Story Courtesy of Princeton
PRINCETON, N.J. - Saturday night was meant to be special because the 1998 EIVA championship team was to be honored on the 20th anniversary of earning the program's only Eastern title. As it turned out, that was merely the appetizer for arguably the wildest night in Dillon Gym over the last 20 years.
And that 1998 championship team couldn't have been happier to share the spotlight with another Princeton squad up to the task against a nationally ranked Penn State program.
Princeton saved an incredible eight match balls in a wild fourth set, and carried that momentum into a dramatic 15-13 fifth-set victory to lead the Tigers to a 3-2 win over 10th-ranked Penn State. Reigning EIVA Newcomer of the Year George Huhmann had the match of his career, recording 24 kills, nine blocks, and two aces, while hitting .667 in Princeton's third straight win of the season. After Penn State fought off two match points of its own in the fifth, it fittingly ended with a Huhmann swing that went off the block and clinched only Princeton's second win over Penn State since — you guessed it — the 1998 EIVA playoffs.
The thought of Princeton pulling the match out seemed far-fetched when Penn State went up 20-14 in the fourth set, but the Tigers weren't about to let a capacity Dillon crowd down. A Huhmann ace got the deficit down to 20-18, and helped keep things manageable when the Nittany Lions got match ball at 24-21. Two Nittany Lion errors and a combo block by Greg Luck and Trey Sickler evened the score at 24-24, and then the two teams went on the see-saw for the next 10 points, with Penn State serving five more times for the match. Junior Oboh killed off the eighth match ball, and then Huhmann gave Princeton its first lead since of the set at 30-29. A Luck kill ended it, and Dillon erupted one more time.
Princeton would race out to leads of 6-2 and 10-5 in the fifth, but Penn State continued to battle back. It was finally at 14-13 when Princeton passed the serve to freshman setter Joe Kelly, who recorded his 44th assist of the match to Huhmann.
"I couldn't be more thrilled for the guys and the way they battled tonight," head coach Sam Shweisky said. "This was a great night for Princeton Volleyball. We celebrated a championship team, and then we played like a championship team. We know we have a long way to go this season, but the guys should see now just how strong we can be this season. And to do it in an environment like Dillon Gym tonight, with great fans and President Eisgruber in attendance, it just shows great composure and competitiveness from our guys."
Luck recorded 15 kills, 10 digs and five blocks, while both Oboh and Parker Dixon added five blocks apiece. Kelly had a career-high 17 digs, while both Dixon and libero Corry Short added 11 digs apiece. Oboh added six kills and became the only Princeton Tiger in two decades to start in two victories over Penn State; he had three kills and six blocks when the Tigers posted a 3-2 win over the Nittany Lions during the 2014 season.
Princeton, which now has two wins over Top-10 opponents this season (#8 Stanford was the other), will close a five-match homestand next Friday against NJIT on the Ivy League Network.