Friday, December 30, 2022

The Most Special Moment Of 2022

The final day of 2022 is tomorrow.

This year, that also means the Ivy League basketball openers. Princeton's women will be at Harvard at noon. The Princeton men will be home against Harvard at 1.

It's the start of a 14-game league schedule that will then bring the top four teams to Jadwin Gym for the Ivy tournament in March. The winners there will advance to the NCAA tournament.

The Princeton women will head into the game in Cambridge after a 56-54 win over Rhode Island Wednesday afternoon in Jadwin on Grace Stone's buzzer beater. It had been 20 years since the Tigers had a win at the buzzer in women's basketball, not since Eileen Powers' layup gave Princeton an 82-81 win over Southwest Texas State in November 2002.

In addition to the basketball games, there is also men's hockey series at Colorado College, with games tonight and tomorrow and today's final day of wrestling at the Midlands Tournament.

TigerBlog hopes you enjoyed his countdown of the top stories of 2022 in Princeton Athletics from yesterday. As he said, that was his list, and he's open to anyone who has his or her own to share in this space.

As TigerBlog also said yesterday, he wants to share with you the most special moment  in Princeton Athletics in 2022. That's not actually completely accurate.

It's the most special moment to him in 2022. And that's not just limited to Princeton Athletics.

For a long time, TB had the year 2022 circled on the calendar in his mind. Why? It was in 2022 that his daughter was going to graduate from college.

He never really considered where that would be. Just when. He kept thinking about the tuition benefit that Princeton offers employees and how his son would be in the Class of 2019 and his daughter in the Class of 2022. Even when they were little, he figured he'd be at Princeton for the long run, knowing that he'd use the benefit for them — and that he'd be pushing 60 by the time he used it for the last time.

It seemed so far in the future when his children were at the Dillon summer camp, or at U-League nursery school or attending one of Princeton's sports camps and staying in the dorms. It was years and years down the road.

Twenty-twenty-two. It seemed so far away. 

In his heart, he hoped his kids would attend Princeton. He can't lie about that. They certainly had enough Princeton gear their whole lives. 

When it came time for his son to choose a college, he followed his Division I lacrosse dream to Sacred Heart University — and had a great experience there. TB watched him graduate with incredible pride.

His daughter used to taunt him when she was younger. Any time you asked her where she wanted to go to school, she'd always say "Harvard." Did she mean it? As it turned out, the answer to that was "no." 

Recruited for lacrosse by some other Division I and a lot of Division III schools, she nevertheless applied early to Princeton. TB can still hear her shrieking on the phone that December day in 2017: "I got in!!! I got in!!!!"

Fast-forwarding more than four years (with an emphasis on fast, since it seemed to fly by), there she was, on Powers Field in Princeton Stadium for graduation this past May 24. In between the acceptance and commencement, there were certainly some tough moments, some growing pains, some major life learning experiences, some amazing friends made, four years of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and four years of lacrosse — not to mention a pandemic that certainly threw a wrench into the works.

And there she was, at graduation, a member forever of the Princeton University Class of 2022. And there was TB, looking down, barely able to hold back the tears from the emotions of it all. 

Now, when he thinks back to what she accomplished at Princeton, he marvels at her work ethic, her persistence, her tenacity, her drive, all of which are things that will stay with her forever.

For TB, that was the top moment of 2022, to see his daughter graduate from the No. 1 school in the country, not to mention his employer for three decades. In fact, there have been few moments in TB's entire life that compare.

Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve, and here's to a great 2023.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

One Man's List Of The Top Stories In Princeton Athletics For 2022

This coming Saturday is New Year's Eve.

It's also the opening day for Ivy League basketball.

If you're in Princeton, you can see the men host Harvard at 1. If you're in Cambridge, you can see the women play at Harvard at noon. If you're nowhere near either, you can watch on ESPN+.

Being that today is Thursday, there aren't too many hours left in 2022. You've seen your share of Year in Review stories so far, TigerBlog assumes.

Today, you can see TB's review of Princeton Athletics for 2022.

First, this is 100 percent his list. It is not the "official" Princeton Athletics list. It's just TB's thoughts. Second, only accomplishments at Princeton in 2022 are included, so international and professional achievements by alums don't count for this exercise (though there were many of those).

Also, TB wrote this earlier this week: "Choosing the No. 1 moment in Princeton Athletics for TB was the easiest it's ever been." In fact, it's so easy that it gets its own separate mention tomorrow. Perhaps it's not really fair to refer to it as No. 1. TB will call it the most special moment of the year.

For today, here are TB's top 11 stories from Princeton Athletics 2022:

No. 11 - Championships and more championships, and a No. 18 finish
Princeton teams won 16 league championships in the 2022 calendar year. That's pretty impressive. Actually, it's beyond pretty impressive. To have 16 teams win their league title in one calendar year is something so rare that it may be unprecedented, or never matched again. Here are the 16 teams who did so: men's basketball, women's basketball, women's open rowing, women's fencing, women's lightweight rowing, field hockey, women's lacrosse, women's golf, men's indoor track and field, men's outdoor track and field, men's cross country, women's volleyball, men's volleyball, men's water polo, women's tennis and softball. All of these championships, and postseason participation by other teams who did not win their league title, led to an 18th place finish in the Learfield Directors' Cup, Princeton's best ever.

No. 10 - Women's rugby makes its varsity debut
The women's rugby team officially became Princeton's 38th varsity team with its first game on Sept. 3, at Sacred Heart. Erica De San Jorge scored the first varsity try in program history for head coach Josie Ziluca.

No. 9 - Women's fencing rolls
The women's fencing team went a perfect 6-0 in the Ivy League duels to win the championship. From there, the team would go on to go 1-2-3 in the foil (Maia Weintraub with the win) and 1-2 in the saber (Maia Chamberlain the winner) at the NCAA regional. After that, Princeton saw Weintraub win an NCAA championship and five fencers earn All-American honors as the Tigers finished fourth nationally in the co-ed standings.

No. 8 - Women's rowing dominates
The women's open rowers won the Ivy League first varsity 8 race by two seconds, making it five straight Ivy titles for Lori Dauphiny's team. The Tigers also won the Sally Shoemaker Trophy as the top overall points winner as well, which earned them an automatic bid to the NCAA regatta, something Princeton has never missed. Competing in Sarasota, Fla., Princeton won the varsity four race, finished third in the first varsity 8 race and finished third overall in the team points standings. The women's lightweight rowing first varsity 8 had a perfect season, including winning the IRA National Championship for the second straight year.

No. 7 - The men's lacrosse team returns to the Final Four
The men's lacrosse team missed out on the Ivy League tournament, which gave the Tigers an extra week off before the NCAA tournament. Assured of a bid after wins over NCAA seeds Georgetown, Rutgers, Penn and Brown, Princeton defeated Boston University 12-5 and Yale 14-10 to return to Championship Weekend for the first time since 2004. There, the Tigers had to wait out a four-hour rain delay before falling to Maryland 13-8, who went undefeated and won the NCAA title.

No. 6 - The wrestling team has two NCAA runners-up
Prior to the 2022 NCAA championships, the wrestling team had not had a finalist in 20 years. Princeton then had two in the 2022 tournament alone. Patrick Glory made the final at 125, where he fell 5-3 in his match, and Quincy Monday reached the final at 157, falling 9-2. The history-making performance helped the Tigers to a 16th-place finish in the team standings.

No. 5 - Sarah Fillier returns to play for Princeton after Olympic gold
Women's hockey player Sarah Fillier helped Canada to an Olympic gold medal in February (Claire Thompson, a 2020 Princeton grad, was Fillier's teammate for Canada). Fillier actually did more than just help, as she was the second-leading goal scorer in the tournament with eight, as well as three assists (Thompson had two goals and 11 assists to lead all Olympic defensemen). Fillier returned to Princeton for this season, and she currently leads the team in goals and points and is tied for the league in assists. In competing for Princeton after winning Olympic gold, Fillier joins only two other athletes who have ever done so: Bill Bradley in basketball and Ashleigh Johnson in water polo.

No. 4 - The women's basketball team wins an NCAA game
Princeton raced through the Ivy League at a perfect 14-0 and then won the league tournament as well, taking the final 77-59 over Columbia after a 30-point game from Kaitlyn Chen. The Tigers, who spent much of the season in the national top 25, earned a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament, which meant a first-round matchup against sixth-seeded Kentucky. Abby Meyers, the Ivy League Player of the Year, then went off for 29 points as the Tigers downed the Wildcats 69-62 for the second NCAA win in program history and third ever by an Ivy team. The Tigers then came up one basket short of the Sweet 16, falling to Indiana (a team who started five 1,000-point scorers) 56-55 in the second round. Grace Stone and Julia Cunningham had 13 each as four Tigers reached double figures.

