BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Daemen University opened its fifth men’s volleyball season with a notable victory on its home court.

In a packed Lumsden Gymnasium on Tuesday night, the Wildcats won 3-1 against Princeton, the reigning Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association champions who were receiving votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top 15 after being ranked in the preseason.

Senior outside hitter Zach Schneider (Lockport) led Daemen with 17 kills, eight digs and a .355 hitting percentage. Cameron Milligan had 13 kills while Billy Wieberg (Grand Island) added nine kills and seven digs. Watch highlights from the match here.

Daemen is now 45-30 all-time under coach Don Gleason, a Hamburg native. The Wildcats won a five-set match at Princeton last January during 16-6 season that culminated in reaching the Independent Volleyball Association Tournament final.

Princeton, which opened its season with a 3-0 win at D’Youville, plays next at No. 2 UCLA on Saturday and No. 5 Pepperdine on Monday — if the Tigers are able to get out of Buffalo.

This is Daemen’s first season competing in the Northeast Conference, providing a path to the NCAA tournament if the Wildcats win the league championship.

“The past couple of years as an independent, just playing whoever would play us, our schedule was a rollercoaster into a really competitive match coming up then maybe a few matches that we were supposed to win on paper,” Gleason said in a news release. “Now every single match, especially in conference, we’re just going to have to show up. That’ll just be a new test for our guys to be able to consistently show up every single week, especially with our non-conference schedule being pretty tough as well. That’s a new challenge for our guys, and I’m excited to see how they show up for it.”

Daemen’s next match is against No. 4 Penn State on Friday. The Wildcats return home to play American International on Jan. 21 and Central State on Jan. 28. The first NEC match is Feb. 10 at D’Youville. The Wildcats will play top programs Pepperdine, Concordia Irvine and Cal State Northridge in March.

“This will be our first California trip which will be awesome for the guys,” Gleason said. “We were hoping to get out there sooner, obviously some world pandemic issues got in the way. It’s going to be awesome for them to see, again, can we play with that level of competition? Can we not just show up and make it respectable, but can we show up and steal some matches that we’re not supposed to win on paper.”

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Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.