive.

Princeton is currently 5-0 in the Ivy League and in a chase with Harvard in all likelihood for that championship. The two will meet twice in the Tigers' final six games, beginning with a road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend.

In the ECAC, Princeton is in seventh place with 23 points, two ahead of Union and more importantly three ahead of Brown and St. Lawrence for home ice in the opening round of the playoffs. Those were a huge three points Princeton earned Saturday night. It's what resilient teams do.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Lorin Maurer, George Sella, And The Randomness And Unfairness Of Life

TigerBlog would like to talk to you today about George Sella, Lorin Maurer and the somewhat random, positively unfair, nature of life sometimes

George Sella was one of Princeton's great athletes in the years after World War II. A wingback on the football team and a starter on the basketball team, Sella won the 1950 Roper Trophy as Princeton's top senior athlete.

Lorin Maurer, too, was a standout college athlete, both as a swimmer and academically, where she earned multiple Academic All-American honors. 

George Sella passed away this week. Lorin Maurer died 13 years ago tomorrow. 

George Sella was 93. Lorin Mauer was 30.

Why? TigerBlog can't begin to understand. 

First, this is what Sella's classmate Kenneth Perry had to say about him:

George was undoubtedly one of our best Tiger athletes. Captain of our 1949 football team, All-American mention, and three-year  basketball starter whose leaping ability belied his 5-10 height. As you know, in George's day, freshmen were not eli gible for varsity sports. Through the first 100 years of Princeton football, he and Frank McPhee shared the record for the most touchdown pass receptions (8), a few of which Kazmaier threw in his first year. The all-time teams compiled some years ago apparently had no reservation
in recognizing him. During his three varsity years, Princeton won all its Harvard/Yale games.

Like me, George was a chemical engineer. He was a fierce competitor. I remember before classes the Monday, after our 14-12 loss to heavily-favored Cornell in Ithaca, I thought I would console George by saying that it was “a moral victory”. He snapped back, “They don’t write 'moral victory' after the score in the record books." Incidentally, that Cornell loss preceded the next 24 wins.

As for basketball, George was undoubtedly the team's mainstay and usually played the entire game as “Cappy” Cappon didn’t believe in giving the starting five a rest. Cappon ran a “weave” which inevitably led to George driving to the basket for a lay-up. Defensive-wise, I remember watching George guard Yale’s gunner, Tony Lavelli.  Held him to a few points. (Lavelli used to play his accordion at halftime.) I believe George was first team All-East his senior year. 

George passed up a Chicago Bear opportunity to go to Harvard Business School and eventually became CEO of American Cyanamid.

Sella lived to be the age of the uniform number he wore in football: 93. He was granted more than three times as long on this planet at Lorin was.

Lorin was the Friends Group manager at Princeton when she passed away. She was a fundraiser, but so much more than that. She had an incredible work ethic, taking on whatever task needed to be completed. More than once TB saw her setting up tables and chairs or putting tablecloths on them. Why? Because it needed to be done.

She was also a super nice, super upbeat person. She always seemed to be smiling. She was smiling the last time TB ever saw her. He'll never forget that.

Each year since her passing, TigerBlog has told the story of the last time her saw her. At the time TB's office was up on the Jadwin mezzanine, and he always left his door open. Some people would stop in and say hi. Most would just walk by.

Lorin would always stop. Sometimes, when she didn't have time to say anything, she'd just stop and smile. And that's what happened on that day 13 years ago.

There was a meeting that was running late, and Lorin had to get to the airport to catch a flight to Buffalo. There was a wedding in her boyfriend's family that she was going to attend. She'd be meeting him there.

She'd found love in the months before. She was really happy. 

Tragically, her plane crashed just before reaching the Buffalo airport. TigerBlog didn't know this until the next morning, when he woke up to an email with the news. It's almost as shocking now as it was then.

It was just so unbelievable, so impossible to wrap your head around. She'd just been there, so alive. And then she was gone. 

As TB said, George Sella got more than three times as many years as Lorin Maurer did. Even 13 years later, it still doesn't seem real that she's gone.

There are fewer and fewer people who work here each year who knew Lorin. The ones who did know her remember her for the warm, wonderful, loving person that she was. 

To them, her memory is still alive. TB can still see her smile. He's sure everyone else who knew her can as well.

It doesn't make it any fairer of course. Or any easier to understand.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Listening To Marc Ross

The Super Bowl will be played Sunday in Los Angeles between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. 