No. 3 - Chris Sailer retires after another Ivy title
The women's lacrosse team had a perfect run through the Ivy League during the regular season and then added the league tournament title at well. Princeton won its NCAA opener against UMass before falling to Syracuse in the second round. With the end of the Syracuse game came the end of Sailer's Hall-of-Fame tenure as the Tiger head coach, one that lasted 37 years and saw her go 433-168 while winning 16 Ivy League championships and three NCAA championships. Her longtime associate head coach, Jenn Cook, was named as Sailer's replacement.

No. 2 - The best Ivy League men's track and field team ever?
It's possible, likely actually, that the 2022 Princeton men's track and field team was the best the league has ever seen. Princeton won Indoor Heps by 56 points over second-place Harvard and at least 100 points over everyone else and then won Outdoor Heps by 95 points over second-place Harvard, with third-place Penn 145 points behind. If that wasn't impressive enough, Princeton sent eight athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships, and all eight came back as All-Americans as the Tigers finished fifth nationally. Princeton then came in seventh at the Outdoor meet. Pole vaulting brothers Sondre and Simen Guttormsen finished first and fourth at both NCAA events. 

No. 1 - The death of Pete Carril
Unfortunately, even with all of the winning, the death of Hall of Fame former men's basketball coach Pete Carril in August is, in TB's estimation, the No. 1 story on this list. Carril passed away at the age of 92 on Aug. 15, after a lifetime in basketball that left a legacy few have ever matched. From the way his style of offense changed the way the game is played on every level to the way he viewed basketball, and sports in general, as an extension of a person to his persona as sociologist and philosopher, Carril is one of the most important figures in the history of Princeton University, not just athletics. A little more than a month after his death, Jadwin Gym hosted a memorial service for Carril, and it was an event that served as a statement to the importance of Princeton Basketball in the lives of those who have played here and the role that Carril played in all of their development.

 Tomorrow - the most special moment of 2022

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Tip-Off At 2

Whose stat line is this: six points, 15 rebounds, two steals?

There are only two people who come to mind. One is Dennis Rodman, who is in the basketball Hall of Fame. For his career, Rodman averaged 7.3 points per game and 13.1 rebounds per game.

He also was a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a seven-time NBA first-team All-Defensive selection. 

When you think of Rodman, you think of his defense, tenacity and full-out effort all the time.

The other person who fits this description, at least to Princeton fans, is Ellie Mitchell of the women's basketball team. Mitchell is currently averaging 5.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, this one year after her Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year selection. Like Rodman, Mitchell conjures up images of her hustle and desire to get to as many loose balls as possible.

So what about the six points, 15 rebounds and two steals? While that could be any game for either one of them, it was actually Mitchell's line against Rhode Island last year. 

That game, played in Kingston, was one of the Tigers' rare losses a year ago, as the Rams won that one 61-53 after Princeton entered the fourth quarter up by one. 

Princeton gets a chance to avenge that loss this afternoon at 2 in Jadwin Gym. It will not be an easy one, not against a Rhode Island team that comes into the game with a record of 9-2 and with hopes of doing some avenging of its own after falling just short of reaching the NCAA tournament last year. 

Princeton had only one player in double figures in the game last year, and that was Abby Meyers, the only player not back from a year ago. Julia Cunningham had nine in that game, and the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week has 904 career points as she heads into this game.

After today, Princeton has 14 Ivy games and a non-league game against Hartford still to go in the regular season. Cunningham would reach 1,000 career points by the end of the regular season should she average 6.4 per game, which is less than half of the 13.8 she currently is putting up per night.

By the way, the first of those 14 league games is Saturday at noon at Harvard.

Whether she gets to 1,000 or not, Cunningham has developed into the kind of all-around player, especially defensive stopper, that head coach Carla Berube loves. A few weeks ago, there was this piece on Cunningham, which is definitely worth the watch:

Meanwhile, back at Rhode Island, the visitors today in Jadwin will bring with them a fairly international roster. In fact, of the 13 players, there are eight from another country.

For some reason, Rhode Island has done a lot of its recruiting in France, as there are five French players on the team. It would be interesting to hear their thoughts on penalty kicks to decide World Cup knockout matches.

The other three countries represented on the team are Estonia, Israel and Canada. The five U.S. players are from New York (two), Massachusetts (two) and Texas. 

The Rams' head coach is Tammi Reiss, who was the fifth pick of the 1997 WNBA draft and who is, among other things, an actress who has appeared in TV shows and movies and a former member of the Utah Jazz television broadcast team.

The associate head coach is Adeniyi Amadou. When TigerBlog looked at his bio, he saw that he had started out playing at the Army-West Point and then transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. When he saw that Amadou had led his college team in offensive rebounding, he was trying to place the name, until he realized that he'd missed the part that said "Indiana" before "University." Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a Division II school near Pittsburgh.

One fact that stood out from Amadou's bio, though, is that he's a native of Paris. Perhaps that explains the, well, French connection.

If you've stopped chuckling by 2, make sure you're in Jadwin or watching on ESPN+. It figures to be a really good game.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The World According To The Midlands

TigerBlog's two favorite authors are, obviously, John McPhee and himself (by the way, you can click HERE and HERE).

What? You were expecting someone else?

Beyond those two clear choices, he'd say that his next two would be Tom Clancy and John Irving.

In fact, it was from reading Irving's books that inspired TB to try his hand at fiction, which you can check for yourself at one of the above links. Perhaps interestingly, it was John Mack, now the Ford Family Director of Athletics at Princeton, who got TB to read his first Irving book, "A Prayer For Owen Meany."

Mack, who was then just starting out his postgraduate career in Gary Walters' office, told TB it was his favorite book. TB then read it in about three days, and he would say that it's pretty much as good as writing gets.

TigerBlog just finished reading "The World According To Garp," Irving's fourth novel. TB saw the movie way back when, but this was the first time he'd read the book, which is quite autobiographical, including the part of the relationship between Garp and his mother about Garp's father. That is something TB didn't realize until after he'd finished.

It's the kind of book that as you read it and get closer to the end, you're torn between wanting to find out what happens and not wanting it to end. Also, as a writer, TB read it with an eye on what he thinks really separates how Irving writes, in much the same way as he does with Mr. McPhee. 

Did you know, by the way, that John Irving is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame? He was a wrestler at Philips Exeter, and wrestling is a huge part of so many of his books, including "Garp." 

In "Garp," much of the story takes place in a wrestling room. If you've spent time in a wrestling room (or in an office next to one), you can pretty much picture what it looks like and what the mats smell like as you read the book.

Here is a quote from Irving about the sport and why it has appealed to him:

When you love something, you have the capacity to bore everyone about why—it doesn’t matter why. Wrestling, like boxing, is a weight-class sport; you get to bump into people your own size. You can bump into them very hard, but the place where you land is reasonably soft. And there are civilized aspects to the sport’s combativeness: I’ve always admired the rule that holds you responsible, if you lift your opponent off the mat, for your opponent’s “safe return.” But the best answer to why I love wrestling is that it was the first thing I was any good at.

Speaking of the sport of wrestling, Princeton will be sending 17 wrestlers to the prestigious Midlands Tournament, which will be held Thursday through Saturday in the NOW Arena, about 25 miles outside of Chicago. You can read all about it HERE.

If you don't want to click, here are some basics: 1) this is the first Midlands since 2019, 2) there will be 35 teams represented and 3) Princeton will be one of nine EIWA schools at the event. This will be the 58th edition of the prestigious event.

Even after the two years it's been cancelled, Princeton senior Patrick Glory is still  the defending champion at 125. Also, pretty amazingly, Princeton still has seven wrestlers who will be at this year's event who wrestled at the Midlands in 2019. 

There are also four Princeton wrestlers who were NCAA qualifiers a year ago: Glory, fellow NCAA runner-up Quincy Monday, Travis Stefanik and Marshall Keller.

The Tigers will have more traveling to do in the New Year. After already wrestling at Indiana as one of four Big Ten teams Princeton has gone against so far this season, the team will be at the Franklin & Marshall Open on Jan. 6 and then take a trip to Texas to face Oregon State and continue on to Arizona State. 

The Ivy opener is Jan. 20 at Columbia. Within 22 days, the entire Ivy season will be finished.

Monday, December 26, 2022

More Tigers Against Tigers On Ice

Hello everyone.

How was your Christmas? Was it awesome?

For most of you, TigerBlog is guessing, it was a pretty cold Christmas. Like, a brutally cold Christmas, the kind where in year's to come, when someone talks about the cold, you say something like "this is nothing. Remember Christmas 2022?"

The final week of 2022 is here. As such, come week's end, TigerBlog will be giving you his annual two-part rundown of the top moments of 2022 in Princeton Athletics, as chosen by him. That's his disclaimer.

It's not the official Princeton Year in Review. It's just what TB thinks. 

He's done this year after year after year. 

By the way, for this year, choosing the No. 1 moment in Princeton Athletics for TB was the easiest it's ever been. He'll have more on that later in the week.

There are still a handful of events left on the schedule for 2022, meaning that TB can't really make his list official yet. There are in fact four teams who still will be competing between now and when the ball drops in Times Square.

