The McMaster women’s volleyball team is off to the Ontario University Athletics Final Four once again. Their quarter-final victory against the York Lions ended with three straight winning sets: 25-16, 25-21, 25-20. As the OUA West division leaders, winning is nothing new to the Marauders.
Throughout the season, the 2017 OUA Champions have served and passed well, attacked smartly and efficiently and had a good blocking presence on the court. They did this all while staying focused and mindful, which are the keys to the team’s consistent success.
Their 18-2 combined playoff and regular season record, with 12 of those games ending in clean sheets for McMaster, back up their domination. In all of this success, the Marauders know it takes more than just knowing what it is like to be at the top to remain there.
“There is a team that is currently undefeated and everybody is looking at them to be the favourites,” said fifth-year starter Aleks Arsovic. “Also, every other team would love the chance to knock off the defending champs. So we have that added pressure, but we also have that added confidence knowing that we’ve been there before so we can do it again.”
For Arsovic, that is something special that the remaining seniors on the young team bring to the group. Arsovic, Maicee Sorensen and Carly Heath are just a few of the senior players who experienced playing in intense moments like last year’s finals against the Western Mustangs, where Mac won in an extremely close five-setter.
Unlike last year, where the entire starting line up was solely fourth- and fifth-years, there are younger starters on the court as well.
“All the younger players are looking up to you for leadership, so that’s been a humbling experience that adds extra pressure to stay levelled and be that guiding force for our team,” said Arsovic. “I think our fifth-years have done a great job doing that and overall it’s been a really exciting season, especially with the youthful energy on the court here and there.”
For Sorensen, being put in that leadership role certainly adds more responsibility, but it is more than worth it.
“[Being a veteran] can be a bit of a challenge sometimes because a lot of the time in sports, you want to be able to focus on your own game and concentrate on how well you’re doing and performing,” said Sorensen. “But when you’re a senior player, you have to think about how can I help these younger players succeed. That can be tough, but it’s also bittersweet because as we are watching our younger girls, they are doing absolutely amazing.”
For all the girls, the season has had a lot more highs than lows. One such highlight of the season was beating one of their biggest rivals, the Mustangs, on their home court. The Marauders were able to do this even with one of their bigger hitters off, but for Mac, it is the low moments where they draw their inspiration from.
“Honestly it was pretty nice to get swept in Kingston. It was nice to play a team who prepped so well for us,” said Arsovic. “I think it’s important to get a loss somewhere in your season because then you know what it’s like to lose but you have that extra motivation and you don’t want to let that happen again.”
The Mac women have not lost since their contest against Queen’s, and hopefully, the Marauders can maintain their momentum as they go on to face the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in the OUA Final Four at Ryerson University.
The Marauders beat the Varsity Blues 3-1 earlier this season, which was one of the game’s in which Mac’s rookies, Rebecca Maxwell, Maddie Lethbridge and Brenna Peacock, really stepped up to show the range of depth on the McMaster roster.
If the Marauders play their best offensively, they should have no problem punching a ticket to the championship game where a much-wanted rematch will more than likely take place against that undefeated team, the Ryerson Rams. The 19-0 team gave the Marauders their first loss, so not only will Mac be looking to defend their OUA title, but for redemption.