In sports, experience tends to trump ability come playoff time. Luckily for maroon and grey fans, the McMaster women’s volleyball team has both.
A team filled with seniors who have seen it all, Mac is in a great position to qualify for the U Sports championships. Defined by their veteran leadership, the Marauder women know the value of playoff experience from previous campaigns, with their starting lineup consisting entirely of fourth and fifth-year players.
“Everyone was excited and was carrying a bit more adrenaline than usual,” said fourth-year middle Maicee Sorensen after their quarter-final game against York. “Having an experienced starting lineup allowed us to use the emotion to better our game.”
Entering the playoffs as the number two seed in the Ontario University Athletics playoffs, the Marauders started their path to nationals on March 4 with a three-set sweep over the York Lions. After dispatching York in the first set with ease, the Lions were able to make the second and third sets more competitive, but Mac held strong and closed out the match.
Mac’s win against Ryerson sparked a six-game winning streak to close out the regular season, which propelled them past the Western Mustangs to capture first place in the OUA West division.
Winning in volleyball is easier when you can get uncontested points, which has been a strong suit of the women’s team this year. During the regular season, the Marauders ranked number one in the OUA in total aces (184), and rank second in the country in aces per set (2.63). It helps when the top two servers in the OUA – Sorensen and Joanna Jedrzejewska – are on your team. Sorensen led the way with six aces, while Jedrzejewska served five and Alicia Jack contributed four in the match. The Marauders ended the game with 20 total aces, compared to York’s four.
“We were at home in our own gym,” Sorensen said. “We took advantage of our serving capabilities and being home in Burridge Gym made us even more comfortable.”
A consistent presence in the middle during the season, Sorensen stymied York’s offence. Recording six of Mac’s eight blocks on the night, Sorensen’s play up front helped the Marauders disrupt any offensive flow the Lions attempted to muster up.
“We worked very hard this week prepping through video and studying York’s offensive tendencies,” Sorensen said. “Through film and discussions about each hitter, we were able to make small yet effective adjustments to better our block.”
Following their win against the Lions, the women have earned their spot to the OUA Final Four once again, and will travel to Toronto for a chance to qualify for the U Sports championship. Before giving a single thought about nationals however, Mac has its focus on the upcoming Final Four weekend, which kicks off with semifinal action against the U Sports championship hosts, the Ryerson Rams, on March 10.
“Headed into Final Four next weekend is something our team has been looking forward to all year,” Sorensen said. “We have high expectations for each other and we work hard trying to hold each other accountable. We know we have the capability to win, and that confidence is going to make a big mental difference next weekend.”
One win during the Final Four weekend will punch a ticket for Mac to the U Sports championship.
The Marauders faced the Rams once this season, and their four set win was defining for two reasons. First, it came off the heels of a loss to Toronto in a five-set thriller that saw Mac take the undefeated Blues to their limit. It also sparked a six-game winning streak to close out the season, which helped Mac surpass the Western Mustangs to capture first place in the OUA West division.
In the other semi-final, the Mustangs will face Toronto, who ranks as the top team in the country. The winners of each semifinal will face each other in the final on March 11, while the losers will battle it out in the consolation final.
Given that Ryerson are the hosts for the U Sports championships, the magic number for the Marauders is one. One win during the Final Four weekend will punch a ticket for Mac to the U Sports championship. If they happen to fall to the Rams in the semifinal, a win in the consolation final on March 11 will still qualify the Marauders for the national tournament. Of course, a semifinal win would give the Marauders a higher seed in the U Sports championships.
“We are more focused now than we have been all year,” Sorensen said. “It’s this focus and desire that we will thrive off as a whole in the tough moments coming soon.”
A tough schedule indeed, but nothing these veterans have not seen before.