The next event for a Princeton team is the home women's basketball game against Rhode Island Wednesday at 2. At least TB thinks it's Wednesday. This is the time of year when it's so hard to remember what day of the week it is.

Yes. It's Wednesday. The 28th. Today is Monday, right? The 26th? 

The women will also be playing Harvard on New Year's Eve day at noon in Cambridge in the Ivy League opener. The men will be home at 1 against the Crimson that day.

The wrestling team will spending its time at the prestigious and loaded Midlands Tournament outside Chicago. The event begins Wednesday and runs through Friday.

The fourth team to play this week will be the men's hockey team, which is flying out to Colorado College for games Thursday and Friday. The weather for Chicago and Colorado Springs this week seems to be pretty cooperative, at least for winter. If nothing else, there won't be snow.

Does anyone know the nickname of the teams at Colorado College? That's correct. It's also Tigers. This will be the second time this year the men's hockey team has a Tigers vs. Tigers series, after splitting a pair of games with RIT.

The Tigers will be coming into these two games having not played in 20 days. Wait, which Tigers? Both of them.

The Tigers are also a game under .500 for the year. Which Tigers? Again, both. Princeton is 6-7-0 to date, and Colorado College is 8-9-1.

Princeton is currently tied for third place in the ECAC Hockey standings, though the Tigers have played 11 league games to date, the most in the league. Of the rest of the 12-team league, there have been three teams who have played 10 and the rest have played either eight or nine. 

It's a tad early to be thinking about first-round byes and home ice scenarios. For this series, it's just a great way to get back on the ice, get used to playing again and get a chance to do some team traveling.

Princeton has only one ECAC series between now and Jan. 20, but it's going to be a huge weekend all around for Princeton Hockey. You can circle Jan. 6 and 7 on your calendar, in fact.

There are two doubleheaders, with the women against Dartmouth at 3 on Friday the 6th and then the men at 7 against Harvard. The next day there are also games at 3 and 7, with the opponents swapped.

It's all part of the Hobey 100 celebration weekend. Hobey Baker Rink turns 100 years old. Among the attendees that weekend will be the Stanley Cup:

Lord Stanley will be part of a special Fan Village outside of Baker Rink on January 7, joining two of hockey's other historic trophies -- the Hobey Baker Award and Patty Kazmaier Award -- for fans to enjoy and take photos with as party of the celebration commemorating the 100th year of Hobey Baker Rink.

You can get more information about the weekend right HERE.

Of course, that's a long way off still. First, there's the trip to Colorado, as 2022 reaches the finish line. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

TigerBlog starts today by reminding you that there is a home men's basketball game at 2 this afternoon in Jadwin Gym between Princeton and Kean, who is 12-0 on the season.

Of course, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and TigerBlog would like to share again what he posted last Christmas Eve, and the one before that, etc.

Have yourself a Merry Christmas.

TigerBlog has a large collection of Christmas songs on his iTunes.

He's always been a big fan of Christmas music. He was a trumpet player in high school, and he loved when the concert band, or the jazz band, played holiday music.

What's his favorite? 

It's probably not a shock to anyone who has read this for awhile to learn that it's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band version, of course. That's a big sticking point with TB.

It's the song, but it's also the artist. He's not interested in hearing anyone sing "Silver Bells" except for Dean Martin. The same goes for "Silent Night" and Emmylou Harris. 

It has to be Darlene Love's version of "Winter Wonderland," though his high school jazz band did do its own great version of the song.

"The Christmas Song?" If it's not Nat King Cole's voice that starts out with "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," it's likely TB won't even make it to "Jack Frost nipping at your nose." 

And does he even have to mention "White Christmas" and Bing?

He has his favorites. 

Having said all that, he does have to give honorable mention to the Beach Boys jazzed up version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."

Oh, and you know what he cannot stand, not even a little bit? TV commercials that substitute its own lyrics for classic Christmas songs. TB would rather listen to fingernails on blackboards.

Today, of course, is the day before Christmas. As he said last year (and the year before that and the year before that and so on and so on):

The surest way to get TigerBlog to tear up is invite him over, click HERE and to fast-forward to the 7:00 mark.

Never fails.

If you don't want to go through all that, then the link takes you to the last scene of the Christmas classic "It's A Wonderful Life."

The line that always, 100 percent of the time, brings a tear to TB's eyes is Harry Bailey's toast to his brother. TB could watch it in early July on a day far removed from Christmas and still it'll have the same effect.

Want to see some more of TB's favorite Christmas clips? Then watch one of these:

* the end scene from "A Christmas Story"

* bonus scene from the same movie

* Charlie Brown makes a bold purchase

* the Grinch's heart grows

* this one is more serious (go to the 20:00 mark)

* this one is the greatest ever version of any Christmas song ever performed 

* this one is second

* this is really cute

* and you can't watch the last one without this one

* oh, and here's one more. Is this a Christmas song, or a showtune? It's both.

* and the new addition for 2021.

* okay, two new additions

Merry Christmas everyone. Hopefully it's safe and happy. 

And he'll leave you today with this, which, unfortunately, is not available on iTunes, at least not by these guys. And this one especially has to be these guys. 


Thursday, December 22, 2022

All-Americans, USA Team Members, Home Basketball Game ... Go:

All-Americans, USA Team members, home basketball game ... Go:

* Roko Pozaric was named a second-team All-American in men's water polo earlier this week. Pozaric, a sophomore, is Princeton's first second-team selection since Peter Sabbatini in 2004. Pozaric was the Northeast Water Polo Conference Player of the Year after a season in which he led Princeton with 62 goals while adding 39 assists.

TigerBlog wrote this feature story about Pozaric a year ago, after his explosion onto the U.S. college water polo scene. It tells the story about how Pozaric made his way from Croatia to Princeton as the only member of his high school class to attend college in America.

Could Pozaric become the first Princeton men's water polo player to be a first-team All-American? He has two more years to do so. Of course, Princeton water polo has had a first-team All-American before, when Ashleigh Johnson of the women's team did so (in between winning Olympic gold medals).

In addition to Pozaric, Princeton had three other All-Americans, as Keller Maloney, Antonio Knez and Vladan Mitrovic were all honorable mention selections. It was the first time Princeton has had four All-Americans in one season.

(Non)-Coincidentally, Princeton set a program record with 27 wins this season and reached the NCAA quarterfinals. 

Princeton men's water polo has now had at least one All-American for 10 straight years.

* On the subject of All-Americans, Andrei Iosivas added two more such honors, including a first-team recognition by Phil Steele. One day earlier, he was named a Stats Perform FCS second-team All-American; his teammate Henry Byrd, an offensive lineman, was a third-team pick.

When that list came out, TB looked for the name Liam Johnson. Actually, he did a search for "Liam" and was momentarily excited when it turned up a third-team linebacker. Unfortunately, that linebacker was Liam Anderson of Holy Cross, not Princeton's Liam Johnson, who will have to settle this year for being the Bushnell Cup winner as Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.

He also did a search for "Dylan," hoping that Tiger wide receiver Dylan Classi would come up. There was one Dylan, New Hampshire's Dylan Laube, who was listed as an all-purpose player. Classi is more of a one-purpose player — catch the ball, something he did with amazing consistency his entire career. 

* When TigerBlog saw that Princeton men's lacrosse alums Tom Schreiber and Michael Sowers had been named to the United States team for next summer's World Championships in San Diego, his first thought was if they'd ever been teammates before.

The answer was no. Certainly their careers at Princeton didn't overlap, with Schreiber a 2014 grad and Sowers a 2020 grad. Schreiber is the highest-scoring middie Princeton has ever had; Sowers is the highest scorer period. Between them, they scored 502 points at Princeton, an astonishing total.

They both wore No. 22 at Princeton, by the way.  They've also both won titles with the U.S., Schreiber at the 2018 World Championships in Israel (where he scored the game-winner in the final against Canada with one second to go) and Sowers a year earlier in the U-19 World Championships, and both has a professional outdoor championship too.

With all due respect to every other team, it's very likely that the 2023 final will once again match the U.S. and Canada. It's also likely that it'll be Princeton against Princeton again, with Zach Currier surely to be on the Canadian team.

In its recent ranking of its Top 50 players, the Premier Lacrosse League ranked Schreiber first, Currier seventh and Sowers 10th, making Princeton the only school with three in the top 10.

* Speaking of honors and selections, TB has always though the same as what Dan Arestia, one of the top social media accounts in the sport of lacrosse, had to say after the U.S. team announcement was made:

He's 100 percent spot on. 

* The Princeton men's basketball team hosts Kean tomorrow afternoon at 2. It's the final Princeton Athletic event until the women's basketball teams hosts Rhode Island on the 28th (next Wednesday) and the final game for the men's basketball team until the Ivy opener against Harvard at 1 on New Year's Eve.

Kean, in addition to being the alma mater of Princeton Athletics' incredible IT guy Bryan Fitzwater, is also a perfect 12-0 on the season as it comes to Jadwin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

A Nostalgic Wednesday

TigerBlog begins today by wishing William Anderson a happy birthday.

