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Tiger Athletics 2019-20: The Year In Review

Princeton Athletics 2019-20 Year In Review

The 2019-20 athletic year was unlike any that had ever come before it at Princeton University – and Princeton Athletics goes all the way back to 1864.

It was a year of great accomplishments and the promise of more accomplishments – possibly unprecedented accomplishments – and then ultimately it was a year that slammed shut seemingly on a dime in mid-March due to a global pandemic.

Despite not having the winter postseasons and pretty much the entirety of the spring seasons, Princeton had some incredible moments in 2019-20, including a national championship game appearance by the field hockey team and a history-making moment, on many levels, by the wrestling team.

Even without athletic events, Princeton’s athletes continued to distinguish themselves with their commitment to the program’s core values as they weathered cancelled seasons and remote learning due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite that, their grit and determination, developed through practice and competition, continued to serve them well as their experience changed on a dime.

All of Princeton's athletes, and the Class of 2020 especially, had to adapt quickly through that disappointment and face a much different spring than they ever imagined. They, and Princeton's athletic alums as well, faced that challenge - and every other challenge this spring - head on, in the best tradition of "Be A Tiger."

Princeton Athletics has long been based on the values contained in "Education Through Athletics," with a motto of "Achieve, Serve, Lead." Princeton's varsity athletes are encouraged to excel in all three areas, and the results are a well-rounded approach that makes athletic participation an extension of the overall educational mission of the University itself, not to mention an ability to deal with situations such as the ones that arose in the spring of 2020.

The Year That Was

Princeton won six Ivy League championships between the fall and the winter and added another league championship via a postseason tournament. Princeton won more championships than any other league team and again was the highest-ranking Ivy school by a wide margin in the Learfield IMG College Sports Directors' Cup standings.

As with any other Princeton Athletics year, there was no shortage of highlights.

League Champions

Fall

The field hockey team raced through the Ivy League season at a perfect 7-0 and then made its third Final Four appearance in four years, reaching the NCAA championship game before falling to North Carolina.
The women's volleyball team won the Ivy title for the fourth time in five years to advance to the NCAA tournament.

Winter

The women's basketball team went 14-0 in the league, winning every game by double figures, and was 26-1 overall while finishing the season ranked 17th in Division I.
The women's hockey team defeated No. 1-ranked Cornell in overtime to win the ECAC championship, the first in program history.
The women's swimming and diving team won the Ivy League championship by more than 100 points, giving the program its 23rd league title and first in five years.
The men's track and field team easily outdistanced the field to win its sixth-straight Ivy League Heptagonal indoor championship, its ninth since 2010.
The wrestling team won its first Ivy League title since 1986 and ended Cornell's 18-year reign as Ivy champ with a dramatic win in Jadwin Gym.

The Princeton 500

The win by the wrestling team over Cornell in February did more than just end the Big Red's nearly two-decade reign as Ivy champs and complete one of the greatest rebuilding jobs in Ivy history by the Tiger staff of Chris Ayres, Sean Gray, Joe Dubuque and Nate Jackson.

It also gave Princeton its 500th Ivy League championship, by far the most of any league school.

Through the years, nearly 8,500 Princeton athletes have combined for more than 14,000 Ivy League championship rings, both of which are extraordinary figures.

The 1957 men's squash Ivy champs

Of the 33 teams that compete for Ivy League titles, Princeton has 14 that have won the most all-time in their sport, nine that rank second and four who rank third, for a total of 27 in the top three.

Princeton has 24 teams that have reached double figures in Ivy League titles, including nine that have reached 20. All 33 Princeton sports that compete for Ivy championships have won at least two.

Princeton has reached double figures in Ivy League championships in an academic year 26 times, including five straight years and 11 of the last 12 prior to the shortened 2019-20 year; only Harvard, who has done so 10 times, has ever reached double figures among other Ivy schools.

Princeton teams have won more than one quarter of all Ivy League titles ever awarded.

Top Senior Athletes

There were eight finalists for the C. Otto Von Kienbusch Award, named for the earliest benefactor of women's athletics at Princeton and given each year since 1972 to the top senior female athlete. The 2020 finalists were (from left to right): Carly Bullock (women's hockey), Maya Walton (women's golf), Maggie O'Connell (women's volleyball), Tess D'Orsi (women's lacrosse), Hadley Irwin (women's rowing), Bella Alarie (women's basketball), Megan Donahey (softball), Claire Thompson (women's hockey).