This is not news. Nor is the fact that for the second straight time, a team is playing in the Super Bowl in its home stadium after it never happened in the first LIV years of the event. This bodes well for the Arizona Cardinals, who host the game next year, though the team probably needs to figure out why its franchise quarterback unfollowed all of their social media accounts first.

If you asked TigerBlog who his favorite player in the game Sunday will be, he'd oddly enough have to say that it's Cincinnati rookie placekicker Evan McPherson, the fifth-round pick out of Florida. McPherson's clutch kicking is as big a reason for why the Bengals are in the game at all.

Of course, it's hard to root against either quarterback. Cincinnati's Joe Burrow said this when asked what advice he'd give young athletes:

“Focus on getting better,” said Burrow. “Don’t have a workout and go post it on Instagram the next day and go sit on your butt for four days and everyone thinks you’re working hard but you really aren’t. Work in silence, don’t show everybody what you’re doing. Let your game on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights show all the hard work you put in.”

He comes across, at least, as a very grounded, very likeable young man. As for the Rams' QB, that would be Matthew Stafford, who deserves all of this after having been the quarterback of the Detroit Lions for 12 seasons, where he never exactly had a great team around him. He was still the fastest NFL quarterback to reach 40,000 career yards, and he ranks third all-time in passing yards per game.

This is actually a rare Super Bowl for TigerBlog in that he finds both teams easy to root for. He just hopes it's a good game.

This Super Bowl is only half the story for the NFL right now. The other half is the lawsuit that has been filed by former Miami Dolphins' coach Brian Flores, who is accusing the NFL and the teams of racially discriminating in their hiring practices.

For each Thursday during Black History Month, TigerBlog will be writing a feature story for on an alum (or as was the case last week, three alums). For today's piece, he wanted to speak to Marc Ross, from the Class of 1995.

Ross was a football player at Princeton and a really good one. He holds school records to this day, and for all the great wide receivers Princeton has had, Ross is the only one who has ever averaged better than 20 yards per reception for a season (20.2 as a junior in 1993).

TB and Ross go way, way back, all the way to when Ross was a player and a student-worker whose main task was to answer the phones at Jadwin Gym during basketball games. This was before there was an internet on which to check in-game scores. 

Through the years, TB has remained a big fan of what Ross has done. In all his time at Princeton, TB hasn't met too many more impressive people than Marc Ross.

He went on to a long career working in scouting in the NFL, helping to build the Philadelphia Eagles into a team that reached four straight NFC championship games and one Super Bowl and, after a stop in Buffalo, won two Super Bowl rings with the Giants as the No. 2 person on the personnel side.

Each year, TB would see Ross mentioned in stories about GM openings, and TB assumed it was just a matter of time until Ross got his chance. And yet it never came. 

Eventually, his time with the Giants ended, and he landed with a great job as an analyst on the NFL Network. These days, he's also trying to help the Rock build a refurbished XFL, which will begin playing a year from now (in a less-gimicky way).  

There is a question that TB can't really answer, though, and it's actually a question that begs several other questions. Why is it that Ross didn't get a GM job?

It's not because of the resume. It's not because of the intelligence. It's not because he can't communicate well. So why?

It certainly raises some flags, especially in the context of the Flores lawsuit. It's something that Ross talks about in the story, and what he says is quite eye-opening, and thought-provoking. He also talks about his time at Princeton, his love for the University and his admiration for John Mack and Bob Surace.

You can read the story HERE.

Enjoy the Super Bowl, but also give some serious consideration to the issues that he and TB discussed.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Tigers On Ice

While nothing in sports is a sure thing, it's quite likely that the women's hockey game at the Olympics between the U.S. and Canada the other day was a preview of the gold medal game.

Round 1 went to the Canadians, 4-2, with an assist on the first goal from Princeton's Sarah Fillier. The Canadians, with that win, earn the top seed in the quarterfinals, where they will take on Sweden Friday. 

If you look at the stats for the Olympic tournament, Canada has the top seven scorers (technically, the No. 7 scorer is tied with the leading scorer for the U.S. team). After the round-robin phase, Fillier is in fifth, with five goals and two assists in four games, though the five goals tie her with teammate Brianne Jenner for the most. At the Olympics. Let that sink in.

Also, keep in mind that Fillier is the youngest player on her team and the only active college player.

Another Princeton player, Claire Thompson, is ninth, with six points on a goal and five assists. Thompson does lead the tournament in one important category: plus/minus, with a +11.

