Jonathan Bates | Associate Editor
The season has yet to start and Princeton has already set a program first.
The Tigers for the first time in their program history were ranked atop the EIVA preseason coaches poll.
Princeton receive two first-place votes and edged out Penn State and George Mason, which both finished within five points of the top spot of the conference poll released Tuesday.
“While it is very humbling and exciting to be picked to win the EIVA in the preseason poll, any coach worth their salt will tell you they would rather be ranked No. 1 in the last poll of the season than the first one,” Princeton coach Sam Shweisky said in an interview with Off the Block. “The EIVA promises to be incredibly competitive this year with the most parity it has seen in several decades. I think the reason that the coaches voting had no clear favorite this season is because it accurately reflects the state of the EIVA and more broadly men’s volleyball across the nation. With the speed and athleticism of the game increasing and more and more teams acquiring top talent, the truth is that any team in our league top to bottom is capable of winning against any other team on any given night. Even more than in years past, the teams that can show consistency and maturity in how they play every night will make a huge impact on who makes it to the EIVA Final Four in April. This level of parity should make for a very exciting EIVA season.”
The Tigers after reaching the EIVA Tournament finals last season are hoping to win their second EIVA title (1998), but they will have to do it without graduated All-EIVA middle attack Junior Oboh. The Tigers, though bring back a formidable duo in All-EIVA opposite George Huhmann and outside attacker Parker Dixon, an EIVA preseason watch list selection.
Princeton travels as much as any other team in the nation, but this year takes the cake – they will visit the West Coast on three separate trips this season.
Penn State received the most in votes of any EIVA team in the AVCA coaches preseason poll, but placed second in the EIVA coaches preseason poll.
The Nittany Lions finished the 2018 regular season in third place — the first they failed to win the EIVA regular season title during the rally scoring era. Penn State welcomes back All-EIVA starters Calvin Mende and Matthew McLaren.
The top non-conference matches for Penn State are the Feb. 8 match versus defending national champions Long Beach State and a neutral-site match versus UCLA on March 8 (at USC.)
George Mason lost the most starters to graduation in the conference – setter Brian Negron (EIVA Player of the Year), outside attacker Christian Malias (All-EIVA) and libero Johnny Gomes (All-EIVA). Returning are starting outside attacker Kyle Barnes and opposite Hayden Wagner (both All-EIVA first team).
NJIT was picked fourth in the EIVA preseason poll and finished ahead of defending league champion Harvard.
NJIT’s hopes were boosted by landing a graduate transfer middle attacker Enrique De Diego Garcia (formerly of Cal Baptist). Harvard returns All-EIVA setter Matthew Ctvrtlik, who was the only setter named to the EIVA preseason watch list.
Rounding out the EIVA preseason poll are St. Francis, Charleston, and Sacred Heart.
The season starts on Dec. 30, when Princeton travels to play MPSF foe Pepperdine in Malibu, California.
2019 EIVA Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Princeton – 56 (2) points
2. Penn State – 53 (3) points
3. George Mason – 51 (3) points
4. NJIT – 47 points
5. Harvard – 29 points
6. St. Francis – 25 points
7. Charleston – 17 points
8. Sacred Heart – 10 points