The 2020 winner was Bella Alarie, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton women's basketball history with 1,703 career points, a four-time first-team All-Ivy League selection, a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year, a two-time All-American and the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA draft.

There were six finalists for the William Winston Roper Trophy, first awarded to the top senior male athlete in 1936. The six finalists in 2020 were (from left to right): Conor Lundy (men's track and field), Michael Sowers (men's lacrosse), George Huhmann (men's volleyball), Richmond Aririguzoh (men's basketball), Matthew Kolodzik (wrestling), Joey Daniels (men's track and field).

There were two winners in 2020, Matthew Kolodzik and Michael Sowers.

Matthew Kolodzik is the only four-time All-American in Princeton wrestling history and a top-seven finisher at the NCAA championships in each of the three seasons he competed there (he qualified for the 2020 championships, though they were cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak). Kolodzik was also a four-time first-team All-Ivy League selection and a three-time EIWA individual champion, and he led the Tigers to the Ivy League championship his senior year.

Michael Sowers is Princeton's career leader in points with 302, a figure that is 57 more than the next-highest total in school history. He also has the top three single-season scoring totals in Princeton history and was well on his way to his best season through five games in 2020.

Sowers averaged 6.43 points per game, which is second in NCAA Division I history and the best in the last 39 years. He also holds the Princeton record for career assists with 181, a figure that ranks eighth in NCAA history.

His list of individual honors includes being the National Player of the Year in 2020 by Inside Lacrosse, a 2019 first-team All-American honor, being named a Tewaaraton Award finalist in 2019 and three All-American honors and first-team All-Ivy League selections (neither was awarded in 2020).

The finalists for the Art Lane Award were (left to right): Grace Baylis (field hockey), Emerson Solms (open rowing), Ryan Hutzley (heavyweight rowing), Ellen Scott-Young (women's track and field), Chris Davis (baseball), Morgan Steelman (women's squash), Katie Reilly (women's lacrosse), Georgia Hellard Timm (women's lightweight rowing).

The two winners were Grace Baylis and Chris Davis.

The Class of 1916 Cup finalists were (left to right): Emma Hopkins (women's lightweight rowing), Hadley Wilhoite (women's track and field), Adam Teece (men's lightweight rowing), Alison Chang (women's golf), Maggie O'Connell (women's volleyball).

The 2020 winner was Hadley Wilhoite.

The Year That Could've Been

When the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in mid-March, Princeton had 18 nationally ranked teams that were still competing between the winter and spring.

As far as any historical reference goes, Princeton has won exactly five spring Ivy League titles each of the last four years. Also, Princeton on average scores more Directors' Cup points in the spring than in any other season.

What might have been

Among the unanswered questions for 2020 ...

Would Patrick Glory (pictured right), Matthew Kolodzik or his any of his teammates have won an NCAA championship?

Would the women's hockey team, fresh off a win over No. 1 Cornell, have won the NCAA tournament?

Would the women's basketball team have reached the Sweet 16 (or even beyond) for the first time in Ivy history?

How many fencing All-Americans would there have been after Princeton qualified the full 12 for the NCAA championships?

Would the men's lacrosse team, unbeaten and with a resounding win over defending NCAA champ Virginia, have reached Championship Weekend?

Would the men's basketball team have won the Ivy League tournament and reached the NCAA tournament?

Would the top-ranked women's lightweight rowers or third-ranked men's lightweight rowers have won the national title?

How far would the men's and women's tennis teams gone?

Would the women's lacrosse team, men's outdoor track and field team and women's open rowing team won another Ivy League title?

Would the men's volleyball team, who had defeated powerhouse UCLA, have made a return trip to the NCAA tournament?

Who else would have won spring league championships?

Princeton Athletics And The Fight Against COVID-19

With the rise of the Coronavirus epidemic, many Princeton athletic alums played a major role in several cities in the treatment of the virus.

Among those who were on the frontlines:

Women's lacrosse alum Liza Hartofilis, also an ER doctor in New York City, was featured on an episode of HBO's "Real Sports."

Princeton Athletics Staff Also Helped In The Fight

Princeton Athletics staff worked with Mercer County Meals On Wheels and the Princeton YMCA to get food to those who could not get out.

A Tiger Community

The end of the athletic season in March hardly ended the spirit of community that defines Princeton Athletics. From homes across the country, Princeton athletes, coaches and administrators shared their feelings and emotions through several methods, including two series from the Department of Athletics.

