In a Friday night matchup in Dillon Gymnasium against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (4–8 overall, 1–4 NEC), men’s volleyball (6–8, 2–2 EIVA) cruised to a commanding 3–0 win. The victory was the Tigers’ third consecutive win, following last weekend’s sweep of rival Harvard (5–8, 0–4).
Junior outside hitter James Hartley attributed part of the team’s strong play against the Knights to the momentum that was developed in last weekend’s successes.
“Having that experience [of winning against Harvard] is unmatched by anything else,” Hartley told The Daily Princetonian.
The Tigers were heavily favored to come away with the victory over the Knights, and the early domination from Hartley and fellow senior outside hitter Brady Wedbush confirmed the authority they maintained throughout the night. Wedbush ended the game with a match-leading nine kills and three aces.
Thanks to a strong service hold by Wedbush, coupled with Hartley’s own laser-like serves, the Tigers sprinted to an early 9–5 lead to take control over the first set, pushing the Knights to take a timeout. However, the attempt at regrouping had backfired for Fairleigh Dickinson, as more aces and kills from Wedbush and sophomore right side hitter Nyherowo Omene broadened the score gap at 16–8.
During a sudden, but temporary, shift in momentum, the Knights seemed to have planted a seed of energy as a couple of well-placed tips set them up for a potential comeback. The Tigers read the Knights’ strategy well, though, and were able to reorganize themselves to jump up to a lead of 21–14. Under pressure, a few service errors from the Fairleigh Knights handed a set point opportunity to the Tigers. Junior outside hitter Ben Harrington managed to hammer down a kill to take the first set for Princeton, 25–18.
The second set proved to be slightly more arduous for the Tigers, as the Knights took an early 5–1 advantage. With the Tigers seeming a bit disoriented through a few scrambling points that delivered opportunities for the Knights, Princeton’s coach Sam Shweisky called for a timeout. It was the Tigers’ first and only timeout of the match, and was much needed, as the Knights were leading 8–2. Then, an assertive post-timeout run put Princeton in solid standing. Despite still trailing 11–8, the Tigers forced the Knights to call for their own timeout.
A consistent service run from junior middle blocker Gavin Leising evened out the score at 12–12, a tie which Wedbush followed up with a kill to give the Tigers their first lead of the set. As the Knights struggled to contest the Tigers’ authoritative serves, the Tigers took set two, 25–18.
The quick third set demonstrated the confidence of the Tigers as Omene, Wedbush, and Hartley deepened the Knights’ frustration through their dominant play. In similar fashion to the first set, it was Harrington who sealed the deal for the Tigers to take the set 25–17 and continue the Tigers’ three-match winning streak.
The Tigers leave Dillon for a road conference matchup in Newark against New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) (6–9, 1–2 EIVA) next weekend.
“It’s going to be a battle,” said Hartley. “NJIT is also really good in the conference. It’s always between us, NJIT, and Penn State [for the championship], so hopefully we can hold out.”
Kenzy Elshazly is a contributor to the Sports Section at the ‘Prince.’
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