McMaster Sports Information
HAMILTON (CIS) – For two consecutive sets, the Saskatchewan Huskies threatened to put a damper on the party-like atmosphere in the sold-out Burridge Gym. But McMaster was the steadier of the two teams in the late stages, and managed a sweep by the narrowest of margins to move into the final of the 50th CIS Men's Volleyball Championship presented by Leggat Auto Group.
Set scores were 32-30, 26-24, 25-17 for the Marauders, who defeated the Huskies in the CIS tournament for the second straight year on Friday.
The MVP of Ontario University Athletics (OUA), outside Stephen Maar was the star of the show for the Marauders, with a game high of 18 kills and 24 points to lead his team past a tough challenge from the Canada West runners up.
"We weren't doing much for him," said head coach Dave Preston of Maar. "He freed himself up. Saskatchewan did a really good job of trapping on him. Our middle attack wasn't crisp in the first set, and so we couldn't hold any attention from their middles at all, and [Robert] Graham and [Tyler] Epp were just releasing on him.
"I think we did a better job down the stretch in the second and third set by attacking down the middle a bit more and at least holding some attention."
Saskatchewan coach Brian Gavlas pointed to his team's performance late in the close first and second sets as the fatal flaw on Friday.
"It was a great match, and that first set could have gone either way," said Gavlas. "If we would have pulled that one out, it might have put a bit more pressure on them.
"I think we were pretty well prepared, but we didn't execute the way we needed to at the end of sets to beat a good team."
With the hosts struggling to drag themselves back into system, the Huskies grabbed early momentum in the first set, forcing Mac into a timeout at 13-8 when Danny Demyanko misfired through the middle. But even while his teammates were being challenged, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) MVP Stephen Maar was pulling his team along, hitting 59 per cent from the left in the first.
Mac embarked on a three-point run facing set points at 21-24 to push the set into extra points, where Maar eventually provided the point of separation. After Robert Graham killed to level the set at 30, Maar unleashed two consecutive, fearsome shots for his 10th and 11th kills of the frame to end it at 32-30.
Evenly matched throughout, the two teams continued to battle side-out in the second set, and yet again it was the Huskies who made the first move, taking an 18-15 lead after a kill from Graham. But Mac reeled off five of the next six points to push ahead 20-18, and the teams remained neck and neck to the finish line.
Lifting their offensive output as a group, McMaster reached 32 per cent hitting in the second, with opposite hitter Jayson McCarthy leading the way with four kills and just a single error. Crucially, Saskatchewan's efficiency began to drop as well, and after Maar killed to bring up set point at 25-24, it was a double block from Alex Elliott and Maar that ended the second and gave Mac a commanding two-set lead.
Having fought off two tough challenges, the Marauders geared up in the third set, and saw their hitting percentage rise to 45 as a unit. Across the net, the Huskies slumped to 14 per cent, and saw the impact on the scoreboard. A Demyanenko ace was chased by a Jordan Nowakowski error, as Mac built a seven-point lead at 19-12. That proved to be too great a gulf for the Huskies to bridge, and Mac went on a four-point run to claim the match, winning it when Brandon Koppers wiped for 25-17.
Special praise from Preston was reserved for the atmosphere at the Burridge Gym, where the crowd was engaged throughout, and particularly vocal in the first two, tight sets.
"If that wasn't the best student-athlete environment to play in, I don't know any one that tops it," said Preston. "For our student-athletes to be able to do this on that stage with that level of support, it's absolutely amazing.
"If anybody wasn't a fan of volleyball when they sat in the Burridge tonight, I don't know how they can't be when they left."
Kills: Stephen Maar (18), Jayson McCarthy (9), Danny Demyanenko (9)
Points: Stephen Maar (24, Danny Demyanenko (13.5)
Blocks: Alex Elliot (2.5, Danny Demyanenko (2.5)
Digs: Pawel Jedrzejewski (6)
Service aces: Stephen Maar (4)
Player of the match: Stephen Maar
Kills: Jordan Nowakowski (10), Tyler Epp (7)
Points: Jordan Nowakowski (10.5), Tyler Epp (8.5)
Blocks: Robert Graham (2)
Digs: Etienne Hagenbuch (6)
Service aces: Robert Graham (1), CJ Gavlas (1), Tylr Epp (1)
Player of the match: Robert Graham
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE & RESULTS
Thursday, March 10
13:00 Quarter-final #1: Trinity Western 3, Ryerson 1 (25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 26-24)
15:00 Quarter-final #2: Alberta 3, Laval 0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-19)
18:00 Quarter-final #3: Saskatchewan 3, UNB 2 (23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-20, 15-10)
20:00 Quarter-final #4: McMaster 3, Waterloo 0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-18)
Friday, March 11
13:00 Consolation #1: Laval 3, Ryerson 2 (22-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17 16-14)
15:00 Consolation #2: UNB 3, Waterloo 1 (23-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-23, 15-10)
18:00 Semifinal #1: Trinity Western 3, Alberta 2 (18-25, 25-20, 25-19, 20-25, 15-11)
20:00 Semifinal #2: McMaster 3, Saskatchewan 0 (32-30, 26-24, 25-17)
Saturday, March 12
13:00 5th place: Laval vs. UNB (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)
15:00 Bronze: Alberta vs. Saskatchewan (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)
18:00 Championship final: Trinity Western vs. McMaster (Cable 14 & www.CIS-SIC.tv) *
* Tape delayed to 22:00 on Cable 14.