Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Caps, Gowns, Competitions

The population of the town of Princeton essentially doubles during Reunions.

On an average day, the population is around 30,000. For Reunions and Commencement, that's about how many non-residents flock here.

It's loud, energetic and packed, starting on Thursday. The momentum builds and builds, through Reunions and Class Day and then finally to Commencement. 

And then? Everyone leaves. The campus goes from all that jazz to something of a ghost town. 

Each time TigerBlog experiences it, he has the same sense. It's eerie. 

Princeton celebrated its 276th Commencement yesterday. This is from the program for the event:

Princeton traces its founding to a royal charter granted on October 22,1746, by King George the Second of England. The first Commencement Exercises were held in 1748, in Newark, then home of the College of New Jersey, as Princeton was originally called. Six students were graduated at the first Commencement. One of Princeton’s first graduate students was James Madison 1771, later the fourth president of the United States. He remained at the college after graduation to continue his studies with President John Witherspoon, who was the only college president as well as the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. Systematic graduate instruction began in the 1870s, and the Graduate School, as it is known today, was formally organized in 1900. Princeton’s Commencements have been held in late spring only since 1844. Before then the ceremony took place in the fall because
the College was in session all summer long. Since the College moved to Princeton in 1756, Commencement has been held in a variety of locations on or near campus, including Alexander Hall,
the First Presbyterian Church, and Nassau Hall. From 1922 until 2019, the front lawn of Nassau Hall (known as front campus) was the site of Commencement, weather permitting. Commencement was held for the first time in Princeton Stadium in May 2021.

It was back in the football stadium yesterday. The processional began at 9:30; by mid-afternoon you couldn't tell that anything had happened on campus, as all of the grads headed into the next chapters of their lives. 

Actually, make that almost all of the grads. Graduation may have come and gone, but the 2022-23 athletic year at Princeton still has some big moments left.

There are still five teams who are competing for national championships: men's heavyweight rowing, men's lightweight rowing, women's lightweight rowing, men's track and field and women's track and field. Out of those groups, it would be far more shocking if no Princetonians won national championships than if they did.  

The Intercollegiate Rowing Association has its national championships from Friday through Sunday on Mercer Lake. The three finals, all of which Princeton figures to reach, will be held Sunday morning in less than one hour, beginning with the women's lightweight final at 10 and followed by the men's lightweights at 10:20 and men's heavyweights at 10:40.

The IRA championships website, which has any kind of information you might want about the racing, can be found HERE.

The women's open team competed this past weekend at the NCAA championships, which were on the Cooper River in South Jersey. Princeton came in third, behind Stanford and Washington, giving the Tigers a second-straight third-place finish in the overall team sports standings. 

The Princeton women's lightweights are the two-time defending champion and are unbeaten on the year. The two men's crews will be right in the mix as well.

Then there is the NCAA track and field championships, which will be held at the University of Texas June 8-10. Princeton has qualified four athletes after last week's regionals.

On the women's side, Kate Joyce will be back in the finals in the javelin, looking for her second-straight All-American performance. Joyce, a junior from Connecticut, was the 12th place finisher at the East regional, making her the final athlete from that group to advance to Austin.

On the men's side, Nicholas Bendtsen finished fourth in his heat of the 5,000 meters to advance. Bendtsen, also from Connecticut, was fourth at Heps in the 5,000.

Of course, there are also the Guttormsen brothers, Sondre and Simen, who are back for the final go-round as Princeton Tigers, though not in their final collegiate seasons. In fact, the Norwegian pole vaulters will be competing on the same track that will become their home next year, when they join Texas as grad transfers.

Sondre is chasing his fourth NCAA pole vault title, having won twice indoors and once outdoors. Simen finished fourth indoors and outdoors last year and didn't compete this year indoors due to an injury.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The End Of The Road

 A wise man once wrote this about Reunions at Princeton University:

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.

Okay, that wise man was TigerBlog, who wrote that a year ago. It's true, of course — there is nothing quite like Reunions. 

If you were anywhere around Princeton this weekend, you saw it. You don't even have to go into one of the Reunions tents. You can just walk around the campus, or even just on Nassau Street, and you'll be overwhelmed by the school spirit. 

TigerBlog has also said this before, but it's also remains true (he paraphrases himself, if such a thing is possible): There is no place else that does Reunions like this.

TB has been to about two hours of alumni days at his own alma mater in the four decades since he went there. It's not because he didn't like it there. It's not even that school spirit doesn't exist there, though TB is probably not the measuring stick for Penn school spirit. 

Again, it's simply that Princeton seems to breed loyalty better than any other place.

It starts from Day 1, or pre-Day 1, with acceptance letters and orientations. They all stress that you are now part of a class, and that you and that class will grow together. 

You are constantly reminded of your class. At last week's Gary Walters Princeton Varsity Club Banquet, TB's nametag had his name and then "P ’22," something in which he takes enormous pride — and he didn't do any of the work.

It's a long ride from getting an acceptance letter to Princeton and the euphoria it brings and Graduation Day. There is a lot to be done along the way, and each and every Princeton student has that moment, or moments, where getting to Graduation Day seems so far away, so out of reach.

Today is Graduation Day for the Class of 2023. Like the other classes affected by the pandemic, this class had to deal with yet another curveball that other classes never dreamed of dealing with in their days. There are quite a few grads today who started out in the Class of 2022 whose time to put on a cap and gown was delayed for a year when they took a gap year. 

TB hasn't missed too many Graduation Days in his years at Princeton. He's always loved to watch the processional and recessional and see all of the athletes he's watched through the years make the walk back together. 

A year ago, TigerBlog was a parent at Graduation. To all of the parents of all of the grads, you cannot even begin to be prepared for the kind of pride you're going to feel as you watch the ceremony. It was as emotional a moment as TB has ever experienced.

To everyone in the Class of 2023, congratulations on what you have accomplished. You are part of an extraordinarily special group of people, a small club of Princeton University graduates. 

It's not an easy accomplishment. Princeton has very high standards and expectations, and they are not up for debate. You cannot coast your way through Princeton University as a student.

And now you've cleared all of those hurdles. It's something that can never be taken away from you. 

It's the end of a long weekend of love for Princeton, by Princetonians of all ages and classes, all of whom come together under the one gigantic Orange and Black umbrella. 

It ends today with something very, very special.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Celebrating The Athletic Class of 2023

The nearly 700 attendees at last night's Gary Walters Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet in Jadwin Gym walked past this on their way into the building:

In fact, so did the thousands and thousands of others who passed by Jadwin on their way to and from the tents and parties that Reunions offers. 

It's a testament to what the Class of 2023 accomplished during its time at Princeton, though it's only a partial testament. The actual numbers are fairly staggering.

A year ago, Princeton won 16 league championships. This year, Princeton won 16 league championships. 

Princeton's Class of 2023 produced 45 team national tournament appearances, 63 All-Americans, 55 individual conference championships and 57 team league championships. There were 11 national championships between teams and individuals.

That's pretty crazy.

Even crazier it this note: Every Princeton senior athlete was part of a team that either won a league championship or appeared in the postseason, other than women's rugby, which only became a varsity program this past year.

When Princeton recruit its athletes, the goal is to give them a well-rounded experience. Part of that, though, is definitely a championship experience, and Princeton has been doing just that for decades now.

Many of the members of the Class of 2023, of course, started out as members of the Class of 2022. Like their predecessors a year ago, these athletes were faced with an unprecedented decision — to stay enrolled a miss a year of athletics or withdraw for a year and maintain their undergraduate eligibility.

There was no right or wrong answer. Each of them had to do what they felt they needed to for their own situations. 

The ones who withdrew had to watch a year ago as their original classmates, and in many cases best friends, graduated. It wasn't easy for anyone.

Those days were very much in the rearview mirror last night at Jadwin. Whether they started in the fall of 2018 or 2019, there they were last night, together once again, to start the six-day run of Reunions/Class Day/Graduation. It's as festive as it gets.

As for the banquet, the big winners were women's tennis player Daria Frayman, who took home the von Kienbusch Award as the top senior female athlete, and Sondre Guttormsen, the Roper Trophy winner (Sondre accepted the award via a pre-taped video as he is on the road competing).

Frayman's win made her the fifth women's tennis player to be the von Kienbusch winner, and the other four were all in the 1970s. Their names: Helena Novakova (1972), Margie Gengler (1973), Louise Gengler (1975) and Aimee Knox (1977). 

As for Guttormsen, he emerged from as deep a field of Roper finalists as TigerBlog can remember, and all of them had extraordinary careers here. This choice, similar to the 2017 von Kiensbusch Award, was not an easy one to make (Ashleigh Johnson, the top water polo player in the world, was the winner, but you had multiple Olympians, national champions, and all-time leading scorers who did not win). 

The other four nominees were a national champion wrestler (Pat Glory), a nine-time All-American swimmer (Raunak Khosla), the leader of a basketball team that reached the Sweet 16 (Tosan Ebvuomwan) and a sixth-round NFL draft choice who was also a track and field All-American (Andrei Iosivas).

