LIVE STATS l TIGERCAST WITH SCOTT LILJESTROM l EIVA STANDINGS
When George Mason last saw the Princeton men's volleyball team, it had just handed the Tigers one of the worst losses of their season. That day, the EIVA playoffs seemed like a distant dream for Princeton; on Saturday, Princeton will face Mason again, and thanks to a perfect April, postseason hopes are within the Tigers' reach.
Princeton will play its regular season finale Saturday at 4 pm in Fairfax, Va., site of the likely third-seeded George Mason Patriots, who are making their annual late-season surge towards the postseason. Mason became the third team to clinch a playoff berth in the four-team race, and now only Saint Francis and Princeton remain in the hunt for the final bid.
If you're into the whole control-your-own-destiny thing, then Saint Francis has the edge. The Red Flash are currently 7-6, and if it wins its regular season finale Saturday, it knocks Princeton out of contention. So all Saint Francis needs to do is go to Rec Hall and beat Penn State.
Of course, the Red Flash have tried that 29 other times, and it has yet to pull it off.
And Penn State has an all-time EIVA record of 236-11.
And the last time Penn State lost a home EIVA match was Valentine's Day. In 1998.
So if there was ever an advantageous time to be in the fifth spot, this could be it. If Princeton can trust Penn State to take care of business, then all the Tigers need to do is win.
Of course, winning at George Mason is never an easy task. Mason, which hosts Rutgers-Newark Friday night, has won three straight over Princeton, including a 3-0 win in Dillon Gym during the middle of March. Andrew Dentler led the Patriots with 13 kills in the win, while Mark Jones had 35 assists.
Princeton got 13 kills from freshman Cody Kessel, a top contender for EIVA Newcomer of the Year and the nation's leading freshman in kills.
Things looked bleak for Princeton at the end of March, despite the thrilling near-upset of Penn State that took place in Dillon Gym on the final Friday of the month. But the Tigers have won five straight in April, including Wednesday's EIVA home comeback victory over NJIT, which has left them on the brink of the postseason.
Now it just needs to take that one final step, and get a little help from an unlikely ally in State College.