Mac women wave first OUA volleyball banner in 55 years

The McMaster University Marauders won their first Ontario University Athletics women’s volleyball championship, defeating the host University of Toronto Varsity Blues 3-1 (28-30, 25-14, 25-22, 25-16) in front of a sellout in the Athletic Centre Sports Gym.

The Marauders last won a women’s volleyball conference championship in 1951-52, when it was then known as the Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Union (WIAU).

It was a team effort for the Marauders as four of their hitters had eight or more kills, and 10 or more digs. Fourth-year hitter Heidi Bench (St. Catharines) led the way with 10 kills and 14 digs, while teammates Carly Welch (Hamilton) and Kaila Janssen (Whitby) each had nine kills apiece and 14 and 12 digs respectively. Psychology major Breigh Cameron also had 11 digs for the winning squad.
As a team, McMaster kept their mistakes to a minimum, committing only 13 errors, while the Blues would inevitably hurt only themselves with a team total of 40.

The first set was a see-saw affair with neither team getting more than a two-point cushion. They exchanged kill for kill and dig for dig until four-time OUA all-star Anastasia Danilova (Toronto) stepped up with a hard kill down the middle, followed by a soft touch over the outstretched hands of Marauder blockers. Kristina Valjas (Toronto) would put it away on set point with a power kill off a quick set.

Game two couldn’t have been any different. The Marauders were able to sustain their intensity, starting the game on a 7-4 run, while the Blues had difficulty maintaining their earlier rhythm.

Capitalizing on Toronto’s errors, Mac pulled ahead 11-5 and would take a 16-12 lead into the second technical timeout. The Marauders would close out the second set on an 8-2 run and a big block on Blues hitter Heather Bansley (Waterdown) to tie the match at one set apiece.

With the wind in their sails, the Marauders established an early advantage in the third set, stretching it to five points, 17-11, after the second technical timeout.

Sheer grit and determination brought the Blues back in this one. Four of Danilova’s 24 kills came in the final third of the set to help Toronto pull even at 21-21. However, it was Mac’s defensive effort that carried them through, saving point 22 with four fantastic saves to break the deadlock. From there they would not look back, taking the set 25-22.

The fourth and final set would be much of the same. The Marauders able to carry the momentum, while the Blues searched to find consistency. Great team blocking and diving digs were rewarded as McMaster took the final set 25-16 to claim their first OUA banner.

Danilova for her part was outstanding, tallying 24 kills and 21 digs for the Blues. Fifth-year veteran Mila Miguel (Victoria, B.C.) added 11 kills and 18 digs, while third-year setter Michelle Wood had 21 digs. Blues newcomer Kathleen Mahannah (Vancouver) tallied 53 assists.