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The men’s volleyball team opened EIVA conference play with a pair of strong performances. On Feb. 10, the Tigers upset last year EIVA-finalist Saint Francis University in a thrilling five-set match. The team then returned to Dillon Gym the following day, and almost pulled off a even bigger stunner by forcing No. 14-ranked Penn State to five sets. While the Nittany Lions eventually rallied, the weekend showed that the Princeton squad would be a strong contender in the playoff race.

The weekend showdown started on Feb. 10 as the Orange and Black faced a strong Saint Francis team. The Tigers had lost both their appearances against the Red Flash last season, being edged out in close sets, and for a while it seemed the same would happen this match-up as well. Saint Francis grabbed the first set — narrowly beating the Princeton squad 25-22.

The team quickly showed their resilience by grabbing the next two sets. Saint Francis would respond by winning the next set, forcing a fifth. Despite being a young team, the Tigers showed their strength in big moments. The Princeton team only fell behind once in the last set, and eventually managed to claim their EIVA opener with a 16-14 victory.

Junior outside hitter Kendall Ratter spearheaded the offense with a career high of 26 kills. He also added four digs, one block, and one service ace to the Princeton effort. However, in addition to the spectacular individual effort from Ratter, the Tigers also showed off their depth in this match-up. Freshmen outside hitters Parker Dixon and Greg Luck posted eight and 19 kills respectively. Furthermore, senior Jonah May guided the offense with 56 assists.

However, the Tigers would get little time to rest as they faced nationally ranked Penn State the next day, Feb. 11.

Perhaps carrying their momentum from the previous day’s upset, the Tigers rallied to a quick 2-0 lead over the Nittany Lions. Indeed, the Princeton team notched eight service aces early in the game. The Lions would come back, however. Penn State snatched the third set and narrowly edged out the Tigers in the fourth to come back and tie the game at two sets apiece. The Lions would ride that momentum to fend off the Tigers in the final set of the match.

While the Princeton team was unable to get the win, the Tigers showed their perseverance and skill in the face of tough opponents. Ratter once again had a career night, topping his previous performance against Saint Francis by recording 27 kills, four aces, four blocks, and three digs. The freshmen duo of Dixon and Luck added nine and seven kills in the Tiger’s loss, and fellow classmate George Huhmann contributed another nine kills.

The Tigers returned from a disappointing performance last season and showed remarkable promise in their opening games. If this thrilling week has shown anything, it is that fans of Princeton volleyball will have plenty to look forward to for the rest of the season.

The Princeton team will stay at home this coming week for two more league matches against NJIT and George Mason University, on Feb. 14 and 18 respectively.

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