Make that a Happy 21st birthday. How in the world can he be 21? 

William was five or so when TB first met him. His older brother Matthew was one of TigerBlog Jr.'s best friends growing up, and William was always tagging along no matter what they did. 

And a lot of what they did back then involved Princeton Athletics. TBJ and Matthew were ball boys at Princeton men's basketball for several years. They came to football games together. They came to just hang out in Jadwin. They loved watching lacrosse.

Through it all, William would be there too. He was also there in Matthew's backyard, where the three would play their own knockout version of lacrosse that more often than not ended up with William almost knocked out, literally, but persist he did. 

TigerBlog WROTE THIS back in 2011, when William spent a fall Saturday at Princeton back when he was a ballboy for Princeton men's basketball, something TBJ and Matthew had done too. It's hard to believe that it's been 11 years since, and that William is now 21, a college junior and a future physical therapist.

It's also hard to believe that the little kid from the Keystone State Games all those years ago grew up to be taller than TBJ or Matthew.

So happy birthday to William. Of course, having a birthday so close to Christmas means you're usually getting cheated out of presents, but hey, what can you do? 

Speaking of being close to Christmas, the Princeton Athletics schedule is fairly quiet this week. In fact, between this past weekend and then Dec. 28, there is exactly one event, the men's basketball home game Friday at 2 against Kean.

TigerBlog spent much of the 1990s traveling to in-season men's basketball tournaments the week before Christmas and the week after. Most of the events he attended no longer exist, but he's really glad he got the chance to experience then when he did. They took him to locations he might otherwise never have seen, and they really opened up this country to him.  

They were all pretty much the same. Fly out to the site the day before (sometimes on game day, with then radio play-by-play man Tom McCarthy. There'd be four teams who would be there, and there might be an event the day before. Then there would be two semifinals and then a consolation and final the next night. Then it was back on the plane. 

Way more often than not, the team would come home with trophies.

TB spent time in places like East Lansing, Mich., and El Paso, Texas. He made two trips to the state of Wisconsin, for a total of eight days, four each in Milwaukee and Green Bay. He's pretty sure the sun didn't come out once.

He went to a pair of these events at Iowa State. For the first, it was the highest recorded temperature in the state of Iowa in the month of December. For the second, he couldn't walk from the arena to the parking lot without getting frostbite. 

He also got to go to Hawaii, where the sun most definitely did come out. That trip, between Christmas and New Year's in 1998, remains one of his favorite times since he's worked at Princeton. 

Why is that? The Tigers defeated Florida State, Texas and Charlotte to win the Rainbow Classic. The team stayed right on Waikiki Beach. Because the team kept winning, it kept playing at night, which opened up the afternoons for beach time.

McCarthy was TB's roommate on that trip. They'd eat at Duke's, right on the beach, having the catch of the day with two scoops of macaroni salad. Then it would be off to the game. 

Where else did these tournaments take him? 

Fresno. Champagne, Illinois. New Orleans. Charlotte. And that's to name a few.

Each year when the schedule was being put together, one of TB's first questions was always about which tournaments the team would be attending. It was always fun to go someplace new.

Anyway, TB has shared those days with you before, so excuse him for repeating himself. It's a quiet week, after all, so he can be forgiven for a bit of nostalgia for your Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Almost Laxing

TigerBlog recently stood on Cocoa Beach just before sunset and looked straight up. 

There he saw a rocket as it lifted off from Cape Canaveral, which was about seven or miles away. The rocket, which was launching 84 satellites into orbit, flew right overhead on its way into outer space. After about two minutes, there was a separation of the rocket boosters, and the rocket itself went out of view, even against a crystal clear sky.

The boosters, though, weren't finished. They came back to Earth, not crashing into the ocean but instead landing perfectly on the same launchpad from where they had left a few minutes earlier. After that, there was a brief explosion of light, followed by a very loud sonic boom.

Can you imagine the satisfaction you must get being an aerospace engineer who designed a reusable rocket booster and then saw it work to perfection? 

On the amazingly cool scale of 1-10, the experience was about a 37. 

At first, by the way, TB was a bit surprised to find out that Cocoa Beach was a real place, and not the fictional town of Major Anthony Nelson and his genie. You have to be around TB's age to get that reference.

TB was in Florida for his first meeting as a member of the NCAA men's lacrosse Rules Committee. It might not be universally a 37 on the amazingly cool scale, but it is to TigerBlog. Talking about lacrosse rules all day and ways to improve the game? 

It's probably a 3 or 4 for you, but for TB, that's at least a 37. Plus, he's in Year 1 of a four-year term, so that's even better.

Speaking of lacrosse, the 2023 men's and women's Princeton lacrosse schedules were recently released. It might not be Christmas yet, but the first games for the 2023 season are less than two months away, with a Sherrerd Field doubleheader featuring the women against Virginia at noon and the men against Monmouth at 3. 

In fact, tickets for men's lacrosse go on sale today. For ticket information, click HERE. The men's schedule is HERE; the women's is HERE.

For the women, this is Year No. 1 under head coach Jenn Cook. For the men, this is the year after the Tigers returned to the Final Four.

If you want to see Princeton lacrosse at home, you'll have a lot of chances. Between them, the men and women play 15 home games, and eight of the men's 12 games are at home (including non-league games against Maryland and Georgetown on back-to-back weekends to end February and begin March).

The women will be replacing five four-year starters — the all-time leading scorer in program history, three defenders and a goalie. The Tigers obviously will have new faces throughout the lineup, and even familiar faces in different roles, but the team looked fast and focused in the fall.

As for the men, there are also several four-year starters to replace, on attack and defense, as well as a three-year starter in goal. Princeton returned to Championship Weekend a year ago, and the Tigers will begin the 2023 season ranked in the top seven or so of every poll.

Just as was the case the last few years, when Princeton was unranked in the preseason, the rankings before the games begin mean nothing. Princeton will have every chance to show what kind of team it is on the field, and each week will be a challenge.

Princeton has 12 regular season games. Of those 12, nine are against teams who were in the NCAA tournament a year ago, including the other three teams from last year's Final Four. Of the three who were not in the NCAA tournament last year, two of them played in the 2021 tournament – and the 12th team had a fourth-quarter lead on the Tigers a year ago.

Every team Princeton will play between Feb. 21 and April 1 was in the NCAA tournament last year. And which team will be the team that breaks that run? How about Syracuse, a team who seems ready for a major bounceback year. 

Syracuse, by the way, combined with Princeton to win every NCAA championship but two between 1992 and 2004. The teams also played four times in the NCAA final, splitting them.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Remembering Basketball On The East Side Of Kansas City

Wow, that was an incredible World Cup final.

TigerBlog, as you know, hates to see any game decided by penalty kicks, let alone the World Cup final. Then again, the game yesterday that had to have been the best World Cup final ever, and maybe the best game period, even with the PKs.

Argentina seemed to have it salted away twice first up 2-0 in regulation and then up 3-2 in OT. Of course, it only go to OT because Kylian Mbappe scored twice in less than two minutes to tie it up. Then, after Lionel Messi got his second of the day, Mbappe got his third, on a PK, to tie it and force PKs.

Mbappe and Messi both converted. Argentina would end up winning, 4-2. Even with the loss, it's possible that there has never been a better clutch performance by anyone to compare with what Mbappe did.

As TigerBlog watched the last few days of the World Cup, it still seemed so improbable that Grant Wahl wasn't there.

How could they keep playing without Grant? It hardly seemed real to consider that someone so young and vibrant, and someone so ubiquitous, could be gone, just like that. 

Now that this World Cup has faded into the past, it will be four more years until the next one, which will be held with an expanded field in the United States, Canada and Mexico. 

The three host nations will all automatically qualify. The field will go from 32 teams to 48, with 16 groups of three countries each. The top two advance to the 32-team, five-round knockout stage.

TB just assumed that Grant would be his source for any international and professional soccer information he needed between now and then.

Among the many, many tributes to Grant since his death was THIS PIECE on the Princeton Alumni Weekly website, written by Peter Barzilai ’97, whose wife Malena Salberg Barzelai, also Class of 1997, who was a member of the Daily Princetonian sports staff when Grant was co-sports editor, along with Nate Ewell. 

Justin Pope, another Prince staffer, had this quote in the story:

“For a very small group of us who were in that room with [Grant] every afternoon and a lot of evenings in ’94, ’95, and ’96, it was a golden era,” said Justin Pope ’97, co-sports editor in 1996-97. “There was this energy and kind of cockiness, and it came from the top, and he was the person who sat on that tower. Grant created an environment that people wanted to be a part of and wanted to do ambitious work.”

For TigerBlog, that story, and the pictures that accompanied it, brought back a flood of memories, and familiar names, from his time working in athletic communications while all of those students wrote for the Prince. Just is right. That was a golden era.

It was good to see their names and their very young faces — until TB remembered why he was seeing them. 

