Princeton coach Sam Shweisky is making sure his team gets tested right from the start of the upcoming season.
Shweisky in an interview with Off the Block earlier this week said that Princeton will open the 2015 season with a single-season program-record six matches against the MPSF.
Princeton will open the upcoming season on Jan. 9-10 with three matches as part of the UC Santa Barbara Invitational, one of the biggest annual non-conference tournaments in college men’s volleyball. Following that tournament, Princeton also will have road non-conference matches later in January against UCLA, UC Irvine and UC San Diego.
“We like to play a lot of strong non-conference opponents early to kind of battle-test ourselves,” Shweisky said.
The Tigers finished last season reaching their third consecutive EIVA Tournament and making the EIVA Tournament championship match for the first time since 2010. In addition, Princeton received votes in the season’s final top 15 national coaches poll.
The Tigers’ recent success, Shweisky said, has resulted in more West Coast schools wanting to add Princeton to its schedule.
“It’s really faltering and pretty cool. It’s one of the things that we are very humbled and excited about,” he said. “Princeton is a big name outside of the volleyball context. It’s an internationally known school. Schools like to play Princeton. It’s a known quantity. That’s always very exciting for us. We are very excited to go play those schools and get a chance to play against the top teams in the country.”
Both UCLA and UC Irvine were in the top 10 of the national coaches poll last season.
This also will be the first time Princeton will play UCLA in its program history.
The Tigers historically have opened their season with an annual West Coast road trip. However, this will be the earliest start of a season for Princeton, which traditionally plays its season-opener in late-January.
Shweisky said starting its season earlier by playing at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational won’t change the way his team prepares for the season. The coach also said the early start to the season will be a positive for the Tigers.
“We usually spend the first three weeks of January just sort of training and banging our head against each other trying to get better. I think this is going to make us solidify a line-up much sooner,” Shweisky said. “We always go out to California to be tested and push ourselves, see where we are, see where the fault lines are and then come back and get better.”
Princeton returns all but one starter for the upcoming season, including opposite Cody Kessel who earned All-American Honorable Mention honors.
The Tigers are also attempting to win their first EIVA championship since 1998 when they reached the NCAA Tournament. Penn State since Princeton’s 1998 title has won the last 16 EIVA championships
Shweisky said the tough non-conference will help prepare Princeton for the EIVA season and to make a run at a conference title.
“Our conference is going to be strong,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough year, but the key for us is pushing ourselves.”