College Football Turns 150

The first college football game was played on Nov. 6, 1869, between Princeton and Rutgers. The 2019 season marked the 150th anniversary of that game, and Princeton was center-stage nationally for its historic place in the sport.

Princeton had a year-long celebration of the 150th, including a game at Yankee Stadium the Saturday after the anniversary of the first game. Princeton students and alums - football and otherwise - turned out in large numbers to be a part of the events surrounding that game. Among the highlights were the lighting of the Empire State Building on the Nov. 6 anniversary, pregame receptions at and around Yankee Stadium, a Princeton Football Association event in New York City Friday night and several on-field recognitions.

Princeton football has won 28 national championships and produced 73 first-team All-Americans, 45 professional players and one Heisman Trophy winner in 150 years. The Tigers have also won 12 Ivy League championships, including three in the last seven years, and the team's 18-2 record over the last two seasons gives the program its highest two-year win total since 1950-51.

The Team Around The Team

Once again Princeton Athletics could not have provided the experience it did for its 1,000 varsity athletes without the help of its loyal, dedicated "Team Around The Team," including alums, Friends, Faculty Fellows and other University staff members.

As always, Princeton Athletics cannot thank this amazing group enough for all it does year after year. Every coach and athlete at Princeton is touched directly by the generosity of the "Team Around The Team" and the incredible support it gives in so many different ways.

TAGD

Another Tiger Athletics Give Day, another record - and another very grateful group of Princeton Tigers.

TAGD 2019 – the sixth Tiger Athletics Give Day – shattered the existing one-day fundraising record, and with it the $3 million barrier, as Princeton Athletics, its 17 Athletic Friends' Groups and the Princeton Varsity Club raised a total of $3,185,738 in a 24-hour span.

The 2019 event raised the six-year fundraising total past $13 million.

The Princeton Varsity Club

Due to the generosity of its supporters and the tireless leadership of its Board of Directors, the Princeton Varsity Club continues to expand its student-athlete and alumni programming and provide additional opportunities for Tigers to Achieve, Serve and Lead on campus, in the community and beyond.

The PVC held its first Athletics Volunteer Forum on Oct. 25, 2019, as part of Homecoming weekend. Lead volunteers within the PVC, Athletics Friends Groups and Team Around The Team gathered for a cocktail reception and update on the state of Princeton Athletics from Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan. The evening concluded with a dinner and a student-athlete conversation panel.

The PVC also took a lead role in helping connect Princeton athletes and the community, both before the COVID-19 pandemic ...

... and after ...

Despite the pandemic, the PVC continued to honor those who have done the most to support Princeton Athletics, including presenting the Class of 1967 Citizen-Athlete Award to Boston Celtics owner and former lightweight rower Wyc Grousbeck ’83.

The presentation to Wyc Grousbeck was part of the Gary Walters ’67 PVC Awards Banquet, one that was held virtually this past May.

And, of course, there were still letter sweaters to be distributed ...

Alumni Voices

The advent of the pandemic gave Princeton alums around the world an opportunity to stay connected with each other through Zoom meetings that reunited teammates who were quarantined all over the country and all over the world. Classes met regularly, and games from decades ago were remembered fondly, as was the case with the 1981 football team (pictured above), who talked about the historic 35-31 win over Yale that year (the game was named "The Game of the Century" by Princeton Athletic News) as part of a series of conversations with the Class of 1982.

There was also an outpouring of support from Princeton Athletic alums, through the "Tigers Forever" social media campaign.

The Pause Wall

Princeton Athletics presented its "Pause Wall" this past December. The wall, which sits inside the Caldwell entrance closest to Weaver Track and Field Stadium, encourages those who walk past it to stop – “Pause” – and reflect. There are messages of support and inspiration, and visitors are able to leave their own messages as well. There are also resources about services available in all areas of mental health.

It’s a wall whose goal is to get everyone who walks by it to take a deep breath and, most importantly, understand that they are not alone. Princeton's Student-Athlete Wellness Leaders worked with Student-Athlete Services on the project, with a grant from TigerWell, a Princeton initiative that supports campus well-being.

“The grant got us kick started," said Grace Baylis, the field hockey goalie, who was one of the driving forces behind the project. "There were a lot of challenges, but we had a clear vision of what we wanted the wall to stand for. My favorite thing about it probably is the flexibility to engage with it all the time. But everyone doesn’t need to do that to reap the benefits. You’re going to see it. When you walk past it, maybe you’ll notice three or four positive messages.”

Giving Thanks