The York Lions brought the McMaster Marauders’ string of 17-consecutive match wins to a screeching halt on Sunday (Feb. 10), dealing the Marauders a straight-sets sweep in the teams’ final contest of the conference season.
The win cemented York (10-8) as the fifth seed in Ontario University Athletics playoffs, and the Lions will travel to Kingston to play a quarter-final against the Queen’s Gaels.
Losing had no affect on McMaster’s finish as the 17-1 Marauders had already clinched the top spot and the right to host the OUA Final Four.
Ray Szeto led the Lions and the match with 16 points and 13 kills on 26 hitting attempts, while Gregory Ivan added nine points of his own.
Jori Mantha had 10.5 points to lead the Marauders, including eight kills.
The Lions proved early that they were not afraid of the undefeated Marauders, riding strong backcourt defence to a 16-12 lead at the technical timeout in the opening set. The Lions’ blockers were sharp as the team held onto its lead in the late stages, with Felipe Humana-Paredes stuffing Mantha for 22-15.
Karim Khalil had the deciding kill on set point, swinging down the line along the right side as York sealed the first by a score of 25-19.
That setback may have served as a wakeup call for the Marauders, who raced out to a 5-1 lead to open the second set before the Lions called time. The quick set in the middle was once again the reliable attacking option for McMaster, with Tyson Alexander and Alex Elliot proving equally able at the net.
Service and reception problems remained, however, and the Lions tied the set at eight when a Marauder miscommunication allowed a simple ball to hit the floor. Despite their struggles, McMaster hung tough as the set progressed, and consecutive points from Mantha brought the Marauders into the technical timeout with a 16-15 lead.
York regained the lead at 20-19 through an ace by Alexander Duncan-Thibault, and would cling to it to see out the second set. A scramble play fell just short for the Marauders to bring up a set point, before Kevin Stevens’ attack down the right line landed just wide to end the second 25-23 in the home side’s favour.
McMaster found itself on the brink of its first loss of the OUA season, and the players organized a solemn huddle before the start of the third. What followed was side-out volleyball to open the set, with neither team able to piece together a run of service.
The Lions finally broke that trend when Ivan stepped to the line, jumping ahead 12-9 before the Marauders called time. There was no rhythm to McMaster’s game, and the visitors suffered another misfire as York took a 16-13 lead into the technical timeout.
Seemingly always able to find a higher level when in trouble in the past, the Marauders had no answer to the Lions’ challenge. Duncan-Thibault was lethal once again from the service line, firing an ace to give York a 22-19 lead and send McMaster into a last-ditch timeout.
A service error from Mantha brought up match point, before Marko Dakic claimed the loose ball at the net to seal the third set 25-21 and the match 3-0 for York.