It was a fitting climax for a team that continued to improve all season long – the McMaster women’s volleyball team defeated the Ottawa Gee-Gees, 3-0, to win the 2014 Ontario University Athletics championship. It is the first provincial title for the Marauders since 2008, and the second in team history.
With both McMaster and Ottawa having qualified for the upcoming Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championship in Regina after winning their respective semi-finals on Saturday, the teams were playing for OUA bragging rights and a higher seed at the nationals. Ottawa was also trying to defend its 2013 title.
Coach Tim Louks stuck with his young line-up that included four first-year players, and the Marauders got off to a quick start in the first set. Leading 16-9 at the technical timeout, they bumped the lead to 19-12 and while Ottawa made a run at them, the Marauders closed out a 25-20 win to grab the early lead in the match.
The second set saw the Gee-Gees get the quick start leading 6-2, when Louks substituted setter Kayla Ng into the match. That seemed to settle down McMaster and it proceeded to fight back to take a 9-8 lead. The teams swapped points from that point before Mac gained some space with a 16-13 margin at the technical break.
The Maroon lead got to 22-17, when Ottawa’s Kayla Bell-Hammond got on a service roll and brought the Garnet and Grey all the way back to a 22-22 tie. But a kill by Joanna Jedrzejewska put McMaster back in front and the Marauders were able to capture the second set 25-22.
Now trailing by two sets Ottawa again started quickly and jumped in front 4-0 only to see McMaster score the next four to even the score and the teams again started to trade points. A stretch of bad passing by the Maroon allowed Ottawa to pull in front and the Gee-Gee lead was 16-12 at the technical timeout. Coach Louks subbed in Khira Adams, normally a libero, to help with the serve reception.
The Gee-Gees got the lead up to 18-12 and the match looked like it was headed to a fourth-set, but then it was Ottawa’s turn to struggle with its passing and McMaster began to creep closer. An Ottawa timeout at 19-18 failed to stop the Maroon momentum and behind some solid defense and timely offense McMaster powered through to win the set 25-22 and take the match 3-0.
McMaster’s Ng was named the player of the game, while Sophie Bukovec was recognized as the Most Valuable Player of the OUA Final-Four, after putting together two strong weekend matches. Since returning from the Christmas break in January, the Marauders have lost only one match against OUA competition, which makes them one of the hottest teams in Canada.
The OUA final was a total team effort for McMaster with Bukovec leading the attack with 14 kills and playing stellar defense with nine digs, Joanna Jedrzejewska powered down 12 kills and added 11 digs, while libero Carly Heath was strong defensively with 16 digs.
The Marauders will now wait to find out where they will be seeded in the CIS tournament.