Rams knock Marauders out of playoff race

The upset seemed more than possible through three sets.

The McMaster Marauders had taken a 2-1 lead in sets in their Ontario University Athletics women’s volleyball match and appeared to have grabbed momentum after a decisive 25-16 victory over the Ryerson Rams in the third set of Saturday’s (Feb. 16) affair.

Photo: Rick Zazulak/McMaster Athletics

But Ryerson found its range and produced stubborn backcourt defence in staging a successful three-set comeback to defeat McMaster in five sets.

The result moves the Rams into next weekend’s OUA Final Four, while the Marauders’ season comes to an abrupt end.

Chelsea Briscoe led Ryerson with 17 points and 10 kills on 23 attempts, and was credited with four solo blocks on Saturday. Chelsea Jensen added 15 points and 10 kills on 41 attempts.

Fifth-year senior Shannon McRobert – playing in her last match as a Marauder – amassed 17 points to lead the Marauders, and converted 12 of her 30 hitting attempts. Kierstyn Bakker added 14 points on 12 of 36 hitting, and had a team-leading total of 18 digs.

The Marauders opened the first set strongly, taking a 5-3 lead when Lauren Skelly tooled the block on the left and found the floor. But the host Rams stayed within striking distance, and retook the lead at 9-8 when Bakker’s attempt from the right sailed long.

The two teams played side-out volleyball as the set progressed, with McMaster taking a slim 16-15 lead into the technical timeout after Kailee Stock caught Ryerson off guard with a deep roll shot. The Marauders forced a Rams’ timeout when Varga’s initial dig was not met and McMaster’s advantage stretched to 19-17.

The Rams found themselves on the brink of defeat, trailing 22-20 in the first set, before reeling off four consecutive points to bring up set points. McMaster saved one, but when Jensen opted to roll from the pipe her attack went unreturned to end the set 25-23 in Ryerson’s favour.

Shaky passing put the Marauders behind early in the second set, as the Rams claimed five of the first six points. Momentum took another swing as McMaster climbed back into contention, tying the set at 14 when McRobert tipped the free ball to the floor.

The Marauders flew out of the technical timeout, as two aces from Lauren Mastroluisi helped McMaster into a 20-16 lead before Ryerson called time. The run ended at six points, but provided all of the breathing room that the Marauders needed. After Veronica’s Livingston’s attack landed wide to bring up set point, Amanda Weldon found the line with an ace to end it 25-18 for the Marauders.

McMaster was the more organized team early in the third, taking an 8-3 lead after a Ryerson attack fell well long. The Marauder front-court took over as the teams moved toward the technical timeout, and consecutive aces from Taylor Brisebois gave McMaster an eight-point advantage at the break.

Brisebois was finally moved from the service line a few points later, after yet another ace, but McMaster enjoyed a double-digit lead. Ryerson came within seven points at 20-13, but after Briscoe’s attack sailed long to bring up set points, Amanda Weldon seized an attacking opportunity on the second touch to end the third 25-16 in McMaster’s favour.

With the Rams’ season in the balance, the home side began the fourth set strongly, taking a 7-2 lead after Mastroluisi’s attempt from the left rolled long. Ryerson maintained the upper hand as the teams entered the technical timeout, leading 16-10 after Bakker’s attack from the right floated just long.

The Marauders forced a timeout from the hosts when they crept within four points at 20-16. Ryerson responded well to the challenge, with Livingston ending a marathon rally for 22-18 with an extreme cut shot in the middle. Briscoe brought the fourth to an end a few points later, producing a heavy swing in the middle that the Marauders could not return for 25-20.

The hosts took the lead to open the fifth and deciding set with Jensen doing damage from the service line and putting Ryerson ahead 4-1 before McMaster called time. The Rams carried a four-point lead into the changeover when a cross-court effort from the left found the sideline.

That lead held for the hosts, and Briscoe brought up match point at 14-9 with a rolled kill from the left. She ended the match on the very next point, fooling Brisebois with the serve for an ace that booked Ryerson’s place in the OUA Final Four.