Marauder men’s volleyball opened pre-season play with a Thursday (Oct. 10) rematch of the 2013 Ontario University Athletics championship against the Western Mustangs. Both teams showed their share of summer rust, but McMaster prevailed in the decisive fifth set to win 3-2 (25-14, 25-19, 11-25, 22-25, 15-13).
The hosts enjoyed a solid start, as Western struggled to receive serve and was even hit with an illegal rotation call to give McMaster an early 12-8 lead. Sloppy passing continued to plague the Mustangs as the set wore on, and Jayson McCarthy wiped off the block and wide to bring a comfortable first set to an end for the Marauders.
That momentum carried into the second, where McMaster once again led out of the gate. Middle Tyson Alexander adjusted well to put an awkward pass to the floor and force the Mustangs to call time trailing 14-9. Despite a mid-set surge by the visitors, McMaster still led 19-16 when Western called time to regroup.
Improved defence helped the Marauders to succeed out of the break, and the combination of transfer setter Andrew Kocur and rookie outside Brandon Koppers put a pretty finish on the set. Kocur found Koppers with a perfectly weighted pass in the pipe position, and the rookie curved a shot into the back row to seal the second set, 25-19.
The hosts appeared to be well on the way to an early finish, but their visitors had other ideas. Western took the reins in the third set and never looked back, roundly outplaying McMaster in virtually every facet of the game. A Mustang kill from an unlikely angle brought the teams into the technical timeout with Western leading, 16-8. That deficit only worsened for McMaster as the set approached its conclusion, and when a Marauder attack grazed the aerial, the Mustangs won by a 14-point margin.
McMaster’s passing was suffering, and its offence seemed a shadow of that which had outpaced Western through two sets. Mustang setter Sean McKay dumped into open space to put his team ahead 16-12 at the fourth set’s technical timeout. The Marauders stayed within striking distance, but when McCarthy’s serve sailed well long, the Mustangs leveled the match at two sets apiece.
The visitors continued to be the cleaner team early in the fifth, and took a 4-1 lead in the abbreviated set before Preston called time. Western clung to a slim lead as the set inched into double digits, but McMaster finally overturned the deficit at 13-12 when a Western attack could only find tape.
Match point arrived two rallies later, and ended in the least climactic way possible. A fairly routine float-serve drifted into the middle of the Mustangs’ reception pattern, and one defender attempted an ill-advised up pass which sent the ball spiraling out of bounds to end the match.
The Marauders continue their preseason slate in a week’s time, when they travel to Calgary to take part in the University of Calgary’s yearly Dino Cup tournament. McMaster will meet a number of Canada West’s strongest programs over the course of the event, including the host Dinos, the Alberta Golden Bears and the Trinity Western Spartans. That event will run Oct. 17-19.