Photo by Kyle West
By: Graham West
Returning to the U Sports National Championships, the McMaster men’s volleyball team suffered a tough loss against the second-seeded Trinity Western University Spartans in the opening round; a familiar foe ending the Marauders’ hopes at winning another national medal following last year’s bronze.
This sent the team to the consolation semifinals where they took a heartbreaking loss in a rematch of the provincial finals against the Queen’s University Gaels. Even though the outcome of the tournament did not go the Marauders’ way, they still gave it their all to finish off the season.
Going into their first game, the team knew it would be a tough road getting past Trinity Western as they’ve played before in the national tournament. The Marauders, following their Ontario University Athletics silver medal, was given a disadvantaged position as the seventh seed in the tournament, setting them up to face No. 2 Trinity.
Mac was well aware of this possibly-discouraging matchup but tried to use the familiarity with their opponent to their advantage.
“They’re obviously a very good team and they’ve had some serious success in the past,” starting outside hitter Andrew Richards said. “We’re going into this the underdogs and we’re going to take that mindset and use it to our advantage. For us we have nothing to lose and we’re just going to give it all we have.”
Ultimately this was not enough to give the maroon and grey the win, losing 3-1 to their British Columbian foes. Despite the early exit from the tournament, the week did feature a bright spot.
🏐🚹 @McMasterSports head coach Dave Preston reacts to his team loss against the @TWUSpartans // L’entraîneur de McMaster Dave Preston réagit à la défaite des siens contre Trinity Western #ChampSZN pic.twitter.com/XTwrJRexhq
— U SPORTS Volleyball (@USPORTS_VBall) March 16, 2019
Over the weekend, Richards was awarded All-Canadian Second Team honours for his contributions to the Marauders’ success on the court this year, placing in the top 10 in Canada in aces per set (0.51) while leading his team with 185 kills over the season.
Richards was also awarded the Dale Iwanoczko Award for being an outstanding student-athlete and demonstrating excellence off the court. Richards is the first Marauder to win the award since its inaugural year in 1994.
“It’s a good way to end my five-year journey at university,” Richards said. “It’s an individual award, but I really can’t take all the credit for it.”
“I’ve had some amazing mentors and leaders in my life that have always challenged me to do that, so without them I really would have never been recognized for something like this.” Richards added.
Richards’ mindset going into nationals was the same one which has made him such a great player in the first place: a mindset predicated on fierce competitiveness, mutual respect from his teammates and a genuine love of the game. This was Richards’ last chance at competing for a national championship and he took the opportunity just like he takes all of his games.
“I was talking to one of my coaches today, and he wanted me to sit down and think about once I’m done from Mac, in a couple of years, how do I want to think back and remember these last couple of days,” Richards said. “For me, I want to look back and know that I enjoyed my last matches and competed hard and that I was a good teammate and regardless of the outcome.”
This year marks the last year Richards will be wearing maroon for the men’s volleyball team as his years of eligibility run out. While the team’s finish at nationals may not have been ideal, they still left their all on the court. Richards, and the teams he has been a part of, have left behind a tremendous legacy of numerous records, medals and trophies, and is one that will surely not be forgotten.