The banquet featured a great video that took four athletes — field hockey player Claire Donovan, football player Uche Ndukwe, fencer May Tieu and men's hockey player Liam Gorman — and showed them pictures throughout their connection to Princeton. They then spoke about what they saw, and did so in a way that was grippingly emotional.

TB's favorite part of all of these banquets is the senior slide show at the end.

Not every senior wins an award. Not every senior gets to be All-Ivy League, or even a starter. Maybe they all hope that will be the case when they start out here, but that's not everyone's destiny. 

They all have different stories to tell. Maybe they were a starter but got beaten out by someone younger. Maybe they were hurt and never made it back. Maybe they worked as hard as they could every day but just couldn't crack the lineup.

Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack called it a "shared experience, and a unique experience," and that's a great way to put it. 

Whatever their story, they all take something from this experience that will stay with them forever. And they all stuck it out, made it all the way to the end, because it was that important to them.

And for that, they all get their moment in the sun, or at least on the big video screens, as their name and picture appear, two at a time, until every senior has been recognized. They smile. Their friends applaud. 

It's a little thing, but it's also a big thing. It's little, in that it only takes a few seconds. It's big, in that it is a validation of all of the years of hard work, doubt, growth, physical challenges and everything else that goes with being a Princeton athlete. 

Every single one of them earned that moment.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Banquet Night

Judging by all of the responses that TigerBlog got from yesterday's entry, he is not the only one who thinks highly of Jon Kurian.

Pretty much every email or text said the same thing: "Love that guy." 

It was good to get that sort of feedback. It shows you just how many people have come into Kurian's orbit during his time here and how many have come to the same conclusions that TB has. 

One of the people who reached out was Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus Gary Walters, who offered this to both TB and Kurian:

"Congrats. Lorin is smiling."

Gary, of course, was referring to Lorin Maurer, for whom the award that Kurian was presented with last week at the final Department of Athletics staff meeting for the academic year. As TB wrote yesterday, the award is given: to that member of the Princeton Athletics family who best reflects the passion, dedication and infectious enthusiasm that defined Lorin Maurer’s character and her inspiring impact on colleagues and friends. Awarded in the memory of Lorin Maurer h78, 1978-2009.

Speaking of namesakes, Gary himself is the namesake for tonight's big event, the Gary Walters PVC Awards Banquet. It's an event that Gary himself originated back in 1998, as a way of presenting the major departmental awards.

That first banquet was held in the lobby of Jadwin Gym. Since then, it has grown from a handful of people to nearly 700, complete with awards, highlights, video tributes and a massive celebration of the graduating athletes.

It also corresponds to the opening night of Reunions, and so there is an incredible party vibe everywhere at Princeton. The Walters Banquet has persevered through thunderstorms, different venues and even a pandemic that forced it to be online twice, but it remains what Gary envisioned it would be: A jewel of a celebration of everything that is great about Princeton Athletics.

There is the Citizen Athlete Award, given to an alum for outstanding contribution to sport and society. The winner tonight will be General Mark Milley, a hockey player fro the Class of 1980 and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which makes him the nation's highest ranking military member.

The is also the Marvin Bressler Award, named for the longtime sociology professor who served as the inspiration for the Princeton Athletic Fellows program after Walters' undergraduate experience with Marv when Walters was the point guard on the basketball team in the 1960s. The Bressler Award goes to "that member of the Princeton family who, through heartfelt support of the University’s student-athletes and coaches, best embodies a belief in the lifelong lessons taught by competition and athletics as a complement to the overall educational mission in the spirit of Marvin Bressler, a Princeton professor of sociology from 1963-94."

Tonight the Bressler Award will be given to Kathleen Mannheimer, who has assisted so many Princeton athletes in her role at the University's Center for Career Development.

Mostly, though, the banquet is about the seniors. The von Kienbusch Award will be given to the top senior female athlete; the Roper Trophy will be given to the top senior male athlete. The 1916 Cup will be presented to the graduating athlete in the highest academic standard.

There is also the Art Lane Award, which is the undergraduate version of the Citizen Athlete Award. This year, there is also the debut of the Chris Sailer Leadership Award, named for the Hall-of-Fame women's lacrosse coach who retired at the end of the 2022 season.

There have been finalists announced for all of those awards. The envelopes will be opened at the banquet. 

It starts with a cocktail hour in which the seniors get to spend some time together, as teammates and classmates. It ends with a video that includes a photo of every senior from every team. 

After that, there is the presentation of the letter sweaters — and then several thousand pictures or so.

When you come to Princeton as an athlete, you're taking on a great challenge. It's not an easy one. The ability to work with the best academically and athletically never is. 

It is, though, a challenge well worth the effort. It may seem overwhelming that first year, but as time goes along, each and every Princeton athlete gets to see the benefit of their experience and learn things about themselves that they probably never realized before. Finally, finally, the end of that experience is here.

Tonight is about of all of that.

Every senior there has more than earned the right to be celebrated.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A Well-Deserved Honor For The New Guy


Maybe Jon Kurian has an awful lot of gray hair these days.

It doesn't matter. It also doesn't matter that he's worked here for 20 years now.

To TigerBlog, he'll always be the "New Guy."

Back when Kurian started in the business office, there were quite a few people here with the same first name. As such, he became "Jon the New Guy" and then eventually just the "New Guy."

To that, you can now add "Lorin Maurer Award winner the New Guy."

The official wording of Lorin Maurer Award is this:

Awarded to that member of the Princeton Athletics family who best reflects the passion, dedication and infectious enthusiasm that defined Lorin Maurer’s character and her inspiring impact on colleagues and friends. Awarded in the memory of Lorin Maurer h78, 1978-2009.

Kurian is a very, very worthy recipient. In a department that has seen, restructurings, turnover, changes at all levels, Jon Kurian has remained as much a constant as anyone. His common denominator for all 20 of those years? His passion, dedication and infectious enthusiasm, with an emphasis on the last of those three. 

Of all the people TB has met in his life, at Princeton or anywhere else, Jon Kurian is in the Top 5 of being upbeat. He always seems to be in a good place, and if he's not, he doesn't let on. He works hard and takes what he does here very seriously, but he also knows how to have fun as much as anyone who has worked here in TB's years.

His defining characteristic is his deep laugh, which comes out regularly no matter the situation. He's never met a bad shot in lunchtime basketball that he wasn't willing to take, but he always laughs about it when it inevitably goes awry. He can laugh with the older generation and the younger generation of Princeton Athletics' staff. 

Need someone to dress as Santa? He's in. Want to go to see Jimmy Buffett? He'll never say no. He's the kind of person you definitely want to have on your side. 

Kurian was presented with his award at the final staff meeting of the year, which was last week. He spoke briefly about Lorin, who worked with Princeton's Athletic Friends' Groups before she tragically was killed in a plane crash in 2009 at the age of 30.

As you know from reading this space, TigerBlog always remembers Lorin on the anniversary of her death, which is Feb. 12. He has done so every year since it happened.

In those 14 years since, there have been a lot of people who have come and gone here. The numbers of those remaining who knew Lorin have dwindled considerably, to the point where she is just a name on an award to most. 

To those who knew her, including TB, she remains very much a part of this place. Kurian certainly remembers her.

In his words after he was given the award, he mentioned Lorin's spirit. He referenced TB, how each year he tells the story of how Lorin would walk by his office and, if she had nothing to say, would just smile.

It was a moment that made Kurian clearly emotional. It's one thing to win an award; it's another to win one named for a dear friend of yours who died so horribly young. 

Kurian came here somewhere around 2003. At the time, he was an intern. In fact, he needed a 350-hour internship to fulfill a course requirement (at Syracuse), and TB remembers the conversation about how it would take 400 hours to get him to the point where he could do 350 hours and did the department need a "350-hour pain in the butt?"

As it turned out, Kurian was brought on for those 350 hours. When they ended, he stayed, and nobody told him to leave. At some point, presumably, he started to get paid. He's still here today. 

When Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack read out Kurian's name as this year's Maurer Award winner, TB smiled. He was happy to see that Kurian get the recognition that he has earned so clearly through everything he's done here. 

As TB said, Kurian is a constant in an ever-changing place — with an infectious enthusiasm that is just that, infectious, and inspirational.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Take A Bow, Tigers

The big run had long been over. 

There was still time for a little run. In the end, while that little run might not have changed the outcome, it did speak volumes about the Princeton baseball team.

Princeton, after three grueling games in three days, went into yesterday's final round of the first Ivy League baseball tournament having played its way back through losers' bracket. Waiting there for the Tigers was Penn, who had played twice, both wins, once Friday and once Sunday.

To win, and receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, Princeton needed to sweep the Quakers. 

Of course, in all of college sports, there might be nothing tougher than coming back through the losers' bracket of a four-team baseball tournament. To win it, you have to play five games. The team that comes through the winner's bracket can do it in three.

Last year, there were 16 NCAA Division I tournament baseball regionals with four teams each. That meant that 32 teams lost their first game of the tournament.

How many of those 32 made it back through the losers' bracket to win the regional and advance to the Super Regional? Zero.

Why is that? 

