Men's Volleyball: Princeton booted from playoffs in first-round matchup
But “almost” is as close as it would ever come. Penn State dropped underdog Princeton in the EIVA semifinal 3-0 at State Park, ending the Tigers’ season just short of the finals by the score of 25-20, 25-12, 25-22.
Princeton quickly fell behind in the first set, posting a .067 team attack percentage as compared to Penn State’s .324, with Penn State also recording double the amount of kills. After quickly falling behind as the Nittany Lions went on a five-point scoring streak, Princeton climbed back to close the final margin to only five points, but still dropped the first set 25-20.
The second set, however, proved to be even tougher for the struggling Tigers. Penn State took the set 25-12, with their attack percentage of .750 dominating Princeton’s defense. The Tigers posted only seven kills, one less than the previous set.
Nonetheless, Princeton showed some spark in the third set and even managed to pull ahead at one point for the first time in the match. The Tigers doubled their kills from the previous set, recording 14, and their attack percentage significantly increased to .370.
Princeton up 12-9, Penn State scored 16 straight to make a comeback and take the final set at a close 25-22, earning a spot in the EIVA finals.
The Nittany Lions rocked the Tiger offense, holding freshman phenomenon and outside hitter Cody Kessel to just 13 kills and a .176 attack percentage. Fellow freshman middle blocker Will Siroky followed with four, hitting at .250. On the defensive end, classmate and libero Tony Ensbury posted a respectable nine digs.
Last night’s match comes as a disappointment for the freshmen trio, which has played outstandingly throughout the season. Just last week Kessel was named EIVA Newcomer of the Year and earned EIVA First-Team All Honors. Ensbury earned EIVA Defensive Player of the Week, while Siroky was named EIVA Offensive Player of the Week. The honors were the perfect end to a season where young talent has been center stage.
It is the upperclassmen, however, that have led the young Tiger team with their experience to the semifinals. In the match against Penn State, though the team could not find cohesion, their leadership was still present in full force. Junior Michael Dye recorded six kills and two blocks, while sophomores Jeff Stapleton and Davis Waddell posted three and two kills, respectively. The pair also recorded one block each. Senior setter Scott Liljestrom built on an excellent season, posting 27 sets and rounding out his last game as co-captain.
Princeton has hugely improved since their last season and will look to capitalize on this year’s progress for the upcoming season. Losing Liljestrom means creating a huge hole in the offense, one that the Tigers will look to fill with fresh talent.
As for Penn State, the Nittany Lions will face off against George Mason on Saturday in College Park, seeking to win their 21st league title.
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