Hamilton, ON- Trailing 10-9 against the Nipissing Lakers in their first set on Nov. 26, the McMaster Marauders women’s volleyball team found themselves facing a common theme: unforced errors.
It was something that stood out in their loss to the Brock Badgers the previous weekend. It was something they worked on throughout the week leading up to the two straight Nipissing games. It was something they worked through during the games themselves – two straight three set victories.
As Nipissing took an early lead in the second game, five of their first ten points came from McMaster unforced errors’
“You don’t have to rush anything,” Marauders head coach Tim Louks said. Patience is important.
“We’ve been through this before so it was a reminder,” Louks noted. “What do you want to do with this in terms of how you want to approach it game plan wise?”
The Marauders regrouped after a timeout and closed out the set 25-21. They won the following two sets 25-19 and 25-20.
They didn’t rush things, according to Louks. “I thought that’s the difference in those three sets is we attached again,” he added. “When we’re in system and Sullie [Sundara] is in line in system, oh my gosh.”
Sundara finished with a team-high 16 kills and 17.5 points, including some cross-court shots.
After the errors, the Marauders went back to what they know how to do, according to middle Ana Strbac.
“We know that we’re a strong offensive team and we know that we trust each other,” Strbac noted.
That trust comes from keeping up their energy. “That’s never like ‘oh no, what are we doing right now’,” Strbac recalled. “It’s ‘we know we can do this.’”
The Marauders showed their energy and execution in defeating the Lakers. In the first game against Nipissing, the team had only four errors. It marked an improvement from their game against the defending OUA champion Badgers on Nov. 20, where they lost three sets to one.
Outside hitter Maddy Lutes called the Brock game a great learning opportunity. She pointed out how strong the Badgers are in hitting perimeter shots and how it forced the Marauders to defend the baseline.
“Be always reading and always ready for the next play,” she added. “Always go for the ball and make that dig and communicate well.”
The Badgers had 17 errors to the Marauders’ 26. Brock had only five attacking errors, according to Louks. He estimates McMaster had about 18 or 19 – a 14-point difference. He saw how the Badgers distributed the ball, how they weren’t impatient. “Exactly what we need to be better at,” he noted.
The Marauders worked on developing that patience during the week. Louks said it’s about recognition.
“It’s understanding on your side, in this environment situationally, what is my available shot process,” Louks noted. “It’s getting you to think and then all learning is rehearsal.”
The focus in practice was on hitting shots when they’re not in good circumstances, according to the head coach. “The emphasis was on more positive injections and being more patient,” he added.
For instance, he pointed out when the opponents constantly had two blockers in front of Sundara’s shots. “Are we going to try and barrel through it or are you going to start to now be conscious of shots and where is Nipissing going to give us things,” Louks said.
It’s also about keeping the ball in play.
“You have to recognize when the ball is hittable or not and to make a play that doesn’t necessarily [result in a ] kill…but to make it difficult for the other team, put them out of system,” Lutes said.
She had a team-high 11 kills and 12.5 points against the Lakers in the first game.
The Marauders enter their final two games in the first semester tied for third in the OUA West with a 6-2 record. Their next two games are against the fifth-place Queen’s Gaels, who are 5-1.
Louks cited the Gaels’ depth – how they have two different lineups. “We have to be on our pass game to keep it in a place where we can get into those fights because they’re big and physical and they’re talented,” Louks said. He figures Queen’s may have more than one blocker more often than Nipissing.
For the Marauders, it’ll be about being precise and not being careless. It’ll also be about being patient.
Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics