Hamilton, ON- After not playing for part of the preseason and the regular season opener, Sam Cooper came back to the McMaster Marauders with a bang.
The outside hitter made his regular season debut coming off injury on the road against the Western Mustangs. Cooper and his teammates on the McMaster Marauders men’s volleyball team won that game 3-1 but had a quick turnaround before their next game at home against the Waterloo Warriors.
The team didn’t get back to Hamilton until two o’clock in the morning before their 8 pm game that evening.
“I thought we did a better job of managing our circumstances than we did of managing the match,” Marauders head coach Dave Preston said.
They changed their game day routine to accommodate for the short turnaround time. They cancelled their morning prep session and didn’t do their game plan until just before game time. “They didn’t have very much time to digest the game plan,” Preston said.
“That’s what the schedule tells us we have to do, that’s what we have to do,” he added. “We can complain about the circumstances but more importantly, we just need to make sure we react to it properly.”
McMaster was challenged by Waterloo early. The Marauders won the first set 25-20 before dropping the second one 25-16. The home team took the next two sets 25-16 and 25-18 to take the game three sets to one.
Preston pointed how Waterloo plays a low and fast distinct style. He said it was a challenge for them defensively.
“We have to defend it in the backcourt more than the front,” he said. “In the backcourt, we might have been a little step slow…I’m glad we responded but it took us a long time.”
Perhaps fatigue was a factor as well. Cooper said it was an energy battle for the team. “We were fighting the ball a little bit,” he added.
The key to playing through the energy battle was communication, according to him. “We’re talking about what our responsibilities are on our side in order to execute the plays that we want to do,” Cooper said. “That just brings us together. That makes sure we’re not getting too internal.”
Just a day earlier, Cooper felt the energy and excitement in his return to action against Western. He recorded a team-high 23 points with 18 kills. He had four aces and seven digs as well with a 0.353 hitting percentage.
He followed that performance up against Waterloo with 16 points, 13 kills and eight digs.
“I was super super pumped to be out there,” Cooper said. “Back with the guys, playing my game and working on it. Just enjoying the process.”
The Hamilton native is in his fourth season. He was named an OUA West First-Team All-Star last season and has continued to work on his game.
One of the things he’s working on is serve consistency. “I tend to take a lot of risk right now,” he noted. “I’m trying to work on keeping the speed of my serve – which is one of my assets – but also trying to keep that consistency.”
Against Western, he had four service aces to seven service errors. Against Waterloo, he had one ace to seven errors.
Preston said while the first part of the season has been hard on Cooper, he’s starting to hit his stride.
“He’s starting to connect with our setters a little bit more,” he added. “You can see, there’s points where the rhythm isn’t always there but it’s getting better.”
As the team goes into the rest of their first half schedule, there’s also room to improve their schedule planning, according to Preston.
They’ll have more back-to-back games and stretches with tight turnarounds. Their next two games are away at TMU on Friday evening and then at Brock on Sunday afternoon. Preston said they’re starting to use more depth and should do so as players return from injury.
He mentioned they need to manage their travel details, nutrition and rest better. They remain undefeated in the regular season with four wins.
“These two matches are good for us but we’re going to have to do that down the road now too,” Preston noted.
Featured Image: Rick Zazulak/McMaster Athletics