From Rust to Gold: Princeton completes comeback, beats NJIT for EIVA championship

Photo courtesy of Princeton athletics

One year ago the biggest match Princeton played was an intrasquad beach volleyball scrimmage.

The school had opted out of the 2021 season because of the coronavirus pandemic resulting in the Tigers going nearly 20 months without playing a college men’s volleyball match.

Whatever rust Princeton had at the start of the season from that layoff turned into gold in the EIVA Tournament.

Princeton as the No. 4 seed completed its upset run in the conference tournament as it defeated the No. 3 seed NJIT 23-25, 27-25, 27-25, 25-18 in the EIVA Tournament finals on Saturday in University Park, Pennsylvania.

Outside attacker Ben Harrington finished with a match-high 24 kills on a .476 attack percentage against the Highlanders. In addition, Harrington had a game-high eight kills in the final game to help the Tigers become one of the lowest seeded teams in EIVA history to win the conference tournament.

This was the second consecutive match in the EIVA Tournament that Harrington had more than 20 kills. Harrington had 21 kills and hit .415 to help Princeton upset the No. 1 seed Penn State in the semifinals – marking the second time since 1986 the Nittany Lions lsot an EIVA Tournament match on their home court.


Princeton used multiple setters to out-hit NJIT .328 to .250 in the All-New Jersey schools finals.

Henry Wedbush replaced Joe Kelly with Princeton trailing 7-2 in the third game. Wedbush proceeded to lead the Tigers to a comeback win in the third game and guided the offense to a match-best .428 attack percentage in the final game.

Wendbush also added six blocks as Princeton out-blocked NJIT 16 to 8.

Middle attacker Gavin Leising finished with a match-high eight blocks, while Brady Wedbush contributed five blocks.

The Tigers in the victory had three players with more than five kills. Along with Harrington, Parker Dixon had nine kills on a .412 attack percentage and James Hartley contributed 12 kills.

Opposite Julian Meissner led NJIT with 19 kills and six blocks against Princeton. Middle attacker Martin De Chavarria also had 10 kills on a .529 attack percentage and four blocks.

Princeton jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the fourth game. NJIT was able to narrow the deficit to two points midway through the game, but Princeton responded and expanded the lead to nine points with a 5-0 run that featured two blocks from Henry Wedbush.

Henry Wedbush also had a block in the third-game overtime that set up a game-point. Dixon on the following play delivered the game-winning kill to complete the comeback in the third game and give the Tigers a one-game lead.

Harrington in the second game led all players with seven kills to help the Tigers tie the match.

The Highlanders overcame a 21-17 deficit in the second game and fought off a game-point to force overtime. NJIT in the overtime overcame another game-point before Princeton won the game following a service error and an attack error from the Highlanders on consecutive plays

NJIT opened the match on a 8-4 run, but Princeton rallied and to a 21-20 lead in the opening game with a Harrington kill. The Highlanders then responded with a 3-0 run to close out the first game that featured back-to-back attack errors from Princeton.

NJIT was making its first EIVA Tournament finals appearance since 1999 and was attempting to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

This is the second time in the last four years that Princeton has won the EIVA Tournament and will represent the EIVA in the NCAA Tournament.