With only six teams advancing to the national postseason, winning your conference title is of the utmost importance for college men’s volleyball teams with NCAA Championship ambitions.
The first step toward securing that automatic berth is to top the standings in the regular season and earn the right to host the conference tournament.
This week, one EIVA team took a big step toward securing that postseason home-court advantage, while others battled it out in hopes of making the cut for the four-team EIVA Tournament.
Match of the Week
Sacred Heart def. Harvard 3-2 (18-25, 19-25, 25-19, 25-23, 16-14)
After the second set, it looked like Harvard had this match in the bag. The Crimson had held Saint Francis to fewer than 20 points in each of the first two sets and even led 17-14 in the third.
Part of the reason the visiting team struggled so mightily out of the gates was the superb job Harvard did scouting and slowing down Saint Francis’ best hitter Michael Fisher. The Crimson stuff blocked Fisher twice in the first set, once in the second, and once in the third. On the match, the Crimson held Fisher, the conference’s top hitter (4.45 kills/set), to just seven kills with 10 errors for a -.120 hitting percentage. Saint Francis head coach Mike Rumbaugh even benched his star player in the fourth set and only used him as a sub in the fifth.
A six-point run to a 20-17 lead in the third served as a turning point for Saint Francis. Combining errors by the Harvard team and solid serving and attacking from the Red Flash, SFU won the third 25-19 and went on to earn an early lead in the fourth, which it held throughout.
Harvard kicked the fifth set off with a service error and after leading 4-3 let its opponent go on a four-point serving run. The Crimson rallied back to pull even at 14-all, but couldn’t secure the victory.
This close match between the No. 4 and No. 5 teams in the EIVA standings highlights how competitive the final push to the postseason will be. Just four teams advance to the EIVA Tournament, so this come-from-behind win could prove to be very significant for Saint Francis down the road.
Player of the Week
Matthew McLaren, Penn State
A big week for the Nittany Lions saw Penn State go 3-0 against a trio of conference opponents, sweeping Saint Francis and Sacred Heart and defeating Harvard in four sets.
Way to go, Steve!!!— Penn State Men's Volleyball (@PennStateMVBALL) April 1, 2019
Matt McLaren is this week's @EIVAVolleyball Offensive Player of the Week! He had 34 kills while hitting .406 in our last three wins.
📒: https://t.co/xa0rHS5JAR#WeAre pic.twitter.com/FnAJsDxzAX
Six-foot-four redshirt senior Matthew McLaren played an important role in all three matches. Against Saint Francis on Tuesday, the Colorado native led all players with 10 kills, adding a solo block and a block assist. Three nights later, he had 18 kills in the four-set victory over Harvard, making just three errors for an impressive .500 hitting percentage. And on Saturday versus Sacred Heart, McLaren had just six kills, but with only seven attempts and one error, he posted a season-high .714 clip.
For the season, McLaren ranks second on the Penn State roster with 190 kills (2.75/set), hitting .240.
Princeton Digs In At No. 1 With Defeat Of George Mason
George Mason’s got the higher RPI. It’s had the national ranking all season, while Princeton languishes in the receiving votes column. But last week, the Tigers secured something even more valuable: the conference season sweep.
Mason and Princeton first played each other on Feb. 16, with Princeton taking the four-set victory at home in New Jersey. And a year ago, Princeton spoiled George Mason’s national postseason ambitions with a four-set victory in the EVIA semifinals.
Ratter don’t care. He takes what he wants. pic.twitter.com/vVlJL4Om5q— MPSF Bias (@MPSF_Bias) March 22, 2019
On Friday, the Tigers traveled to Fairfax, Virginia, and did it again, defeating the Patriots in four sets (25-22, 21-25, 25-17, 25-23).
Princeton senior Kendall Ratter played a big role in the victory with 13 kills and six blocks. Juniors George Huhmann and Parker Dixon also contributed double-digit offensive numbers. Their classmate Greg Luck led the match with eight blocks.
Barring Princeton suffering some big upsets in the next two weeks, this result likely means the end of George Mason’s hopes to host the EIVA Tournament and puts Princeton a few steps closer to that coveted prize.
Complete EIVA Results
Penn State def. Saint Francis 3-0
Charleston def. Lawrence Tech 3-0
Princeton def. George Mason 3-1
Penn State def. Harvard 3-1
Lourdes def. Charleston 3-0
Saint Francis def. Harvard 3-2
Penn State def. Sacred Heart 3-0
George Mason def. NJIT 3-1
Saint Francis def. Sacred Heart 3-1