It's simple. Pitching. There are a lot of innings to cover in a very short time, and you either have to go way deeper in your staff than your opponent does or you have to throw pitchers on short rest.

Looking back at the regionals last year, only five teams that lost their first game made it all the way back to the last round. Of those five, only one — Vanderbilt — forced the if-necessary Game 7. Vandy, a team with great pitching depth, lost the final game 7-6 to Oregon State.

The other teams that lost their opener and made it to the last day? They lost the first game of the last round with these scores: 22-6, 13-4, 15-9 and 11-4. 

In other words, the odds were not with Princeton.

The Tigers fell behind early and saw it get away quickly. It was 1-0 after the second inning, but Penn exploded from there, with four in the third, eight in the fourth and three in the fifth. Suddenly it was 16-0 Quakers, and the Tigers' chance to extend to the season one more game was clearly gone.

Even with all that, though, a funny thing happened from there. First, Princeton shut out the Quakers the rest of the way. And second, Princeton put up two of its own in the bottom of the fifth, getting an RBI single from Eric Marasheski and an RBI on a fielder's choice for Scott Bandura. 

It was 16-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth. TigerBlog had a sense that somehow, Princeton would get another run, that this Princeton team would not go quietly.

And that's what happened. Fittingly, it came on a home run. Matt Scannell came up with two outs and nobody on, and he drilled one over the centerfield fence. It extended Princeton's school record for home runs in a season to 66.

And so what if the season ended one batter later, with the final 16-3?

This is a Princeton team that went 7-33 last year and then turned that around to go 24-23. That 17-game turnaround in victories, by the way, is the most in Division I baseball this season.

This is a Princeton team that went from 3-18 and last in the Ivy League a year ago to playing on the final day of the first league tournament to get to the NCAAs.

To get there, Princeton had to fight and battle every step of the way this weekend. There were two marathons, including the epic 13-11 win over Columbia Saturday and then the 10-3 win over Harvard Sunday that kept it going one more day. Unfortunately, as happens in these tournaments, it left Princeton with its pitching staff basically on fumes. 

And what happens when your pitchers are tired? They don't get rocked all over the field. More than that, they lose the strike zone. Against Penn yesterday, Princeton pitchers walked 14 and hit seven. That's how it works.  

But this is a team that never gave up. It's a team that went down swinging all the way to the final inning.

Congratulations to Penn on winning. 

And congratulations to Princeton for what it did this weekend, and this entire season. 

Take a bow, Tigers. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

Epic, And Fortuitous

If you are looking for the hero for the Princeton baseball team for the Ivy League tournament to date, the answer is "who in the world can say?" 

And that speaks volumes about this team.

Is it Scott Bandura, who has homered in every game Princeton has played? Is it Justin Kim, whose relief appearance yesterday against Harvard was equal parts brilliant and gutsy? Maybe it's Nick DiPietrantonio, or Kyle Vinci, or Matt Scannell or anyone else you want to choose. None of that matters to anyone in a Tiger uniform now. All that matters is that this team is still playing today.

What a weekend it was for Princeton baseball. 

TigerBlog would have thought that the best word to describe the Princeton baseball team's 13-11 win over Columbia in the losers' bracket of the Ivy League tournament Saturday would have to have been "epic."

It certainly was, in every sense of the word. There haven't been too many games that Princeton has played in any sport in recent years that have been more grueling than this one, for that matter. It lasted three minutes short of four hours after a 45-minute rain delay, saw Princeton rally from five runs down and saw Columbia rally from six runs down before Scannell's two-run eighth-inning single proved to be the difference. 

Princeton also blasted three home runs in the game, with a Vinci grand slam, a three-run shot from Nick DiPietrantonio and a solo shot from Bandura. There were 24 runs, 24 hits, four errors, eight pitchers and an astonishing 404 pitches.

So yes. It was clearly epic. It required every ounce of effort, toughness and togetherness Princeton could manage.

As it turned out, though, it was more than just epic. It was also, to use another word, "fortuitous."

How so? 

The game ran so long that the second game of the doubleheader, the winners' bracket game between Penn and Harvard, had to be pushed back to yesterday. As a result, instead of playing a team in its first game of the day after both were rested, instead Princeton got to play a team who had already played one game yesterday.

That team turned out to be Harvard, who lost 10-7 to Penn in a game that ran three minutes past three hours and featured 344 pitches of its own. 

Was it an advantage for Princeton? Who knows. Probably, but how much of one? Again, who knows.

Princeton again gutted it out, this time defeating the Crimson 10-3. The Tigers got three more home runs in that game, as Bandura and DiPietrantonio again hit long balls, as did Brendan Cumming. DiPietrantonio had five RBIs, three of which came on his second-inning blast after the Tigers trailed 2-0 and then two more on a seventh-inning single as Princeton broke the game open.

Freshman pitcher Kim, who threw 44 pitches in the game Saturday, came back and was masterful in relief yesterday. After fellow freshman Will Sword made his first start and kept the Tigers in it for three innings, Kim went the rest of the way, shutting out the Crimson for six innings, ending it with a strikeout and then a slam of his glove on the ground. His numbers included two hits, four strikeouts and 90 pitches.

The result of all of this baseball is that Princeton is still alive as the tournament reaches its final day. The task now is to sweep Penn on the Quakers' home field.

First pitch is at 11. Should the Tigers win that game, then there would be a deciding game afterwards. If Penn wins the first game, then the double-elimination tournament ends there.

As you know, the winner of this tournament gets the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. 

TigerBlog said Friday that it's not easy to lose the first game of a four-team double-elimination tournament and come all the way back, but that's just how it's happened. Harvard beat Princeton 3-2 way back on Friday, which seems like a long time ago — certainly it was a lot of pitches ago — in a game that Princeton led 2-0 before three late unearned runs won it for the Crimson. 

Bandura, by the way, homered in that game as well. 

That set up the game Saturday, which was played in a misty rain as Princeton and Columbia both played to keep their seasons going. The game seemed to change almost inning to inning, as it was 5-0 Columbia, then 5-4 Columbia, then 8-5 Princeton after Vinci deposited his grand slam over the fence. For Vinci, by the way, that was his 21st home run of the season, which extends his Ivy record. 

Columbia got a run back in the seventh, making it 8-6. Okay. Close game. Princeton got three in the bottom of the seventh to get it to 11-6. Okay. Comfortable lead. Right? 

Uh, no. Columbia came storming back, getting five in the top of the eighth, and suddenly it was 11-11. No worries. Scannell untied it. And then, after all of those runs and all of those hits, why would anything be easy? 

Reece Rabin walked the lead off man and then gave up a hit. Then he got a double play. Columbia kept it going with a walk, which meant the tying run was on base. Then what? A fly ball to Bandura in right, who squeezed it to end it.

And so Princeton, 3-18 in the Ivy League a year ago, plays today for a shot at the NCAA tournament. Yes, Princeton has to win twice. No, don't sell them short. Not after this weekend. Not with the way this team fought and fought and fought to keep it going.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Baseball Tournament Time

There is nothing that distracts TigerBlog quite like the Daily Princetonian archives.

For instance, there was yesterday afternoon. TB was looking through the Princeton baseball records on when he saw that the record for strikeouts in a game is 17, set twice, by the same pitcher — L.A. Young. It seems Mr. Young struck out 17 Lafayette Leopards in consecutive seasons, on April 26, 1890, and again on April 25, 1891.

When TB went to the Daily Princetonian archives to find out more, he learned that there was no mention of the 1890 game at all and only this about the 1891 game:

The game with with Lafayette at Easton, after the first inning, in which Princeton made seven runs, was a fine exhibition of ball playing. Lafayette put up a good game after the first inning and though the ball was hit hard and often, Princeton scored but one more run. Young's pitchingwas superb. Fox, for Lafayette, made a brilliant catch of a hot liner.

Of course, in searching for that little bit of information, TigerBlog also got sidetracked with things like this: 

The University of Michigan has 2,420 students, a larger/lumber than any other college or university in the country. 

That was in a Princetonian news and notes section. He also found reference to an upcoming "real tennis" world championship match, one that would feature a best-of-13-sets format that would be played over four days if necessary. As it turns out, "real tennis" is still a "real thing," and the world championship still exists. Who knew? 

So what was TB doing in the Princeton baseball record book? He was looking up how many complete games Princeton pitchers had this year and then contrasting it with the records.

The Tigers have had four complete games this year, three of which came from Tom Chmielewski and one of which came from Jackson Emus. If you think that doesn't sound like many, consider that Princeton accounts for more than half of the complete games in the Ivy League, since everyone else had a combined three.

Complete games are largely a thing of the past, of course, on all levels. In the Major Leagues this season, there have been only 10 complete games. 

Cy Young is MLB's career leader in complete games with 749 of them. If you go down to No. 8 on the all-time list, you find Old Hoss Radbourn, who threw 488 complete games. As it turns out, Old Hoss was really named Charles, which isn't nearly as interesting. Old Hoss, who pitched in the Majors from 1880-1891 and who won 310 games, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Princeton record for consecutive complete games, by the way, belongs to Harry Gutheil, who once pitched 11 straight. And was this in the 19th century? No, this was across two seasons, 1992 and 1993. Gutheil was an undersized lefty who could throw a complete game in 60-70 pitches and be in complete control the whole time. He's one of TB's all-time favorite Princeton athletes.

