The six-game run was in large part due to a spectacular effort by this year’s freshmen and others on the team, who have been rewarded individual honors this week. One of those receiving acknowledgement was freshman hitter Cody Kessel, who was named a member of the All-EIVA First Team and 2012 EIVA Newcomer of the Year. He is joined on the All-EIVA team by junior middle Michael Dye, while senior captain and setter Scott Liljestrom was named to the second team.
In addition to Kessel, freshmen Tony Ensbury and Will Siroky are peaking at the right time. Ensbury recorded a career-best 17 digs in Saturday’s game and Siroky added a career-high 16 kills. With the hardest game staring them directly in the face — Penn State has not lost an EIVA match since 2008 — these young players will be heavily relied on in the upcoming postseason. This year’s team has certainly not been short of accolades, and perhaps partly due to this they play with a maturity well beyond their experience.
“We don’t necessarily feel like freshmen anymore,” Kessel said. “We just feel like we are part of the team that is all working together to achieve one goal.”
This goal will be put to the test as the team prepares to face Penn State, to whom the team lost both contests this season, 0-3 and 2-3, respectively. In the second match, the Tigers were denied eight match point opportunities in the fourth set, a 37-35 Penn State win.
“We will definitely bring a lot of excitement and energy to Thursday’s and Saturday’s matches, considering this is the first time in the playoffs for us,” Kessel said. “I don’t know about a particular edge our youth will give us, but our class will look to the upperclassmen who have been to the playoffs before for leadership this weekend just as we have throughout the season.”
Both the more experienced upperclassmen and a freshman class who has proven itself to be incredibly talented will play integral roles if the Tigers are to advance to the next round of competition. Although this will be a new experience for the younger members of the team, few doubt that it is a challenge they can handle.
“All our teammates and coaches have been incredibly helpful in facilitating our transition to the college game,” Kessel said.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/04/26/30784/