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.

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