Marauders hope to start season as Lion tamers

There is definitely some excitement in the air around the 2012-13 edition of McMaster men’s volleyball. The Marauders have been a consistent contender in Ontario University Athletics under Dave Preston and this season’s combination of returning players and exciting new talent, should keep the Maroon in the hunt for league honours.

Preston has completed a decade on the McMaster bench and has brought the program to elite status in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. He sets his sights high for his team’s performance, and his players have responded well to the challenge that is annually posed.

On paper, the Marauders look like they have all the elements necessary to win a championship – size, talent, experience, depth, energy, and chemistry would all seem to be factors the Mac team has in abundance. But titles are not won on paper, and the Marauders will have to be at their best if they want to bring home another banner.

Two returning OUA all-stars, Kevin Stevens and Jori Mantha, have been consistent performers over their careers and will be counted on to assume leadership duties for some of the younger players joining the team. Three other seniors, Tyson Alexander, Michael Sjonnesen, and Ian Cooper have been on championship teams and bring that pedigree to the Marauder mix. Perhaps the key returning player is setter Austin Campion-Smith, who directed the team to an OUA championship and was an OUA All-Rookie selection in 2011.

Two other returnees, Alex Elliott and Dan Groenveld, were both members of the 2012 OUA All-Rookie team and expectations are for both to elevate their contributions as sophomores.

Marauder volleyball had an outstanding recruiting year and the depth of new talent should keep the team well positioned for years to come. Two of the newcomers played for Preston with the Canadian junior national team, and Danny Demyanenko and Stephen Maar both have the potential to contribute as freshmen.

Outside hitters Shayne Herbert, Jayson McCarthy, and Jacob Siekierski are talented and will compete for court time once they adapt to the CIS level of play.

Building depth at the libero spot was a priority and donning Maroon this year are Seyar Karimi, Connor Parker, Dillon Phoenix, and Eric Colwill. Joining the team as a setter is Alek Francis.

Preston anticipates competition among the freshmen to accelerate their adjustment process, but on a team that is a meritocracy, the message will remain “best players play”. That attitude should ensure every practice brings out everyone’s best effort.

The OUA has become a dangerous conference in recent years and there are no nights off. League parity guarantees that every match is vital to the standings and the Marauders expect to face each opponent’s best game every time.

Marauder fans have come to expect nothing less from their team, and the men in Maroon have provided some great thrills and memorable moments as they defend home court in the Burridge Gym.

McMaster takes on York in the home opener on Saturday as the York Lions visit the Burridge Gymnasium at 8 p.m.