If they want to clear their first playoff hurdle, the Marauders will have to contain one of the Ontario University Athletics top hitters on Saturday (Feb. 15). Kaila Seguin — who leads the conference in total kills and attempts — and the Windsor Lancers return to the Burridge Gym with a berth in the OUA Final Four on the line.
It will mark the third meeting between these two teams this season, and, if the previous two are any indication, McMaster should be glad to boast home court on Saturday. The Marauders and Lancers split their two regular season matches earlier this year, with the home team winning a four-set decision in each of those.
The quarter-final stage has proved troublesome for the Marauders in recent years, as McMaster has advanced to the last eight in each of the past three seasons only to miss out on the Final Four. The team’s last experience in the event came in 2010, when McMaster hosted and advanced to the OUA final.
Returning to the Final Four will require every bit of the attacking balance, reliable serving and stout defence that helped McMaster to an excellent second-half showing this season. The Marauders won seven of their eight conference matches after the holiday break to separate themselves from the pack in the OUA West and finish 13-6.
McMaster’s greatest offensive weapon this season has been Sophie Bukovec, and you can expect the rookie outside to touch the ball early and often on Saturday. Bukovec leads all Marauders with an average of 3.79 points per game — placing her fifth among OUA hitters — and enjoys a wide lead in total attempts for McMaster with 656 to Lauren Mastroluisi’s 421.
Mastroluisi should also factor into Saturday’s result, as an ever-improving server and a valuable member of McMaster’s bullpen on the outside that includes Mira Krunic, Kierstyn Bakker and super-sub Joanna Jedrzejewska.
Rounding out McMaster’s balance on the attack is the middle duo of Taylor Brisebois and Maicee Sorensen, with the latter arriving on the scene this season. The rookie Sorensen has lightened the load for Brisebois, and the two currently sit with nearly identical statistical lines, including equal averages of 2.6 points per set.
Seguin will be the Marauders’ most obvious challenge, but Windsor will also look to exploit the middle through the veteran Shannon Dean, who has posted a total of 28 points in two matches against McMaster this season. While Seguin sees most of Windsor’s usage on the outside, fellow veteran Mackenzie Coyle is a capable second option, averaging 2.47 points per set.
Keeping those hitters in check on Saturday will be the Marauders’ priority as they look to make a return to the OUA Final Four. Whether they can do just that will be seen when the two teams launch the first serve at 7 p.m.