As near as TB can tell, Grant's first story as a Prince writer was on Sept. 16, 1992, when he wrote about the Princeton women's volleyball win over Rutgers. He then went on to cover cross country that fall, and then basically everything else along the way. 

His first soccer coverage was of Princeton's run to the 1993 NCAA Final Four, with wins over Columbia, Penn State and Hartwick. Grant wrote this as his lede for the Hartwick story:

November Madness? It may not have the same ring as its March counterpart, but does it really matter? Then again, does anything really matter about yesterday's NCAA men's soccer quarterfinal except for one simple thing? Princeton 3, Hartwick 0. 

TigerBlog was at all three of those games too. He wishes he could remember his interactions with Grant from those days, or from when they first met, which was likely before that at a football game. 

He'd love to know if Grant talked about loving soccer, or if those games played a huge role in his eventual love of the sport. 

Back then, Grant covered way more basketball and football than soccer. Basketball was his first love, really, or it least it seemed that way at the time. Soccer, though, is where he has left a legacy that will never be forgotten.

There will be other World Cups. Grant's total of World Cups covered will, tragically, be frozen forever at eight. TB will think of Grant any time he watches a game on that level, a game Grant would have probably covered, and he'll think about the college student he knew and the international figure he became, and all the times the two spoke during all those years.

As TB went through the Prince archives to follow Grant's progression, he came across this column that Grant wrote on Nov. 23, 1994. It was entitled "Remembering Basketball On The East Side Of Kansas City."

He leaves you with this for today:

Remembering Basketball On The East Side Of Kansas City • by Grant Wahl (Nov. 23, 1994) 

Last summer I stopped by Dr. Naismith's grave to pay my respects. The headstone wasn't ostentatious or anything — just a small, rough slab of granite resting in a quiet cemetery on the East Side of Lawrence, Kansas. East Side, quiet, resting — words that, at least for me, called to mind the best and worst of basketball, the game Dr. James Naismith invented late last century. 

I sat down next to the stone. It had not changed, I assumed, for 60 years. Yet in the past decade I had changed, and so had Sugarman. I knew it was all related to Dr. Naismith's game, so we talked for awhile. 

East Side, Kansas City, 1984. I've never played organized ball before, never had a black friend — never spent any time on the East Side, for that matter. My neighbor asked me to join his Salvation Army league two days ago. Now I'm dribbling, and this little guy with the deceiving smile and the hands, quick as a hummingbird's wings, hawks me until I hesitate, losing focus for that one millisecond.. . . SWlPE...gone the other way. Just like that. 

Frustration incarnate, all four feet of him, skitters toward the basket for another layup. He's still smiling. The gym regulars call him Sugarman, and he is the best player on his team. I happen to be the best player on the other team, not due to any acquired skill as much as my height, tallest in the league. Despite our physical mismatch, the coaches have us guard each other anyway. I bring the ball up the court, and he runs around the lane close to the hoop, so positions really don't matter. 

The game progresses, each team matching the other's points. Sugarman continues to smile and flit around like a water spryte, while I hold the ball above my head, out of his reach, and execute easy turn-around layups. Quiet. Not a sound echoes through the vacuum chamber of a gym while Sugarman shoots free throws. The only movement, it seems, is my sweat, dripping like a washerless faucet so that pools form on the warped wood floor at my feet. The sweat and the ball. He bounces it once, twice, spins it in his hands just like the pros. Silence. No clock on the wall shows the remaining time, but the volunteer referee said there wasn't much left. Sugarman brings the ball down to his waist, heaves it skyward. It glances off the rim's lip, down the cylinder, into the cords of the net. Resting. Gasping for air, hands on hips. 

Game over, the parents crawl out from the cubbyhole of seats in the dimly lit crackerbox gym. A young black woman, Sugarman's mother, approaches the two of us. "We're going to hear about you boys in high school," she says. For some reason I am crying. 

East Side, Kansas City, 1994. The area around the old community center where we played used to have basketball goals scattered among the broken glass and loose gravel. Today the glass remains, and so does the gravel. The backboards are there too, a bit rusty but still functional. But the rims have disappeared. Either that or they have been bent beyond recognition, the twisted iron wreckage of America's fascination with the slam dunk.

I haven't seen Sugarman since the last game of the season 10 years ago. It's a shame — at the time we both talked about playing basketball together the year after, and even in high school, like his mom said we would. But the following year I joined a suburban league closer to home, and I never did make the high school varsity team. 

On Saturdays I looked at the box scores from the previous night's high school games and hoped to see his name. Eventually, though, I realized that I didn't know him by any other name than Sugarman — even his mom called him Sugar — and they wouldn't put that in the box score. 

Quiet. No one is playing on the courts of the East Side, and it's mid-afternoon on a sunny summer day. I drove here, I suppose, hoping to see Sugarman, yet knowing that it wouldn't happen. If it couldn't be him, I at least wanted to witness the boy of 10 years ago, darting back and forth, stealing balls and running for uncontested layups. But today the courts are quiet, and the entrance to the community center with the crackerbox gym isn't bustling with boys and girls and basketballs, not the way it used to. Sugarman isn't here. Resting. 

For folks near the community center, white and black, the post-game hands on hips has been replaced by hands in pockets. The Salvation Army, it turns out, didn't have enough money to continue the league. 

For some reason I wasn't crying. I stood up and left Dr. Naismith's grave with a thank you and a request: that Sugarman is still smiling and playing his game, on the East Side of Kansas City or anywhere else.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Hooping It Up

The Ivy League men's and women's basketball tournaments will be held in Jadwin Gym this year.

Tickets for the two tournaments go on sale Monday, and you can get more information about the event HERE. The women's semifinals will be held on Friday, March 10, followed on the 11th by the men's semis and women's final and then the men's final Sunday the 12th at noon.

Of course, there hasn't been a single Ivy League regular season basketball game played yet, so talking about the tournament is a bit early. There is certainly anticipation on both the women's and men's side for what the league season will hold, but you'll have to wait until New Year's Eve for the first Ivy League regular season games to be played. 

Even at that point, the tournament will be more than two months away. Still, there's a lot of good stuff on the Ivy Madness website, including how to get tickets, which you should probably do sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, the Princeton women and men are continuing to move forward with their seasons and their pre-league prep.

The women defeated Rutgers last night 77-56 with an incredibly amazing second half that saw the Tigers outscore the Scarlet Knights 55-24. Yes, that is correct. 

It was a 32-22 Rutgers lead at the half, and it actually grew to a 15-point lead at 39-24 three minutes into the second half. From that point, it was a 53-17 Tiger run. Again, the math is correct.

It was a startling turnaround on the home court of a Big Ten team. Going from down 15 to winning by 21 and doing it in less than 17 minutes is not easy to do. 

Because it's the holiday season, TB will show you this tweet from the women's basketball team, as opposed to one of the highlights: 

Princeton had those four players in double figures, as Julia Cunningham, who grew up 10 miles from the building that to TigerBlog will always be the RAC, short for Rutgers Athletic Center, as opposed to its official name of Jersey Mike's Arena, eventually finished with 24. Cunningham went over the 900-point mark for her career and now is 96 away from the 1,000-point mark.

Speaking of New Jersey, Princeton's other New Jersey native, freshman Madison St. Rose, had her second double figure game with 10. St. Rose grew up in Old Bridge, 16 miles from the RAC.

Princeton also got big nights from Kaitlyn Chen, who had 17 points and seven assists, and Grace Stone, who went for 16 points and seven rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Ellie Mitchell was in double figures again, this time with 11.

You can see the Princeton men tonight at 7 in Jadwin Gym (or on ESPN+, SNY and NBC Sports Philadelphia) against Delaware. 

The Blue Hens bring a three-game winning streak and 6-4 overall record into the game. They're led by Jameer Nelson Jr., the son of the former St. Joe's and NBA star, who is averaging just short of 20 points pe game. Nelson earned CAA Player of the Week honors last week after scoring a career-high 30 in a 75-64 win over Siena.

Speaking of the CAA, this will be Princeton's fifth game this year against CAA teams, as the Tigers have defeated Towson, Monmouth and Drexel after losing to Hofstra. Delaware has played two Ivy teams to date, having lost to Penn and Cornell. The Blue Hens also have a loss to Air Force, coached by Princeton alum Joe Scott, whose son Jack is a freshman for Princeton.

You can drive from Delaware's campus to Princeton's campus in little more than an hour. For some reason, neither team has made that drive for a long time, as tonight's game is the first between the two since 1990. That's a long time ago.

TB was at that game, by the way. Princeton won 58-41, led by 13 from Jerry Doyle, 12 from Kit Mueller and 11 from Sean Jackson.

That's the last time they played. That changes tonight at 7.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Take It To The Banks

The King's residence in Marrakesh is bordered on one side by a cemetery and on the other by a strip mall.

It is one block away from the entrance to one of the city's famous markets, and apparently the King will leave the residence and walk into the marketplace to get something to eat or just be around the citizens. Can you imagine that? You're on line for pizza, and the King walks in and asks for two slices and a Cherry Coke? 

