The Princeton men's volleyball team wanted a victory and the third seed in the upcoming EIVA playoffs, but it got something just as important Friday night.
The Tigers got momentum.
Princeton clinched the third seed and an all-Ivy EIVA semifinal with Harvard Thursday night by rallying for a 3-1 victory over fourth-seeded George Mason in front of 885 fans in a raucous Dillon Gym. The Tigers overcame a slow start to earn a crucial Senior Night win, and it will now open in the opposite side of the EIVA bracket as 15-time reigning champion Penn State.
The last time Princeton started the postseason in the opposite half as the Nittany Lions, they made it to the championship match (2010).
"This was a terrific effort against a really good George Mason team," head coach Sam Shweisky said. "The semifinals should be outstanding Thursday night. All four teams are playing well right now, and it's going to come down to who plays well in the big moments."
We're a long way from there, but Princeton took a strong first step with some impressive volleyball over its final three sets against a vastly improved George Mason squad. Junior Cody Kessel led the Tigers with 15 kills, including the match winner, and he added eight digs and three blocks.
The outside duo of Devin Stearns and Pat Schwagler combined for 25 kills and 13 digs; it was the second straight strong performance from Stearns, who is establishing himself as one of the rising threats in the EIVA.
Schwagler, who joined Kessel on the All-EIVA team last year, has been there since he was part of that 2010 championship match.
Freshman Chris Kennedy paced the offense with 50 assists, while junior libero Tony Ensbury had 14 digs. He and Stearns had a pair of wild digs to set up a Kessel kill late in the fourth, giving the Tigers their first two-point lead of the set. Stearns followed with a pair of kills, and Princeton kept the pressure on until Kessel's match-clinching win.