Men's Volleyball: Tigers look to ride momentum
The men’s volleyball team opened its season last week with a resounding 3-1 victory over No. 12 UC Santa Barbara, the team’s first season-opening win in over a decade. The win also marked Princeton’s first victory over a ranked opponent since the Tigers beat then-No. 11 George Mason in 2008.
Although the team lost the second half of its season-opening two-match California road trip to UC San Diego by a score of 3-1, the Tigers look geared to do serious damage in Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association conference play, which starts this week. The 2013 EIVA preseason poll, released in late December, picked the Tigers to finish third among the eight teams in the league.
Princeton will open its conference schedule with George Mason in a rematch of last season’s thrilling regular season finale, which saw Princeton win in Fairfax in five sets to clinch the final EIVA playoff spot.
The perennially strong Patriots went on to the EIVA finals last year against Penn State, but they are currently just 2-5 on the season. All five of George Mason’s losses have come at the hands of teams that are either in or just barely outside the AVCA Top 15 poll, and the Patriots are looking to right the ship and defend their home court after losing their last two matches on the road.
The Tigers are paced offensively by junior outside hitter Pat Schwagler, who has notched 33 of the team’s 102 kills, good for 4.12
kills per set. Schwagler leads the team with a .397 attack percentage on the season.
He is followed closely by sophomore outside hitter Cody Kessel, who led all freshmen nationally with 372 kills. Kessel has started the year strong, ranking in the Tigers’ top three in almost every major statistical category, including kills, digs and blocks.
Also critical to Princeton’s attack is junior Davis Waddell, who is starting at setter this season for the first time in his Princeton career. Last season, Waddell started at outside, and in his freshman season, he started at rightside.
Waddell leads the team with 71 assists in seven sets, an average of over 10.1 assists per set. His setting will be crucial this season, as the Tigers look to improve their offensive efficiency and match or outdo their .271 attack percentage from last season.
Currently, the team is hitting at .222 percent, but as Waddell continues to familiarize himself with his new position — he was a setter in high school — the Tigers can expect that number to rise.
Defensively, Princeton is led by its tandem of middle blockers, senior co-captain Michael Dye and sophomore Will Siroky. The duo has combined for 13.5 of the Tigers’ 29 total blocks.
Another focal point on defense is sophomore libero Tony Ensbury. Ensbury, who competed for the U.S. Junior National Team this past summer, leads the team with 22 digs.
After the match at George Mason, Princeton will return home to Dillon Gymnasium to face off against in-state foe Rutgers next Tuesday.
The Tigers defeated the Scarlet Knights in both of their meetings last season, and will be looking for similar success when they square off this season.
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