For that reason alone, TigerBlog was rooting for Morocco in the World Cup semifinal yesterday.

As it turned out, France scored early and late and survived the Moroccan opportunities in between to win 2-0, setting up a final match Sunday between the French and Argentina. From what TB has seen from this World Cup, these are clearly the two best teams.

More than that, they seem to have the two best players, Lionel Messi of Argentina and Kylian Mbappe of France. Their immense skills were all over the two semifinal games, in which both were dominant with the ball, making everyone around them better.

Should France win the game Sunday, it would become the third team to win back-to-back World Cups, after Italy in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962. If nothing else, TB hopes it doesn't end on penalty kicks.

There is not a lot on the Princeton Athletic calendar between now and the World Cup final, or, for that matter, now and the week between Christmas and New Year's. 

There are two men's basketball games, one Friday night at home against Delaware and another Dec. 23 against Kean, also at home. There is a diving event at the University of West Virginia that runs from today through the weekend.

Also tonight, there is a women's basketball game at Rutgers, on the Banks of the Ol' Raritan, as they like to sing there. It's the first time since 2017 that these teams will play.

Did you know that Rutgers has only ever had three full-time head women's basketball coaches? Also, while you definitely know that the first football game ever played was between Princeton and Rutgers, did you know that the first Rutgers women's basketball game was also against Princeton? 

That game was on Dec. 17, 1974, or 48 years ago tomorrow. Rutgers had a part-time coach named Ellen Johns, and another part-time coach a year later named Dottie McCrea.

The following year, Rutgers hired its first full-time women's basketball coach. Perhaps you remember the name Theresa Grentz? She led the Scarlet Knights to national prominence, including the 1982 AIAW championship over Texas, one year before the NCAA tournament began.

When Grentz left Rutgers to go to Illinois in 1995, she was replaced by C. Vivian Stringer, who retired at the end of last season. What do Grentz and Stringer have in common? For one thing, they're both in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

The third full-time Rutgers women's basketball coach is Coquese Washington, who took over for Stringer after 12 years at Penn State. She must have circled Dec. 30 on her calendar when the season started, since that's the day Rutgers head to State College to take on her old team.

Her first Rutgers team comes into the game tonight with a record of 5-7. Princeton is 6-3 after its 62-47 win over Delaware this past Sunday. 

The teams have two common opponents, Seton Hall (Princeton won 62-58, Rutgers lost 75-57) and Texas (Princeton lost 74-50, Rutgers lost 82-44). Rutgers also has a 71-52 win over Cornell, a team Princeton will host Jan. 7.

The Tigers will be a bit busy between now and Cornell, or at least after Christmas. Princeton will be off after the game tonight until a home game at 2 against Rhode Island on Dec. 28, which is followed by the Ivy League opener at Harvard at noon on New Year's Eve. After that will be the home game against Columbia, Jan. 6 at 7, with Cornell the following night.

For a few individual notes, there's this: 1) Ellie Mitchell is third in the nation in rebounds per game at 12.7; 2) Kaitlyn Chen is the team's leading scorer at 14.6 per game and 3) Julia Cunningham has 880 career points as she chases the 1,000-point mark. 

Tip tonight is at 7 in Piscataway.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Congratulations Are In Order

Congratulations to Syracuse on its 2022 NCAA men's soccer championship.

The Orange certainly earned it, winning the first four NCAA games by one goal (including over Penn and Cornell) and then taking the championship game against Indiana in penalty kicks after a 2-2 game. The PK round was 4-4 after each team had five shots, and Syracuse would eventually win it 7-6.

As you should know, TigerBlog hates having penalty kicks decide knockout soccer games, whether it be the World Cup or the NCAA tournament. Fortunately, the first World Cup semifinal between Argentina and Croatia didn't go to PK's; hopefully today's game between defending champion France and massive underdog Morocco doesn't either.

This quote from Syracuse coach Ian McIntyre didn't change TB's thinking on the subject:

"Penalties become a bit of a lottery, but when you've got guys as courageous as these boys, you know you've got a chance."

Is that how championships should be decided? Lotteries? No.

If you're worried about games that drag on forever, then do what field hockey does — put fewer players on the field for OT. 

Speaking of field hockey, congratulations to Beth Yeager for becoming Princeton's first player to be first-team All-American as a freshman and sophomore. Also, congratulations to Hannah Davey on being a second-team pick (should have been first team) for the second time in her career, once on offense and now this year on defense.

Oh, and by the way, Syracuse's McIntyre was a member of the Hartwick team that lost to Princeton 3-0 in the 1993 NCAA quarterfinals as the Tigers reached the Final Four under Bob Bradley.

While TB is bouncing all over the place here, and speaking of great honors for Princeton athletes, he'd like to congratulate Liam Johnson on winning the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Defensive Co-Player of the Year, sharing the award with Harvard's Truman Jones.

This was a great quote from Johnson afterwards: 

"Individual awards are a testament to the support system around you and there is no greater support system than my family which eats, sleeps, and breathes the game in every aspect of life."

That's so true on every level. First, almost no football player ever won an individual award without having great teammates and a great supporting cast around him. There are a few exceptions that come to mind (Bo Jackson, Earl Campbell), but football is one of the ultimate team games, and an award like this for Johnson doesn't happen without his teammates.

Second, his family is certainly a football family. As TB has written before, Liam's brothers Tom and James were also first-team All-Ivy League selections who led the Tigers in tackles, as Liam did this year.

The other thing about an award like this is that it comes from being recognized by the league's head coaches. That's a huge sign of respect. 

As a junior, Johnson can make a run at the award again next year. Should he do so, he'd become only the sixth player in league history to win two Bushnell Cups. Can you name the five who have done so? One of them should be really, really easy, while another should be almost as easy. 

TB will give you a few seconds to think about it. 

In the meantime, here's the list of Princeton players who have won the Bushnell Cup since the award debuted in 1970:

Walt Snickenberger, RB, 1974
Jason Garrett, QB, 1988
Judd Garrett, RB, 1989
Keith Elias, RB, 1993
David Patterson, LB, 1995
Jeff Terrell, QB, 2006
Mike Catapano, DL, 2012
Quinn Epperly, QB, 2013
Mike Zeuli, LB, 2014
John Lovett, QB, 2016
Chad Kanoff, QB, 2017
John Lovett, QB, 2018
Jeremiah Tyler, 2021
Liam Johnson, 2022

Ah, TB gave away one of the two-time winners, the one he would consider the really, really easy one for Princeton fans to know. The first two-time winner, by the way, is the one that's almost as easy.

Ed Marinaro (Cornell running back, 1970-71, he's the almost as easy one)
John Pagliaro (Yale running back, 1976-77)
Carl Morris (Harvard wide receiver, 2001-02)
Zack Hodges (Harvard defensive lineman, 2013, 14)
John Lovett (Princeton quarterback, 2016, 18, he's the really, really easy one)

Congratulations to Liam Johnson, and to his family. It's a well-earned award.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Guest TigerBlog - Nate Ewell On Grant Wahl

When TigerBlog first heard of the death of Grant Wahl, the first person he thought of was Nate Ewell, who was a co-sports editor of the Daily Princetonian with Grant in the 1990s. 

They made the perfect college journalist pair, both so far advanced for their age. They both earned TB's immediate respect, and he has liked both of them very much ever since.

As Grant grew into one of the greatest soccer journalists ever, Nate embarked on his own career in hockey. Today he is the Vice President of Communications and Content for the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights.

TB offered Nate the opportunity to write something about his dear friend Grant. Much like TB's piece yesterday, Nate's was awful to have to write and came straight from the heart:

It’s awfully unfair to try to write about someone who was the most gifted writer I ever knew.


They don’t ask short people to dunk when a basketball player dies.


But I also don’t know what else to do, and of course it’s all so unfair. Grant Wahl should be the one writing. Not about Grant Wahl, but about the 2022 World Cup. Writing about the broader issues in sport and society, and all that makes the game and the world beyond so beautiful.


Grant was a beautiful writer, but as the dozens of tributes to him since his awful, untimely death have pointed out, he was so much more than that.


I was fortunate enough to befriend Grant when we were young, aspiring sportswriters at The Daily Princetonian. We became sports editors of the paper, both so committed to its success that sometimes people mistook me for him. After all, when you look at someone – full head of hair or not – you can’t tell if they are a brilliant writer. So I’d smile and nod: “That column you loved – my friend Grant wrote that.”


There was no shame being second-fiddle to Grant Wahl when it came to writing. In fact, when I was named the Prince’s sophomore “Sportswriter of the Year,” it was an open joke how fortunate I was that Grant caught mono that spring. I can’t recall exactly, but it might have been mentioned when the editor presented me the award.


Besides being a great writer, Grant was a lover of Cadbury CrΓ¨me Eggs, a fierce state of Kansas loyalist and a perfectly average golfer for my game. I couldn’t write like him, but neither of us could hit a long iron.


