Marauders will be schooled in volleyball this summer


Third-year veteran Austin Campion-Smith will be joined by teammates Jori Mantha, Alex Elliot and Brandon Koppers representing Ontario at the Canada Games. (Photo: McMaster Athletics)

Third-year veteran Austin Campion-Smith will be joined by teammates Jori Mantha, Alex Elliot and Brandon Koppers representing Ontario at the Canada Games. (Photo: McMaster Athletics)

The young core of McMaster Marauders volleyball coach Dave Preston’s team will spend the summer playing at a highly competitive caliber.

Already with three members of McMaster’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s silver-medal-winning group named to the Canadian Under-21 National Team, the Marauders earned four provincial nods as the Ontario Volleyball Association held a three-day selection camp at York University to pick the team that will represent the province at the Canada Games in August.

The McMaster contingent will include third-year veterans Austin Campion-Smith and Jori Mantha joined by second-year middle Alex Elliot and incoming rookie outside hitter Brandon Koppers.

There will be a Marauder presence on the women’s team as well, as second-year middle Taylor Brisebois cracked the Team Ontario roster, with first-year outside Rebecca Steckle named an alternate.

The Canada Games are familiar to Preston, who took part in two such events during his tenure coaching Team Ontario in the 1990s. He speaks of the games as a unique learning experience for his players.

“I’m really happy for our guys, and I think that this really reinforces that the hard work that we demand here pays off for them,” said Preston. “I think that for the five guys who made Team Ontario, for them to experience the Canada Games – which is a multi-sport event and the closest a lot of guys will get to the Olympics – is great. Having been through two of them myself in ’93 and ’97, it’s an unbelievable experience for our guys. And they get to do it together.”

Preston expects that the Marauders who train with the provincial and national teams will evolve as a result, and hopes that their experience can enrich the program as a whole. The full-time nature of those programs, during what would normally be a varsity player’s off-season, is both a challenge and an opportunity.

“There are no distractions in the summer,” Preston points out. “You’re pretty well a full-time athlete with Team Canada and Team Ontario. You don’t have to balance it out with school or other things in your schedule. You wake up, work out, go for a nap, play ball and rinse and repeat.”

For the members of Team Ontario, that routine will begin in June and culminates in the competition of the Canada Games, with the volleyball tournament running from Aug. 1-9 in Sherbrooke, Que.