McMaster’s middle hitters had their way with the Western Mustangs on Saturday (Feb. 22), powering the Marauders to a fifth Ontario University Athletics title in the past seven years. Set scores were 25-16, 21-25, 25-19 and 25-15 for the nation’s No. 1-ranked Marauders, who defeated the Mustangs on home court for the title for the second consecutive year.
The win makes McMaster the top-seeded OUA representative at next week’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship in Calgary.
Second-year outside hitter Jayson McCarthy was McMaster’s top scorer, with 17 points on 12-21 hitting with one error (52.4 per cent), three aces and two total blocks. But it was Danny Demyanenko who rightly received player of the game honours for the Marauders, terrorizing Western on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Demyanenko had 16.5 points on 11-17 hitting with no errors (64.7 per cent), one ace and four and a half total blocks. Fellow starting middle Tyson Alexander was similarly effective on both ends, totalling 15 points on 13-20 hitting with two errors (55 per cent) and two total blocks.
Western’s leading scorer was Justin Scapinello, who had 12 points on 10 kills and two aces, but was held by the Marauders to just eight per cent hitting on the night.
Play was tight to open the match, with the teams enjoying side-out volleyball until the middle stages of the first set. But the dominance of McMaster’s middle attack was already being hinted at, and when Alexander pumped a quick through the seam, the Marauders led 13-10. McCarthy came up with an emotional block to send the teams into the technical timeout, stuffing Western’s Doug Austrom for 16-11. There was no fight-back to be had for the Mustangs, and after Alexander and McCarthy combined for a block on the right to bring up set point, McMaster’s ensuing serve went unreturned.
The early advantage in the second seemed to be with the Marauders, as the quick attacks through the middle continued to pay dividends. Demyanenko put an exclamation point on one such attack to give McMaster a 9-7 lead, but Western quickly responded. Improved serving helped the Mustangs take a slim lead into the technical timeout, and they forced the Marauders to call time at 21-16. That lead would hold in the late stages, as Brandon Koppers and Stephen Maar were crossed up on a reception and a Mustang serve found the floor on set point.
McMaster didn’t take the setback to heart, and instead jumped out to a quick lead in the third set. The middle matchups continued to favour the Marauders, and when Alexander once again got the better of Phil James, McMaster led 13-10. That lead carried into the technical timeout, when Scapinello fell into a Marauder double block for 16-14. But McMaster built upon the slender advantage after the break, and opened a five-point gap when Luke Sim couldn’t dig up from the back court for 22-17. Maar did well to clean up a broken play for the Marauders and bring up set point, and the hosts sealed the third when Derek Kuiack went well wide with an attack from the left.
The air seemed to have come out of Western’s sails as the fourth set opened with McMaster winning four of the first five points. Errors only worsened the Mustangs’ situation, as Scapinello’s effort sailed wide cross court for 9-4. The hosts were in cruise control as they hit the technical timeout, with Demyanenko launching yet another quick past James in the middle for 16-8. McCarthy made a statement of his own as the match barreled toward its conclusion, firing down a savage kill from the right for 19-10 that ignited the Burridge Gym crowd. A service error from James brought up match point, and Demyanenko fittingly ended the night with an angled, cross-court kill for 25-15 and 3-1.
Both teams will now travel to Calgary to take part in the CIS Championship, which will run between Thursday, Feb. 28 to Saturday, March 1.