Why the interest in complete games? Well, it's because the first Ivy League baseball tournament begins today at Penn's Tommy Lasorda Field. 

It'll be third-seeded Princeton and second-seeded Harvard at 11, followed by top-seeded Penn and fourth-seeded Columbia. The losers play at 11 tomorrow, with the loser of that game eliminated. The winners then play at 3. The tournament continues Sunday with another elimination game and then a game between the remaining unbeaten and the team that makes it back through the losers' bracket. There would be a deciding game Monday at noon if the team that was unbeaten loses the second game Sunday.

In other words, to get all the way through the tournament, you're going to need pitching. It would be helpful if your starters went deep into games, and the teams that lose today will find themselves having to use a lot of arms if they get to Monday. 

Chmielewski, not surprisingly, was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy League selection, as was Tiger outfielder Scott Bandura. Kyle Vinci, the Ivy League record-setter for home runs in a season with 20, was a second-team choice (TB wrote a feature story about Vinci that you can read HERE).

Princeton also had two other second-team picks, utility player Matt Scannell and DH Caden Shapiro, and two honorable mention picks, relief pitcher Jacob Faullkner and second baseman Noah Granet.

As Vinci said in the story, there isn't a member of the team who wasn't motivated by last year's 3-18 eighth-place finish. Now the Tigers are in the top 4 and ready for the first pitch of the first league tournament. 

It's time for important baseball in May for the Tigers.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

And The Nominees Are ...

TigerBlog ran into Greg Carroccio, one of Princeton Athletics' photographers, last week.

The first thing TB said to him was that it was hard to believe that another year had come and gone. Did he remember when he took the field hockey team photo back in August? Did that really seem like nine months ago? 

It didn't, Carroccio said, agreeing with TB. 

TigerBlog cannot believe how quickly the years fly by. What day is today? May 18th? Oh wait. One second.

If today is May 18th, then it's TB's cousin Paul's birthday. Paul is the oldest of the first cousins on TB's mother's side, and he was recently the father of the bride when his daughter Rachel got married back in March. That was actually on the day that Princeton played Rutgers in men's lacrosse, and that day doesn't really seem all that long ago either.

In the meantime, happy birthday Paul.

Okay, back at another academic year that has flown by, Princeton is wrapping up finals for second semester. After that comes the sprint to Reunions, Class Day and Commencement. 

If you're not aware, Reunions begins one week from today. The campus will be bulging with alums and families, and it's one big party after another. It's the 60th Reunion of the Class of 1963, which includes the great Bryce Chase. It's the 25th for the Class of 1998, which is also something that's hard to wrap TB's head around.

The first night of Reunions also corresponds with the Gary Walters Princeton Varsity Club Awards banquet, which is also a week from tonight. Gary, the Director of Athletics from 1994-2014, created this banquet early on in his tenure, with the first one held in the lobby of Jadwin Gym to a relatively small crowd.

From there, the event has grown to what it is now, a large gathering that is a celebration of Princeton's senior athletes, complete with videos, highlights, commentaries and of course awards. The banquet has been held on the concourse of Princeton Stadium, at the boathouse, at the Grad College and even online. Now it's back in Jadwin, only in the main part of the arena.

In advance of the banquet, the Department of Athletics has started releasing the finalists for the senior awards. If you were on the website yesterday, you saw the first of these announcements, with the nominees for the Art Lane Award and the Chris Sailer Leadership Award.

Still to come will be those athletes who will be the finalists for the von Kienbusch Award and Roper Trophy, which go to the top senior female and male athlete. While those awards are the ones that get the most attention, and rightly so, since they are a celebration of the best among so many great athletes, the awards that were announced yesterday are just as impressive. Actually, maybe even more so.

The Art Lane Award recognizes outstanding contribution to sport and society by an undergraduate athlete. Read what the nominees have done — and then remember that they did all this while competing at such a high level of intercollegiate athletics while also being Princeton students. 

The Chris Sailer Award is a new one. It's obviously named for the Hall of Fame women's lacrosse coach, who retired a year ago. This is the wording of the award:

The award, made possible by Lucy Small DeStefano '99 S94 and Chris DeStefano '94 S99, will be awarded annually to senior student-athletes who demonstrate exceptional leadership and a commitment to serving others.

In many ways, it's hard to quantify leadership. You can't just list what it is they do to lead. When you have great leaders, though, you know it. You can see it. And your organization, or in this case your team, is way better off for it. 

It's an honor to be recognized for any of these awards, but it's even more so to be in the inaugural group of finalists for the award. These five are also top flight athletes, with All-Americans (Hannah Davey in field hockey, Quincy Monday in wrestling, Keller Maloney in water polo), a school record holder (Arianna Smith of women's track and field) and a key figure on a team that won its opening round NCAA tournament game in back-to-back years (Grace Stone of women's basketball). 

The winners of all of the senior awards will be announced at the banquet. As a reminder, that's one week from tonight in Jadwin Gym. 

Another year comes, and another year goes. It ends in style, as always.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Tosan At The Combine

Princeton head men's basketball coach Mitch Henderson will be throwing out the first pitch at the New York Yankees game a week from today against the Baltimore Orioles.

By the way, did you know the Orioles have the second-best record in Major League Baseball, behind only the Tampa Bay Rays? Also, did you realize that Texas is leading the American League West by four games now? And who is the team's general manager? 

Of course it's Chris Young, the former Princeton men's basketball and baseball player. Young spent 13 seasons as a pitcher in the Major Leagues, so clearly he made a good choice for his professional sport. It's just that TigerBlog and every other Princeton fan will always wonder what might have been had Young stayed with basketball, both for his final two years at Princeton that he lost when he signed his pro baseball contract and then for the NBA.

Speaking of pro basketball, there were 44 players who were invited to the NBA's G-League Combine, held in Chicago over the weekend. 

Out of that group, there were eight who then earned a second invitation to stay around for another week and participate in the NBA's Combine. That's eight of 44, or an 18 percent chance of being among the eight.

As you probably know by now, Princeton's Tosan Evbuomwan is one of them. Judging by the math, it's another great performance by Evbuomwan in the last few months.

The NBA Combine began Monday and runs through Sunday, also in Chicago. There were 78 original invitees, before the eight who were promoted from the G League event. 

You can watch some of the Combine and some of the games there on ESPN2 or ESPN+.

If you're a Princeton fan, you already knew what kind of player Evbuomwan is. He's been a dominant presence for the Tigers, earning Ivy League Player of the Year honors as a junior and then being a unanimous first-team All-Ivy pick as a senior. 

The Ivy Player of the Year this past season, by the way, was Penn's Jordan Dingle, who has since transferred to St. John's, where he will play for Rick Pitino. Dingle averaged 23.4 points per game last year, second in Division I behind Detroit Mercy's Antoine Brown, who finished his career (five years) two points away from Pete Maravich's all-time NCAA scoring record. Maravich only played three years, with no three-point shot, and there will never, ever, ever be another scorer in college basketball like Maravich.

Dingle is going to St. John's to increase his chances of being drafted a year from now. For Evbuomwan, this year is the year to see where he stands in the NBA Draft, which comes up June 22nd.

It was a magical run for Princeton and Evbuomwan this past winter. The Tigers shared the Ivy League title with Yale and then beat the Bulldogs in the Ivy tournament final to get to the NCAA tournament.

Once there, Princeton knocked out second-seeded Arizona and seventh-seeded Missouri to reach the Sweet 16. The run ended against Creighton, but Princeton men's basketball carved itself a never-to-be-forgotten moment in the history of a program that is filled with them.

Of all the players who emerged during the NCAA tournament, perhaps none made the mark that Evbuomwan did. His all-around game, the one that he showcased in Jadwin Gym game after game, really stood out. He showed he could play the point, he could defend a range of players, he could create his own shot, he could rebound, he could block shots and he could also hit a three-pointer. 

He could have used his final year of eligibility as a grad transfer, but he chose to go into the NBA Draft process instead. He is a fascinating prospect.

For one thing, he is from England, so playing in Europe would be in many ways going home. Second, he hasn't really played for very long, so he has considerable upside. His task this week is to show how athletic he is compared to top prospects, something he clearly did at the G League Combine. 

TigerBlog has been checking out mock drafts, and Evbuomwan's ame has appeared in almost all of them. In fact, he usually shows up in the 47-49 range.

What can a pick in the second round expect? He can expect a legitimate shot at making the NBA team, and he could almost surely expect a two-way contract that would pay him a different amount if he played in the NBA or the G-League. 

Or, of course, he could play in the Europe for a few years and build his game there. Either way, these are exciting times for Evbuomwan, and for the Princeton program, which in a very short amount of time will have shown it could get to the Sweet 16, send one player to the NBA (Devin Cannady) and now have another on the verge of joining the league. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Boat Titles

TigerBlog definitely shortchanged the rowing teams in yesterday's entry. 

He didn't mean to do so. It was more a product of circumstance. 

