[Cover photo: Fifth-year Craig Ireland on the court. All photos c/o Rick Zazluak]
The playoffs have officially begun for the Marauder men’s volleyball team. Last Saturday, the squad took on the Nippissing Lakers in a first-round matchup and walked away with a decisive 3-0 victory. Performance-wise, they left little to be desired, winning each set by 9 or more points and dominating every statistical category. With that victory behind them, they’ll take on Queen’s at home in a Final Four matchup. They say knowledge is power, and it’s always best to walk into a battle prepared. That being said, in anticipation of this upcoming game, let’s examine the past, present, and potential future of Mac volleyball.
The thought of facing Queen’s again may leave Marauder fans shuddering a little. Queen’s did, after all, hand our men’s volleyball squad their only true loss on November 1st - but remember to consider the whole picture. It’s been 124 days since that bout, and nothing is the same. Mac has won 11 straight games since that loss and boasts four OUA stars in their starting line-up, compared to just one for Queen’s. Adding all that evidence from a stellar season of volleyball into the mix, we can quite reasonably chalk that loss up to an early season blip. I have all the faith in the world in the ability of this team; good luck catching them off-guard for a second time!
On the other side of the OUA playoff bracket, 17-1 Toronto will host the 11-6 Guelph Gryphons. Both teams are motivated to make a name for themselves after finishing with losing records two years ago. It may be premature to look ahead with a semi-final still to play, but Mac handled both these teams favourably in the regular season. Guelph, they beat 3-1 in late January; Toronto, they beat 3-0 way back in November. At any rate, the Varsity Blues and Gryphons will play their semi-final Friday at 5:30pm.
The OUA released their yearly awards for the 2019-20 volleyball season, and the results were liberally peppered with Marauder maroon. Heading up the list was Jordan Pereira, the winner of the Dale Iwanoczko Award of Merit. Pereira has been a model student-athlete throughout his undergraduate career. A three-time Academic All-Canadian and Marauder Scholar, Pereira also volunteers with McMaster Athletes Care and local volleyball clubs as an assistant coach. Along with his incredible off-court work, Pereira was a rock for his team at the libero spot with 1.94 digs per set.
A team with four all-stars just doesn’t happen without stellar coaching, and men’s coach Dave Preston won OUA West Coach of the Year for the third time in four seasons. Preston has made the Marauders the class of the OUA in his time as Head Coach; this squad has now netted 15+ wins for eight years straight and claimed the OUA West title for four.
Despite just missing out on the post-season, women’s volleyball is also closing off their season with plenty to celebrate on an individual level. Fourth-year Jessie Nairn was named an OUA first-team all-star for the second straight year and was also was top ten in the OUA for kills, total attacks, and service aces.
She was a strong veteran presence for the Marauders all year, but the young stars showed their strength, too; Marina Vesovic and Nikolina Malic were named to the OUA all-rookie team. Vesovic was a defensive force to be reckoned with in her first season, recording 147 digs and 11 solo blocks. Malic put in the work on the offensive end - she set up her teammates with 428 assists, ranking 10thin the OUA. With young stars like this returning next year, the future is bright for Mac women’s volleyball.
With young stars like this returning next year, the future is bright for Mac women’s volleyball.
Duncan Simmons is the CFMU Sports Director and a 3rd year communications student from Vancouver, BC. He is the author of the Marauder Sports Roundup, released weekly on Wednesdays. Lover of all sports and all sports fans. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.