In a match up that is becoming familiar to CIS sports fans, the men’s volleyball championship came down to the McMaster Marauders and the Laval Rouge et Or. And in a result all too familiar to McMaster sports fans, it would be the Rouge et Or that would prevail in the end.
The Marauders began the grueling schedule of three matches in three days Friday against the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds. After a strong first set, UNB’s play would drop off and McMaster would prevail in a quick game 25-23, 25-17, 25-14. The 1-2-3 punch of Jori Mantha, Dany Demyanenko and Jayson McCarthy had their way with the Reds, scoring 15.5, 12.5, and 11 points, respectively.
Saturday brought rival Western, fresh off the upset of the tournament, ending Trinity Western’s two-year run as CIS champions in a five set shocker. The drained Mustang team put up a good fight, but in the end would also fall in three sets in an OUA final rematch, 25-23, 27-25, 25-21. McMaster’s key going into the game was no doubt to hold Justin Scapinello, who demolished the Trinity Western defense for 29 points, at bay. The Mac defense did just that, and McCarthy floored 17 points for the victory and final birth.
The loss for Western would send them to the bronze medal game, where they lost a come from behind, 5-set marathon to the Brandon Bobcats. While the medal awarded was bronze, the two teams played as if gold was on the line, with the second set going to its 36th point.
The championship game was surprisingly devoid of any team from the West, instead offering up a rematch of the men’s football final, this time on Laval’s turf. La Caverne was electric, with a notable contingent of McMaster fans braving the hostile crowd.
Early in the game Demyanenko made it clear that if McMaster was going to win the gold medal match, he would be the driving force. Throughout the evening, he showed off the full repertoire of his skills, with huge blocks, powerful smashes, and beautiful fake shots.
The first set was a back and forth affair. Laval was sloppy out of the gate, but it soon McMaster began having trouble getting the serve in bounds. This lasted all game, with numerous balls flying wide or catching net. Though the service errors on the day would end with near even totals between the teams, the Rouge et Or managed five aces to Mac’s zero, exacerbating the problem. McMaster rode its offense through the set, exploiting gaps in the Rough et Or coverage, while Laval relied on scrambles and errors on McMaster’s part for their scores. Laval would eventually take the first set 26-24.
The second set would be a reversal of the first, with McMaster’s defense coming up huge against a suddenly awake Laval offense. McMaster’s tallest would take the set 25-22, but would take a roundabout way of doing it, leaving numerous points on the board with errors.
The two teams went point for point in the third set. Each team seemed like they swung the momentum for good numerous times, only to have the opposition return the favour. In the end, McMaster would commit one too many attack errors, contributing to an ugly total of 21 on the day, and Laval would pull away 25-22.
Backs to the wall, it looked like McMaster may simply fade in the fourth set, quickly dropping to 7-11. They would stage a comeback, narrowing the gap 20-21, but lost several major points with blocks that landed just wide. Laval pulled away again, bringing up the match point at 24-21. McMaster appeared to have scored their 22nd point to regain some life, but a referee’s decision gave Laval the score and the victory.
As the rowdy Rouge et Or crowd mobbed the new heroes, McMaster was left to examine where it went wrong for them with “We are the Champions” and vuvuzela ringing in their ears. Demyanenko would finish with 19.5 points on the day leading all players. Though McMaster was snubbed for the CIS All-Star team, both setter Austin Campion-Smith and Demyanenko were tournament all-stars.
In the end, it was no doubt the experience of Laval, with leading scorer Frederic Mondou and captain Justin Bourdleault both playing their final games, that pushed them over the top, as they were the more technically sound team. While the win is an end of the era in Laval, with rookies Demyanenko, McCarthy, Daniel Groenveld all on the court for McMaster in the loss and Stephen Maar contributing during the season, it is the dawn of a new one for the Marauders.