C/O Barry Gray, Hamilton Spectator
Men’s volleyball team wins their 12th straight and is heading to the playoffs with their hearts set on the gold
It’s official: Mar. 5 2021 has become a day to remember for the men’s volleyball team at McMaster. It became the day that they would finish their season with a perfect record after winning all 12 games this past season.
Historically speaking, men’s volleyball has long been a strong player in McMaster sports, having amassed a combined record of 203-25 over the last decade. In that span on the national floor they accumulated two silver medals and four bronze medals. This accompanies the six consecutive provincial titles they won from 2012-2017.
Despite incredibly strong performances season after season, this might be their best shot yet at McMaster’s first national title since U Sports volleyball began awarding medals in 1967. Undefeated seasons are no easy feat.
Going into the final regular season game, there was a lot of stress for players and fans. They were taking on the Windsor Lancers, a team that they had swept earlier in the season. Early in the game the Marauders struggled, losing the first set and just scraping together a win in the second. Tensions were high, but they were ultimately able to separate themselves in the second half.
“We were pretty confident that if we put our best product out there on the floor that we’d take the win. We had a bit of a slow start . . . We felt that maybe we were a little too confident going into that matchup. They got the better of us, but we responded well and put that product out there by the end of the match,” said Sam Cooper, McMaster’s game leader in Kills-Aces-Blocks.
The final two sets came much easier for the Marauders, who won by scores of 25-20 and 25-14, cementing their legacy with a perfect record.
“It was a cool moment to see what we had accomplished . . . In our last game losing that one set was probably a good thing for us,” explained Cooper.
Cooper largely credited the success seen by the team this season to a sense of closeness within the young group. Having only a few graduating members on the team, it came as a surprise to many to see such a wonderful performance. However, members of the team itself may have been motivated by being perceived by others as green players.
“I really feel a sense of cohesion on our team with all the guys. The biggest difference [from past McMaster teams] is probably our age. We’re a pretty young team with only one graduating senior on the floor . . . Lots of guys are getting their first shot to play here and that lends a kind of excitement to our game. That’s allowing us to play older than we are and achieve some of those same things that teams older than us have done in the past,” explained Cooper.
In their first playoff game of the season the Marauders will take on none other than the team they closed out their perfect record with — the Windsor Lancers — on Mar. 12 at home. McMaster is the clear favourite in the matchup after having been rated second in the country by U Sports.
“Overall we’re not necessarily happy with the number two position, but we understand that there’s lots of things that go into making that number happen . . . Trinity Western is in that number one position. I think we’re in good company there. We have a healthy respect for them. I think the rankings show that we’re pretty close. We’re right at their heels,” said Cooper.
In the playoffs the team is dead set on the gold. They feel confident that they are the best team in Ontario University Athletics and have a serious chance to do damage on the national level, should they make their way through this provincial round of playoffs.
“Our goal is to secure the OUA final — the OUA gold. That’s the number one goal . . . The mentality going into it is that it’s a new season. The teams that we’re going to play, even though we’ve played them in the past, we’re expecting that they’re going to elevate their game and we’re going to need to be prepared for that and be the more prepared team,” explained Cooper.
All eyes will be on the team heading into the playoffs as they make a push for their first provincial title since the 2017-2018 season. This is a team that has what it takes to make a push for nationals so they’ll be a great team to follow over the next few weeks.