Princeton's Kim Newell, competing for China under the name Jiaying Zhou, finished with the second-best save percentage and third-best goals-against average, though China did not advance to the quarterfinals.

 Newell also gained some international recognition for her pads.

The next Princeton athlete to compete in Beijing is Nathan Crumpton, who makes his Winter Olympic debut, but not his Olympic debut, when he makes his first run in the skeleton tonight (8:30 Eastern, if TigerBlog is reading the schedule correctly). Crumpton will be representing American Samoa, just like he did in the Summer Games in Tokyo, where he ran the 100 meters.

Crumpton will be joining a very elite group of athletes when he takes to the track, as he will become the 140th person to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games. 

Skeleton, by the way, is sort of the opposite of luge, as the riders are face down and head first. If you're wondering how fast Crumpton will be going on his trips down the track, he'll probably reach speeds of 80 mph.

Crumpton, by the way, has a legitimate chance to be in the mix for the medals in the event. The 36 year old is a former Princeton track and field athlete. 

Like Newell, Crumpton also got some international attention, this time at the Opening Ceremonies, where he appeared shirtless on a 23-degree night. You can see what he looked like, and read more about him, HERE. For the rest of Princeton's Olympic schedule, click HERE.

For things that are happening on ice a bit closer to Princeton, there is the men's hockey team. The Tigers are in the midst of a very grueling stretch of having eight games in 16 days. Game 3 of that run was last night, when the Tigers defeated Yale 2-1 at Hobey Baker Rink.

Princeton is playing for home ice for the upcoming ECAC playoffs. There are currently six teams who are separated by a mere four points, and four of those teams will be playing at home in the first round. 

This year, the ECAC is awarding points differently than it has in the past, by the way. Now a win in regulation is worth three points, instead of two. There are no ties, per se, as a 3x3 five-minute overtime follows a game that is even after 60 minutes.

If neither team scores then, it goes to a shootout. Teams get two points for winning in OT or in shootout, one point for a loss in overtime or a shootout and no points for a loss in regulation.

St. Lawrence, one of the opponents this weekend, is in that mix of teams, with 20 points. Clarkson is currently in second place in the ECAC.

Princeton's win last night was a big one, giving the Tigers three more points and vaulting them over Colgate into a tie with St. Lawrence for seventh place with 20 points. Princeton has also played either one or two fewer games than every other team in the league other than first-place Quinnipiac.

Next up for Princeton is the long trip to St. Lawrence and Clarkson, who is in second place in the league. Beyond that, Princeton still has two games against both Harvard (third place) and Dartmouth (12th place) and a home weekend with Colgate and Cornell (fourth place).

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Sign Here

If you go back 100 years to the 1921-22 men's basketball season, you'll see that Arthur Loeb led the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game.

At the time, that was the school single-season record, by the way. It stood for 21 years, until the great Bud Palmer averaged 13.2 points per game in 1942-43 on a team that included, among others, future coach Butch van Breda Kolff and future Civil Rights legend John Doar.

The second-leading scorer on the 1921-22 team was John Klaess, who averaged 5.2. Next up was Stockton Gaines, the third-leading scorer on the team at 3.2 points per game.

Oh how things have changed.

Right now, Princeton's third-leading scorer on the men's basketball team is Tosan Evbuowman, who averages 15.2. Just ahead of him is Jaelin Llewellyn, who averages 15.3, and then in the top spot at 15.7 is Ethan Wright.

Would you like to know the last time Princeton finished a season with three players who averaged at least 15 points per game? That would be never. 

Wright vaulted into the top spot on the team, and the fifth spot in the Ivy League, with a 53 point weekend that saw him score 26 at Cornell Friday and then 27 more at Columbia Saturday. His performance earned him Ivy League Player of the Week for the third time this season.

All three of Princeton's top scorers are in the top eight in the league. Wright is also averaging 7.3 rebounds per game, which is fourth in the league. He's having an extraordinary season by any account.

As TigerBlog has mentioned several times, Wright's mother is Ellen DeVoe, a member of the Class of 1986 and one of the best players Princeton women's basketball has ever had. DeVoe is mentioned in TB's book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton, though she and her extraordinary family connection, including her father John DeVoe, a basketball player in the Class of 1956, were not featured prominently.

