By: Scott Hastie & Alexandra Reilly

Over the weekend, the McMaster Marauders women’s volleyball team played their second and third games of the 2012 OUA regular season. The first match was a road trip to the University of Guelph to take on a young Gryphons team, followed by a home game hosting the University of Ottawa Gee-Gee’s.

The first victory of the campaign was within reach on Friday, when the Marauders hit the road to face the Guelph Gryphons. But Mac couldn’t secure the victory and let a 2-0 set lead slip to suffer their second defeat in a row.

In the first set, McMaster looked to be in the driver’s seat. The Gryphon squad, whose most experienced players are two fourth-year players, were showing their youth. With poor serving, lack of blocking at the net, and a hole in the backcourt defensively, Mac was able to end rallies quickly to earn early points. Taylor Brisebois was a menace for the Marauders on defense, easily sending back weak balls from the Gryphons. But the set would not be as easy as it seemed, as the Guelph squad was able to wake up from their struggles to lead 16-14 at the technical timeout.

The first set out of the timeout was a thrilling rally between the sides but the home team would win the point. Losing the minutes-long rally could have been deflating for Mac, but they persevered. Shannon McRoberts would lead McMaster to a 1-0 lead over Guelph, stringing together a quick kill followed by a roof block for two quick points to aid the first set effort.

But the Gryphons would not lay down in front of a full crowd, starting the second set with a 4-0 lead. With Mac wavering, fifth-year McRoberts would again be a rock for the team and energize her team to comeback. Amanda Weldon adding her own offense from the setter position, catching the Guelph defense sleeping on multiple occasions. At the technical timeout, McMaster led 16-14. The Marauders cruised through the second half of the set until late, when the Gryphons would again make a comeback effort and not give up the set easily. The second would need extra points and Mac was up to the challenge. They responded by winning 28-26, giving them a daunting 2-0 lead.

With their first victory of the season in view, Mac came out looking to win as quickly as possible. The Maroon and Grey would be met by an equally inspired Guelph effort with the first ten points of the game going back and forth, point for point. Rallies did not last long as both teams were able to score quickly in the possessions and there was no clear momentum for either side.

The match went take a dark turn for the Marauders as the Guelph team dominated in both aspects of the game. Mac looked like a different team, failing to put up any presence at the net. The Gryphons were strong on the defensive side of the ball and mixed in attacks from both centre court and the outsides to earn kills throughout the game changing third set. With a 25-14 third set score in favour of Guelph, a sure fire victory was highly questionable for Mac.

In the forced fourth set, the story remained the same. McMaster was not as strong as they were in the beginning and Guelph had found a groove. With confidence growing with each score, Coach Tim Louks called timeout and woke his team up. Kailee Stock would put forth a strong effort offensively in the fourth but it would not be enough with McMaster falling 25-21.

The fifth and decisive set was tough with the Maroon and Grey unable to string together successive offensive plays against a stingy Gryphon defense. Watching the fifth and final set of an unsuspected comeback got the home crowd cheering for their squad and inspired the Guelph team. Their confidence was tangible and their efforts would be vindicated as they took the victory 15-9 to win overall 3-2.

On Sunday afternoon, the women’s volleyball team hosted the Ottawa Gee-Gee’s in Burridge Gym. The game proved to be another heartbreaking defeat for the Marauders after three close sets of volleyball.

In the first set, McMaster found themselves down early. But with a few lapses from Ottawa and great serves from the Marauder contingency, the score was brought closer. With a kill from McRoberts and a dump over pass to follow, the Marauders would come within two of the Gee-Gee’s.

Ottawa put forth a consistent effort throughout the set as they continued a steady streak keeping the Marauders five points behind. After a Marauder time out and some great defensive play the girls in maroon would come within one point of the Gee-Gee’s as the set continued. Unfortunately the Gee-Gee’s killer back row would end the set in Ottawa’s favor, 25-19. The Gee-Gee’s tallied 11 kills to McMaster’s eight in the first set.

The Gee-Gee’s came out in full force to start the second set. Expert sets would force McMaster to fall behind early on and call a timeout to refocus. Despite the timeout, the Mac could stop the bleeding and the Ottawa lead grew to six. Ottawa was quick to pounce on any Marauders comeback attempt and quickly gained an additional four points. Ottawa’s strong offense proved to be the main component of the second set win for the Gee-Gee’s as they took it 25-13.

Weldon proved to be a key contributor in the third and final set, as two crucial aces from her would get the Marauders started. McMaster found themselves down once again early on in the set, but Mac gained their first lead over the Gee-Gee’s, 7-5. Camilla Thorne-Tjomsland would be a key piece in the fight to win the set, as her presence at the net was a force to be reckoned with. Her outstanding efforts allowed the Marauders to gain a four-point lead over the Gee-Gee’s.

A technical foul against the Gee-Gee’s help give Mac further momentum to help propel them further into the lead with two more points. Ottawa slowly began to creep back up again bringing themselves within just two points of the Marauders, forcing McMaster to call a much-needed time out.

Ottawa would then tie the game up once again at 18 and a miscommunication by the Marauders would then put the Gee-Gee’s back in the lead. Despite the close score all set, the Gee-Gee’s would put up some more aces and with a killer defensive effort handed the Marauders a close 25-23 defeat for the third and final set.

At times, the Marauders looked like a confident team able to prey upon their opponent’s weaknesses. The beginning of their season is eerily similar to that of 2011. The team will look to turn things around when they travel to Thunder Bay, Ont. to take on the Lakehead Thunderwolves in two games this weekend.

 

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