The Princeton men's volleyball team may not have gotten the win it seeked Saturday night against the ninth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. By pushing the reigning EIVA power through four tough games, the longest Penn State-Princeton match in State College since the Clinton administration, the Tigers certainly took a step towards establishing themselves as a legitimate force in the league.
Penn State, which has won every EIVA title since Princeton's lone championship in 1998, moved to 12-3 overall and 6-1 in league play with a 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 27-25 victory over Princeton. The Tigers fell to 5-3 overall, 3-2 in league play, but they have six of their final nine league matches still to be played at home.
Junior Pat Schwagler led Princeton with 15 kills, while freshman outside Devin Stearns continued his impressive weekend with 10 kills. The Tigers hit a match-best .234 for the night, which head coach Sam Shweisky attributed to his first-year setter.
"I thought Davis Waddell did a really nice job tonight of running the offense and keeping everybody involved," Shweisky said of his junior setter, who had 41 assists on the evening. "His focus and leadership enabled us to play very steadily, and almost win the match."
Princeton had one of its most effective nights hitting from the middle, as Michael Dye and Will Siroky combined for 13 kills with only three errors. Siroky had nine blocks, including four solo ones, while Dye had a team-best .625 hitting percentage.
After a close loss in the opening set, Princeton used a 5-0 run on the Waddell serve early in the second to grab a 12-8 lead. The Tigers sided out effectively though the set and built the lead up to 23-16 on another 7-2 run before closing the 25-19 win.
The third set was close thoughout, though Penn State was able to build a late lead and hold on for a 25-22 win. The fourth set would go beyond the 25-point mark, though not nearly as far as the thriller in Dillon Gym last season. Princeton, which played from behing throughout the set but never gave in, fought off two match balls before finally falling on a kill by Tom Comfort.
Princeton now shares third place in the league with George Mason, which fell 3-0 at Saint Francis Saturday night. The Tigers will play their first full home EIVA weekend when the calendar turns, starting with a Friday showdown against Sacred Heart. On Saturday at 4, Princeton will host second-place Harvard in one of two matchups between the league's lone Ivy programs.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to Dillon Gym and seeing our great fans for both matches," Shweisky said. "We've made some good progress on the road, especially this weekend, but we need to keep getting better if we want to be there in the end."