National volleyball title eludes Marauders

McMasterMcMaster’s historic run to the Canadian Interuniversity Sports men’s volleyball final came to a halt at the final hurdle on Sunday (March 3).

The Marauders fell in four sets to the host and RSEQ champion Laval Rouge et Or, ending McMaster’s hopes of winning the first national title in the program’s history – and the first by a member of Ontario University Athletics.

Their second-placed finish stands as the Marauders’ best in program history.

Set scores were 26-24, 22-25, 25-22 and 25-21 for the Rouge et Or, who completed their third-consecutive win against higher ranked opposition to claim a fourth CIS title and the first since 1994.

Middle hitter Frederic Mondou and outside Tommy Belisle led the Rouge et Or with 16.5 points and 15 kills apiece, as Laval hit for an efficient team average of .345 on Sunday.

CIS Rookie of the Year Dany Demyanenko paced the Marauders in the loss, posting 19 points and 16 kills on 26 attempts with three errors (.500). He added six totals blocks on the evening.

The Marauders got off to a quick start, taking a 4-1 lead to begin the match after Bruno Lortie’s attack from the left found the net. The two teams were playing exceptional backcourt defence as the first progressed, but Laval found a measure of separation at the technical timeout to take a 16-13 lead into the break.

McMaster looked to chip away at that deficit as the set approached a conclusion, and clawed within two points when Tyson Alexander polished off the quick attack through the middle for 18-20. Demyanenko levelled the set at 23 with a well-placed tip into space, but the Rouge et Or were not to be denied. They claimed the set 26-24 when Demyanenko was stuffed by a solo block by Olivier Bibeault-Pinard through the middle.

Side-out volleyball ruled to open the second set, with neither side able to establish a run from the service line. Alexander gave McMaster its first two-point lead of the set at 10-8 when his deep attack from the middle found the floor. Having found breathing room, the Marauders rode it into the technical timeout, moving into the break with a 16-12 lead when a wiped attack from the left found the floor.

Kevin Stevens showed his range from the pipe, hammering a kill to position one to extend the McMaster lead to 18-13. The Marauders looked to be on the brink of tying the match, but a late surge from the Rouge et Or forced them to call time with their lead down to two at 21-19.

But the Marauders only had to trade points to win, and after Demyanenko brought up set point with a trademark quick in the middle, McMaster sealed off a double block on the left side to take clinch the second set 25-22 and level the match.

Much like the second had before it, the third set began with the teams playing side-out volleyball. The Rouge et Or finally found a lead at 14-12, when a service ace graced the Marauders’ back corner. But McMaster rode a three-point run, and consecutive kills from Demyanenko, to take a slim 16-15 lead into the technical timeout in set three.

There was little to choose between the teams as the set raced to a finish, but McMaster held dearly to its slim lead with the help of consistent passing and serve reception. Laval made a decisive push in the late stages, and brought up set points when a rare reception mistake by the Marauders gave the Rouge et Or a 24-22 advantage. The set was over a point later, with a double block providing the exclamation point.

Another tight start to the fourth opened up in the Rouge et Or’s favour when Belisle wiped consecutive kills off of the Marauder block on the right for 8-5. McMaster stayed in touch as the teams moved toward the technical, and when Jayson McCarthy cleaned up an out-of-system ball, Laval’s lead was down to two at 14-12. But Frederic Mondou successfully brought the Rouge et Or into the technical timeout, wiping a quick attack off hands and long for 16-13.

That deficit was not a large one, but McMaster could do little to chip away at it. McCarthy converted another kill on the right to narrow the gap to two points at 19-21 and forced Laval into a timeout. Lortie won a messy joust at the net to bring up match points at 24-21, and when Jori Mantha’s attack fell long, it was all over.