Marauders sweep into national volleyball semi-finals

vball_macpink-65The McMaster Marauders are off to a flying start at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport volleyball championships, after a dominant performance to sweep the Atlantic University Sport champion University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in the tournament’s first quarter-final matchup.

Set scores were 25-23, 25-17, 25-14, as the Marauders await the winner of the second quarterfinal between the No. 2 Trinity Western Spartans and No. 7 Western Mustangs.

McMaster head coach Dave Preston was pleased with his team’s display on Friday (March 1) in a quick and clean match that saw the Marauders advance with a minimum of fuss.

“We played focused and attentive volleyball today,” said Preston. “We didn’t start very well, but I thought that we worked ourselves into the match and got our legs under us pretty quickly.”

Mac, Ontario University Athletics title holders, went into the game ranked No. 3 nationally while the Varsity Reds were No. 6.

Third-year outside Jori Mantha led all scorers with 15.5 points in the win, including 10 kills and four service aces. CIS Rookie of the Year Dany Demyanenko added 12.5 points, including six kills and five total blocks.

The teams endured a nervous start to their quarter-final match, with neither side able to fully flex their offensive muscle early. It was side-out volleyball at the technical timeout and the Varsity Reds took a 16-15 lead into the break.

But with Kevin Stevens tipping to the floor on the left, McMaster vaulted ahead 18-16 and forced UNB to call time. The slim lead held as the set approached its conclusion, with Tyson Alexander and Austin Campion-Smith combining for a double block in the middle that sent the Varsity Reds into another timeout.

There was one last momentum swing to be had before the first set came to a close, as McMaster climbed back into the driver’s seat.

Demyanenko polished off a trademark quick in the middle to bring up a set point for the Marauders, and the OUA champions sealed the opening frame on the very next point when Mantha’s spin serve went unreturned for 25-23.

Preston admitted that his team will need a better start on Saturday, but he was confident that having gotten the first taste of tournament action, the Marauders will have no problem finding their rhythm at the semi-final stage.

“Historically, we take some time to get used to the match and the level we need to play at,” said the coach. “But we’ve got one under our belt now, and I don’t see us having that issue again tomorrow.”

McMaster carved out an early lead in the second, jumping ahead 7-5 when Alexander denied the Varsity Reds’ cross-court effort. The Marauders pressed their advantage with the Reds struggling to pass in the face of more consistent service, and when a UNB pass found the aerial, it was 13-7.

That six-point advantage continued into the technical timeout, and only grew as the set came to a close. Demyanenko brought the one-sided second to a close as he sealed the inside seam and completed the double block on the right for 25-17.

Momentum was all McMaster’s as the teams entered the third set, and the Marauders raced out to a 5-2 lead in the early stages. The Marauders were cruising toward the technical timeout, and entered the break with a dominant eight-point lead when Demyanenko added another quick to his kill total.

UNB’s reception struggles continued to McMaster’s delight, as Demyanenko’s float serve wreaked havoc with the Varsity Reds. The rout was on, and after Alexander brought up set point with a kill in the middle, Mantha found a touch of class to fire an off-balance rocket from the backcourt that fooled UNB and brought the match to an end.

McMaster’s semifinal match will take place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and will be streamed live at