At 6-foot-11, Princeton senior George Huhmann is such an intimidating presence that Tigers coach Sam Shweisky built an offensive scheme around him where he hits from the middle in the front row and plays like an opposite when he’s on the back row.
“He’s really a gentle giant,” Schweisky said. “He’s not the guy that comes into the huddle and fires everybody up. He’s the guy that missed a swing and then puts the next five swings in.”
Accordingly, Huhmann is one of the most lauded players in Princeton history. In 2019 he was the EIVA Player of the Year and was a second-team VolleyballMag.com All-American.
Huhmann started playing basketball in the first grade. He was still in middle school and playing on the junior varsity when the local St. Louis club volleyball team coaches asked him to give their sport a try.
Huhmann was just 6-2 as a freshman at St. Louis University high school, but by the time he was a junior he’d shot up to 6-10. College coaches noticed and Huhmann made the decision to drop basketball to focus on volleyball in the 17s age group.
“Volleyball is a better team sport,” Huhmann acknowledged. “I think I was better at volleyball than basketball, I think I had more of a future in volleyball.
“I’m not sure that I would have been recruited by the schools that I did if I had played basketball. That was a big part of it.”
And volleyball was more fun.
“The best part of volleyball is when someone makes an incredible dig, the setter gets there, makes a great set, and the team gets a great kill,” he said. “The scramble plays, the hustle plays, those are the best part of volleyball, especially the long rallies are great too.”
After being heavily recruited nationwide, Huhmann chose Princeton. Not only did he have a club teammate at Princeton, but his decision was based on the balance of academics and athletics at Princeton, where he is studying economics.
His roommate, senior outside Parker Dixon, acknowledges Huhmann’s efforts.
“Despite his quiet personality, he always shows up and does what needs to be done in the moments that they need to be done,” Dixon said.
“In the must win-games, he puts up ridiculous numbers, and he’s a great teammate. In the EIVA finals, he hit almost .500, and put away the game-winner, whenever we needed him to be good, he was fantastic.”
Schweisky has also coached Huhmann at the senior national NORCECA championships in Winnipeg, where the youthful USA team earned silver behind Cuba, a team it beat in pool play.
“George has a bright future for USA Volleyball,” Schweisky said. “I think he’s currently fifth or sixth at the depth chart for middles. He’s got a real shot in competing in 2024.”
Last season Huhmann led the EIVA in kills (396) and points (485). He led the Tigers to the EIVA title in 2019, its first since 1998. During the EIVA title match, Huhmann reinforced his reputation as a big-game player, leading with 25 kills, three aces, six blocks and two digs while hitting .426 as his team clinched an NCAA Tournament bid by beating Penn State.
This year Princeton lost its first three matches — at No. 7 UC Irvine, at USC, and at home to No. 3 UCLA — but have bounced back by opening EIVA play with back-to-back sweeps at Charleston.
This season, Huhmann has 61 kills and averages 3.21 per set, is hitting .218, and has 16 blocks. Dixon has 46 kills (2.56/set) and is hitting .223. The other senior on the team, Greg Luck, leads with 25 blocks, five solo. The setter is junior Joe Kelly, who is averaging 7.56 assists and has 11 blocks, one solo and leads with 32 digs.
Beyond those key pieces, Princeton has a lot of youth, including sophomores Jerod Nelson (38 kills, 2.11/set) and Nate Thompson (20 kills, 2.0/set). Freshman libero Nico Posivak has 22 digs.
“As a senior, I have to be more of a leader,” Huhmann said. “Being a mentor for the freshmen is really important for team unity, and it really helps your team play better when the whole team is together from seniors to freshmen.”
Huhmann’s nature has him leading by example.
“It starts in practice. Keeping the intensity high in practice, keeping a culture of hard work and not letting the ball touch the ground, instilling the culture in our practice gym gets them used to how we play the game. We’ve done that really well this year. We have to continue doing that, and we should be good by the time that the conference games roll around.”
Princeton is off until January 28, when the Tigers make a West Coast swing to play UC San Diego, UCLA, and CSUN. Then they settle in for seven matches of EIVA competition against NJIT, Penn State, Saint Francis, George Mason, Sacred Heart, Harvard, and NJIT.