The summer after recovering from mono, Grant spent about six weeks in Boston with me. We played FIFA on Sega Genesis, and he went to his first World Cup match. So did I; he just never stopped going.


When we got back to campus, we prepared to take on sports editor duties that winter. With the help of deputy sports editor Malena Salberg Barzilai ’97 and an incredible staff, we took it very seriously. Sports in the Prince started on the back page, and we asked for more and more pages every day so we could tell the Tigers’ stories. Half-jokingly we called it “Manifest Destiny” as sports took over more of the paper. There was a little cockiness there, but some truth as our department grew. It was a source of pride for both of us that Malena and fellow sports department alum Rick Klein ’98 were named the next two Editors-in-Chief.


We were ambitious. He was compassionate, hilarious, tireless and – it can’t be said enough – brilliant. I thought we complemented each other well, but I always knew I was also along for a ride.


I’ve often thought that one of the things that makes Princeton special is how much you learn from the people who aren’t necessarily your teachers. For me, that meant Bill Tierney. TigerBlog and his old boss, Kurt Kehl. Furman Witherspoon. And undoubtedly Grant.


I kept learning from Grant up until we last talked, for 45 minutes last month. He helped me understand some soccer – or football – topics that were hitting my inbox. But mostly we caught up on our lives, and all that has happened since those days at 48 University Place.


We agreed we should talk more. And it’s all so unfair that we can’t.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Mourning Grant

TigerBlog will hate every word he's about to write.

He hates it so much that he is struggling to bring himself to get it out at all. Maybe if he doesn't, he keeps thinking, then maybe it didn't really happen.

Why can't this just be a regular Monday, one with a discussion of the weekend in basketball or hockey, or maybe some words about Liam Johnson and how today is the Bushnell Cup day? Why couldn't that be the case?

If the conversation today happened to turn to the World Cup, it would be about how Morocco has made it to the semifinals. The streets of Marrakesh are crazy on a normal day; what must they be like now? 

Sadly, tragically, horrifically, though, this is not a normal day.

Grant Wahl has passed away. He was only 48 years old.

Those words really sting. TB hates writing them.

To most of the world, Grant Wahl was the premiere soccer journalist ever from America and one of the greatest ever from any country. Grant's death has brought an outpouring of sympathy from athletes, politicians (including the Governor of New Jersey), fans and especially his fellow writers. 

To TigerBlog, Grant Wahl, Class of 1996, was more than that. Grant was the guy he met back in the mid-1990s, back when Grant was a student worker in the Office of Athletic Communications and one of the sports editors of the Daily Princetonian. TB knew Grant to be exactly who he was: kind, friendly, funny, strong and pretty much any other positive quality you want to ascribe to someone. 

What stood out first about Grant all those years ago was his ability to write. There are not many who are good writers at a young age, and even fewer who are great writers by that point.

TB has never seen anyone who could write like Grant could as a college student. Certainly TB himself couldn't do it.

Grant was great at telling stories, legendarily so, even back then. His writing was superb, entertaining, well-crafted. More than anything else, though, it was, in a word, mature. If you read what he wrote, you would never have guessed that it came from someone so young.

He wrote this after Princeton's 10-10 tie with Dartmouth on the final day of the 1995 football season, a tie that earned the Tigers an outright Ivy League championship:

A glance at each of the sidelines after Sierk's kick revealed much more than than the hollow-gutted ambivalence that normally accompanies such results.

That's John McPhee-level stuff there. 

That writing skill stayed with him as he grew into that maturity. What he came to develop beyond that was the ability to write difficult truths, and even more difficult opinions. 

If Grant's writing was defined by its maturity as a college student, it was defined by his courage as an adult. That's not a common trait. Most writers want to be liked, especially by the subjects of their writing. It's tough to put that natural feeling aside and hold people accountable, and it's even tougher to do so and then go right into the lions' den of a lockerroom afterwards.

It may not get you liked. It will get you respected. Grant? He had everyone's respect. Perhaps the root of this began with his senior thesis at Princeton, entitled "Playing the Political Game: Soccer Clubs in Argentine Civil Society."

Grant died while literally writing a story at the World Cup about the game between the Netherlands and Argentina. It was the eighth World Cup that he covered. 

If you had been following Grant in Qatar, then you know that, as always, Grant was not afraid to write what he thought needed to be said.

Grant wrote for the Miami Herald before going to Sports Illustrated, where his piece on LeBron James when James was a high school junior really introduced the longtime NBA superstar to the American sporting public. Grant would write more amazing feature stories at the magazine, and he'd embrace the changing media landscape by sharing his voice on his website, on his podcasts and on his social media feeds in a way that really connected him to his followers and gave a real insight to who he was.

TB and Grant had stayed in touch through the years. TB often reached out to him to let him know that a particular story was very impressive, and Grant would reach out to tell TB the same. Every time TB heard from him, it took him back to when they met, and it always, without fail, reminded him of how much he really liked him.

TB was not alone in that.

When the news broke Friday night of Grant's passing, TB's phone began to blow up with text messages, mostly from the others who knew him at Princeton and who followed him through the years. They were all stunned and saddened by the news, and they all had memories of Grant that they wanted to share.

It was from the first of these messages that TB learned the news in the first place. When he looked at the words, he didn't believe them. When he woke up Saturday morning, he thought he'd imagined them or dreamed them. These words couldn't be true. No way.

Of course, they were real. Horrible. Tragic. Unfathomable. But real nonetheless.

Grant Wahl was a was a great journalist. His legacy and impact will be felt for a very long time in the world of soccer.  

At the same time, his loss will be felt by those who knew him. TB's sympathies go to those closest to him, especially his wife Dr. Celine Gounder ’97.

For TigerBlog, he'll remember Grant from their days together in Jadwin Gym and from the pride he took in watching his career move forward all these years. He'll remember him for the wonderful person he always was.

And he'll remember how much he hated writing about his death, the unfairness of it, the shock of it, the emptiness of it. 

Oh, for this to have been just another Monday.

Friday, December 9, 2022

An Almost At UConn

UConn 69, Princeton 64? 

That was an extraordinary performance by the Princeton women's basketball team last night, on the home court of the powerhouse in NCAA women's basketball history. There were 8.731 fans in Storrs last night, and that fan base is not used to seeing games on the Gampel Pavilion court that are close in the final minutes. 

The game last night? Would it be close in the final quarter? Um, yes. Princeton went from down 12 at the end of the third to almost pulling this one out. 

Princeton cut it to two twice in the final 46 seconds and had a chance to tie with time ticking away. You don't need to know anything else other than that to know that this was an amazing effort by the Tigers.

It would have been easy for Princeton to fold its tent in the final quarter and see the final margin reach 20 or more. Instead, Princeton scrapped to the buzzer, even with Julia Cunningham limited to 28 minutes due to foul trouble. 

Grace Stone led the Tigers with 20, and Kaitlyn Chen had another big game, with 18 points and seven assists. In the end, though, it was a career-best 29 points from Aubrey Griffin, the daughter of former Seton Hall star and longtime NBA player Adrian Griffin, that did in Princeton. Aubrey Griffin was ridiculous against Princeton, attempting 17 shots (from the field and foul line combined) and seeing 16 go in. Griffin was 11 for 11 from the field; had she been merely 10 for 11, it might have been a different ending.

Griffin's numbers sparked UConn to a 60 percent shooting night from the field and 50 percent from three-point range. Carla Berube, the Princeton head coach, learned the importance of defense as a player on that court in the 1990s, when she was part of one of UConn's 11 NCAA titles. 

Berube's Princeton teams have embraced her defense-first philosophy, and the Tigers are not used to allowing the shooting percentage numbers that UConn, one of the top shooting teams in the country, put up.

If you knew prior to the game that UConn was going to have a 60 percent shooting night and make half its threes, you would have guessed the final score would be a blowout. Berube's teams, though, do what great defensive teams do on nights when the other team's shots are falling: they cause turnovers.

Last night, UConn turned it over 27 times. This is a team that averaged pretty much half that number coming into the game.

Berube's teams play hard and tough, and that's what happened last night. It's the same attitude that allowed Princeton to beat Kentucky and lose to Indiana by one in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.

A win over Indiana would have meant a Sweet 16 game against UConn. Instead, Princeton had to wait until last night to get its shot at the Huskies. And yes, UConn is battling injuries. But this is still UConn you're talking about. There are no slouches on that team. It's filled with the best of the best — and Princeton gave them all they could handle.

The Ivy League season will start for the women at Harvard at noon on New Year's Eve, and then there is a Jan. 6 home game against Columbia. Those are dates to circle on your calendar. 

The Tigers have three games before then, beginning at home against Delaware Sunday at 6, in the second event at Jadwin that day, after the wrestling team hosts Rutgers at 2. The other two women's basketball games this month are at Rutgers Thursday and then home against Rhode Island on Dec. 28.

As December rolls along, there will be fewer and fewer events. This weekend will not have a lot going on, but most of what is will be at home. 

