Jori Mantha turned in a master class in honour of his veteran teammates on Saturday (Jan. 26).
The third-year outside hitter notched 24.5 points – and converted 22 of 35 hitting attempts – to lead the Marauders to a 3-1 victory over the Windsor Lancers and continue McMaster’s perfect conference run of 15 consecutive victories in Ontario University Athletics.
Photo: Fraser Caldwell/McMaster Athletics
Set scores were 23-25, 25-14, 25-22, 25-17, for the Marauders, who overcame an early setback to beat the Lancers at the Burridge Gym.
Marauder middle Tyson Alexander chipped in 14 points and eight kills on 10 attempts, and added four solo blocks while Kyle Williamson led all scorers with 19 points and 13 kills for the Lancers.
McMaster fielded an unusual lineup, giving substantial playing time to the team’s graduating veterans on the night dedicated to them. Ian Cooper assumed the role of setter, while middles Alexander and Michael Sjonneson each featured in all four sets.
That unfamiliarity likely contributed to the Marauders’ flat start to the match, as the hosts fell behind the Lancers early in the opening set. McMaster struggled to string its passes together in the first, but stayed with Windsor to enter the technical timeout only two points off the pace, 16-14.
It was a set full of errors and miscues for the Marauders, and the Lancers deservingly took it when Kevin Stevens’ serve found the tape on set point for 25-23.
McMaster coach Dave Preston kept the faith with his personnel heading into the second, and the players rewarded him with an invigorated effort.
Mantha had begun to show off his attacking skills as he operated on the right side, and when fellow outside Stevens smartly tipped past the block and found the floor, the Marauders took a seven-point lead into the second set technical at 16-9.
The hosts’ game steadied in all facets, and with the Marauders finding their range at both the net and the service line, it came as no surprise when they ran away with the set. The rampant Mantha provided the kill on set point, drilling a high ball off Windsor’s double block and wide for 25-14.
The Lancers bounced back strongly from their second set thrashing, and led 14-12 after meeting Stevens with a double block. That narrow lead held into the technical timeout, after Windsor dug out well for a kill from the right.
The teams remained inseparable as the third set drew to a close, but it was McMaster which would find the decisive shot. Mantha polished off an extended rally from the right for 25-22 and a 2-1 lead overall.
Windsor kept things close to begin the fourth, but the home side found separation with Stephen Maar at the service line. The rookie outside notched consecutive aces to give the Marauders a 10-9 lead, and the hosts would not look back from there.
Maar featured yet again on the final point of the match, making the most of a tough position in the pipe and rolling an attack that found the back line for the 25-17 result.