With two returning EIWA Newcomers of the Year, as well as both a reigning first-team All-East selection and a member of the 2012 U.S. Junior National Team, there is ample reason for optimism for the upcoming Princeton men's volleyball season. As shown in the 2013 EIVA preseason poll, released today, the coaches around the league share those feelings.
Princeton was picked to finish third among a strong, balanced field of eight teams in the EIVA. Penn State, which has won every EIVA championship since Princeton's lone title in 1998, was picked to finish first. George Mason, a team Princeton defeated on the final day last season to qualify for the playoffs, was picked ahead of the Tigers.
Harvard, which reached the 2012 championship match, was picked fourth, followed by St. Francis, NJIT, Sacred Heart and Rutgers-Newark.
"While it is nice to be recognized in the preseason poll, we know that where you finish means a lot more than where you begin," said fourth-year head coach Sam Shweisky. "Our league should be very strong this year with every EIVA match holding critical importance. I'm excited to see how our team comes together over the next few weeks, and I'm hopeful we are able to maximize our potential come April."
Princeton will have as experienced a roster as any in recent seasons, and it will be led by returning first-team All-East selections Michael Dye and Cody Kessel. Dye, who was an all-tournament team selection when Princeton reached the 2010 EIVA championship match, led the league in attack percentage while averaging more than three points per set.
Kessel was named the 2012 Newcomer of the Year after leading all freshmen nationally in kills. The EIVA leader in both kills and points, Kessel had nine matches with at least 20 points last season.
Kessel will share the court with 2010 Newcomer of the Year Pat Schwagler, who averaged more than 3.5 kills per set when he helped Princeton to the Eastern final.
A pair of sophomores gained crucial experience last season, including libero Tony Ensbury, who competed for the U.S. Junior National Team over the summer, and middle Will Siroky, whose late-season improvement was a crucial factor in Princeton's return to the EIVA postseason.
Juniors Jeff Stapleton, Davis Waddell and Brad Howard also bring crucial experience to the team, while Shweisky is excited to see how the freshman trio of Devin Stearns, Zach Shaw and Michael Bagnell add to the squad.
Princeton opens the season Jan. 29 at UC-Santa Barbara, and it will open EIVA competition Feb. 8 at George Mason. The EIVA championship tournament will begin with semifinal action on Thursday, April 25th and the championship match on Saturday, April 27th. The location of the entire tournament will be the home facility of the No. 1 seed. The winner of the championship match will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament which will be held at UCLA on May 2nd and 4th.
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