The Princeton men’s volleyball team knows it is going to the EIVA postseason. That’s a done deal.
They’ll know a lot more by the weekend.
The Tigers will conclude their 2014 regular season Friday night (7) at Dillon Gym against EIVA rival George Mason. The Patriots clinched a berth in the postseason last weekend with a 3-1 home win over Princeton, but they can jump the Tigers in the league standings by completing the home-and-home sweep Friday night.
The loser of Friday’s match will finish as the fourth seed and will take on reigning champion Penn State in one semifinal. The winner will take on Harvard in the other semifinal; both will take place at State College on Thursday, April 24, with the winners to meet for the EIVA title April 26.
Since Princeton added men's volleyball as a varsity sport in 1997, no fourth seed has ever reached the EIVA championship match. On the flip side, the last third seed to make the final was Harvard ... last year.
The path through both Harvard and Penn State would be a challenging one for either Princeton or George Mason, but going into the postseason off a victory would be the type of momentum that could ignite a championship push.
“Volleyball is a game of momentum, and any team can get hot at any point in the season,” sophomore outside Devin Stearns said. “It is critical that we come into this match on Friday against George Mason with confidence because anyone can win on any given day.”
Despite losing last weekend, Stearns played his best match in weeks at Mason. He recorded 17 kills and six digs, and he hit .536 in the loss. As a team, Princeton hit .319 and recorded more kills, assists and digs than Mason, but it couldn’t find the answers late in close sets.
“After George Mason lost six starting seniors, I think we went into the match last Friday not knowing what to expect,” Stearns said. “This weekend, I think we will do a better job of expecting their tendencies and style of volleyball.”
It will also be the final home match for the Class of 2014, which includes tri-captains Pat Schwagler, Jeff Stapleton and Davis Waddell, as well as Brad Howard, Ryan Poladian and Bar Shabtai.
“It is very important to send these guys out on a good note,” Stearns said. “They have done an incredible job leading this team all year and deserve nothing less.”