Marauders wear OUA volleyball crown

A night after the most brutally efficient performance of his career, Jori Mantha repeated the trick on the largest of stages.

The third-year outside hitter amassed a game-high 28 points – including 22 kills on 44 hitting attempts – as the McMaster Marauders battled past a game Western Mustangs side to claim the Ontario University Athletics men’s volleyball title in four sets on Saturday (Feb. 23).

Photo: Rick Zazulak/McMaster Athletics

For his contributions, Mantha was named the Most Valuable Player of the Final Four for his combined efforts on Friday and Saturday nights.

Set scores were 25-27, 26-24, 32-30, 25-20 for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s No. 2-ranked Marauders, who overcame a setback in the opening frame and consistent struggles from the service line to win their fourth conference banner in the past six seasons.

McMaster now awaits its seeding for the CIS showdown, but with the No. 1-ranked Alberta Golden Bears’ loss last night, the Marauders could well claim the top spot in the eight-team national tournament.

Beyond Mantha’s mammoth performance, OUA Rookie of the Year Dany Demyanenko notched 15 points and 13 kills on 14 attempts with only a single error, for an ultra-efficient average of 85.7%. Jason McCarthy added five more aces to his final four tally on Saturday, and had 14.5 points and nine kills on the night.

OUA Player of the Year Garrett May topped the Mustangs, posting 18 points – all of which were kills – on a team-high 38 hitting attempts.

Both teams struggled from the service line in Saturday’s final, with the Marauders committing 16 service errors versus 11 aces, and the Mustangs committing 10 against 10 aces.

The match was contested very evenly throughout, and that trend was evident from the opening rally. The Marauders held a slim lead early in the opening set, with Mantha notching seven of his 25 kills in the frame, before the Mustangs clawed back to take what proved to be a decisive lead.

Rather than rely exclusively on their star outside hitter, May, the visitors from Western were spreading the ball to great effect. Luke Sim and Phil James both benefitted as setter Sean McKay committed to the quick attack through the middle.

Western took an early 5-1 lead in the second set, forcing McMaster to call time and sort out the issues that plagued its serve reception and passing. The Mustangs looked to hold that advantage midway through the set, but the Marauders swung momentum in the late going to push it into extra points.

The teams were neck-and-neck and playing side-out volleyball, when McCarthy found one of his three set-clinching aces on the night. His rocketing spin serve at 25-24 went unreturned by the scrambling Mustangs, and the home side levelled the match at a set apiece.

The third enjoyed the same progression as the second had before it, with Western carving out an early advantage before McMaster embarked on a run to tie things once again. The Marauders returned to the quick offence in the middle that has so often stood as their trademark, with the insertion of fourth-year middle Tyson Alexander proving instrumental in that tactical shift.

He proved to be a steadying influence on the both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, adding his 6’8” frame to McMaster’s blocking scheme with immediate benefits. The teams found themselves once again playing side-out volleyball to conclude the third, and it was McCarthy who provided the dagger once again from the service line. Unperturbed by the occasion, the rookie outside hammered a spin serve that found the far corner to seal the third set 32-30 in McMaster’s favour.

The fourth and, ultimately, final frame proved less dramatic than the three that had preceded it, with the Marauders making use of their recently seized momentum. Mantha put the finishing touches on his remarkable night as Western was serially unable to answer his challenge.

With the signature Daft Punk tune ringing through the Burridge Gym, McCarthy stepped to the service line at 24-20 and dealt his third set-ending serve, sending the Marauder faithful into rapturous applause and the team itself running to meet one another.