The Marauders are quickly hitting stride, and their rookie contingent is beginning to contribute in earnest.
The Maroon and Grey moved to a record of 3-1 on the season after consecutive blowout road wins in Waterloo and Guelph on Oct. 28 and 29.
Both the Warriors and Gryphons are tough competitors and were supposed to give the visiting McMaster squad close matches. Instead, the Marauders dealt out straight set defeats to each and regained the lethal form that had seen them deliver a similar beating to the Windsor Lancers in their season-opener.
While veteran hitters Jeremy Groenveld, Kevin Stevens, and Jori Mantha carry the majority of the Marauders’ offensive burden, two first-year players have begun to make their presence felt in the lineup.
Dan Groenveld, younger brother of the Maroon and Grey’s decorated elder statesman, has seen spot duty in each of the Marauders matches thus far. While he hasn’t exactly lit up the stat sheet, the young outside hitter has shown an exceptionally live arm and a level of raw athletic ability that bodes well for the future.
And in McMaster’s latest demolition job in Guelph, the younger Groenveld was a perfect three-for-three in his attacking endeavours and chipped in five total points in a cameo role.
Meanwhile, the Maroon and Grey’s marquee middle recruit Alex Elliot made an impressive debut in that same Oct. 29 contest, scoring only three points but demonstrating the steadiest service of any Marauder on court. That skill played a pivotal role in propelling McMaster past Guelph in relative comfort.
Both rookies are faced this season with the unenviable task of learning to balance their training and academic requirements, but each one is confident that they have survived the worst of the adaptation process.
“It’s going pretty well I think,” Elliot said of the university transition. “It was tough at the start, when you barely notice the workload and then it starts piling up faster and faster. You realize that you have three hours taken out of the middle of your day from practices and workouts.”
“So it was tough at the beginning of the year but it’s been a pretty quick adjustment.”
For his part, Groenveld is grateful for the number of competitive repetitions he’s been given to this point in the Marauders’ young season, and argues that maintaining his early form is a matter of constant effort.
“I’ve been pretty happy getting in when I can and playing whatever role the team needs from me,” said the young outside hitter. “It seems to be going well so far. I started on a high and the level has come down a bit, as school got a little tougher.
“It can be hard to keep up, because there are some guys on the team who’ve been here for two or three years and have a bit of an advantage in being used to university life already and the balance you need between training and school.”
Elliot has been faced with a unique challenge this season, as he has been asked to change positions and move from his traditional spot in the middle to the outside. That transition is an exceptionally difficult one, and the young hitter has had his share of trouble adapting.
However, for the time being, Elliot finds himself in the middle once again following veteran Ian Cooper’s broken leg suffered at the conclusion of the preseason.
“It was really tough changing positions, but now I’m back in the middle again after Cooper’s injury,” said Elliot. “So it’s nice to be back, but it was also good to try something new and different on the outside. It’s a matter of a comfort zone in the middle, but I’ll do whatever I can to help the team.
“It would be great to develop some different skills and play a more well rounded game.”
Both rookies recognize that despite their positive starts to their varsity careers, there is much work to be done as they look to improve their games and that of the team. Elliot is focused on improving his quickness, as the university brand of volleyball is markedly faster than the junior club variety.
“I’m still working on speeding things up,” said the middle hitter. “It’s tough to adjust to the speed of things, and offences get faster and faster as teams start to gel throughout the season. I’d like to speed up my blocking and defence and react better to the ball.”
Meanwhile, the younger Groenveld hints that he and his fellow rookie have a role to fulfill in maintaining morale within the team.
“I think we’re trying to keep the energy on the team high,” said the first-year outside. “We’re both high-energy players. We come in and we’re yelling and giving high-fives, and trying to keep things positive.”
The Marauders will hope that such positive momentum continues this coming weekend, as they ply their trade on the road for a second consecutive week at Ryerson. McMaster will confront the Rams in Toronto on Nov. 4.