EIVAVolleyball.com touched base with Princeton head coach Sam Shweisky on his program at the midway point of the season:
EIVA: We’re about halfway through the EIVA season, how is your team progressing?
SS: The team is progressing quite nicely. It was great start for us to get to play UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego as our first matches of the season. Those matches helped us prepare us for a very competitive EIVA field. We are very pleased with how hard everyone has been working and we are seeing improvements in every area of our game, which is very encouraging.
EIVA: What have been some surprises?
SS: It has been a very pleasant surprise how quickly all three of our freshman have acclimated to the speed and power of the college game. There is always a learning curve from high school/club level volleyball to college and it takes some guys longer to adjust. Our freshmen have done a fantastic job of coming in early and getting the reps necessary to bring them up to college speed volleyball. It’s awesome how quickly they were able to integrate themselves into the team and make an impact.
EIVA: Who has really stepped up in a leadership role for you?
SS: Davis Waddell has done a tremendous job stepping up and becoming a leader on this team. Scott Liljestrom was a three-year starting setter and did a great job leading our team to two EIVA appearances in three years. Davis has done an outstanding job stepping into that role of setter, and he has become a leader both on and off the court. His commitment to the team and his leadership is one of the main reasons we are where we are right now this season. I can’t say enough great things about what Davis is doing for this program right now. In addition, senior captain Mike Dye has done a fantastic job of being a leader and a consistent liaison between the players and the coaching staff. We are in good hands with captain Dye leading the way!
EIVA: Have there been any turning points for the team, and if yes, what were they?
SS: Losing to George Mason on the road was a turning point for us. It helped remind us that we have a lot of work left to do. It helped refocus us on the fundamentals and enjoying the grind of getting better every day. Mason played great that night and it was a good learning experience for us.
EIVA: How has your team responded to challenges?
SS: Our team has done a fantastic job of responding to challenges. Cody Kessel went down with an injury one week before hosting Sacred Heart and Harvard. In one week’s time we retooled the lineup and came up with several different lineup configurations. That is a testament to the guys staying positive and always focusing on what is possible, as well as thinking outside the box and making the best of the situation. I am very proud of Brad Howard and Jeff Stapleton for stepping up in Cody’s absence.
EIVA: What has been your biggest match of the season so far, and explain why?
SS: The biggest match of the year so far is hard to say. Beating nationally ranked UC Santa Barbara was very exciting. And to win the season opener isn’t something this program has done since 2001, so it was a pretty cool feeling. Winning on the road at St. Francis was a very important win, as well as winning 15-13 in the fifth set at NJIT. The Harvard win was special because Harvard is the only other Ivy League team in the EIVA, so for us that match has a special significance. To be quite honest every match we play feels like the biggest match of the season. With the EIVA being as competitive as it is, every match has the excitement of a playoff match because it could impact making it to the EIVA Championship.
EIVA: How are your young players responding to the rigors of college volleyball while also being a student-athlete?
SS: The young guys on the team are doing a great job of acclimating to the rigors of college volleyball and the academic stressors of Princeton. It can be a lot for anyone to handle, even the seasoned veterans. But they are doing a great job, like using time on long bus rides or in the hotel to study. We are in the thick of mid-term exams at Princeton right now so it is especially hectic for all the guys.
EIVA: What makes the EIVA a special conference?
SS: I have to echo Coach Chao’s sentiment, that is it the people in the EIVA who make it special. All of the coaches and administrators of the EIVA are so committed to the growth of men’s volleyball and the growth of the EIVA you can feel it. It is a feeling very unique to college sports.
EIVA: Talk about your team’s goals for finishing up the remaining portion of the EIVA conference schedule?
SS: Our goals are to take advantage of every opportunity we have to improve; to work as hard as we can in the training gym and to reach our maximum potential individually as well as collectively. If we can do this we feel the outcome will take care of itself.
Story courtesy of Jenn Armson-Dyer