After an extremely successful conference season that saw the Marauders win their third consecutive OUA Championship and get ranked first overall in the country, the McMaster men’s volleyball team is coming home with a bronze medal from the CIS Championships.
Although there are familiarities from last year’s turn of events, the way in which it all happened was very different.
Last year, they lost to the Western Mustangs in the semfinal, a team that they knew very well from OUA league play.
“Because we played a team we were so familiar with, we kind of took it for granted. We had played Western five or six times last year, so we kind of let up a bit during that match,” said coach Dave Preston.
This year, they lost to the Trinity Western University Spartans, a Canada West team that they are not very familiar with, and they were fighting hard until the end.
“There was no let up, there was a push and a push and a fight, and I thought we did a really good job at fighting,” said Preston.
Heading into the match against TWU, a team hailing from Langley, B.C., the Marauders were more than prepared.
They were coming off of another banner season, and they knew that they had something special when it came to the camaraderie of the team that was recognized by OUA and CIS coaches alike.
But in the national championships of any sport, there is no telling what can happen, and that semifinal match was a perfect example.
When it came to the match against TWU, the Marauders just missed the gold medal match by two plays.
“That’s really disheartening sometimes when you think we missed a chance at a gold-medal match by four points,” said Preston.
Although the team is home with a medal of a different colour than what they were hoping for, their ability to come back the next day to take on the Dalhousie Tigers, and win the match in three sets, was a source of pride for the coaches.
“Their mood the next day, right before the match, before we left the team room to take the court was good. They were focused; they approached that match similar to every other match that we played that year. That’s exactly what we wanted them to do,” said Preston.
Their focus and mindset for each match this season are part of what has made the team so successful.
Winning three OUA championships consecutively is a big deal. Winning three CIS medals consecutively is even bigger.
“There’s a lot of positives that can come from that,” said Preston.
McMaster’s route at nationals was especially tough. They played the host team, the University of Saskatchewan, in their first game in front of a wild crowd. After dispatching the Huskies, Mac played TWU, another team from the loaded CanWest conference. The Marauders’ draw was unlucky, but to win a national championship, you have to beat the strongest teams at some point.
In the end, the University of Alberta Golden Bears proved yet again that they are the best team in the country. Alberta men’s volleyball is one of the strongest programs in the country, winning their second straight banner and eighth in school history.
“They were phenomenal this weekend; We were not. As a coach, that’s really important for me to figure out where those gaps are, and how we fill them between now and the start of next September, and then from there to the start of next March for the national championships,” said Preston.
Next year, the CIS Championships will be held here at McMaster in the Burridge Gymnasium, which could make all the difference for this well-equipped, experienced team.
“That’s a great opportunity and we’re going to take full advantage of that,” said Preston.
The team has experienced the incredible feeling of victory and success, and they have also experienced heartbreak.
Their resiliency and determination through it all, however, is something that Preston feels that they can channel and use next season.
“I never once get the feeling from these guys that that approach is going to change. I think that everybody knows that it’s not good enough.”
After a lengthy season that saw the Maroon and Grey fight hard until the very end, they will try and find a solution next year, where they will have the opportunity to finally win the medal of a colour they have been hoping for.