The book starts out with an apology to DeVoe and all of the other women who have competed at Princeton for not being able to include all of their stories in the book. As it is, there are nearly 100 women featured, out of the more than 4,200 who lettered at Princeton in the first 50 years of women's athletics. He could have written 10 books and not run out of stories.

This past Saturday, before the women's basketball game at Jadwin with the Tiger and Columbia, TigerBlog found himself in the lobby, doing a book signing. To be honest, he had no idea what to expect from the experience, which is something he'd never done before.

As it turned out, it was a lot of fun. The people who came by were great. They were really appreciative of the book and asked a lot of questions about what went into it, how it came to be, how long it took.

TB got to meet some people he'd emailed with before but never seen in person, including a very loyal TigerBlog reader and huge Tiger fan named Mike Knorr. TB also got to meet Priscilla Bostock, who has been reaching out with suggestions of which women's basketball player to include on the podcast. There were also parents of some of the women's basketball players and even the parents of head coach Carla Berube.

What was really challenging for TB was to know what to write in each book. He's seen John McPhee autograph books in the past, and the challenge is to personalize the inscription without going on too long. 

TB also didn't want to write the same thing in each book, so he was trying to mix it up a bit (in the case of Berube's parents, he wrote something like "thank you for your contribution to Princeton Athletics). Some of the people asked him to autograph the book for someone else, including their daughters, which TB thought was great.

One such person was a man who gave him his daughter's name and asked if TB would write "you can do anything," which is based on the book title: "I Can Do Anything," which in turn comes from the Helen Reddy anthem from the women's movement. That was perfect.

In the end, TB signed more than 100 books. He'd like to thank everyone who came by and say that he hopes they all enjoy the book.

Oh, and if you still haven't gotten yours, you can order it HERE.

Monday, February 7, 2022

A 76-Point Weekend

Back when TigerBlog was a sportswriter covering Princeton basketball, he used to keep track of how many times during Ivy League weekend back-to-backs that Pete Carril's team would not give up more than 100 total points between the two games.

In Carril's final season, the 1996 Ivy season, Princeton held its Ivy opponents below 100 four times in six weekends. 

He thought about that as he watched Carla Berube's women's team do its defensive thing this weekend, Friday night as he watched on ESPN+ and then Saturday in person. Between its wins over Cornell and Columbia, the women's basketball team allowed a total of 76 points.

That's incredible. 

The final scores were 75-37 over Cornell and 57-39 over Columbia. The win over Columbia came in the first meeting this year between the teams who entered the game unbeaten in the league at 7-0.

If you're keeping track, Berube has coached seven weekends in which her team has played league games on consecutive nights, plus one other when it played on a Saturday/Monday (earlier this year against Penn and Brown). If you include all eight, only once has the team allowed more than 100, and that was in the 2020 final weekend, when Columbia and Cornell scored – wait for it – 102, in games Princeton won 77-52 and 69-50. 

There was also one other weekend where the opponents combined for exactly 100 (66-45 over Dartmouth and then 87-55 over Harvard).

Princeton is now 8-0 on the season in the league. Here are the first quarter point totals in those eight games for Princeton's opponents:

10, 5, 8, 9, 3, 11, 5, 4. Again, that's incredible. 

Columbia came into the game averaging 71.2 points per game, by the way. Princeton did what Princeton does, which is to say the Tigers were swarming, harassing and letting nothing be easy.

In the interest of complete fairness, you do have to keep something in mind about Columbia. The Lions are obviously good. They are 16-4 and 7-1 in the league now under former Tiger assistant Meg Griffiths, and they ran into a buzzsaw Saturday night. There is still the rematch two weeks from Wednesday in New York City, and then a possible third meeting in the Ivy League tournament. Even after falling behind 35-16 at the half, the Lions did outscore the Tigers by one in the second half, so there was no quit in them. They will still make their presence known moving forward.

There was one moment in the third quarter when Columbia made things a bit uneasy, cutting it to 12 at 41-29. If there was to be drama in the fourth quarter, it ended when Julia Cunningham hit threes on consecutive possessions and then Abby Meyers hit two free throws to end the quarter at 49-29. 

The run grew to 14-0, and the lead to 26 points, when Cunningham and Chet Nweke drained threes to start the fourth quarter.

Ellie Mitchell continued to play like Dennis Rodman used to. If you never got to see Rodman in his prime, he was a force who impacted every game he was in without having to score big numbers. He played with limitless energy, and he was impossible to miss when you watched.

That's a good description of Mitchell too. 