He was at the Princeton-Penn State men's lacrosse NCAA tournament game, which was getting started not that long after the racing on Lake Quigsigamond was reaching its finals. He tried to write up as much as he could beforehand, and then he tacked on the rowing results after the lacrosse game.

He wanted to mention what the rowers accomplished, but he didn't really have time to dive in, as it were. So today he's back with some more. 

He did follow the results on, which is a wild site. If you ever want to know anything at all about racing, that's the place to go.

The Princeton open women continued their unbeaten season by taking the Ivy League championship. If you're keeping track, that's eight times in the 10 years of the Ivy League's event that Princeton won the first varsity 8 race, including each of the last six.

The Ivy League champion for women's open rowing used to go to the winner of the first varsity 8 race at Eastern Sprints, until the NCAA began awarding automatic bids to conference winners. As such, the Ivy League event was born, and the automatic NCAA bid goes to the team that wins the overall points standings.

In this case, that was also Princeton, who edged Yale 85-84 in the final scoring. Princeton got 32 points for winning the first varsity after being seven points behind the Bulldogs before that. The difference between Princeton's first place and Yale's third? Eight points. 

Princeton's open women will now compete at the NCAA championships on the Cooper River in Pennsauken May 26-28. The NCAA's first women's rowing championship was in 1997, and there has never been a year when Princeton has not qualified. 

Since 2013, the national championship has gone to one of four schools: Texas, Washington, Cal and Ohio State. Texas has won the last two (team and first varsity 8), but the Tigers defeated the Longhorns back in April. It should be a great regatta. 

The Ivy women's championships were held at the same site as the men's Eastern Sprints Sunday, which meant that the Tiger lightweight and heavyweight men were competing for Ivy championships as well. The lightweight women, the two-time defending national champ, already won their own Eastern Sprints earlier this season.

The men's lightweights are the No. 1 team in the country, and they certainly looked the part Sunday, winning their own Ivy title. Princeton won both the first varsity 8 and second varsity 8 races, something the program had only done twice before, in 2003 and 2010. 

The Tigers also won the Jope Cup for the overall points total, something that the lightweights have now done 16 times. 

The heavyweight men's first varsity 8 race was the final one on a long day of racing. For the first time since 2016, the Princeton boat finished in the top two, falling to heavily favored Yale by a second. The second varsity 8 also won silver, giving Princeton a very strong showing, and some serious momentum heading into the IRA national championships.

That meet will be held June 2-4 in West Windsor. The women's lightweights will be seeking that third straight title. Obviously the two men's teams will be right in the mix.

It was a great day of racing Sunday, that's for sure. TB is sorry he only threw a few lines in yesterday. 

By the way, as he writes this, he's on the men's lacrosse bus back from Penn State, after the excruciating 13-12 loss. It's a harsh way for a season to end, and even after staying overnight in State College, it was hard for everyone who got on the bus to swallow that there were no more practices or games for this group.

As head coach Matt Madalon said to the team after, there are 17 teams in the tournament and only one gets to end the season in a pile. 

Multiply that by every team in every sport, and you're left with one really overriding thought: If it's not about the journey, then you're doing it wrong.


Monday, May 15, 2023

A Wow In Women's Water Polo

Maybe the Princeton women's water polo team felt at home playing at the University of the Pacific, which is also the Tigers and also has orange and black as its colors, in this weekend's NCAA tournament.

The Tigers — the Princeton ones — certainly didn't find the moment too big. Not in the least.

Princeton took down California 11-9 Friday night in the NCAA quarterfinals, becoming the first non-West Coast school to reach the Final Four since Michigan did so in 2016. It was also Princeton's first Final Four trip in women's water polo.

Going one step further would have been great, but then again, in women's water polo this year, nobody was able to take that step. Princeton fell 18-8 in the semifinals to USC, one of two teams that dominated everyone else all year.

In fact, USC and Stanford, who met yesterday in the final, were perfect against every other team in the country. 

So yes, the Tigers fell short of an NCAA title, but what they did was amazing. These Tigers finished at 30-4, regained the CWPA championship and then made a real statement about how good they are with the win at Pacific. 

In fact, what the women's water polo team did this weekend will be remembered as one of the very best moments of this academic year in Princeton Athletics. 

Not all great runs end with the championship, after all. 

The Princeton softball team didn't win the Ivy League tournament title, but the Tigers did show what they were made of nonetheless.

Princeton lost the first game of the weekend, to Columbia. Losing the first game of a double-elimination tournament does not make for an easy road back. 

Despite that, Princeton came back to knock off Yale and Columbia Friday to set up a showdown against Harvard, the team with whom it tied in the regular season for the Ivy League title. 

The task for Princeton was to win twice Saturday, and oh did the Tigers come close. They won Game 1 6-0, setting up the "if necessary" game. And that game was dramatic and tense, as a Princeton rally fell just short in a 3-2 loss. 

Again, you don't always win the championship, but you can always do everything you can as a team to extend your season as far as possible.

The Ivy League baseball tournament will be held at Penn this coming weekend. The Quakers swept Columbia in a doubleheader Saturday while Harvard split with Yale, and those results meant two things: 1) Columbia was officially the fourth team in the Ivy tournament along with Penn, Harvard and Princeton and 2) Penn took a one-game lead over Harvard into the final day of the regulars season.

Because Harvard had taken two of three from Penn during the season, a Harvard win and Penn loss Sunday would have sent the baseball tournament to Cambridge. Instead, the Quakers won their game 10-4, clinching the outright title and the hosting rights, even though Harvard beat Yale as well. 

The matchups for the first round of the tournament will be Penn-Columbia and Princeton-Harvard. Like softball, this one is also double elimination, though it's spread over four days instead of three. First pitch is Friday in Philadelphia.

The baseball championship that Penn won was the 30th the league awarded this year and left only the three rowing titles, which were going to be decided yesterday. One of the reasons TigerBlog wanted to see Penn win was because it denied Harvard an 11th Ivy title. Princeton came into the weekend with 11. 

That number grew to an insurmountable 12 when the women's open rowers won the Ivy League first varsity 8 race by 1.5 seconds over Penn. The final total was 13, as the men's lightweights followed with an Ivy title of their own about an hour later.

The heavyweight men didn't win, but they did have a great showing, finishing in second. 

Again, not all great efforts end in championships. Some do. Some don't. You cherish the ones that do, and you respect the ones who also gave everything they had. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

A Next Generation Henshon And A Trip To Happy Valley

Before TigerBlog gets into the NCAA men's lacrosse game between Princeton and Penn State this weekend, there's something he has to mention.

When Matt Henshon shot the basketball during his Princeton career, there was a pretty good chance it was going in.

In fact, if you add up his two-point shots, three-point shots and foul shots during his career, he made better than 62 percent of his shots. Henshon, a 6-5 forward from outside of Boston, was sort of a Princeton basketball version of longtime NBA star Adrian Dantley — a very smooth player on some great teams.

Henshon was a member of the Class of 1991, which means he played on Ivy League championship teams as a sophomore, junior and senior and was part of epic NCAA tournament games each year. He went from Princeton to Harvard Law School, and today he is a partner in the law firm of Henshon Klein.

TigerBlog saw pretty much every game Henshon played as a junior and senior at Princeton. He's one of those players that Princeton has had through the years who are simply "winning" players, the glue of any championship team. He's also an incredibly impressive person.

Why bring him up today? Because of the Ivy League baseball Players of the Week, that's why.

Princeton's Kyle Vinci was the Player of the Week after shattering the league record for home runs in a season, and his teammate Jackson Emus was the  Pitcher of the Week after going seven innings, allowing four hits and striking out seven. Who was the Rookie of the Week?

That would be Mark Henshon, Brown's second baseman, who went 8 for 16 with three runs, six RBIs and a double. He's also Matt Henshon's son, for those of you who want to feel as old as TB does reading that. 

Mark Henshon was a two-time Ivy Rookie of the Week, and his .305 season average was the fourth-best for the Bears. 

TigerBlog has always said that he would feel old when the children of athletes he covered here started to compete here as well. The first one to do so was men's lacrosse player Jack Crockett, the son of former Princeton offensive lineman Todd Crockett. Then there was Ellie Mueller, the daughter of Henshon's teammate Kit Mueller. Back when TB was writing about Princeton men's basketball in the late ’80s/early ’90s, he never would have imagined his daughter and Kit's daughter would Princeton women's lacrosse teammates one day.

Back in the present day, Jack Crockett and his teammates will be heading out to Penn State to take on the fifth-seeded Nittany Lions in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Face-off from Panzer Stadium will be 7:30 Sunday night (ESPNU), as the Tigers play the last of eight first-round games this weekend.

Princeton and Penn State have almost no history in men's lacrosse. In fact, they've played only three times, in 1991, 1996 and 1997. Will anyone else beside TigerBlog be at the game Sunday who was at those three as well? 

Princeton is looking to return to Championship Weekend after last year's visit to the Final Four. Doing so will not be easy.

