Story Courtesy of Princeton
FAIRFAX, Va. - Even the most optimistic of Princeton fans could never have seen this one coming two months ago.
When the men's volleyball team dropped a 3-0 match to Harvard on Feb. 23, it left the Tigers at 1-11 overall, 0-4 in EIVA play, and seemingly looking for any scraps of positivity left in their season. Maybe that was the outside view, but the team had a different plan, and it executed it brilliantly. One match at a time, the Tigers took down one league opponent after another — including their first ever win at Penn State — and now they only have one rival left in their way.
Care to guess who?
Princeton knocked off the top-seeded Patriots of George Mason 3-1 Thursday night to advance to its third EIVA championship match this decade, and its first since 2014. The Tigers will now face second-seeded Harvard — the only EIVA team left that Princeton has yet to beat this season — after the Crimson knocked off reigning champion Penn State in a grueling five-set match.
Yes, Princeton and Harvard will meet in a winner-take-all league championship showdown, even though it isn't an official Ivy League sport, and it won't be held in an Ivy League venue. Not that it matters. It will be Princeton-Harvard, and that's enough.
Sophomore Greg Luck paced the Tigers with 18 kills, six digs and three blocks, and he hit .424 in the 25-17, 22-25, 25-23, 25-20 victory, which came in front of more than 1,000 fans in Fairfax, Va. Classmate and first-team All-EIVA opposite George Huhmann added 15 kills and five blocks, while senior middle Junior Oboh posted eight kills and nine blocks to reach his second EIVA final.
"I couldn't be prouder or happier for the guys for both the way they battled tonight, and since our tough start to the season," head coach Sam Shweisky said. "I credit Junior Oboh and Mike Fuerst for their leadership throughout the season, and especially in this semifinal. We needed their veteran presence, but we also needed great play on the court, and we got both. Greg was fantastic tonight in a pressure-packed environment, and the whole team contributed to this great win."
"I have to tip my cap to George Mason for a great season, and for hosting a great event tonight," Shweisky added. "Jay Hosack is a good friend, and a deserving EIVA Coach of the Year, and his guys battled hard. We're excited to get another chance at the EIVA title, especially on this 20-year anniversary since our last championship."
Sophomore Parker Dixon added seven kills, eight blocks, and seven digs, while freshman setter Joe Kelly paced the offense with 47 assists. Kelly showed impressive composure lining up against opposing setter and 2018 EIVA Player of the Year Brian Negron; the Tiger rookie guided an offense that hit .327 for the match and .480 in the decisive fourth set.
The most critical moment of the match came late in the third set, when Mason went on a 5-0 run to erase a five-point deficit and force a 22-22 tie. Huhmann broke the drought with a kill, and added another to make it 24-23. A Patriot hitting error gave Princeton the win and a 2-1 edge, and the Tigers turned an early lead in the fourth into a decisive win.
Princeton and Harvard, which played a five-set thriller in Boston two weeks ago, will play for the EIVA title Saturday at 7 pm in a match that will be streamed live by FloVolleyball.