Hamilton, ON- It was their third game in six days for the McMaster Marauders men’s volleyball team. This was following two five sets games against NCAA powerhouse Long Beach State.
Facing the Waterloo Warriors on Jan 18 in their first OUA home game of 2023, the Marauders were without outside hitters Sam Cooper and Maxime Gratton. The Warriors pushed them, keeping each set relatively close before McMaster pulled out the three-set victory (25-21, 25-19, 25-20).
Marauders head coach Dave Preston called it a gutsy win. They had a unique situation with different players in the lineup. They persevered. “I’m very proud of how they handled it,” Preston said.
He called the condensed stretch of games a challenge for them. They’ve had to adjust the way they train, prepare and recover. “Our bodies were definitely feeling it,” outside hitter Peter Rugosi said.
He mentioned how they managed their schedule by having reduced practices. They go through a lot of treatment with focus on the details.
Despite all that through, there still will be tiredness mentally and physically, according to Rugosi. Responding to that becomes about mentality.
“At the end of the day, your body’s not just going to create more energy for you,” he noted. “You’ve got to go put 100 per cent into everything just so you can get an ounce more of energy out of you.”
Amid the possible fatigue and grind, Rugosi did shine through. The third-year Toronto native finished the Waterloo game with a team-high 11 kills and 13 points. He made key plays in the close sets.
“He does all the things away from the ball that people don’t recognize and makes some pretty decent plays down the stretch,” Preston noted. He called Rugosi a baller who’s makes them better in practice every day. A gamer who’s stepped up every time he’s been called upon.
Rugosi said his passing was strong against Waterloo but his hitting was weaker. When he figured that out, he went back to the basics – zoning in on his strengths of defence and passing.
“I really put all my energy into that to make sure I could set my teammates up to the best of abilities,” he added.
He helped set up teammates Mateusz Wlodarski, Tyler Pavelic, Thomas Williams and Wojciech Kraj.
In terms of his hitting, he’s changed his approach. He’s become more tactical in how he hits the shots.
“I’m a lot more aggressive on the blocks,” he said. “I know I can’t go with a straight down swing. I’ve got to chip it off the block. That’s the biggest difference. Just knowing how to hit the proper shot to score every time even as an undersized left side.”
Rugosi already has 43 kills in 12 games compared to 18 kills in 16 games last year. His hitting percentage is up from 0.261 to 0.284 as well as his assists (17-4). In his third season, his role has continued to grow.
A big part of hitting those shots comes from knowing how the defence will react. He’s able to read the defence, where the opposing players are situated and the type of defence they’re set up in. That determines the type of shot he will hit.
“It’s just having the situational awareness and keeping the ball lined up in front of me so I have full vision of the court,” Rugosi said. “So I know what’s happening, when and what I should do.”
They beat Brock and Toronto before the Waterloo game and beat York on the road afterwards. In the York game, Rugosi had another strong performance with a team-high 15 points and 13 kills. He also had a .409 hitting percentage.
After a run of four games in nine days, the Marauders will have a reprieve from game action. They are off this week before hosting the RMC Paladins on Feb. 3 and 4. This means more time to practice.
Even with their reduced practice time this past week, the team’s been able to work on certain things. One of them – which Preston mentioned after the Long Beach State games – is working on playing better out of system.
Preston said they’ve gotten better at it as they’ve tried some things to get players out of their comfort zone. “Guys are stretching that limit for themselves and I think they’re doing a pretty good job with it,” he added. It translated against Waterloo as they played out of system for much of the game.
Rugosi said they’ve been aggressive on balls. “We’re swinging. We’re finding a way to get hard contact on that ball,” he noted. He added there’s still improvement to be made in terms of technique and the shots hit in the moment. Nevertheless, he said he’s excited about the progress they’ve made despite the lack of practices recently.
“We’re already pretty good at it,” Rugosi continued. “I’m excited when we do have those practices, what’s going to come out of it.”
Featured Image: McMaster Athletics