Princeton coach Sam Shweisky said before the conference match that he had assembled a team this year capable for beating No. 10 Penn State.
His players backed up those words against the 15-time defending EIVA champions.
Princeton rallied from a one-game deficit to upset Penn State 18-25, 25-22, 25-19, 15-25, 15-11 on Friday in Princeton, N.J., for the team’s first victory against the Nittany Lions in 16 years.
“It’s really special,” Shweisky said. “It just shows us that if we stay focused on the process and working hard good things can happen. It’s just really great to play well and win in front of an exciting home crowd. It energizes us and just helps us keep moving forward.
Princeton outside attacker Devin Stearns had a team-high 18 kills, including a game-high three kills in the decisive fifth game. In addition, Stearns had a kill with the fifth game tied at nine that jumped started a 6-2 run to secure the victory for Princeton (4-6, 3-1 EIVA).
Shweisky said he was pleased with how Stearns contributed on offense after the sophomore was primarily insert into the starting lineup because of his passing ability. The coach also said Stearn’s ability to play well on offense and defense was needed in the Tigers’ upset win.
“He’s really played great this whole year,” Shweisky said. “He really turned it on tonight.
Stearns was one of three Tigers to finish the match with double-digit kills. All-American outside attacker Cody Kessel had 14 kills, while all-conference outside attacker Pat Schwagler added 12 kills against the Nittany Lions (12-3, 5-1 EIVA).
Stearns, Kessel and Schwagler each also added a team-high two aces. Princeton ended with a season-high 11 aces in the victory — nine more than Penn State.
Shweisky said his team’s serving was critical to keeping pressure on Penn State and forcing the Nittany Lions to run their offense out-of-system at important times throughout match, especially the fifth game.
“They have some very talented players and when they are in system they are pretty outstanding,” he said. “We were fortunate to put some pressure on them with the serve.”
Despite the loss, Penn State out-hit Princeton .382 to .287 and had more than a .500 attack percentage in its first and fourth game victories.
Penn State outside attacker Nick Goodell led all players with 25 kills. Outside attacker Aaron Russell, the reigning 2013 EIVA Player for of the Year, also had 17 kills against the Tigers.
This is the first time that Princeton defeated Penn State since the Tigers upset the Nittany Lions in the 1998 EIVA Tournament semifinals en route to advancing to the NCAA Tournament later that season. It also Penn State’s second conference loss in the last five years.
Penn State entered this match on a nation-best 12-match winning streak and moved into the top 10 of the national rankings.
With this loss, Penn State moves into a tie for first-place in the EIVA but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against Harvard. In addition, Princeton moves into sole possession of third-place and one-match behind first-place Penn State and Harvard.