It was a see-saw battle worthy of two of the very best programs in the CIS, but for a second-consecutive year, the Marauders fell on Friday (Feb. 27) at the semifinal stage of Canada’s best in men’s volleyball.
Trinity Western was the cleaner of the two sides, and eked out a tight four-set decision (28-26, 25-27, 25-17, 26-24) to set up an all-Canada West final in Saskatoon. It will be a rematch of the conference final that Alberta took 3-1 in Edmonton a week ago.
McMaster’s middles were a strength in a losing effort, as Danny Demyanenko led the Marauders with 17.5 points while Alex Elliott was exceptional, killing 13 of 25 attempts versus just a single error (.480) and adding two aces. In his final match as a Marauder, Jori Mantha had fifteen points on 12 kills, an ace and two solo blocks, while Austin Campion-Smith posted 42 assists in his last match in Maroon and Grey.
The Marauders held a slender lead early in the first set, and took a two-point advantage into the technical timeout when Jori Mantha tooled the block on the right wing for 16-14. Side-out volleyball reigned as the set moved toward a conclusion, and McMaster had a glorious opportunity to grab the overall lead when set point came up at 24-23. But Branden Schmidt answered with a kill, and Trinity Western ultimately came out on top when the CIS Player of the Year, Nick Del Bianco cut a savage shot cross-court.
Much like the first set before it, the second was a tooth-and-nail affair, with the teams playing side-out volleyball into the technical timeout. McMaster was living and dying with their quick middle attack, while the combination of Del Bianco and Ryan Sclater did the damage for the Spartans. McMaster finally found a moment of separation late on, as Elliott thumped the force play to the floor for set point, and Demyanenko followed with a block to level the match.
The third appeared to be more of the same, with Trinity Western holding a slim lead through much of the set on the strength of an efficient offensive performance. But the wheels fell off for McMaster as the set barrelled toward the finish line. Consecutive attack line violations from rookie outside Andrew Richards pushed the Spartans ahead, and Trinity Western won the last six points of the set to take it by an eight-point margin.
A number of early errors from Trinity Western staked McMaster to a 5-1 lead early in the fourth set, as the Spartans quickly called time. But the Canada West finalists slowly worked their way back into the set, and took the lead after a Stephen Maar service error. McMaster retook the lead, but only briefly, as a crucial four-point run gave Trinity Western two set points. They were wasted, as Sclater fired wide to tie the match at 24, but a Del Bianco kill brought up another, and the combination of Sclater and setter Adam Schriemer got up well to block Demyanenko.
McMaster will now take part in Saturday’s bronze-medal game against the AUS champion Dalhousie Tigers. That match will take place at 5:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. Central) and can be seen live on CIS-SIC.tv.