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.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of wiping a tear or 2… great stuff, Jerry and CONGRATS to Annie!

Bart Kalkstein said...

Congratulations to you and your daughter, Jerry!