Monday, April 15, 2019

Playoff Volleyball Comes To Dillon Gym

TigerBlog remembers very little about the men's volleyball team's trip to the 1998 NCAA tournament.

Other than that it was in Hawaii of course.

Manish Mehta was the men's volleyball contact back then. He knew nothing about the sport when he got here, but like anyone else who came into contact with then-coach Glenn Nelson, he was hooked quickly. TigerBlog would try to explain Glenn Nelson to you, but that wouldn't be easy. Just sort of a picture a really, really, really laid back guy who was also intensely competitive and never at a loss for the perfect comeback to whatever it was you said.

Today, by the way, Manish works for the New York Daily News, where he covers the New York Jets. TigerBlog wonders how often Manish brings up his time as the Princeton men's volleyball contact in NFL press boxes.

That 1998 trip to the NCAA tournament is the only one in Princeton history.

The men's volleyball team became a varsity team in 1997, which made it one of five teams to reach varsity status at Princeton in the 1990s. The other four were women's golf in 1992, men's water polo in 1996, women's water polo in 1997 and women's lightweight rowing in 1998.

The current edition of the men's volleyball team has taken a big step in the direction of a second NCAA tournament appearance, and regardless of what happens, the Tigers have succeeded in doing something that no other Princeton men's volleyball team has done before.

Princeton knocked off St. Francis (Pa.) Friday night and in the process did two things. First, it avenged its only EIVA loss of the season. Second, it clinched the EIVA regular-season championship, a first in program history.

Along with that regular season title comes the right to host this week's EIVA playoffs, which will be in Dillon Gym for the first time. From there the winner of the tournament advances to the NCAA tournament.

Winning the tournament won't be easy, of course.

The semifinals Thursday will see Penn State take on George Mason at 5, followed by Princeton and St. Francis at 8. The winners will play Saturday at 7. 

George Mason has perhaps the most incentive of any of the four teams, as a year ago the Patriots were the No. 1 seed and the host, only to lose to fourth-seeded Princeton in the semifinals. Princeton, of course, has its own motivation, as the Tigers got to the final last year only to fall in four games to Harvard.

The 2019 Tigers started the year in a unique place as well, as the preseason favorite in the EIVA poll. Even with that extra pressure, Princeton went through the regular season in control from start to finish, with only that loss to St. Francis on the road back on March 2, after the Tigers had already won their first six EIVA matches. 

Princeton came into the weekend with a two-game edge on Penn State and St. Francis, meaning the Tigers needed one win to clinch the regular-season title. On the other hand, Princeton couldn't count on getting any help if it got swept, since both opponents would be heavy favorites against NJIT in their other matches this weekend.

As it turned out, Princeton took care of things quickly. This is from the game-story Friday night:
The Tigers hit .360 in the opening set and .562 in the second set to grab a 2-0 advantage, but Saint Francis rallied in the third to keep its slim hopes for hosting the EIVA playoffs alive. The Red Flash grabbed a late lead in the fourth, but Princeton came back to even it at 23-23. Freshman Brady Wedbush gave Princeton match ball with a solo block in the middle of the court, and then he teamed with sophomore setter Joe Kelly for the home court-clinching block to end a 25-23 win.

Volleyball at Dillon Gym is a lot of fun. Playoff volleyball at Dillon Gym will be on another level, TB presumes.

1 comment:

Ivan Marquez said...

Well freakin done!