Penn State was the Big Ten regular season champion and earned the fifth seed despite its 17-15 loss to sizzling Michigan in the B1G tournament. Princeton is here because it won the Ivy League's automatic bid by taking the league tournament last year. 

Here are a few Princeton-Penn State numbers:

* Princeton's Michael Gianforcaro is second in Division I save percentage at .592; Penn State's Jack Fracyon is third at .574

* Princeton allows 10.93 goals per game; Penn State allows 10.69

* Princeton averages a little more than 14 goals per game; Penn State averages just under 14 goals per game

* Both teams are below 50 percent on face-offs for the season

In other words, it figures to be a fairly even matchup, which is what you'd expect this time of year. Princeton continues to push through all of its injuries, and the Tigers have peaked at the right time. 

A year ago, Princeton had a week off before its NCAA opener after missing the Ivy tournament. The Tigers then turned around and beat Boston University 12-5 at home and Yale 14-10 at Hofstra in the quarterfinals before falling to Maryland in the semifinals.

This year, Princeton has to turn it around after the euphoria of the Ivy championship game one week earlier. 

Either way, there are only 16 teams who are still playing. It's great to be one of them.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

First Pitch, Last Championships

So it's another day, another major honor for senior softball player Serena Starks.

She's having quite a week.

To her Spirit of Princeton Award and her Ivy League Player of the Week Award you can now add Ivy League Player of the Year, which was announced yesterday. Actually, you can make that unanimous Ivy Player of the Year.

Starks leads the Ivy League with a .411 batting average, which is 40 points higher than anyone else. If you go further down the list, there are only four Ivy players within 70 points of her. That's a dominant season.

Starks, who also led the league in hits and runs scored, sits 14 hits away from the Princeton single-season record of 79, set by Stacy Thurber in 1994. 

With 65 hits, Starks is tied with Jen Babik (in 1994) for eighth in a season at Princeton. Every player above her played either in the late 1980s or in the 1990s. It is hardly a coincidence that Princeton's two Women's College World Series teams were in 1995 and 1996.

The list of players on the single-season hits list above Starks reads like a Who's Who of great Princeton softball players, with Thurber, Tara Christie (76 in 1996), Michelle Morale and Amanda Pfeiffer (both 74 in 1995) and then Babik (69 in 1995) and Linda Smolka (69 in 1988).

Starks has at least two games left to move up the charts, as the Ivy League softball tournament begins today in Princeton. It's a double-elimination format, and it starts today with matchups at noon between Princeton and Columbia at noon and then Harvard and Yale at 2:30.

There will be three games tomorrow, starting at 10 am, when the winners of today's games play in the winners bracket final in Game 3. The two losing teams from today play at 12:30 in Game 4, with the loser of Game 4 eliminated. The Game 4 winner then plays the Game 3 loser in Game 5, with the loser of that one also eliminated.

Game 6 will match the Game 3 winner and Game 5 winner at noon Saturday. If the Game 3 winner takes that game, then that team is the tournament champion with the automatic NCAA tournament bid. If the Game 5 winner wins Game 6, then that forces Game 7, which becomes winner take all.

If that sounds confusing, TigerBlog apologizes.

As TB said, and as is the case with all Ivy tournaments, the prize is the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Ivy League champion is decided by the regular season, and Princeton and Harvard are the co-champs no matter what happens this weekend. Princeton is the host and top seed because of its two wins over Harvard during the season.

The baseball tournament, in which Princeton has clinched a spot, is next weekend, with a similar format, only spread over four days, not three. The site will be determined by the outcomes of this weekend's games, but it will be either Harvard or Penn.  

The NCAA softball selections will be announced Sunday night.

By the way, if TigerBlog is reading the composite schedule correctly, the softball games will be the final home events of the year. 

The Ivy League awards championships in 33 sports, and 29 of those have already been awarded. 

The final four will be earned this weekend, including on the baseball side, where Harvard hosts Yale and Penn hosts Columbia. Penn and Harvard are tied at 13-5, and Harvard holds the tiebreaker for top seed and host. Columbia need one win or one Yale loss to snag the fourth tournament spot.

The final three will come from the Ivy League women's rowing championships and Eastern Sprints for men's lightweights and heavyweights are held.

Princeton is currently the No. 1 ranked team in the country in both women's open and men's lightweight. The women's lightweight team is also No. 1, and the two-time defending national champion Tigers have already salted away Eastern Sprints in that division.

All of the racing this weekend will be on Lake Quigsigamond, in Worcester, Mass. Heats begin at 8:45 and run through midday, and then finals will begin at 1 and run until 6.

Both the Princeton women's open first varsity 8 and the men's lightweight first varsity 8 are unbeaten on the season. The men's heavyweight team is ranked sixth nationally.

The full schedules and results as they happen will be available at

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

It's Time To Celebrate

TigerBlog is celebrating.

Why? Because he just made the last payment on his car. It was a 60-month loan, and now it's all paid off. TigerBlog even has a $20 bonus, because he made the last two payments at once. 

See? Isn't this awesome.

Account is closed. Those are three fun words.

TigerBlog has had a car for more than 40 years now. During that time, he's had a car payment approximately 85 or so percent of the time. Not having one rocks. 

Also, he'll be running his current car for as long as it'll hold up. He hopes that will be a very long time.

While TB is in such a good mood, what else is there to celebrate? 

* Princeton Athletics produced three of the seven winners of the Spirit of Princeton Award, which is one of the highest honors for an undergrad. Those three are Aaron Leung from men's heavyweight rowing, Alexander Mrkalj of men's volleyball and Serena Starks (softball).

What did they do to earn the award? What didn't they do? Again TB is left to marvel at Princeton athletes and wonder "where do they come from?"

If you want to know what they did, you can read all about them HERE. TB recommends you do. You'll be marveling as well. 

If you're wondering about their majors, three of the seven are SPIA majors, with two engineers and one each in economics and computer science. 

The seven winners, by the way, were chosen from among 200 nominees. That makes it all the more amazing. 

* Starks, meanwhile, had to pull off a fairly unique double this week when it came to being honored. She was one of the Spirit of Princeton winners, and she was also the Ivy League Player of the Week. She took home that recognition for the second time in four weeks.

Think about that. Spirit of Princeton Award. Ivy Player of the Week Award. All in the same week. Yeah, that's impressive. 

Starks is hitting .411 on the season as she looks to join Marissa Reynolds, who hit .436 in 2017, as the only Princeton softball players of the last 20 years to finish the season at .400 or better.  

TB will borrow these two sentences from the release on 

Starks leads the Ivy in batting average, runs scored (36), hits (65) and total bases (77) and will help lead the Tigers into the Ivy League Tournament, which begins Thursday at Princeton Softball Stadium at Strubing Field. The top-seeded Tigers will open against fourth-seeded Columbia tomorrow at noon, and tickets are available HERE.

The second game tomorrow, at around 2:30, will match Harvard and Yale. TigerBlog is trying to think of another Harvard-Yale game held on Princeton's campus, and he can't think of one. There hasn't been one in an Ivy League men's or women's lacrosse tournament, or in the basketball tournaments this year. He has to be overlooking something simple he's guessing. 

The softball tournament is double elimination, and it continues Friday and Saturday. The winner gets the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

* The Ivy League champion men's golf team will play in the NCAA Regional next week at the University of Oklahoma. The Tigers, you recall, won the league tournament by 18 strokes over Columbia two weekends ago.

To qualify for the national championships, Princeton will need to finish in the top five among 14 teams in Oklahoma.

* Princeton finished second at the Ivy League Heptagonal track and field championships at Penn this past weekend on both the men's and women's side. Princeton had 20 athletes earn All-Ivy League honors, 12 on the women's side and eight on the men's.

Not shockingly, Princeton had first-team All-Ivy pole vaulters on both teams. Sondre Guttormsen continues to add records and championships to his already-stacked resume, and freshman Tessa Mudd continues to build one of her own, as she added the outdoor Heps to her indoor title. 

The NCAA regionals begin two weeks from today in Jacksonville.  

* The women's water polo team is winging its way west today as it readies for the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament. The Tigers will play Friday night at 9 Eastern against Cal in Stockton. 

Princeton is making its fourth NCAA appearance and first since 2015.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Diamond Updates

TigerBlog was walking towards the field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium for Princeton's men's lacrosse practice Saturday when the entire Columbia baseball team came walking towards him.

The team was coming from practice on its home field, which is adjacent to the football stadium. As they walked by, TB asked if they were off for the weekend, and they said that they were.

"Why?" TB said. "The weather's too good?"

They laughed. By the way, the staff at Columbia deserves some kudos for the job of hosting the men's lacrosse tournament, especially considering that the school does not field a team in the sport. 

As for the baseball team, all they had was practice this weekend. Up next for Columbia will be three games this weekend at Penn, as the Ivy baseball regular season wraps up ahead of the first league tournament.

There are three teams who are definitely in: Princeton, Harvard and Penn. There are two teams who could still get the last spot: Columbia and Yale, who plays three at Harvard this weekend.

Princeton is in the clubhouse at 13-8 in the league, which is a 10-game improvement over last year's 3-18 finish. That alone should get Scott Bradley some votes for Coach of the Year.

