Photo by Kyle West
By: Graham West
Heading out to Kingston for this year’s provincial playoffs, Andrew Richards and the McMaster men’s volleyball team went up against the University of Windsor for their 15th-straight provincial semifinal appearance, and won, advancing to the finals.
Unfortunately, their championship bid ultimately fell short, suffering a heartbreaking loss to the hosting Queen’s University Gaels. Although the men’s six-year dynasty was broken, getting to the finals means they also have a spot in the national championship tournament, where they have another chance to go on the court and show everyone why they deserve to be there.
As regular members of the Ontario University Athletics Final Four under head coach Dave Preston for almost two decades, the team has certainly solidified a strong culture of winning. Although, even with prolific numbers and success, Richards says this doesn’t play into their mindset, and that they choose to look at the season on a game-by-game basis.
“Whether it’s a lot of times hosting in a row, or a lot of times being in the Final Four in a row, I think our program does a really good job of not thinking about that too much,” Richards said. “We don’t get too far into that because at the end of the day, it doesn’t help us perform on the court. The group this year is really tight and we’re really good at understanding that when we’re on the floor, all that matters is how we can help each other, compete hard and enjoy ourselves.”
The love of the game is one of the biggest factors for the team’s prolific success. Even so much as just being on the court means a lot to Richards and his teammates, making them fierce competitors as not many teams can match their passion.
“I think we’re lucky as student-athletes to even be able to play volleyball for McMaster,” Richards said. “So for us, we’re just thankful to play and have fun, and I know our hard work and all of our training throughout the year will help us get to where we need to go.”
Even though the team did ultimately lose in the finals, it’s only a roadblock on their way to taking on nationals, which has been a big focus for the team all year.
“I’ve found over my four years that the next two weeks happen really fast, so I think it’s easiest to break it up and take it game by game and enjoy things while you can,” Richards said. “Our team has higher goals than just provincials, so for us, it’s going to be crucial to refocus after every match.”
View this post on Instagram
Courtesy of @leggatautogroup & @greeningmedia 🏐: The McMaster Men's Volleyball team, 6 time defending OUA champions and the #5 ranked team in the country, will be in Kingston this week to defend their crown. They will play the Windsor Lancers in a semi-final Friday. With a win they'll advance to the gold medal game and also earn a ticket to the Nationals #GoMacGo
Richards emphasized the role that team chemistry plays in the success of the team, especially when it comes to being able to pick each other up when things are down. This is mostly due to the fact that the team is so close and knows each other so well. This is a key reason why they are such a tough group to get through for any competitor.
“Over my years here at Mac, we’re one of the tighter teams,” Richards said. “It’s easy for teams to play well and feel good about themselves when things are going well on the court and you’re winning, but I think when it really comes in handy to have a tight team and work through things together is when things aren’t going well.”
By earning a spot in the provincial finals, the Marauders have also clinched a place at the national championships. The men’s volleyball team will be one to watch during the national championships as they look to make a huge statement after provincials and certainly have the potential to take home the national gold.
On March 15 at 6:00 p.m., the No. 7 Marauders will take on the No. 2 Trinity Western University Spartans to kick-off the U Sports Final Eight. The Spartans are also coming off a provincial silver medal, losing to No. 1 Brandon University in the Canada West Championship.