Breaking down the X’s and O’s The Mac men have put on quite a show this season, leading the league in hitting percentage and points per set. Here’s how they get the job done

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You don’t have to know much about volleyball to recognize a big play.

Whether it’s a libero diving from the back row to save a sneaky tip or a serve landing hard in bounds, if the crowd’s reaction doesn’t give it away, then the team certainly will.

But there is one play that is always a little more obvious than the others: the kill.

IMG_0868A play as decisive as its name, a kill occurs when a ball hit by an offensive player is unreturnable by the opposing team, immediately ending the rally and resulting in a point. In volleyball, kills are like exclamation points, not only do they end the rally; they send a message.

And the Mac men are no strangers to a good kill. To accompany their perfect 13-0 record, the Marauders have accumulated 502 kills over the course of the season and sit atop the Ontario University Athletics leaderboard in points per set (16.4).

One perceived flaw in a high-octane offense is that big hits can carry a higher degree of risk. If players want to get the ball to the floor without the opposing teams touching it, they will move it closer to a sideline or put more force on their swing, increasing the chance or an error. But with the highest hitting percentage (0.332) in the league, the Marauders have been able to convert possessions into points without sacrificing rallies to mistakes. Team captain Danny Demyanenko also has the highest hitting percentage of any player in the league at 0.542.

So what gives the Marauders the edge they need?

Second-year middle hitter Craig Ireland says the best hits are actually driven by what goes on before the final contact is ever made.

“To be a good offensive hitting team, it all starts with the basics,” said Ireland. “If your team isn’t able to pass the opponent’s serve so that your setter can consistently run the offence, you aren’t going to get very far.”

Like many other areas of their game, passing has been a strong spot for the Marauders all year. Liberos Pawel Jedrzejewski and Seyar Karimi have lead the way, granting their team the fourth lowest number of reception errors in the league so far.

“Being a very physical team has of course helped us this year, but when it comes down to it our success as a team is due in large part to our passing and setting,” said Ireland. “We have some of the best passers and setters in the country which allows our offence to progress to the level that it’s at.”

To accompany their perfect 13-0 record, the Marauders have accumulated 502 kills over the course of the season and sit atop of the OUA leaderboard in points per set.

Even when an opposing hitter gets the best of them, every touch can be translated into a scoring opportunity, as second-year outside hitter Matthew Passalent describes.

“I think our ability to hit well when the pass isn’t great makes us a good attacking team,” said Passalent. “We practice a lot of high-ball management which allows us to always be a threat offensively even if the pass isn’t there.”

After the pass comes the set, another area Passalent identifies as a key factor to the team’s play.

“A good offensive volleyball team has the ability of setting multiple options consistently,” said Passalent. “When you have four or five reliable attacking options against only three blockers, rather than just one or two main guys to set… you are going to have more success.”

This is where the Marauders depth comes into play. Not only do they have go-to options in Demyanenko and outside hitter Brandon Koppers, who currently sits just behind him in hitting percentage at seventh in the league, the Mac men have enough threats offensively to be a threat from anywhere on the floor.

Having multiple players that can enter a game and convert also means that teams have to adopt a more flexible game-plan on the defensive end, limiting their ability to take control of a game early. In the meantime, Mac is afforded the opportunity to change the look of their offense with every opponent they play, using different players to target weak points in each respective team.

The result is the efficient scoring that Burridge faithful have come to know and love from the Marauders and fans can certainly expect to see more of as the team gears up for playoff season.

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