The inability to put away an opponent after a 2-0 lead had been a nuisance to the Princeton men's volleyball team prior to Saturday's home showdown with EIVA rival Harvard. After the match, it was a real problem.
Harvard rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Princeton 22-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-21, 15-9 Saturday afternoon in Dillon Gym. The win moves Harvard to 5-2 in the EIVA, good enough for sole possession of second place. Princeton, which had the chance to put some distance between itself and its non-Penn State rivals, fell to 4-3 and is now in fourth.
Freshman Cody Kessel led Princeton with 15 kills, while junior Michael Dye added 11 kills and eight blocks. Sophomore Jeff Stapleton, playing his first match in weeks, had 10 kills and eight digs, while senior setter Scott Liljestrom recorded 43 assists for the Tigers.
Princeton had control for most of the first set, but it needed to rally from an early 10-6 deficit to win the second. The Tigers slowly chipped away, eventually tying it on a Kessel kill, and they grabbed a 21-20 lead on a Dye kill. Kessel put a ball away at 24-23 to move Princeton to one game of the win.
But Harvard, which has now won four straight against Princeton, would not go away. From a 12-12 tie in the third, the Crimson won six of eight points to grab a four-point advantage. After carrying that to a win, the Crimson again found themselves down 16-13 in the fourth. This time, a 6-0 run put Harvard in front to stay.
With momentum firmly on its side, Harvard took an 8-2 lead in the fifth and never looked back.
Princeton would like nothing more than a third shot at the Crimson, most likely in the EIVA semifinal. Harvard will own all the tiebreaks over Princeton, so to assure a possible semifinal date, the Tigers will need to finish ahead of the rest of the league. They currently trail idle Saint Francis by one half game, though Princeton has already earned a road win over the Red Flash.