They didn’t go down as easily this time. In fact, it took No. 1 Princeton five sets to dispatch No. 3 Penn State in the EIVA championship match (28-26, 22-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-13). It was the third time this season the two teams had played each other, with Princeton winning both of the previous meetings in four sets.
While those two regular-season victories helped Princeton put together its best conference season in program history and earn the right to host the conference postseason tournament, the third win means that Princeton claimed its first EIVA title in more than 20 years. The Tigers also earned a spot in the national tournament in two weeks.
George Huhmann, a 6-11 junior opposite whom Princeton head coach Sam Shweisky calls a “once in a generation player,” lead the match with 25 kills in 47 swings with just five errors to hit .426. The 2019 EIVA Player of the Year also topped all players from behind the service line with three aces and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team along with Princeton outside hitter Parker Dixon, Princeton setter Joe Kelly, and Penn State’s Brett Wildman.
Brett Wildman led the Penn State attack with 24 kills, hitting .300. As a team, Penn State kept the margins as thin as possible, and in fact, the Nittany Lions had 66 kills to Princeton’s 59 and scored 78 total points to Princeton’s 77.
The 2019 EIVA champions, however, ran a slightly more effective offense, hitting .373 to PSU’s .318, forcing Penn State errors with twelve blocks to their opponent’s five. Those small advantages were enough to win by two when they needed to in the fifth set.
In men’s volleyball, when just seven teams make the national postseason (five automatic berths awarded to the winners of the EIVA, MIVA, Conference Carolinas, MPSF, and Big West conferences and two at-large bids), winning your conference means even more than it does in other sports.
Princeton is the EIVA’s fourth different representative to advance to the NCAA Tournament in as many years. George Mason won the conference in 2016, Penn State in 2017, and Harvard in 2019. Each of those teams lost in the first round, with the last EIVA team to win a match in the NCAA postseason being Penn State in 2015. (The Nittany Lions defeated Hawaii in the play-in before losing to Lewis in the national semifinal.)
With a tough non-conference schedule, the 2019 Tigers have faced plenty of tough out-of-conference opponents, and tomorrow night they’ll find out exactly who they’ll face in the NCAA Tournament, and how many play-ins they’ll have to fight their way through in hopes of making the national championship match.
Watch the NCAA men’s volleyball selection show at 1 PM ET on NCAA.com.