Only four teams get to qualify for the EIVA playoffs each year, so every spot is a precious one. But the difference between the third and fourth seed is pronounced.
Need proof? Find the last fourth seed to reach the EIVA championship match.
Better yet, don’t waste your time.
Since Princeton became a varsity program in 1997, it has reached two EIVA championship matches. Both times, it was at least the third seed; during that time frame, no fourth seed has ever reached the final.
Princeton can clinch at least the third seed for the 2014 EIVA Championships with a victory Friday night at George Mason (7 pm, Ivy League Digital Network). The Tigers have already assured themselves a spot in their third straight semifinal, a feat they haven’t accomplished this century.
Princeton (14-8, 9-3 EIVA) clinched a bid in the playoffs last weekend with its win over NJIT, but the final spot in the postseason is still up for grabs. George Mason (13-12, 7-5 EIVA) will play a home-and-home series with Princeton over the next two Fridays, and would actually push the Tigers to the fourth seed with a sweep.
A split or a Princeton sweep would open the door for Saint Francis (10-13, 5-6), which is a half game back of Mason and hosts Penn State this weekend. The Red Flash play at NJIT and Rutgers-Newark to close the season, and they would win any two-team tiebreaker with the Pioneers because of a better individual set record between the two teams.
Of course, that is neither here nor there for Princeton, which just wants to win Friday and forget about the fourth seed and a semifinal showdown with host Penn State.
Princeton has won seven of its last eight matches, and has gotten All-East quality play from its junior rightside starter Cody Kessel. The former EIVA Newcomer of the Year leads the team with 3.51 kills and 4.01 points per set. In the playoff-clinching win at NJIT last weekend, he had 15 kills, five digs and three blocks while hitting .619 during a 3-0 win.
Of course, he hasn’t been alone in the stellar play for Princeton. Senior Pat Schwagler, another former Newcomer of the Year, is averaging 3.9 points per set and is one of the league’s best two-way players. The middle duo of Will Siroky and Junior Oboh has continued to elevate Princeton’s blocking game, though head coach Sam Shweisky is looking to keep involving them in the offense.
Freshman setter Chris Kennedy may return from injury this weekend, and both his assists and service game were big reasons for Princeton’s push towards the top of the EIVA standings. Depth at the setter position can be a scarcity in men’s volleyball, but Shweisky was fortunate to have it this season. Senior tri-captain Davis Waddell kept Princeton’s momentum alive, especially with a 41-assist effort in a 3-1 win over Saint Francis.
Princeton is 1-5 against George Mason over the last three seasons, but its lone win was a huge one. The Tigers concluded the 2012 regular season with a 3-2 road win at George Mason, and that clinched its first of these three straight trips to the postseason.