It is that time of the year again. As schoolwork ramps up for students, so too does the competition come playoff time. With a three set sweep over the Royal Military College of Canada coupled with a Western loss over the weekend, the McMaster women’s volleyball team managed to capture first place in the Ontario University Athletics West division.
Already guaranteed a top-two seed heading into the final game of the regular season, head coach Tim Louks decided to give his senior players some rest, allowing the younger players to step into their shoes. One player who took advantage of the opportunity was second-year hitter Rachel Woock, who led the team with ten points in the sweep over RMC, and didn’t let the extra playing time get to her nerves.
“I would describe our team’s atmosphere as very excited and determined. We’ve put ourselves in the best possible situation to get through the playoffs.”
McMaster women’s volleyball
“It was really exciting for me that I got to play a lot in the game against RMC,” Woock said. “I wasn’t nervous because I’ve made a lot of entrances into games off the bench this season, which prepared me pretty well for the bigger role on Saturday.”
The Marauders finished the season 16-3 and head into the OUA playoffs as the second overall seed and rank eighth in the U Sports top ten rankings. The only OUA team ranked ahead of the Marauders is the undefeated Toronto Varsity Blues, who posted a 19-0 regular season record and rank as the number one team in the country. A higher seed typically correlates to an easier path through the playoffs, and a better opportunity to advance to the U Sports Championships, which will take place at Ryerson University from March 17 – 19.
“I would describe our team’s atmosphere as very excited and determined,” Woock said. “We’ve put ourselves in the best possible position to get through the playoffs. Everyone is ready to step up into whatever role they are needed in.”
The strength of the team comes from the shared leadership amongst the team, thanks in large part to the number of seniors on the team. Veterans such as Rebecca Steckle, Alicia Jack and Joanna Jedrzejewska have plenty of playoff experience, where the atmosphere tends to be tenser and there is more meaning behind every point made or missed.
“I think that come playoff time, Rebecca Steckle will make a huge impact on the court,” Woock said. “Although she is playing with an injury, her experience as a fifth-year player and her calm presence on the court will be a big factor for us in the most important part of the season.”
Two other players to look for come postseason play are fourth-year libero Carly Heath and fourth-year setter Caitlin Genovy. As the libero, Heath has been a playmaker for the Marauders on defence, finishing second overall in the OUA in digs (317) and digs per set (4.80). As the competition ramps up and the hits get harder, fans should pay attention to Heath’s defensive presence. Meanwhile, Genovy finished third in the OUA in assists per set (8.82), and will be a huge factor in getting hitters such as Steckle and Jedrzejewska into the mix early and often.
The Marauders begin their playoff campaign on March 4 at 1 p.m., where they will host the OUA seventh-seeded York Lions. The Lions finished the season with a 10-9 record in the OUA East division. In their lone regular season matchup on Nov. 5, the Marauders dispatched the Lions in straight sets, with Jedrzejewska and Steckle leading the way with 11 kills each.
Playoff matches tend to be unpredictable; with more adrenaline and intensity in the air, the room for error for both teams is a lot smaller than usual. But as a team made up of savvy veterans and tremendous depth, the Marauders are ready to embark on a deep playoff run.