In addition to women's basketball and wrestling, Jadwin will also see a men's basketball game tomorrow against Monmouth tomorrow at 7 and a track and field meet during the day. 

There are also two home men's hockey games, against RPI tonight and Union tomorrow, both at 7. The women are on the road, with two games at Mercyhurst.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Homecoming Night In Storrs

If you'd like to join TigerBlog this afternoon at 5:27, you'll find him on Cocoa Beach in Florida.

Why such an exact time? That's when there will be a lift-off from the Kennedy Space Center, which is about five miles north of where TB is staying. Apparently, the beach is the place to watch the lift, something that TB finds quite fascinating.

By the way, if you're flying to Orlando at this time of year, you're likely to encounter a planeload of families with little children on their way to Disney (as opposed to someone on his way to the IMCLA lacrosse convention and NCAA men's lacrosse rules committee meetings). There are even those dressed in matching family outfits, with the words "Disney Christmas 2022" on them and then "Mom," "Dad," Grandma" or the kid's name on each person's individual shirt.

There was a baby two rows in front of TB on yesterday's flight out of Trenton, one who howled a lot — and loudly. There's a child with a future in opera. The screaming didn't bother TB. He more felt sorry for the two parents, who were trying everything, bless their hearts.

Back on July 15, TigerBlog wrote that Dec. 8 was a date to circle on your calendar. He didn't realize at the time that for him, this would mean watching a rocket take off while standing on a beach near sunset. 

No, that was the day that it was announced that the Princeton women's basketball team would be playing at UConn, with tip tonight at 7 in Storrs.

The game matches Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma against one of his former players, current Tiger head coach Carla Berube. While at UConn, Berube put up 1,379 career points and 678 career rebounds while shooting almost 40 percent from three-point range.

UConn went 132-8 in Berube's four years there, including a perfect 35-0 her sophomore year of 1995, which ended with the NCAA championship. Since graduation, Berube has kept up the winning ways she inherited from her coach, with an emphasis on defense and winning championships.

In fact, here is Berube's record:

A a player: 132-8
As head coach at Tufts: 384-96
As head coach at Princeton: 56-8

That adds up to 573-112. That means that as a player and head coach, Carla Berube has won 84 percent of her games. That seems pretty good.

TB has been trying to think of examples of other times when a Princeton coach has gone against the coach after winning a national championship under that coach as a player. The first two who jump to mind are field hockey coaches Carla Tagliente and Dina Rizzo, who won an NCAA title under Missy Merharg and now have coached against her every year at Princeton.

The matchup tonight at UConn has the 5-2 Tigers taking on a UConn team that reached the NCAA final a year ago (falling to South Carolina) and is coming off its first loss of this season, a 74-60 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend this past Sunday.

Princeton and UConn have never met, but this will be the 29th game between the Huskies and an Ivy team. The record? UConn has a 19-9 edge. If that surprises you, consider that all nine Ivy wins predate 1980, that Auriemma has never lost to an Ivy team and that none of his games against Ivy teams have been particularly close.

Princeton almost got to play UConn last year in the NCAA Sweet 16, but the Tigers fell by a point at Indiana in the second round, after beating Kentucky in the first round. 

As you know, Berube has built her teams around defense. The challenge tonight is a simple one, get her team to play to its motto of "Get Stops," as opposed to having UConn play to the motto of the Princeton men ("Make Shots"). 

And UConn makes shots as well as anyone, as the team ranks second in the country in three-point shooting percentage at 43 percent and third in the country in overall field goal percentage at 51.6 percent. UConn is also third in the country in assists per game, and the Huskies' Nika Muhl is Division I's leader in assists per game.

TB told you nearly five months ago to circle this date. Now it's here, and he was right with what he said back then.

Regardless of what happens, it'll be a fantastic experience for the Tigers, and a special night for their coach.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Wheels Up Wednesday

TigerBlog has a plane to catch today, which he'll explain later. In the meantime, here are a few topics for your Wednesday:

* Today is Dec. 7, which, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt correctly predicted 81 years ago, is in fact a day that lives in infamy.

Dec. 7 would be joined a little less than 60 years later by another such day, Sept. 11.

As you know, today is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the United States into World War II. Roosevelt, as well as Winston Churchill, had intelligence suggesting the attack would be launched on Thailand, but neither wanted to take any offensive action, for fear of provoking the Japanese. That all became moot on the morning of Dec. 7 in Hawaii.

TigerBlog has been to Pearl Harbor. He was there in late December of 1998 with the Princeton men's basketball team, who defeated Florida State, Texas and Charlotte to win the Rainbow Classic. While there, Gabe Lewullis scored his 1,000th career point. 

That tournament remains one of TB's favorite weeks in all of his time at Princeton.

During one of the afternoons, TB and Tom McCarthy rode out to Pearl Harbor to see it for themselves. It's always eerie to be at a place of such historical significance, especially one with such a loss of life. Looking up at the sky and looking out at the harbor, it's easy to imagine the U.S. battleships as sitting ducks that morning. 

If you have never seen it, today would be a good day to watch "From Here To Eternity."

* Speaking of men's basketball, TigerBlog meant to link to THIS PIECE on Princeton's Tosan Evbuomwan yesterday.

TB loves these kinds of stories. They're a great way to get to know someone in ways that aren't visible when they play.

* TigerBlog gets more done when he has something on in the background, as opposed to just a quiet room. To that end it would be nice if there were major sporting events on TV during the day every working day. The World Cup, for instance, is perfect for this. The commentators' voices blend into the background, and then when something big happens, their voice crescendos, so you know there's something to see at that moment.

There were all kinds of crescendos in the Portugal-Switzerland game yesterday, and most of them involved 21-year-old Goncarlo Ramos, who scored three times in the 6-1 Portuguese win while playing in place of Cristiano Ronaldo. If the Brazilian goal that TB mentioned yesterday was a thing of beauty, then the first from Ramos yesterday was just sheer power.

TB was rooting for Portugal, mostly because of Francisco, the tour guide from the men's lacrosse team's trip there in 2016. TB even texted him after the game to say congrats. 

As for the first game yesterday, TigerBlog and Mrs. TB were in Morocco over the summer. Perhaps there are better times to visit than July, since it was 114 degrees.

Perhaps yesterday would have been a better time, in fact, after the Moroccans advanced to the World Cup quarterfinal by shocking Spain on penalty kicks after a 0-0 tie through regulation and 30 minutes of overtime. The streets, and especially the Souks, were buzzing despite the summer heat; TB can't imagine what it must have been like there after the win.

And yes, the drama of the PKs was immense, but TB still thinks that it's a terrible way to decide a World Cup knockout round game. Morocco's defending was astounding throughout the entire game, and there were a few opportunities on counters. Still, it's obvious that the game would be played differently, with a different mentality, if you knew you had to score to win.

There was a wonderful moment before the shootout, when the two goalkeepers walked towards the goal together, arm in arm. It really captured what sports are supposed to be about. 

Also, here's a question: Why do the goalkeepers guess, instead of react, to the shot on a PK? It doesn't make sense to TB. Just do what the Moroccan shooters did: Aim right down the middle.

* TigerBlog is on his way to Florida today for his first NCAA men's lacrosse Rules Committee meeting (does TB's committee have the authority to make the official time be kept on the scoreboard in professional and international soccer?). 

This is a huge deal for TB. It's rare, and possibly unprecedented, for someone whose background is completely in communications to have the opportunity to be a part of a committee like this and have such an opportunity to make an impact on how the game is played.

To be honest, he has no idea what to expect as he dives in, but he's very much looking forward to it.

* Yesterday was Ford Family Director of Athletcs John Mack's birthday. TigerBlog texted him early in the morning to wish him the best. 

During the day, TB went back into the blog archives and happened upon this, from 2012:

Realizing that today was Mack's birthday, TB immediately texted his friend in Illinois and mentioned that he assumed that by now Mack must be older than TB is.

There was a pretty good Abbott an Costello bit in which Bud confuses Lou about how much older he is than a little girl:
ABBOTT: You’re 40 she’s 10. You’re four times as old as that girl. Now you couldn’t marry her, so you wait 5 years. Now the little girl is 15, you’re 45. You’re only three times as old as that little girl, so you wait 15 years more. Now the little girl is 30, you’re 60. You’re only twice as old as that little girl.
COSTELLO: She’s catching up.
ABBOTT: Well, yes, yes. Now here’s the question. How long do you have to wait until you and that little girl are the same age? Well?
COSTELLO: What kind of question is that?
ABBOTT: Answer the question.
COSTELLO: That’s ridiculous. What’s ridiculous?
ABBOTT: If I keep waiting for her she’ll pass me up.
COSTELLO: What are you talking about?
ABBOTT: She’ll wind up older that me. 

TB and Mack have gone through the same type of argument many times, and still do, to this day, Mack has actually not caught up.

So anyway, happy birthday to John Mack. Jadwin Gym isn't the same place without him.

Who knew that Mack would again be a huge part of Jadwin a decade later? 

* Tomorrow's topic? It should be obvious.