Reeling from a surprising loss to George Mason Friday to open its Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association season, the men's volleyball team reinvented itself for last night's matchup against NYU.
A new lineup and a more aggressive attitude produced the change head coach Glenn Nelson and the Tigers were looking for as they rebounded with a 3-1 victory over the Violets.
Princeton (2-3 overall, 1-1 EIVA) dominated visiting NYU (2-4, 2-3) early in the match, winning the first three points on its way to a quick 3-0 lead. That advantage diminished to 5-4, but the Tigers rallied to win the first game, 15-10.
The start of the second game, however, was radically different from the first — and a cause for concern for the Tigers. The Princeton serve to open the game landed squarely in the net, just as so many did against George Mason. Despite this ominous beginning the Tigers managed to post a 10-4 lead in the early going.
But the rout was surprisingly not on.
"We stopped playing well, and they stopped making mistakes," freshman middle blocker Dennis Alshuler said.
The Violets soon closed the gap, tying the game at 11, then took the lead by one. The Tigers sided out and briefly tied the game at 12 before finally dropping the second game, 15-12.
The second game victory would be the high-water mark for the Violets, however, as the Princeton offense would dominate the rest of the match. Alshuler and junior middle Ryan Black proved too much for NYU at the net.
In contrast to Friday's loss, Princeton had the height advantage last night up front. This allowed both Alshuler and Black to have their way with the diminuitive Violets on offense and defense, with the exception of the peculiar second game loss. Princeton won the last two games 15-11 and 15-4, respectively.
Princeton also found the answer to another problem which had plagued the Tigers during the home opener.
"We're serving better," senior setter and team captain Jason Morrow said after the win.
The difference on serve was the difference between a win and a loss in this case as the Tigers gave away fewer sideouts against the Violets than they had against George Mason. Princeton may have sacrificed some team cohesion, however, in order to solve its problems.
"We're back to square one," head coach Glenn Nelson said of his team after the match.
The lineup changes may have worked against the Violets, but the Tigers face one of their biggest EIVA challenges of the season Friday in State College, Pa.
The Penn State Nittany Lions (3-5, 2-0) are currently the ninth-ranked team in the country. The matchup should be an offensive display for both teams, as each boasts top-notch setters. Jose Quinones, the Penn State sophomore charged with running the offense, was named EIVA Newcomer of the Year last year and is fourth on the Nittany Lions' all-time assist leaderboard. Morrow and the rest of the newly revamped Tiger offense could have their hands full, especially with only one day to prepare.
"We can't duplicate Penn State's lineup in practice," Nelson said. "It's going to take a supreme effort to beat [Penn State]."