The McMaster Marauders were within a set of a major Ontario University Athletics volleyball upset against York, until the Lions roared.
The Marauders took a 2-1 lead in sets into the fourth quarter against the No. 5 nationally ranked Lions only to see York storm back to grab the final two sets and claim the match 3-2. With the win, combined with Ottawa’s earlier loss to Lakehead, York (16-1) clinched first place in OUA women’s play. The Lions will host the Final Four from Feb. 22-23.
Sunday’s (Feb. 10) loss drops McMaster to 9-9 on the season, but with tiebreakers over both Lakehead and Western, the Marauders clinch the sixth seed, and will travel to Ryerson for a quarter-final on Saturday (Feb.16).
Veteran hitter Brandi Wilkerson led the Lions – and the match – with 24.5 points, including 20 kills on 42 attempts and three solo blocks. Melissa Humana-Paredes added 18 points and 13 kills for York.
Kailee Stock was the leading scorer for the Marauders, tallying 14 points and 10 kills.
The Marauders got off to a promising start, taking a 10-7 lead in the first set after the Lions’ attack sailed wide. That advantage held as the teams entered the midway point, with Taylor Brisebois executing the slide to perfection for 14-9.
York remained within striking distance, but when Kierstyn Bakker’s serve found the floor, McMaster carried a 16-13 lead into the technical timeout. A rash of errors by the Lions put the Marauders in the driver’s seat as the set drew to a close, and a blown serve reception moved the score to 22-17.
Humana-Paredes ended a long rally when her cross-court effort found the net from the left, setting up set point at 24-20. Three points later, it was the combination of Shannon McRobert and Amanda Weldon that came up with a double block on the right side to seal the first for the visitors.
McMaster continued its charge early in the second, taking a 5-2 lead when Wilkerson found the net with the prospect of a double block upcoming. But York staged an immediate comeback, climbing into a 7-6 lead when a McMaster attack sailed long from the backcourt. Neither team could string together a run from the service line, but the Lions took a 16-14 lead into the technical when Humana-Paredes cleaned up a broken play.
York found the consistency it had been searching for at the break, and won the next five points to take a commanding lead in the late stages. The Lions stuttered momentarily on the brink, but after a double block brought up set point at 24-19, York took the second 25-21 with a quick set through the middle.
Given their effort to tie the match, one might have expected the Lions to come roaring out of the gate in the third. Instead, the errors that had plagued them in the first returned, and the Marauders raced to an 11-4 lead. York awoke to embark on a small run, but McMaster took a 16-9 advantage into the technical timeout after Bakker tooled a double block on the left and found the floor.
McMaster kept the momentum as the set neared its end, and when Bakker reeled off another ace the Marauders led, 21-13. York had one last run left before the set was said and done, scoring six of the next eight points to come within four at 23-19. But after the Marauders tooled the double block on the left for set point, the Lions’ Michelle Pierce put a limp serve into the bottom of the net to seal it 25-20 in the visitors’ favour.
It was McMaster’s turn to demonstrate some shaky serve reception to open the fourth, as the Marauders dropped the first four points of the set. The Lions took the cue, and won 11 of the first 13 points before the Marauders called time. Changes were made to the visitors’ lineup, with Camilla Thorne-Tjomsland entering the set and doing damage from the service line.
Slowly but surely, McMaster worked its way back into the fourth, coming within five points at 17-12. But ultimately, the deficit proved to be too much, and after a service error brought up set point, a York kill from the right ended the set by a score of 25-15.
The Lions sped out ahead in the fifth, winning four of the first five points after an ace by Sheraine Henry. The home side had found another gear, and had the set in control when Tisha Roush came up with a solo block on Bakker for 12-6. McMaster made it interesting, when Kailee Stock killed off hands to bring the Marauders within three at 11-14. But when Stock’s tip fell wide on the next point, it was all over.