After one of the most impressive and decorated seasons by any Princeton freshman, Cody Kessel earned two more honors when he was named both the 2012 EIVA Newcomer of the Year and a member of the All-EIVA First Team.
Kessel, who leads the EIVA in both kills (4.0) and points (4.6) per set, joins junior middle Michael Dye on the first team, while senior captain and three-year setter Scott Liljestrom was named to the second team.
Kessel, who also leads all freshmen nationally in kills, has been named EIVA Offensive Player of the Week (March 26), and he won the fan vote for the Off The Block Fan Choice Player of the Month after a strong February. These are his two biggest honors so far, though, and Princeton needed every bit of his strong play to grab the fourth and final spot in this weekend's EIVA Championships.
"Cody has been our go-to hitter all year and he continues to be our kill leader every match," head coach Sam Shweisky said. "The poise and confidence he has shown as a freshman has been outstanding. To be voted as the EIVA Newcomer of the Year is an outstanding accomplishment and I couldn’t be happier for Cody for this well-deserved award."
Kessel's average of 4.0 kills per set this season is the highest at Princeton since the 2008 season, when senior captain Peter Eichler averaged 4.4. Kessel has recorded double-digit kill efforts 19 times this season, including in each of the last 14 matches, and he has gone over the 20-point mark nine times this season. He set a career-high with 31 kills in a 3-2 win over Juniata, and he followed that up with 25 kills in a memorable 3-2 home loss to Penn State, who will enter this week as the top seed in the EIVA playoffs.
If Princeton hopes to end Penn State's 13-year run as league champion, it will need another stellar effort from Dye, who was named to the 2010 EIVA All-Tournament team as a freshman. Dye had a fantastic junior season, averaging 2.3 kills and 3.1 points while playing both the middle and opposite positions. He leads the EIVA with a .343 attack percentage.
"Michael Dye has done a great job for us all season long," Shweisky said. "Other teams in the league game plan for him and he still finds a way to be successful. Throughout several lineup shifts this year, from middle to opposite and back to middle, Mike has done a great job and always put up top-notch attack numbers. I am excited to see him be selected to the EIVA First Team."
Liljestrom has been the leader of a young Princeton team, and he has carried the offense throughout the season. His 9.8 assists per set rank fifth in the league, but the way he guided the Tigers through some midseason struggles and back into the postseason impressed the league coaches as much as anything.
"I am really proud of what Scott has done for us this year," Shweisky said. "He led a team of three freshman and two sophomores back to the EIVA final four. It speaks volumes to Scott’s maturity and leadership that we have been able to accomplish what we have accomplished. Scott has done a fantastic job all year long of keeping the team focused on the right things at the right time. In a sport where the attackers often get a lot of the praise and attention, it is the setter who makes it all come together. We would not be where we are today without Scott."
Senior Dexter Scobee was also honored as a member of the EIVA All-Academic Team, an achievement he also earned last year.
"I'm really proud of Dexter for making the All-Academic team once again," Shweisky said. "He is a fantastic role model for our younger players, and he has had some key moments on court for us this season."
Princeton will take on Penn State in the second EIVA semifinal Thursday at 8 pm, following the Harvard-George Mason semifinal at 5:30 pm.