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Men’s volleyball at the Brigham Young University Invitational in Provo, Utah. 

photo credit: head coach Sam Shwelsky

Last weekend, Princeton Men’s Volleyball (10–12 overall, 8–1 EIVA) faced No. 10 Brigham Young University (12–8), the No. 1 University of Hawaii (21–0), and McKendree University (11–9) at the BYU Invitational in Provo, Utah. McKendree and Hawaii swept the Tigers, and a near upset of the BYU Cougars ended in a loss for Princeton.

“It was really exciting to be out there,” said head coach Sam Shweisky. “They had two, three thousand people in the gym.”

“BYU’s very famous for having a great volleyball following and a great volleyball environment,” said Shweisky. “They usually have five to six thousand people in the gym.”

Princeton played a close five sets against BYU, ultimately losing three sets (14–25, 21–25, 10–15) and winning two (25–19, 25–22). The standout duo of juniors George Huhmann and Parker Dixon combined for 43 kills; junior Greg Luck added a team-best eight digs.

Next up, Princeton faced powerhouse Hawaii. The undefeated Rainbow Warriors made quick work of the the team, trouncing it in straight sets (25–17, 25–18, 25–22). Dixon led his team with 11 kills, five digs, and three blocks. He almost pulled off a third-set Tiger upset with a 5–0 run and three kills, but the effort fell short.

Despite his team’s defeat, Shweisky kept his head up.

“It was just a real treat to play against such a talented team,” he said. “We were really impressed and we were able to hang with them.”

The team’s lack of a deep bench impacted it in its final game against McKendree University. It seemed three consecutive nights of competitive games had fatigued the players. Though Princeton fought hard — Dixon and freshmen Brady Wedbush and Nate Thompson combined for 16 kills, and sophomore Joe Kelly contributed 22 assists — the team lost in straight sets (25–20, 25–18, 25–17) to the unranked Bearcats.

The team was excited about its performance, but its three losses exposed some weak spots.

“Watching Hawaii play defense, we were just amazed,” said Schweisky. “Part of it was just their tenacity and their hunger and eagerness to play defense. And watching some of the BYU servers, we were really impressed with their serving and we wanted to emulate that.”

Heading into its next five regular-season games with a robust 8–1 in-conference record in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA), Princeton is focused on striking a balance between staying rested and, as Shweisky put it, “getting one to two percent better every practice” before the playoffs.

Those five games leading up to the playoffs will be undoubtedly dramatic.

On March 29, Princeton will face No. 13 George Mason (13–6, 6–2). Last year in the EIVA semifinals, the Tigers bested George Mason, then the number one seed. And on Feb. 16, the team came out on top again, walking away with a 3–1 victory. The Patriots will be hungry for redemption; the Tigers will be hungry for another win.  

On April 5, Princeton will face Harvard University (6–10, 5–3), the only other Ivy League school in the EIVA. The Crimson beat the Tigers in last year’s EIVA championship match but fell 3–1 to Princeton in a Feb. 22 matchup.  

Saint Francis University (11–11, 5–3) is the only team in the conference that has beaten Princeton this year. Following their 1–3 drubbing, the Tigers will be looking for revenge on April 12. The final game of the regular season falls on April 13 against Penn State (10–12, 6–2). The Nittany Lions, who suffered a 3–1 defeat at Princeton’s hands, hold the NCAA record of 15 straight NCAA Final Four appearances.

And Schweisky was eager to talk about all of them — save for one. Asked about Harvard, he laughed.

“Don’t give them any press time,” he said.

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