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.

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