Greetings once again from 95 South!
We are heading down to George Mason after a great five game match at Princeton last evening which we managed to pull out 23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 37-35, 15-12!
It was a match that had everything a fan would want to see and certainly every emotion a fan would want to experience...and it didn't matter which team that fan supported. This match had great personal and collective efforts. It had stretches of great volleyball and moments of great controversy but more than anything else it had a team which showed it claws and bared its fangs when they realized we weren't playing great. Princeton didn't go away; in fact, they kept the pressure on us through most of the match.
Game one started like so many of our matches at Dillon Gym. We had a good many PSU faithful in the stands and the Nittany Lions with a 9-5 lead that forced a Princeton timeout. Princeton closed to 17-13 but then three PSU hitting errors made it 17-16. Princeton tied it at 21 but two more hitting errors by the Nittany Lions gave Princeton a 23-21 lead. Sideouts were exchanged with the final sideout belonging to Princeton for a 23-25 win. Game one leaders for PSU were Aaron Russell (Kills - 5; Aces - 1), Goodell and Peter Russell (Blocks - 1) and Curry (Digs - 5). PSU hit .212 while Princeton hit .429.
Game two had PSU up 6-3 on Princeton's first timeout. The Tigers tied it at 12. A Goas overpass kill from a Turko serve made it 18-16. That was the separation we needed as the teams traded sideouts and a Tiger serving error gave PSU game two 25-22. Leaders for the Nittany Lions were Comfort (Kills - 6) Peter Russell (Blocks - 1; Aces - 1), Goas (Blocks - 1) and Curry (Digs - 4). PSU hit .320 while the Tigers hit .269.
Game three once again had Princeton take the first timeout as we were up 8-4. Once again, like a bad movie that you've seen on every cable movie channel at 1 AM, Princeton tied and went ahead 15-14. PSU went up 22-21 on a Peter Russell kill but then two Princeton blocks plus a PSU hitting error gave them the 22-24 lead. A Comfort kill gave us the serve at 23-24 and we dug a ball but Princeton stuffed our swing to tie for a 23-25 win. Game three PSU leaders were Comfort (Kills - 4), Aaron Russell (Blocks - 1), Turko (Aces - 1) and Curry (Digs - 6). PSU hit .077 while Princeton hit .276.
Game four's first timeout was taken by - guess who - Princeton! Yep, they were down 8-5. Kinda getting the "been there, done that" feeling yet? You no doubt knew that the score would be tied at 14! Neither team could pull away. From that point on the game was tied twenty more times! Princeton served at 23-24 but a Sunder kill fought off the first of what was to be eight match points. Sunder put away five of the eight. PSU had one game point early at 25-24 after a Russell kill but the Tigers fought back to the advantage and held it from that point on the game was tied twenty more times! Princeton served at 23-24 but a Sunder kill fought off the first of what was to be eight match points. Sunder put away five of the eight. PSU had one game point early at 25-24 after a Russell kill but the Tigers fought back to the advantage and held it until a Goodell/Turko stuff gave PSU the advantage at 34-33. Then Sunder came through one more time at 36-35 with a kill to force a game five with a 37-35 game four win! Leaders for PSU were Sunder (Kills - 14; Aces - 1), Goodell, Goas, Aaron Russell and Turko (Blocks - 1) and Olsen (Digs - 4). PSU hit .288 while Princeton hit .349.
Game five once again had PSU gain the early advantage as Jace Olsen started serving. Jace started us off with a 6e as Jace Olsen started serving. Jace started us off with a 6-0 lead aided by -0 lead aided by three Princeton hitting errors, an ace and two Sunder kills. "Great, "I remember thinking sarcastically as Princeton called timeout at 4-0, "Princeton has us right where they want us!" The guys were the ones reminding each other that it was far from over before I could. Princeton, true to form, brought it back to 10-8 on a PSU hitting error, but an Olsen kill gave the serve to Turko who responded with an ace. The next Princeton swing sailed wide and PSU had a 13-8 lead! The teams traded sideouts for a 14-10 score, but, as Lee Corso, ESPN College Football talking head would say, "Not so fast, my friends!" A Princeton kill gave them the serve at 14-11. They then stuffed our first swing and then our next swing to make it 14-12. In our timeout, Edgardo had the offense spelled out. He then went out and delivered a great set to Aaron Russell off of a tight pass which Aaron planted for the 15-12 win! Game five Nittany Lion leaders were Aaron Russell (Kills - 3), Turko (Aces - 1) and Curry (Digs - 3). PSU hit .286 while Princeton hit .111.
It was a match that was easy to see what we didn't do well but it was the first EIVA match in about six or seven years that we came back to force a game five and win it. Recently, at least in the last five years or so, we had lost similar matches in similar situations in four games. Last night we just competed. It seemed we finally relaxed when we were in the extended part of game four. At that time we went back to just doing what we needed to do without trying to do more. Three outstanding efforts deserve special mention. Jace Olsen came off the bench and handled the Princeton float serves as only he can. He had a couple of crucial kills and digs but Jace's six serves to start game five off really gave us the jump we were looking for! Connor Curry had a personal high of 21 digs. The vast majority of them were settable leading to point scoring opportunities. He made some tough digs and his passing was solid. Then, there was Joe Sunder. Joe was hitting .048 after game three, but then he delivered the most clutch performance of his year with 14 kills in game four! And five of those to fend off match points! Joe hit .524 in game four when his team needed him the most for the longest stretch! Match leaders for PSU were Sunder (Kills - 25; Points - 26), Goodell, Goas and the brothers Russell (Blocks - 2), Turko (Aces - 2) and Curry (Digs - 21). Princeton out-hit us .299 to .227 (but we out-killed them 77 to 63) and out-blocked us 15.5 to 6.5. We out-aced them 7 to 2 and out-dug them 43 to 33.
This was a great EIVA match! I have no doubt that Princeton will be giving us all we can handle in another year or so. They are young and talented and will be fun to play. Coach Sam Shweisky is doing all the right things and if he can warrant a little more administrative support for the team they will be making a lot of noise. Between them and Harvard the EIVA is starting to develop some young talent. We must be ready for some serious barn-burners in upcoming years...and certainly in the upcoming weeks as the EIVA playoffs take shape. So, if you missed this one you missed a good one! Now we have GMU. They are sitting in the fourth and final playoff spot and no doubt they will be as desperate as Princeton was against us. It'll be a typical Patriot - Nittany Lion match: closely fought with a wild crowd. Can it be any more fun?? I'll fill you in on the way back home tonight!
All the best,
Pav, Colin, Jay and the guys