Freshman Cody Kessel recorded a career-best 31 kills, the most by any Princeton player this season, and led the men's volleyball team to a dramatic 3-2 comeback win over Juniata Saturday night in Dillon Gym. The win ends a three-match losing streak and sends the Tigers into a critical EIVA weekend with crucial momentum.
Kessel was brilliant for Princeton, which moved to 7-7 with the 23-25, 26-28, 25-20, 25-23, 15-11 victory. He recorded 31 kills, hit .429 for the match and added six blocks. He had three kills during a late comeback in the fourth and added three big ones in the fifth for the victory.
"I'm so proud of Cody for that dominant performance," head coach Sam Shweisky said. "He put the team on his back when we needed it."
He wasn't alone in the heroics department. Senior co-captain Scott Liljestrom recorded 55 assists, helped Princeton hit .304 for the match and had a huge ace in the final set to open a 13-10 lead. Fellow freshman Will Siroky had nine kills and a season-best 11 blocks, while Tony Ensbury, the third of the starting freshman trio, had a team-best 12 digs.
Junior Michael Dye added 11 kills and three blocks for Princeton, which escaped from a 2-0 hole with a strong effort in the third set and a dramatic rally in the fourth. Down 22-18, the Tigers scored seven of eight points, including the first two on Kessel blocks. A Kessel kill forced a timeout, and following a Juniata kill, Princeton ran off the final four points for the win.
With the fifth set even at 8, Princeton got a kill from Waddell to take a one-point lead. Shweisky subbed in Dexter Scobee for the serve, and the senior made a key diving dig to extend a point that Princeton ultimately won.
"That was a huge play there by our co-captain," Shweisky said. "Dexter has been a great leader for us this season, and I was thrilled to see him make such a key play in the fifth."
While one captain had a key play there, it was the other, Liljestrom who finished the effort. He assisted on a pair of late Kessel kills, and his service ace gave the Tigers some crucial insurance.
Princeton will continue its homestand next weekend with an EIVA pair against Penn State (Friday, 7) and Saint Francis (Saturday, 2). Both teams are among the four currently holding postseason positions, while Princeton stands fifth and will look to break into that group.