Marauders turn gold to silver in OUA volleyball

It was a most fitting end to a sensational women’s volleyball season.

The York Lions won their first Ontario University Athletics championship since 1996-97 after a 3-0 (25-20, 25-12, 25-14) straight sets victory over the defending champion McMaster Marauders in the gold medal match of the OUA Final Four Women’s Volleyball Championship at the Tait McKenzie Centre at York University.

The No. 9 nationally-ranked Lions (21-1) run at a perfect season was derailed by the Marauders in the regular season finale, but York defeated McMaster when it mattered most, and will now represent OUA schools at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Women’s Volleyball Championship from Feb. 26 to 28 in Fredericton, N.B.

It was a senior and rookie sensation who were largely responsible for the York victory. First-year left side Thinesa Sriskandarajah (Scarborough) had a game-high 14 kills and added a service ace for 15 points. She was named the Mikasa Player of the Game for York. Fifth-year outside player Candice Paulsen (Scarborough) contributed 10 kills and three aces for 13 points. Fourth-year setter Nadia Reider (Buenos Aires, Argentina) tallied 33 assists and five digs, and fifth-year libero Antonia Stathakos (Brampton) had 18 digs.

Reider was named Mikasa Tournament MVP recording 67 assists in two matches. The Lions defeated the Western Mustangs 3-1 (25-17, 25-21, 23-25, 25-17) in Friday’s semi-final.

The Mikasa Player of the Game for McMaster was third-year middle Sarah Kiernan (Hamilton) after making several key plays and recording two kills and two digs.

In Saturday’s bronze medal match, the Mustangs defeated the Toronto Varsity Blues 3-2 (25-21, 26-28, 18-25, 25-23, 15-8). For the Varsity Blues, it marked their second straight five-set loss, having lost to McMaster 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 25-15, 26-28, 15-8) in Friday’s semi-final.

Both the Varsity Blues and Mustangs went through a feeling out process in the first part of the opening set, matching each other point for point until Western pulled away in the later stages, winning 25-21.

The Mustangs took this momentum into the second set, jumping out to a 16-9 advantage, but the Varsity Blues were resilient, rallying back to win 28-26. Toronto took the third set with little ease, winning 25-18, but lost a close 25-23 outcome in the fourth. Western then went on to the 15-8 win in the final set.

The Mikasa Player of the Game for the Mustangs was third-year setter Nicole Smyrnios (London), who had a game-high 46 assists, while contributing 25 digs and five kills. The Mikasa Player of the Game for the Varsity Blues was fourth-year left side Heather Bansley (Waterdown) with a game-high 21 kills while adding 34 digs.