They started slowly, but the McMaster Marauders gradually built up steam as they rolled through a semi-final sweep of the Ryerson Rams in Ontario University Athletics men’s volleyball on Friday (Feb. 21). Set scores were 25-22, 25-19 and 25-10 for the nationally No. 1-ranked Marauders, who earned a ticket to next week’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championship in Calgary.
With Western similarly sweeping the Waterloo Warriors on Friday, the Marauders and Mustangs will have a rematch of their OUA final a year ago. That takes place Saturday (Feb. 22) at Mac’s Burridge Gym.
Second-year outside Stephen Maar led the Marauders – and the match – with 15.5 points in the win, converting 12 of 21 hitting attempts versus just three errors (42.9 per cent) and adding three total blocks. OUA Player of the Year Jori Mantha followed with 13.5 points, while Jayson McCarthy had 12.5 points and hit 9-15 with just two errors (46.7 per cent).
Coleman Lucas was Ryerson’s high scorer, posting nine points on 7-11 hitting with one error (54.5 per cent) and two aces.
The visiting Rams got the best of the match’s early exchanges, feeding off the energy of a raucous travelling crowd to take a 10-5 lead in the first set, and force a timeout from the host Marauders. But McMaster began to immediately chip away at the deficit after the break, and had retaken the initiative after the technical timeout.
Improved serving played a large part in the resurgence, as McMaster pushed ahead 20-15 and put itself in sight of the first set finish line. Ryerson fought back to within striking distance, but McCarthy hammered a shot down the right line to bring up set point, and Mantha went cross court just two points later to seal the first for the home side.
Side-out volleyball reigned to open the second set, but McMaster managed to pull ahead ever so slightly at the technical timeout when McCarthy ended a prolonged rally with a cross-court kill for 16-13. The Marauders surged toward the 25-point mark with the help of a few costly Ryerson errors, such as the Rams’ decision to leave an Austin Campion-Smith float serve to drop on the left side line for 20-14.
The gap was too wide for the Rams to claw back, and Mantha polished off consecutive points to win the second set for McMaster, coming up with an inspired shot through a double block to salvage a broken play for 25-19.
Down two sets, Ryerson seemed out of both ideas and energy, as McMaster quickly pounced to open the third. The Marauders were firing on all cylinders, and when Mantha savagely killed off an overpass, McMaster was doubling up Ryerson at 14-7. Two points later, Tyson Alexander produced a solo stuff block to bring the teams into the technical timeout.
The Rams weren’t helping their own cause, with errors piling onto the Marauders’ already sizable lead. A Ryerson attack flew well wide of the right line, and brought up a last-ditch timeout from the visitors at 20-10. Five points later, it was mercifully over, as McCarthy followed an Alexander ace with a wipe off a double block and down for 25-10.
McMaster and Western return to familiar circumstances, competing for an OUA title at the Burridge Gym for a second consecutive year. The Marauders have won each of their past eight meetings with the Mustangs in all competitions, with their last loss to Western coming in January 2012. The OUA final is set for its first serve at 7 p.m.