The McMaster men’s volleyball team has been through a lot in the last year.
After a heartbreaking loss in the CIS semi-final to the Western Mustangs, the team left the court feeling disheartened and disappointed – but they didn’t hang their heads low for very long.
“It took us about six weeks after our national championships last year for things to really start to write themselves. It really didn’t start to settle in until about the first or second week of April, once exams finished, it was difficult,” said head coach Dave Preston.
Despite the difficulty of putting the past behind them, the team decided to use the loss last season as a learning lesson for the season ahead, where they will hope to use their tremendous experience of both victory and loss as motivation.
“Our lessons were learned, they were painful,” said Preston.
“But in 22 years of coaching collegiate volleyball at the CIS level, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more motivated group than what I saw this summer.”
After the season ended, each member of the team dedicated themselves to their own training regimens, whether it was through work in the weight room, or rest and recovery, every member of the team had a plan, and every member stuck to it.
This is very impressive, considering the majority of the team went home for the summer, which can make it easy for the guys to get distracted.
“If there is any indicator as to what those matches in the last couple of years taught us, I think that the fruit that we bear out of this summer was pretty impressive,” said Preston.
The Marauders have already had an opportunity this season to showcase the hard work that they have put into their summer, with a match that they won 3-1 against the Manitoba Bisons.
On Oct. 10 and 11, the team will get another opportunity on a road trip to Ohio State where they will take on the highly competitive Buckeyes in two exhibition games.
McMaster will be using this trip to make sure their system and tactics are ready to go for league play.
“It’s a really good, competitive environment against a well-coached, very talented team, but it has a lot more to do with us and our performance than whether or not we win,” said Preston.
Preston plans on putting at least one rookie on the floor in the Ohio state match-up, just like how he did in the match against the Manitoba Bisons.
There are currently five rookies on the Marauders roster, and they all provide a tremendous amount of depth for the team.
“The McMaster way for us is we’ve got to get ready from Monday to Thursday. The delivery model of our program is positive rivalry and internal competition on a daily basis, so that depth is really, really important to us,” said Preston.
The first year players’ main role on the team is to make an impact during the week in order to help in getting the rest of the team ready for competition during the weekends.
“The things that they will do for us will probably go unseen to the general student population until further on in their career, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t contributing to our development on a daily basis,” said Preston.
“We will get much, much better because of every one of those guys, there’s no doubt in my mind.”
Of the rookies, Andrew Richards is the top recruit, having qualified for the Canadian Junior National Team along with teammate Brandon Koppers, and also representing Canada at the Summer Youth Olympics in China on the beach shortly after.
Unfortunately after a busy summer of high-level competition, Richards now has a lower-leg injury and will not compete until the end of the season.
“We have to treat them accordingly. So at this stage, we’re going to do what we can right now so that he can be ready when we need him to be,” said Preston.
There is a lot of work the Marauders as a team have to put in between now and the end of the season, however.
And when it comes to their season, and the future aspirations of the team, Preston is taking it one day at a time.
“We’ve got to take care of today, and not look too far ahead into tomorrow. But if we get a chance to live tomorrow, we’re going to take advantage of it.”
The team leaves for Ohio State on Thursday Oct. 9, and will be back on Sunday Oct. 11 where they will get to have a very rare and much needed rest and recovery period for Thanksgiving.