Princeton also has demolished the school records for home runs. The Tigers have blasted 58 of them, the most ever by a Princeton team, and Kyle Vinci took care of the Ivy League record with his 20th this past Saturday against Brown.

Vinci, in fact, ranks 11th in Division I total home runs and third in Division I in home runs per game, at 0.49. The nation's leader in Florida's Jac Caglianone at 0.55 per game, followed by Troy's Shane Lewish at 0.53. Perhaps you remember Caglianone for his non-celebration of one of his homers after Florida had a pitcher ejected for celebrating a strikeout.

Meanwhile, back in the Ivy League, Harvard holds the tiebreaker over Penn to be the top seed and host for the tournament in two weekends should the teams have the same results this weekend. Should they both get swept, there would be a three-way tie for the championship with those two and Princeton, but Harvard would again hold the tiebreaker.

Meanwhile Columbia has a two-game lead on Yale. Should they end up tied, the tiebreaker belongs to Columbia, who swept Yale, which means the only way Columbia doesn't get the fourth slot would be if it got swept by Penn and Yale swept Harvard. 

As for the softball side, before Princeton had its practice Thursday before the first game of the men's lacrosse tournament, a bus pulled up inside the gate at the Baker Field complex as a few students waited to get on board. Columbia's outdoor athletic facilities are about 100 blocks north of the main campus, up at 218th and Broadway. The buses run back and forth every 20 minutes as the athletes make their way from classes up to practices.

What do you do on the bus for 20 minutes each way, they were asked? There were two answers: sleep, and study. That pretty much covers it.

The athletes who were waiting for the bus while Princeton was getting ready were softball players. They'll be at Princeton this week for the first Ivy tournament. 

The Tigers are the top seed after sharing the regular season title with Harvard but taking two of three from the Crimson. The tournament is a double elimination format, beginning Thursday with those same bus traveling Lions against Princeton at noon, followed by Harvard and Yale at 2:30. 

The two first-round losing teams play each other Friday, followed by the game between the winners. The team that loses the first game is eliminated, and the team that wins plays the team that loses the second game. The loser of that game is also eliminated, leaving two teams, one of whom is unbeaten. Does that make sense?

Those three games are Friday. Then, Saturday, the two remaining teams play, and if the unbeaten team wins the first game, it is the champion. If it doesn't, then there is one more game for the championship.

The winner of the tournament gets the Ivy League's automatic NCAA tournament bid.

It's something new for Ivy League athletics, which is always fun. It's followed by the same format next weekend for the baseball tournament. 

Monday, May 8, 2023

Mad-uh-lon, Mad-uh-lon

The Princeton men's lacrosse postgame tailgate was already in a highly festive mood Sunday afternoon at Columbia. 

And why wouldn't it be?

The Tigers had just completed a remarkable weekend in Upper Manhattan, taking down Penn and Yale to win the Ivy League tournament and earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. When the selections came out last night, Princeton learned that it would be at Penn State in the opening round Sunday night at 7:30. 

The party just after the game consisted of parents, friends, alums. There were tons of former players, especially younger alums who embrace this team for the successes the last two years, a trip to Championship Weekend in 2022, a return to the tournament in 2023 — successes that many of them never go to experience first hand. Instead of bitterness, all they feel is love for the program.

Eventually, a chant of "Mad-uh-lon, Mad-uh-lon" broke out, a rhythmic salute to the head coach, Matt Madalon. As unassuming as a head coach can be, Madalon has done a remarkable job with his team the last few years, racing off to a 5-0 start in 2020 before that season ended, holding his players together from all over the country during the Covid year, hitting the ground running when play resumed a year ago and guiding this year's team through the worst injury crunch the team has seen in a long time, not to mention a four-game, 28-day losing streak in the early season that pretty much ended any hope of an at-large bid.

He'll tell you that he doesn't care about individual honors. He will constantly point out the work that anyone in his program does, regardless of their role. There hasn't been a bus driver whose hand he hasn't shaken or who has not been invited to team meals. There is no member of a hotel staff who hasn't been thanked profusely.

Madalon will tell you the best part of this weekend is that it gave them all at least one more week to practice and be together. Make no mistake. He's fiercely competitive. He just understands how to channel that competitiveness and get the most out of everyone around him.

This year's team went into the weekend knowing its path into the NCAA tournament was clear: Win twice, or go home. 

Friday night was a physical, difficult, gut-wrenching battle with Penn. Neither team ever led by more than two. A two-goal lead felt like five or six. Goals came at a premium for the first three quarters. Neither team scored in the first 14:57 of the third. Princeton scored just once from midway through the first quarter until early in the fourth, going a remarkable 37 minutes without a goal.

In the end, it was Princeton 9, Penn 8, a win not secured until freshman face-off man Andrew McMeekin won a draw with 13 seconds left, after the Quakers had once again made it a one-goal game. 

The game yesterday lacked that drama. This time, Princeton defeated Yale 19-10 in a game that was 13-3 at the half and 16-4 at one point of the third quarter. The Tigers rolled, all the way into the NCAA tournament.

Those were things that Princeton fans, media people, anybody could see. 

What you coudn't see was what happened away from the field, before the game Friday and especially between games Saturday.

First, there was Friday. Princeton played Penn at 8:30, which is a long time to hang around a hotel. So what did Madalon do? He found a park near the Fort Lee hotel and took his team there to get out and about, move the legs, stay fresh, stay loose, stay together. 

There wasn't much special about the park. There was a lake in the middle of it. Players could play catch. There was laughing and making fun of each other. Quinn Kramer threw a ball all the way across the lake, and Hunter Engel caught it on the other side. 

It was a perfect way to make a few hours of waiting melt away.

Then there was Saturday. Princeton, off of that physical game, had to quickly turn things around to get ready for Yale. There was a light practice at Columbia, but mostly the day was about hydrating, resting, refueling — feeding the Tigers, as it were. 

To make sure everyone was hydrated, Madalon got off the bus after practice, went over to the beverage store next to the hotel, bought eight cases of water, piled them onto two handtrucks and brought them back to the hotel. It was a small thing, but TigerBlog (who was pushing the other handtruck and who dropped four cases of water onto the shoulder of the road that leads to the George Washington Bridge) couldn't help but be impressed. There are not a lot of head coaches who would have done that. Like, almost none. 

After that, there was dinner, catered in the hotel by the Italian restaurant that Princeton went to Thursday night. Picture a hotel banquet room with 50-plus lacrosse players and another 10 staff members, with an Italian buffet. Of course there was a mess.

Then Madalon started to clean it up. By himself. Then the rest of the staff jumped in to help. Within 30 minutes or so, the room was back to being clean, neat and orderly. 

Again, that's not what head coaches usually do.

Princeton is back in the NCAA tournament after its remarkable weekend. This is a team that is playing without a starter on attack, two starting middies, a senior captain shortstick D middie and its No. 1 face-off man, all out with season-ending injuries. It has been plug and play all year.

You think they all weren't tortured every one of those 28 days in between wins? You don't think the entire team could have thrown its hands up after losing three overtime games? You don't think that all of the injuries could have taken a huge toll? 

Yes, all of that could have happened. 

This is a team that wins because of its deep pool of talent and the way they are prepared. As much as that part is obvious, this is also a team that wins because of its culture.  

And that culture has been built by its head coach. 

With a trophy in his hands yesterday, he certainly earned the chant of the fans — even if it probably embarrassed him.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Friday Night At Columbia

TigerBlog starts today with something you have to read, whether you are a lacrosse fan or not.

This is the story that Trevor Tierney, the first-team All-American goalie on Princeton's 2001 NCAA championship team, wrote about his father Bill, whose Hall of Fame coaching career is now in its final weeks.

Trevor is a unique person in Princeton men's lacrosse history. You don't have to talk to him long to realize he's a goalie, because he definitely has the personality for it. 

He's one of the most cerebral Princeton athletes TigerBlog has ever met. He has incredible depth in his thinking. Had he been born 400 years earlier, he would have become one of the greatest philosophers ever. 

He's smart. He is very, very soft-spoken. And he can write. He's like Sean Gregory, the former men's basketball player who now writes for Time Magazine. When they write, you can really feel the emotion of what they're saying.

That would be true no matter what Trevor wrote. The fact that he's writing about his father at this point of his father's career makes it 10 times, 100 times, more emotional.

You can read the whole piece HERE.

Here's how it starts:

My father has an inauspicious jewelry box in his study at home. Dust gathers on the glass cover. Ten championship rings sit unworn, scattered unceremoniously inside.

They became relics — memories of special teams, people and experiences that went by too fast with the passage of time.

As someone who was raised by, played for and coached alongside Coach Bill Tierney, the following is how I remember his incredible coaching career as it comes to a close.

A tribute to my father, coach and childhood hero.

How good is that? 

Tierney's Denver team appears to be in great shape to play in the NCAA tournament this year, with or without the Big East's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. 

For the Princeton men, it will need the automatic NCAA bid from the Ivy League tournament if they are going to have a chance for a repeat visit to Championship Weekend.

