A critical momentum shift in the third set proved fatal for McMaster on Friday (Feb. 28), as the Marauders crashed out of title contention at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championship with a four-set loss to the Western Mustangs.
Set scores were 25-23, 17-25, 30-28 and 25-20 in favour of the seventh-seeded Mustangs, who will now battle the Alberta Golden Bears for the national university crown in Saturday’s final. Meanwhile, the Marauders will have to rebound as they settle for a bronze-medal tilt against their title competition of a year ago, the Laval Rouge et Or.
Garrett May led all scorers handily on Friday, posting a game high 24.5 points on 21-38 hitting versus eight errors (34.2 per cent) with three aces and a half block.
Second-year outside Stephen Maar was McMaster’s most productive hitter in the loss, with 19 points on 14-32 hitting versus six errors (25 per cent), one ace and four total blocks.
In a back and forth opening to the match, the Marauders rode the see-saw to a slim 16-14 lead at the technical timeout in the first set. But Western grabbed control in the final points, taking a crucial, two-point lead at 23-21 when setter Sean Mckay blocked Stephen Maar on the outside. Luke Sim converted a quick through the middle to bring up set point, and the Mustangs brought the first to a close two points later.
McMaster responded with a dominant showing early in the second, powering to a 16-9 lead at the technical timeout when Jori Mantha thumped an emphatic kill on the left side. A four-point run helped the Mustangs claw back to within striking distance, but the Marauders re-established a comfortable lead in the late stages. Maar painted the left sideline to bring up set point, and Danny Demyanenko denied Sim through the middle to seal the set and level the match.
The third was the pivotal moment, and it was there that McMaster blinked first.
A strong start to the set saw the Marauders claim a 5-2 lead when Mantha found the back line with an ace, and that lead continued to swell as the set moved forward. McMaster appeared well on the way to a 2-1 overall lead when middle Tyson Alexander froze May with a floating ace for 18-12. The Mustangs called time when the Marauder lead grew to seven points at 22-15. But that’s when the wheels came off.
Western embarked on a six-point run to close within a point at 22-21, and at that point, the dogfight was on. The lead swapped hands multiple times as the teams spilled into extra points, and the Marauders had a glorious, final opportunity to claim the set when a Demyaneko-Maar combo block stuffed May for 27-26. But they were unable to convert, and Western snatched the set from under McMaster’s nose when May wiped off a double block and down for 30-28.
The momentum swing of that finish was gigantic, and Western fed off it as the fourth opened, grinding out a 16-13 lead at the technical timeout. The Marauders looked increasingly dejected as the Mustangs built on that advantage late, and May brought Western ever closer with consecutive kills for 22-17. A kill sailed long from Brandon Koppers to bring up match points, and two points later, Justin Scapinello successfully painted the line with a kill to end it.