PRINCETON, N.J. - The Princeton team that entered this EIVA-opening weekend will barely resemble the one that leaves it, and that isn't good news for the rest of the league.
A youthful Tiger squad, one day after upsetting reigning EIVA finalist Saint Francis in a 3-2 thriller, nearly pulled off an even bigger stunner Saturday in front of more than 1,100 people at Dillon Gym. A second straight career night by junior Kendall Ratter helped Princeton push the 14th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions to five sets, but the visitors fended off a match ball and rallied for the 3-2 win.
Ratter had set a career high with 26 kills Friday night against Saint Francis, and he topped it within 24 hours; Ratter had 27 kills, four aces, four blocks, three digs, two assists and hit .362 to push Princeton to the verge of the upset. He was the driving force in an otherwise-balanced offense; freshmen George Huhmann and Parker Dixon both recorded nine kills, while classmate Greg Luck added seven. Senior Jonah May paced the offense with 52 assists, while both Luck and Corry Short had a team-best seven digs. All-EIVA middle Junior Oboh, who battled back after missing Friday night's game with an injury, added five kills and four blocks.
Serving helped push Princeton to a 2-0 lead, as the Tigers had eight service aces to only 12 errors. Following a strong performance in the opening set, Princeton rallied from a 23-22 deficit to earn a set ball in extra points, and a combo block by Huhmann and Ratter clinched the 27-25 win. Penn State had a convincing win in the third, but Princeton fought back in a tight fourth set and actually earned a match ball. Penn State's Calvin Mende recorded one of his match-high 29 kills to fend it off, and the Nittany Lions won the next two points to take the set.
Penn State rode that momentum into the fifth and never let Princeton get back into it; Ratter fought off one match ball with his career-best 27th kill, but Mende finished the match to give Penn State its third win of the EIVA season.
Princeton (3-6, 1-1 EIVA) will remain home over the next week for two more league matches, including a Tuesday night showdown with NJIT (7 pm, ILDN).