If you recall last year, Princeton did not qualify for the Ivy tournament but instead got an at-large NCAA bid. The Tigers then defeated Boston University and Yale to reach the Final Four, where it lost to eventual champion Maryland.

As a result, the current Princeton team has 15 players who have seen the field in an NCAA semifinal game, including seven who started, but it has no player who has ever been in a Ivy League tournament game. That anomaly changes tonight.

Princeton, the third seed, takes on second-seeded Penn tonight in the second Ivy semifinal game at Columbia's Lawrence A. Wien Stadium. The first game matches top seed Cornell against fourth seed Yale at 6, meaning the Princeton game should start around 8:30. Both of those games can be seen on ESPNU.

The winners meet Sunday for the automatic bid. That game will be at noon, on ESPN2.

Keep in mind, you can watch the Princeton women at 4 on Penn Park, where the Tigers will play Yale in the first semifinal, followed by Penn-Harvard. That championship game is also Sunday at noon. 

Can you get to the game at Penn at 4 and then the men's game at Columbia at 8:30? If you do, let TigerBlog know.

Princeton began its Ivy season with a 9-8 loss to Penn at Franklin Field back on March 18. From there, Princeton won its next four league games, defeating Yale, Brown, Dartmouth and Harvard by an average of 8.5 goals. That set up last weekend's game at Cornell for the league championship, which the Big Red won 14-13, also in overtime.

Princeton, in fact, is 0-3 in OT games this year, having lost to Rutgers the week before Penn. That's a first in program history.

Princeton head coach Matt Madalon always talks about having two paths into the NCAA tournament. There's the at-large route, which eluded Princeton with the three OT losses. Had they all been wins, then Princeton would be an NCAA lock. It shows you how slim the margin of error can be.

Then there's the automatic bid. That's what Princeton is playing for this weekend. 

Whatever got Princeton here doesn't matter. This the start of something new, a full season in one weekend.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

West Philly Weekend

TigerBlog would like to add Uche Ndukwe to the list of people he congratulated yesterday. 

Ndukwe became the latest Princeton football player to get his shot at the NFL, as he signed with the Minnesota Vikings to participate in their rookie minicamp.

Every time TB sees a Princeton player get his shot after going undrafted, he thinks of Ross Tucker, who got his chance and made the most of it, lasting seven very productive years in the league as an offensive lineman. TB wrote a feature story about Tucker when Tucker was a Princeton senior back in 2000. In that feature, Tucker said that his goal was to get into someone's training camp to see if he'd get to keep the helmet when he got cut. 

Instead, he made it through and established himself as a legitimate NFL lineman. Today he has a big career in football media. 

So maybe Ndukwe will follow in those footsteps. Just getting as far as he has is quite an achievement, one that also earns congratulations. By the way, TigerBlog continues to believe that any NFL team that would give wide receiver Dylan Classi a shot would be impressed by him.

Meanwhile it will be a weekend of other congratulations, though it's not quite certain yet to whom. There will especially be lots of people to congratulate if you happen to be in the area of West Philadelphia.

In fact, there will be two Ivy League team championships, a bunch of individual Ivy League championships and an automatic NCAA tournament bid earned there Sunday. 

The Ivy League Heps outdoor track and field championships will be held at Franklin Field Saturday and Sunday. The Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament will be held about 100 yards away or so, at Penn Park.

The Princeton men will be going for yet another "Triple Crown" by winning Heps cross country, which the Tigers did in the fall, indoor Heps, which the Tigers did in the winter, and then outdoor Heps, which will be happening this weekend.

Should Princeton be able to pull it off, that would make 11 Triple Crowns for the men's team. The 10 that Princeton has so far are 10 more than the rest of the league combined does.

The indoor meet this year was insanely close, as Princeton edged Harvard by a single point. The final numbers were 164-163. 

Princeton's women are also one of the favorites on their side of the event. Princeton's most recent outdoor Heps title was in 2011. 

The first event of the weekend is the women's hammer throw, which starts at 11. The men's pole vault, by the way, is at 3 Saturday, if you want to see what heights Sondre Guttormsen can reach next. He is not the only Tiger worth watching, of course, among the men and the women. 

The full schedule of events for Heps can be found HERE.

The Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament starts tomorrow at 4 at Penn Park, which is behind Franklin Field and the Palestra. The first semifinal matches Princeton, the third seed, and Yale, the second seed, in a rematch of last year's championship game. Top-seeded Penn will take on No. 4 Harvard in the second semifinal at 7.

The final, which will determine the league's automatic NCAA bid, will be Sunday at noon, which is the same time as the women's steeplechase and the men's discus. 

Princeton lost to Yale 15-10 back on March 4. In that game, Yale had a huge edge on the draws (22-6). The Tigers got three goals each that day from Grace Taukus and McKenzie Blake.

That was two months ago today. It might have been a million years ago, for as much as it impacts what happens tomorrow. That's how seasons work. 

The men's tournament, by the way, is at a predetermined site, in this case Columbia, where Princeton will play Penn tomorrow at 8:30. The women's tournament is at the home of the top seed. 

TigerBlog had a chance to speak with Princeton head coach Jenn Cook for this week's podcast and asked her which she preferred, and she said that she likes having the women's tournament separate from the men. 

Also on the podcast, TB spoke with seniors Christy Sieber and Shea Smith. If you've been to a Princeton women's lacrosse game and seen the orange and black bulldog, that would be Smith's dog Watson.

A Princeton bulldog? Yes, indeed. Will he be torn tomorrow, when Princeton plays those other Bulldogs? 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Overdue Congratulations

Okay, so TigerBlog has told you that you can now get every day's entry on

If you're bookmarking, that would be

The issue that TigerBlog is having is a logistical one. He had been posting the first few paragraphs each day here, with a link that takes you to the webpage. There have been two issues.

First, he writes each day's entry and then sets it to go live shortly after midnight, both on blogspot (the old platform) and on He then takes the link and pastes it onto blogspot after the text of a few paragraphs. 

Unfortunately, that link doesn't seem to work. He needs the link once the story goes live, except it's going live after midnight. What to do. What to do.

Second, even as he's tried to steer people to the main webpage, readership numbers on blogspot continue to grow. Old habits die hard, it appears.

Oh well. He'll keep working on it. As long as you read it somewhere, everything is good.

In the meantime, there are these subjects to cover, all of which involve overdue congratulations: 

* For starters, congratulations to Andrei Iosivas on being selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft last weekend. The common reaction seemed to be the obvious one — Orange and Black to a team whose colors are orange and black. That works out well.

The Princeton wide receiver joins a team that has a good a chance as any to be in the Super Bowl this coming season. Certainly the Bengals have the franchise quarterback in place. 

Traditionally, from what TigerBlog could find, a sixth-round pick has just under a 50 percent chance of making the roster but has close to a 90 percent chance to be on the practice squad if not the active roster. 

Of course, players drafted in the late rounds or who are undrafted free agents help their cause considerably if they play special teams. Iosivas will certainly have every opportunity to show what he can do as both a receiver and on special teams. TB would guess that Iosivas' orange and black days are far from over.

Iosivas had two Princeton teammates who signed undrafted free agent contracts. Offensive lineman Henry Byrd signed with the Broncos, while linebacker Matthew Jester signed with the Rams. 

* Congratulations also go out to the women's water polo team, who rolled to the CWPA championship this past weekend at DeNunzio Pool. The Tigers defeated St. Francis 8-3 in the semifinal and then Harvard 12-8 in the final, after Harvard had defeated the seven-time defending champion Michigan in the other semifinal. 

Princeton will now play in the NCAA tournament in Stockton, Calif., this Friday night at 9 Eastern, as the 10th-ranked Tigers take on No. 6 Cal in the quarterfinal round. Princeton is in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in program history, after making it in 2012, 2013 and 2015. 

* The women's tennis team, which won its seventh Ivy League title in the last eight seasons, found out its NCAA tournament draw Monday night. The Tigers will travel to Charlottesville, where they will take on Fordham in the first round Friday at 1. The winner of that match gets the winner of Virginia, ranked 11th, and LIU.

Fordham is the Atlantic 10 champion, something the team accomplished with its 4-1 win over Virginia Commonwealth in the league tournament final. VCU had beaten Fordham 4-3 during the regular season. The Rams are also 0-3 against the Ivy League, with losses to Columbia, Yale and Brown.

Daria Frayman was named the Ivy League Player of the Year, which is hardly surprising, given her No. 7 individual national ranking. Frayman and Neha Velaga were named first-team All-Ivy in singles, and Frayman and Grace Joyce — ranked 26th nationally — were named first-team All-Ivy in doubles. 

* And then there's Sondre Guttormsen. The Olympic pole vaulter, who is already a three-time NCAA champion at Princeton, did it again, breaking all of his own records with a personal best vault of 5.90 meters, which is 19.36 feet, last weekend in Texas.

That vault is a new school and Ivy League record, as well as the best among NCAA pole vaulters this year — and actually pole vaulters anywhere in the world. Yes, that's how good Guttormsen is.

Sondre, his brother Simen and the rest of the Tigers go for another Triple Crown this weekend at the Ivy League Heps track and field championships at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.