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Volleyball Aims For Ultimate Upset, Faces Penn State In EIVA Championship

Courtesy: Princeton Athletic Communications                                                                      Release: 04/25/2014
Courtesy: Noel Valero
Princeton plays Saturday at 7 pm for the 2014 EIVA championship.
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PRINCETON CHAMPIONSHIP NOTE PACKET

EIVA CHAMPIONSHIP CENTRAL (includes links for live stats, live video, tickets, etc.)

VIDEO PREVIEW l TIGER QUARTET EARNS ALL-EIVA HONORS

One match.

When Princeton began its training for the 2014 season, it wanted nothing more than to be one match away from history. One match away from winning the program's second EIVA championship. One match away from reaching the NCAA Championships.

One match … three little sets.

And now that they're here, they need to forget it.

"It’s huge. This is what we work for all year," said First-Team All-EIVA libero Tony Ensbury. "Three games away from going to the NCAA Championships and knocking off Penn State. But we have to go in thinking it’s just another match, and we have to keep approaching it as an underdog. We believe we can win, but we know we’re the underdog. We have to step back, enjoy the match and play high-level volleyball."

Since trailing George Mason 1-0 at home last Friday night, Princeton has played at as high a level as it has reached in several years. Princeton won the next three against a young Mason team that pushed Penn State in a tough semifinal Thursday night, and then it controlled its own 3-1 semifinal win against second-seeded Harvard.

The Crimson had held the upper hand against Princeton over the last few years, so few likely expected the Tigers to be the one advancing to Saturday's 7 pm championship match. There may not have been much exterior pressure, but the Tigers held themselves to the highest standard possible.

"There is no pressure except for what we put on ourselves," Ensbury said. "We expect a lot of ourselves. Last night, we put those words to action."

And if few expected them to reach Saturday night's final, even fewer will give Princeton any chance.

Penn State has earned the right to be the heavy favorite after winning the last 15 EIVA Championships, as well as earning the top seed and right to host the 2014 Championships. But this Princeton team knows what it takes to beat Penn State, and all it hoped for was one chance to do it again.

This team earned that opportunity. For the fourth time since becoming a varsity program, the Tigers will play for the EIVA Championship.

The wait is over. The work was worth it.

It's time to play.

There is no pressure except for what we put on ourselves. We expect a lot of ourselves. Tonight, we put those words to action.

CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES

Welcome Back • This is Princeton’s fourth berth in the EIVA championship final since becoming a varsity program in 1997. The Tigers have reached the 1997, 1998 and 2010 finals, and they are the last team to win the EIVA other than Penn State (1998).

Semi-Sweet • To reach the 1998 final, Princeton swept Penn State 3-0 in the EIVA semifinal. In 67 all-time matches in the EIVA playoffs dating back to 1986, that remains Penn State’s only loss.

On The Road Again • Princeton has never won a match at Penn State. Over the last 16 years, Princeton has won two individual sets against Penn State in State College; one came in 1998, and one came last season.

Splitting Headache • Princeton is 1-36 in its last 37 matchups against Penn State. The Tigers are also 1-1 in their last two matchups; the two teams split their season series this year, with both teams winning at home. Princeton’s 3-2 win over Penn State on Feb. 28 was the Tigers’ first win over Penn State since the 1998 EIVA semifinal.

Third And Goal • Princeton entered the 2014 EIVA Championships as the third seed; the last time Princeton was the third seed in the league championships was 1998, when the Tigers went on to win their only EIVA Championship.

Getting Better • While Princeton isn’t exactly on even footing with Penn State, it has done far better in its recent history with the Nittany Lions. Entering Saturday’s final, Princeton will have won seven of the last 28 sets played between the two. To compare, Princeton had only won one of the previous 52 sets before that.

Three For One • In Princeton’s regular season victory over Penn State, which came in front of 1,565 fans at Dillon Gym, the trio of Devin Stearns (18), Cody Kessel (14) and Pat Schwagler (12) combined for 44 of Princeton’s 55 kills.
In Thursday’s semifinal win over Harvard, the same trio combined for 47 of Princeton’s 59 kills.

Captain America • Junior Cody Kessel earned AVCA All-America Honorable Mention this season. He is the third Princeton volleyball player to earn All-America honors, joining only Marin Gjaja ’91 and Derek Devens ’98.
Kessel ranks third in the league in both kills (3.54) and points (4.0) per set. He has hit over .300
11 times in the last 19 matches. Kessel, a former EIVA Newcomer of the Year, ranks 24th nationally in kills and 30th in points.

Beasts Of The East • Princeton had four players named to the 2014 All-EIVA team. Juniors Cody Kessel and Tony Ensbury were both named to the First Team, while senior Pat Schwagler and Devin Stearns were named to the Second Team.
Kessel is a three-time first-team selection, while Schwagler has been All-EIVA three times. Both Ensbury and Stearns are making their debuts on the All-EIVA team.

Junior Mints • While they will be facing off Saturday night, Penn State junior Aaron Russell — a first-team All-America honoree and the EIVA Player of the Year — and Princeton junior Tony Ensbury have been teammates the last two summers on the U.S. Junior National team.

Fresh Faces • Chris Kennedy and Junior Oboh looked like anything but freshmen in their postseason debut Thursday. Oboh killed eight balls on nine swings (.889) and had seven blocks, while Kennedy recorded 53 assists with four digs and four blocks.

Point, Counterpoint • The top four point-scorers in the EIVA will be on the floor Saturday night. Penn State’s Aaron Russell (4.9) and Nick Goodell (4.3) rank first and second, respectively, while Princeton’s Pat Schwagler and Cody Kessel rank third and fourth with 4.0 points per set.

Sweet 16 • Princeton enters Saturday’s final with 16 wins this season, tying it for the second most in program history behind only the 1997 team (24-2). The 1998 EIVA championship team and the 2003 Tiger squad also won 16 games.

Oh Captain, Our Captains • Seniors Pat Schwagler, Jeff Stapleton and Davis Waddell serve as tri-captains for the 2014 Princeton Tigers.

Sam I Am • Princeton is led by Sam Shweisky, a fifth-year head coach who also serves as the assistant for the women’s program. He has led Princeton to the EIVA postseason four times in his first five years, and this is his second trip to the finals. He was named the 2010 Bob Sweeney EIVA Head Coach of the Year.

Big Footsteps • Sam Shweisky replaced Glenn Nelson, who retired following the 2009 season after serving as the only head coach ever for the Princeton men’s squad. Nelson also coached the women’s team and is the winningest coach for any single sport at Princeton. In 1998, he became the first coach to ever lead both a men’s and women’s volleyball team to the NCAA playoffs in the same year, and he was inducted into the EIVA Hall of Fame last year.

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