Hamilton, ON- He’s made it all the way to his fifth year with McMaster Marauders men’s volleyball team but for outside hitter Thomas Williams it’s been quite a journey to get there.
“I’ve actually come a really long way,” William said
Williams and the Marauders started their regular season journey with a 3-0 victory over the Trent Excalibur on Nov. 4.
They won the first set 25-10 and the next two sets by a score of 25-11. “I think we really executed what we wanted to do pretty well,” Williams said. “I feel like we had a lot of moving parts. I feel like everyone came in, contributed and did what we needed to do.”
Fourteen players saw the court. Ten players recorded points. Williams was one of the notable performers, finishing with 6.5 points, six kills, four digs and a block. “Thomas Williams had an outstanding week of practice,” Marauders head coach Dave Preston noted. “He was our best player all week long.”
The Marauders pride themselves on having that “positive rivalry mentality” in practices, according to Preston.
“If you work hard all week, you earn those starting spots,” Preston added. “He definitely earned that this week and made the most of it tonight.”
It comes from having a competitive group, according to Williams. He said it was probably his best week of practice. It comes with hard work and proving yourself as well.
The Oakville native has worked hard amid obstacles throughout his McMaster career.
He came off the bench in his first two seasons as the Marauders won OUA silver and then bronze. He played 18 sets as a rookie and 27 sets as a sophomore. Then, as he was growing into a bigger role, COVID hit. The 2020 nationals were cancelled and so was the entire 2020-21 season.
When play resumed in 2021 and the Marauders won the OUA title, Williams missed the entire season due to injury. He said he had a lot of self-doubt when he was injured. He wasn’t sure if he was going to come back and play volleyball again.
Williams did return by continually pushing and working hard, doing so every summer and taking every opportunity to improve. “I never gave up and give up on myself,” he said.
What motivated his comeback?
“I just thought about how far I came,” he said. “All the hard work that I put in. The group of guys that are here, that I like to play with every day. You know, I did it for myself. I got out of that barrier, kept pushing.”
That hard work has paid off as Williams has earned a starting spot on the team. He played in preseason games against the likes of Ohio State, Toronto and others. The exhibition games were valuable, even as they lost some of them.
“We kind of needed that,” he said. “We kind of needed to get beat down a little bit to come out on top.”
The following evening in their rematch against Trent – another three-set victory – Williams had another strong game. He had a career-high 12 points and tied his season-high of eight kills from a November 2018 game against RMC.
That was his regular season McMaster debut, as he had just arrived on the team. Now, almost four years later, he was the veteran as his younger teammates made their mark. They cheered each other’s successes.
Such as when first-year libero Aidan Palanca and second-year setter Quinn Levinson came in. Levinson missed his rookie season due to injury. Such as when second-year middle Haben Yohannes made a key dig and then a block on the same play. “The entire team was genuinely excited for him accomplishing that, knowing how hard he worked in practice,” Preston said.
Preston pointed out how the players really enjoy playing with each other. One of the things they’re focusing on is to keep providing each other with energy. They felt that energy and excitement on opening night against Trent.
“A lot of the boys are hyped up,” Williams said. “I feel like when you’re in it together, you have the support from each other. I feel like everyone’s more confident in themselves and can go out there and perform the way they wanted and just have fun. I feel like that’s what we did tonight.”
Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics