By Griffin Marsh
A dominant Marauders women’s volleyball team stormed back from the winter holidays with two commanding victories to begin the new year.
In their first games back after a break from the competitive Ontario University Athletics volleyball season, the McMaster women’s volleyball team picked up right where they left off with three-set victories over the Brock Badgers and Windsor Lancers on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14 respectively.
It was smooth sailing through the Brock game, as the Marauders handled the Badgers with an efficient performance from a core group of starters. Scoring was shared across the team with Aleks Arsovic finishing with a game high of nine kills.
The University of Windsor presented more of a test for the women, but stand out performances from Hailey Kranics, Maicee Sorensen and Aleks Arsovic again were too much for the Lancers defence.
This was exactly the response McMaster was looking for coming out of the winter break, where consistency and rust can present potential infringements to success.
For head coach Tim Louks, facing these teams earlier in the season in competitive games allowed them to enter this past weekend with the right mindset.
“Our familiarity with these teams is not going to breed content,” said Louks.
In the previous meetings this season, McMaster scrapped out five-set victories over both of these teams away from Hamilton. So the fashion of this past weekend’s victories presented a real statement for the Marauders moving forward.
The Marauders also played some exhibition games over the winter break, which most certainly allowed them to enter these games with a positive outlook and focus. McMaster participated in the Toronto Invitational in late December that began with a frustrating loss to Laval, but was topped off with two powerful victories over Université de Sherbrooke and St. Mary’s University.
For coach Louks, these exhibition opportunities not only serve to knock the rust off and reunite the chemistry and connections on the team, but also to create and grow the depth on the roster.
“You are trying to stretch the depth,” said Louks. “And you are trying to validate some of the work that some people have not gotten credit for.”
For Louks, these are opportunities to prepare for the long term. A chance to think about what this team will look like come late February and early March, and prepare the personnel to support that vision.
These exhibition matches seemed to have worked thus far as McMaster looked sharp and focused in their clashes with Brock and Windsor.
McMaster now finds itself on top of the OUA West Conference with a record of 8-1, and sits ranked sixth in the U Sports Top 10, one spot ahead of their East Conference rival, Ryerson.
This is a pretty positive position for the Marauders to be in. Asking coach Louks which players delivered McMaster to this spot, he was quick to emphasize that it was not just one player.
“I would not necessarily nail one, it’s a collaborative effort for us in terms of raising the bar,” said Louks. He added that he saw a number of leaders on this team guiding the younger players and implementing a vision for this team in numerous ways.
Louks did praise the play of Jill Eisenhauer, complimenting her flexible and adaptive nature throughout the season.
“Jill Eisenhauer for one has really continued to embrace playing right side and that is a highlight that I do not think you would hear very often,” Louks explained.
Moving forward, Louks is clearly focused on continuing to build the complete volleyball package, from serving and serve-receive, to blocking and defense.
“And then it comes down to if it can all shape itself again and again, on a consistent basis,” Louks added.
That may feel like the comment you expect to hear from all volleyball coaches: focus on each element and then put it all together. Yet, watching the Marauders in the Burridge Gym this past weekend, achieving that goal feels in reach. Even when the consistency would wobble, the team managed to collect itself, right the ship and continue forward with control.
McMaster now sets its sights to a busy weekend ahead and a full schedule through January and February. Up next is Guelph on Jan. 19 in Hamilton, followed by a battle with the Waterloo Warriors on Jan. 20 in Waterloo.
Looking forward, Coach Louks finished our interview saying, “We can take a run at this thing, and see if we can make it to the playoffs.”
A rather humble statement if you ask me, as this team seems firmly set on the playoffs and beyond as the season steams