They say you have to try everything once, otherwise you will never know what you love and what you hate. Of course that is not to say that the McMaster men’s volleyball team, or any other sports team for that matter, would ever try to lose a game. But for a squad that has piled up win after blowout win since October, it may just have gotten too easy to forget how much they hate to lose. Enter a York team with something to prove, a clutch performance and one of the league’s elite players, and you have the perfect storm.
Said storm descended upon Tait Mackenzie gymnasium Sunday afternoon, as the fifth-ranked York Lions ended Mac’s dreams of a perfect season in straight sets 19-25, 23-25, 21-25. Had the loss come at any other point in the season, it could be written off as an anomaly in the normal ebb and flow of an 18-game campaign. But the loss came in the season finale, ruining the dreams of perfection and alerting the competition that maybe, just maybe, McMaster does have a weakness heading into the playoffs.
Luckily for Maroon volleyball fans, the game was not a typical McMaster game. The normally well-oiled machine that is the Mac attack left numerous points on the board with simple miscommunications. For whatever reason, mistakes that any other game would be brushed off and quickly recovered from had a way of accumulating Sunday. A scorecard usually showing multiple McMaster players hitting double digits in points had just the one.
To make matters worse, York’s Ray Szeto, a player who is good some games and dominant others, had an outstanding match, scoring 16 points. Serviceable York substitute Alexander Duncan-Thibault provided three clutch aces, his only aces on the season, compounding McMaster’s problems.
Jori Mantha had 10.5 points for the Marauders in his first game back after a bout with illness, but after that, the drop off was considerable, as Alexander Elliot was the best of the rest with seven kills and eight points. Mac’s big guns, for whatever reason, fired blanks, leading to an uncharacteristically anemic attack.
While the loss of the perfect season is unfortunate, as the cliché goes, the real season begins now for McMaster’s tallest. Entering the playoffs with an even larger target on their backs due to the loss, McMaster has to remind themselves that they are a 17-1 team, first in the OUA, and second-ranked in the CIS. They can chalk some of the defeat up to misfortune, but must correct the mistakes that became all too apparent Sunday. They earned a first round bye in the playoffs to do just that, and can bank on rookie standout Jayson McCarthy returning to the lineup.
The loss is on the back of their minds now, two wins from the OUA championship. The question is, will they let it eat at them, or will they use it as a reminder of the abhorrence they have for losing? Head to Burridge gym Feb. 22 and 23 to find out.