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Around the EIVA: Princeton, Harvard and Penn State nearly inseparable at the top

While the cold weather is just starting to evaporate with the approaching spring, the heat in the gym has been high for men’s volleyball across the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association over the last several weeks. Let’s take a look at the EIVA standings.

1. Penn State (13-4 overall, 6-1 EIVA): The Nittany Lions have continued to dominate conference play as they did last season en route to their 25th EIVA title in program history. Penn State had won 12 consecutive matches before being upended against Princeton two weeks ago. While they have dropped two of their last three matches, the Lions have all the guns necessary to repeat as conference champions. Junior outside hitter Aaron Russell has already amassed 226 kills for the Nittany Lions, as he looks to repeat as the EIVA Player of the Year.

2. Harvard (9-5, 7-2): The Crimson have continued to play well this season, after finishing second in the EIVA last season to national powerhouse Penn State. Winners of nine of their last 11 matches, the boys from Cambridge have taken down the Tigers twice, including a five-set marathon this past weekend in Dillon Gymnasium. Junior outside hitter DJ White leads Harvard offensively at this point, with 168.5 total points on the season.

3. Princeton (7-7, 6-2): A rough home loss to the Crimson last Saturday gave the Tigers their second conference loss of the season, but Princeton has been playing at the top of its game as of late. The loss against Harvard snapped a six-game win streak for Princeton, which included a win over Penn State on February 28 that marked the first victory against a Top 10 team in program history.

4. Saint Francis (9-8, 4-3): The Red Flash is faring similarly to last spring, when the team ended its season at .500 in the EIVA and finished fifth overall in the conference standings. While St. Francis has lost its last three matches, including a 3-0 shutout at Princeton on March 1, the Red Flash has fared well against the bottom half of the conference. Having taken a game off both Penn State and Ohio State in their matchups against the two teams earlier this season, St. Francis has shown that it can compete with nationally-ranked opponents when it is playing at its best.

5. George Mason (8-8, 4-4): The Patriots have proven streaky so far this season, with a four match win streak followed by a four-match losing streak. A pair of wins, a pair of losses and then another pair of wins have followed for the Patriots. George Mason’s most recent matchups have been home wins over Sacred Heart and Harvard, avenging earlier road losses to both EIVA opponents. The Patriots’ streakiness makes it unlikely that they will be close to achieving their impressive 11-3 conference record from last season.

6. Sacred Heart (7-12, 2-6): While the Pioneers only have two conference wins thus far, they have already reached their total number of EIVA victories from the entirety of last season. A win against George Mason on Feb. 15 showed a new sign of life in the Pioneers, but a 2-6 record in their last eight matches, including losses at Princeton and George Mason last weekend, point to the fact that Sacred Heart is not going anywhere fast.

7. NJIT (6-7, 1-6): The Highlanders will be lucky if they can repeat their 4-10 conference record from last season. While NJIT won its most recent match in five sets against Rutgers-Newark, the Highlanders have dropped six of their last eight matches. They will hope to rally on their road campaign to the Midwest and West over the next few weeks, but will have to rely upon playing well at home in April if they want to avoid kissing the cellar floor of the EIVA.

8. Rutgers-Newark (4-8, 0-6): So far the stars are aligning for the Scarlet Raiders to repeat as kings of the EIVA basement, as their 0-6 record in conference play so far could potentially lead to a repeat their 0-14 result last season. A tri-meet against NYU and Princeton this weekend has Rutgers on a straight path to a winless first half of EIVA play, as the Scarlet Raiders fell 3-0 to the Tigers in their first meeting on February 25.

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