Crossing the mid-point of the 2017-2018 season, the McMaster women’s volleyball team find themselves sitting alone atop the Ontario University Athletics West division. With six other teams in the West vying for the number one spot, the Marauders continue to execute their game plan in each contest, dominating their opponents.
After a close loss to start the season, the Mac women have rattled off 10 consecutive wins, leaving the Ryerson Rams as the only team with a better record in the entire province. The Rams are also in the unique position of being the only team in the province to hand the Marauders a loss this campaign.
While a revisit to this nail-biter matchup may want to be discussed as playoff season approaches, a deep dive into the 3-2 Marauder loss back in late October will remain in the film room. The Marauders still have eight games remaining in their impressive season, and like any experienced team, are taking it one game at a time.
“It’s going really great,” said fifth-year Aleks Arsovic on the season. “We had a really strong preseason and a nice trip to Poland where we got to play some pro teams. [We] started the season off with a loss which was interesting. The team is working really hard day in and day out, and we are hoping to repeat as OUA champions again this year. I think we have the right group to do it. Some really exciting things happening.”
The Mac women have resumed their strong season with an extra spark: the return of their starting outside hitter Aleks Arsovic. Following a long rehabilitation process of an ankle sprain suffered during the team’s preseason trip to Poland, Arsovic jumped back into her starting role with authority.
In her first weekend back in the starting rotation, Arsovic racked up 20 kills and a combined 27 points. By far the most impressive offensive weapon on either side of the court, Arsovic earned herself Pita Pit Athlete of the Week honours.
While this was her first weekend back starting, Arsovic got some playing time during the season’s first half, but nothing significant. Luckily, she was able to lean on her past experience with the team to immediately make an impact once she was back to 100 per cent.
“In the position I play as outside hitter we get a lot of out of system balls,” said Arsovic. “I have worked really hard over the years in expanding my shot selection and we have a really great setter and great passer, so it is really easy to put the ball away when the rest of your team is doing their job.”
Given her tenure with the team, it is no surprise the outside hitter was able to step into such an offensively dominant role so quickly. Arsovic also sees a bigger role for herself on the team beyond just being a point machine.
“We have really great captains on our team that lead the way for the most part,” said Arsovic. “I just like to be out there, be loud and supportive of my teammates when I can. Personally I like to be that rock on the team that can put the ball away whenever or in any scramble situation. I just try to do my part and support others when they are doing theirs.”
While Arsovic was able to support her teammates from the sidelines, her presence on the court was certainly missed. Yet while many teams tend to struggle when they lose an offensive asset like Arsovic, the Marauders’ depth was able to save them from any sort of slump.
“It was nice to get some of our younger players on the court and get some experience for other left sides,” Arsovic said. “I think we have such a deep roster that anybody can go in at anytime and we normally come out with a pretty good result. While it was frustrating being on the sidelines going into my last year, it was nice to just see the team come together and still pull out some big wins.”
Arsovic’s starting weekend happened to coincide with the annual #OneTeamForMentalHealth McMaster varsity event in support of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative. With fans sharing their thoughts on mental health and sporting temporary tattoos and thunder sticks to bring the noise in support of this event, the importance of mental health awareness was not lost on the athletes.
“Personally, as a varsity athlete, I think everybody has their tough times,” said Arsovic. “Bell Let’s Talk is such a great initiative to get the conversation started and let people know they are not alone. Being a student is hard enough but being a student-athlete is just a whole other level and it’s always great to have your teammates, your staff, your support system there when you’re struggling. I think Bell Let’s Talk is such a great cause and really brings awareness to the matter.”
As the Mac women turn towards the rest of the season, the Marauders will play host to the U Sports volleyball championships this March. However, only one team will be able to represent Ontario at the national championships this year.
Now there is an extra pressure for OUA teams to not only make the championship game but bring home the provincial trophy as well. It is safe to say the Marauders have their sights set on repeating as champions again this year, but they know there are other teams in their way.
“We do play Western at home in a month or so and that is normally a big game for us,” said Arsovic. “But like I said, every game is just one by one and focusing on each week. I think our team is doing a really great job of staying on task and holding ourselves accountable. Hopefully that leads to a good result.”
With a deep rotation of talented players like Arsovic, the Marauders have a clear set path to success. A pathway that could very well lead to a repeat provincial title and a fruitful national campaign