Hamilton, ON – McMaster men’s and women’s volleyball teams were riding winning streaks heading into their Feb. 20 tilt versus the Waterloo Warriors at the Burridge Gym. The women’s team had won four games in a row, while the men’s team was undefeated with eight wins in a row.
With their winning runs on the line, one team fell short while one team continued.
Marauders Women Comeback Falls Short
The Marauders women had bested Waterloo in a five-set thriller the last time the teams had met on Nov. 27. History would repeat itself this time around – although in reverse order. In November, the home side Marauders would jump out to a 2-0 set lead before the Warriors clawed back to force a fifth set. McMaster prevailed in a close final set 20-18 back then to kick start their winning streak.
This time, Waterloo set the tone with a solid first two sets. It seemed the team that started better in each set would prevail.
It started early in the first set as the Warriors’ Sarah Glynn made a couple of kills to push her side out to a 7-2 lead. While McMaster would bounce back – led by Sullie Sundara’s multiple kills – the Warriors kept the lead and prevailed 25-18 in the set.
The second set started similar to the first, with the road team jumping up to a quick 3-0 lead thanks to back-to-back aces by Katrine Eistrat. The Marauders improved their play from there, led by team captain Jessie Nairn, Emma McKinnon, Ellie Hatashita and others who all chipped in to the attack.
The set remained a back-and-forth see-saw with the Warriors pulling out a bit before McMaster fought back. Maddy Lutes had two kills to tie it at 19 before Nairn scored a crucial kill to cut the lead down to 23-22. However, Glynn stepped up again with two straight points to end the set 25-22.
The Marauders carried the positives of the second set onto the third as they took an early lead and kept it throughout the set. Nairn continued her strong play with contributions from others, including Sullie Sundara, who scored three straight kills to end the set 25-22.
The pattern would continue in the fourth set as McMaster went out in front and didn’t look back. They closed out the set with a 9-1 run with some attack errors by Waterloo and a couple of service aces by Christina Stratford.
In an abbreviated fifth set (which only goes up to 15 points), the Marauders’ slow start would end up costing them. McMaster had several attack errors while Glynn and her teammates continued to score points off kills. The Warriors jumped out to a 10-3 lead before McMaster head coach Tim Louks called timeout. They would continue their run after the timeout to prevail 15-4.
Much like their first meeting, the two sides were close in the total score and several other categories. Nairn (21.5), Sundara (18.5) and McKinnon (11) led the way in points, while libero Hayley Brookes had 15 digs and two assists. Meanwhile, Glynn (17 points) and Mackenzie Valley (12 points, team-high 18 digs) led the way for the Warriors.
The two sides remain deadlocked in the standings, both tied for second place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division with a 6-3 record. However, this time, it is the Warriors with a four-game-winning run.
McMaster Men Stay Undefeated
The U Sports Top 10 National Rankings were revealed earlier in the week, and the McMaster men’s volleyball team was second in the nation (behind Trinity Western), moving up one spot from the previous rankings.
The game against Waterloo started strangely as the Warriors were late arriving, which led to a delay. Assistant coach Brad Douwes filled in for head coach Dave Preston as the interim head coach on the home side.
Despite their 2-7 record heading into the match, the Warriors put together a tough fight against McMaster in each of the three sets. Waterloo forced some service errors from the home team and capitalized on their kills to keep the McMaster lead around 3-4 points throughout the first set.
The Marauders’ service errors also kept the score close. McMaster was able to go on the offensive, though, setting up attacks by Max Gratton, Tyler Pavelic, Sam Cooper and others. Cooper notched a few services aces with his powerful serve that the Warriors could not handle, a trend that repeated itself in the later sets. Cooper would notch a career-high six aces in the game.
McMaster went on a run late in the first – with kills by Cooper, Gratton and Brendan Mills – to clinch the set. They started well to take the lead early in the second set thanks to Cooper, Mills and Navreet Suhan’s kills and more aces from Cooper.
The Warriors kept the set within reach due to more service errors by Mac and a couple of aces by Owen Paddock Thiessen. Kills by Joel Semplonius and Hayden White cut the advantage down to 22-18 before McMaster pulled away with three straight points to close the set.
The third set unfolded similar to the first two, with the home team pulling out to a lead while the Warriors kept the score relatively within reach. However, in the second half of the set, McMaster increased their lead from 10-7 to 24-15 thanks to points by Cooper and Mills, including a service ace by Mills. As part of his team-leading 29 assists, Setter Robbie Fujisawa set up Evan Bremner for the kill to end the set and the game. Douwes captured his first win as interim head coach.
It was a balanced attack for McMaster led by Mills (18.5 points) and Cooper (15), as well as Fujisawa’s setting and libero Jordan Pereira’s solid play (one assist, six digs). The Marauders take on the Guelph Gryphons in a home-and-home on Feb 25 and 27 for a chance to continue their undefeated run.
Featured Image: Osa Olaye/McMaster Athletics