This is the final week of nonleague play for the 2012 Princeton men’s volleyball season, but it is far from a meaningless week for the Tigers. After a helpful week of EIVA play, Princeton could find itself in position to play itself into the postseason next week.
And going into that critical week on a four-match win streak is much better than, well, anything else possible right now.
A look at the EIVA shows just how crucial next week can be for the Tigers, who currently stand sixth in a league inviting only four teams. Penn State and Harvard have clinched postseason bids, and George Mason looks in favorable position to clinch a third.
That leaves two teams in front of Princeton. One is Saint Francis, which the Tigers own a tiebreaker against. The other is NJIT, which Princeton will host in its home finale April 18. A 3-0 sweep of the Highlanders in that match would give the Tigers a tiebreak edge on them as well. Of course, none of that will matter if Princeton doesn’t run the table, which will include a season-ending road win at George Mason.
It sounds challenging, but it was only two years ago when Princeton won its EIVA finale at George Mason. Two weeks later, the Tigers were pushing Penn State in the championship match.
After wins over NYU and Vassar last weekend, Princeton will look to build on the positive energy against a pair of stronger Division III programs in Kean and Baruch. Kean is 23-9 and is led by Steve Vahalla, who is averaging 3.5 kills and 4.1 points per set. Baruch is 21-14 and has three players averaging more than 2.3 kills per set, including team leader Steven Coniglio.
Princeton freshman Cody Kessel continues to be a major contender for EIVA Newcomer of the Year honors. He currently leads the league with 3.96 kills per set.