The season for the McMaster women’s volleyball team came to an abrupt end at the U Sports national championships on March 17 – 19. Despite entering the tournament as the number two seed as the winners of the Ontario University Athletics conference, the Marauders were quickly bounced out of the quarter-final by Trinity Western Spartans from Canada West in straight sets. The Spartans would ultimately win the bronze medal game over Montreal.
“We were facing a highly motivated team, who was fully prepared and very eager,” head coach Tim Louks said of Mac’s loss against Trinity Western. “Our preparation was reasonable, but it was trying to play out our game plan that was hard. [Trinity Western] have a versatile offence, and have tall blockers, which is similar across teams from the Canada West conference.”
All three teams coming from Canada West finished in the top three in the U Sports championship, with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds avenging their Canada West finals loss by beating the Alberta Pandas in four sets to capture their 11th national championship. With all three OUA teams failing to finish in the top five at nationals, there is an apparent gap in the competition at the national level.
“The volleyball IQ in Ontario is not the same as it is out west,” Louks said after the national championships. “They are much more prepared to begin their journey. Some of the kids will sit out a couple of years because they are deep in talent… we are validated amongst the best in Ontario, but we cannot do so at the U Sports level. Toronto won nationals last year, but we were unable to replicate that type of play.”
“I applaud the effort and characteristics of what sports bring out; determination, perseverance and resolve. To watch it unfold in person was pretty impressive.”
McMaster women’s volleyball
Mac’s season ended one day later on March 18, where they were unable to replicate their OUA final performance against Western, ultimately losing in four sets to the Mustangs. Fifth-year middle Alicia Jack and third-year outside hitter Aleks Arsovic each led the Marauders with 11 points in the effort, while fourth-year middle Maicee Sorensen contributed 10 points of her own.
“Not a lot of changes were needed going into that game against Western,” Louks said. “Their serve was tougher, and that kept us off balance early. They made us run around more and played with more resolve than we did.”
Mac’s loss against the Mustangs marked the third straight trip to nationals where the Marauders were unable to win a single match, finishing seventh/eighth for the third consecutive time. Despite this, the women’s volleyball team accomplished a lot this season, having finished first in the OUA West division and winners of the OUA championship on March 11 at the University of Toronto.
“I was proud of our resolve throughout the season, to collaborate and trust each other to stay on track,” Louks said. “I applaud the effort and characteristics of what sports bring out; determination, perseverance and resolve. To watch it unfold in person was pretty impressive.”
McMaster’s gradual development to becoming a top team in the OUA has been pushed along by the players’ development outside of university volleyball. As the offseason begins, many Mac players go on to play provincially and nationally, where they can improve their volleyball skills and increase their palate, to the point that it helps expand the program even more. Even with the progress the team has made, Louks stresses the importance of continuously moving forward.
“In order to get better every year, you are required to view the work under constant scrutiny,” Louks said. “We have to ask ourselves ‘how do we raise the bar? Is our offseason competition good enough? Is our support of sending players to nationals good enough? Is our scouting and recruitment deep enough?’ There is a lot pressure on the players as student athletes, and they have shown their resolve by consistently playing at a top level while succeeding academically.”
The end of the season also marks the end of the careers of Alicia Jack and outside-hitter Rebecca Steckle, both of whom have completed their five year eligibility. The team will retain OUA West First Team All-Stars Maicee Sorensen and Joanna Jedrzejewska for next year, along with Aleks Arsovic, libero Carly Heath and setter Caitlin Genovy for next season.