Rodman averaged, for his career, 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. Mitchell, for the season, averages 6.3 points and 10.1 rebounds.

This was Mitchell's line against Columbia: 38 minutes, three points, 14 rebounds (nine offensive), five assists and three steals. What you can't tell from her stats are the job she did on the defensive end, which was epic. Or, perhaps, Rodmanian. 

Hey, if TigerBlog can compare Meyers to a fictional character, like he did last week when he likened her to Jimmy Chitwood in "Hoosiers," then why can't he compare Mitchell to Rodman. Hey, he was named one of the NBA's top 75 players of all-time and is in the basketball Hall of Fame.

One of the best parts of the games this weekend was that they were back open to the fans. The weather Friday night prevented a large crowd, but Jadwin Gym had energy and noise for the game Saturday. 

The home team that the fans got to see Saturday night was quite impressive, one that rose to the occasion for a big game.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Girls And Women In Sports

The Winter Olympics began Wednesday in style for the Princeton contingent.

Specifically, TigerBlog is speaking about the two Princetonians on the Canadian women's hockey team, Sarah Fillier and Claire Thompson. The two of them combined for eight points (four each) as Canada took down Switzerland 12-1.

Fillier scored the first two Canadian goals and added an assist by the end of the first period. Thompson, a defenseman, had three assists in the second period and then her first Olympic goal. It was quite an impressive start for the two, who were key members of the team that won the World Championship last year. 

If you are hoping to follow the six Princeton athletes in these Games, the best place to do so is HERE.

Fillier and Thompson are on their way to becoming the second and third Princeton women's hockey players to win Olympic medals, after Andrea Kilbourne, who won silver in Salt Lake City in 2002 with the U.S. team. 

The two current Tigers had their big Olympic debuts during the celebration of National Girls and Women In Sports Day.

The holiday dates back to 1987, or nearly two decades after women first started to attend Princeton University and then compete in intercollegiate athletics. As you are probably aware, TigerBlog recently finished a book on the first 50 year of women's athletics at Princeton (you can order it HERE).

By the way, TB would like to thank Bill Alden, who wrote a piece about the book for the current issue of Town Topics. You can read that HERE.

Here is one quote from Alden in the story:

By bringing to life the accomplishments of the Tiger women athletes, he has grippingly captured a special era in Princeton and sports history.

Though TB enjoyed telling every story in the book, his favorites were the women who were the pioneers, the ones who competed at Princeton before there was a National Girls and Women In Sports Day. Those pioneering days have turned into the modern era, where Princeton's women's teams have experiences that the earliest Tiger women could never have imagined.

At the same time, there's always some new mountain to climb, which means there will always be new pioneers. Such was the case last weekend, when Princeton's Chloe Ayres and Columbia's Caitlyn Walker had an exhibition match before the Tigers and Lions met. Here is a great video about women's wrestling:

By the way, this is a huge weekend for Princeton wrestling, as the Tigers host Cornell tomorrow at 1 in Jadwin. Back in 2020, Princeton ended Cornell's 17-year run as Ivy champion by defeating the Big Red in Jadwin and winning the championship. 

This time, both are again nationally ranked, and both lineups are stocked with nationally ranked wrestlers. The match in 2020 was one of the most dramatic events TB has seen in Jadwin, and this year's version figures to match that.

The wrestling match is the opener of a Jadwin doubleheader, followed at 5 by the women's basketball game against Columbia. That game is a matchup of teams that enter tonight's games (Princeton at home against Cornell, Columbia at Penn) who are both 6-0 in the Ivy League. 

Once again it will be a big challenge for the Tiger defense, which is among the best in the country and is the best in the Ivy League. Opponents have scored 52.7 points per game against the Tigers, while Columbia comes in averaging 71.2 per game.

In Princeton's six Ivy League games, opponents have scored 50, 41, 39, 50, 35 and 49 points. In its six Ivy games, Columbia has scored fewer than 60 points only once, in its 57-46 win over Cornell. 

Not that Columbia isn't a good defensive team. The Lions have only allowed more than 56 points once in those six games, in a 72-64 win over Harvard.

It should be a pretty good game, the first of two, or three, between the teams who are a combined 29-7 on the season.

Tonight's game is the women's basketball team's Pride Game. The game tomorrow night will be National Girls and Women In Sports Day, and the first 100 fans will get a copy of a certain book that was just published about the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton.

Hey, you don't want to miss out on that.