Marauders men's volleyball earns fifth consecutive national medal

By Fraser Caldwell, March 20, 2017

There was no sign of Saturday’s heartbreak when Sunday’s bronze medal match came around, as the Marauders produced a vintage display to see off the challenge of the UBC Thunderbirds and come away from Edmonton with their fifth straight national medal.

McMaster convincingly played to a 25-14, 27-25, 25-17 victory in the penultimate match of the U SPORTS Championship, winning their third national bronze medal in the past five seasons and ending their season on a winning note.

“Today we served,” said Mac head coach Dave Preston. “We served, and then we executed. I thought Andrew Richards in particular did a really good job of blocking their right side attack, and we did a decent job of denying their pipe, which made it easier for us.”

Capping an impressive tournament which saw him star on the left for the bronze medallists, Brandon Koppers led his team with 10 kills and 12 points in the win, hitting 53 per cent with just two errors and adding an ace and a block. Fellow left side Andrew Richards also feasted offensively, hitting 47 per cent with eight kills and just one error on 15 attempts while adding three and a half blocks.

Irvan Brar was the top point producer for the Thunderbirds in a losing effort, with 13 kills.

Grabbing the lead at 4-3 in the opening set, the Marauders quickly built upon their advantage, and forced a timeout from the Thunderbirds when setter Andrew Kocur capped a five-point run with an ace for 12-5. The lead swelled to nine at the technical timeout, and Mac was home free from there, sealing the set on a Koppers kill following a UBC service error.

Play tightened up considerably in the second, where the Thunderbirds began to exert some of their will upon the rally. Leading narrowly at the technical timeout, the Thunderbirds rebuilt a three-point advantage at 22-19 and forced a timeout from the Marauders on the brink of levelling the match. But Mac responded out of the break, tying the set with kills from Matt Passalent, Danny Demyanenko and Richards, and forcing the teams into the sudden death of the final points. There, the Thunderbirds enjoyed a set point at 25-24 after a Jayson McCarthy attacking error, but the Marauders erased it and edged the set with the help of a pair of errors from their opponents.

Momentum remained firmly in the court of the Marauders, who won seven of the first nine points to open the third set and found themselves in the driver’s seat yet again. UBC would close to within a point at 13-12 after a Koppers service error, but that was as close as they could manage, and McMaster reeled off six consecutive points wrapped around the technical timeout to re-establish a comfortable cushion. From there, it was largely side-out volleyball until the arrival of match points, where the Marauders seized upon their second opportunity when UBC’s Byron Keturakis could only find the tape with his attempted roll shot.

“Gold is the colour of champions, but bronze is the colour of those who persevere,” said Preston of his team’s effort Sunday. “I’m very proud of the character of our kids. We talk a lot about integrity, and I think we did a really good job of showing that here.

“Our fifth-year seniors finished their careers with five medals. I’m not sure how many athletes can say that, but our four can.”