The men's volleyball team dug itself a hole during a midseason drought, but it can make a dramatic push into the EIVA postseason during this final week of competition. There is no margin for error, though, as the Tigers will need to sweep their final two matches to have any hope for another shot at Penn State.
Princeton is currently 11-9 on the season, and it is riding a four-match win streak, but it stands fifth in the league with a 5-7 record. One season ago, fifth place would have been just fine; now, not so much. When the EIVA got rid of the two divisions, it also took away three postseason positions (one in the Tait, two in the Hay Division).
Now, only four will get in. Penn State has clinched the top seed with a 13-0 mark, and Harvard is second at 10-4. George Mason, barring a major collapse, should be fine as the third seed.
That leaves Saint Francis, Princeton and NJIT battling for the fourth position. The Red Flash currently holds the fourth spot, and would clinch the berth with a win in its regular season finale Saturday night. Unfortunately for Saint Francis, that finale will take place at Rec Hall in Penn State, and the Nittany Lions have already swept Saint Francis in the first matchup this season.
Should Penn State complete another perfect EIVA season, that opens the door for both Princeton and NJIT.
And that brings us to Wednesday night.
Princeton (5-7 EIVA) will host NJIT (5-7) at 7 pm in Dillon Gym during the Tigers' 2012 home finale. The loser of the match will be eliminated from the league race, while the winner will go into the final weekend with hope.
NJIT defeated Princeton 3-1 in the first meeting between the two teams, though Princeton freshman Cody Kessel led all players with 18 kills in the match. Kessel currently leads the EIVA with four kills per set, a total that ranks seventh nationally and first among all Division I freshmen. The next closest freshman in the national rankings is Josh Taylor of Pepperdine, who ranks 19th with 3.51 kills per set.
Michael Dye hit .400 for Princeton in that match, and he enters the final week leading the EIVA in hitting percentage (.360). That total ranks fourth nationally, and is even more impressive considering injuries throughout the roster forced Dye to play multiple positions this season.
If Princeton wins Wednesday night, it will make Saturday critical in league play. The Tigers will travel to George Mason for a 4 pm start; it will be another must-win situation for Princeton, who fell 3-0 to the Patriots earlier in the season. A Tiger win, coupled with a Saint Francis loss at Penn State, would send Princeton back to the EIVA postseason.