Overcoming a two-set deficit and sending a packed Burridge Gym crowd into overdrive, the McMaster Marauders booked their spot in the semifinals at the TELUS 2018 U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball Championship at the expense of the fourth-seeded Montreal Carabins on Friday.
OUA First Team All-Star Brandon Koppers had 20 kills and hit .317 to lead the Marauders to the win, ending the night with two aces and two and a half blocks for 25.5 points. He was named as the Player of the Match for McMaster as a result.
On the opposite side of the net, Montreal’s Godefroy Veyron-Trudel led the way with 25 kills and 26 points, while All-Canadian setter Gabriel Chancy was named the Player of the Match after accumulating 45 assists.
Koppers gave credit to his team for their belief in the face of a two-set deficit, morale that ultimately saw them through Friday’s test.
I love my teammates. They gave everything they had that game we knew at the end of the day we were gonna play our hardest. I’m proud of them for what they did on the court.
A tough, five-set contest like Friday’s is bound to drain McMaster, but head coach Dave Preston was unconcerned in the wake of his team’s win.
“This isn’t our first rodeo, we’ve been down this road before,” said Preston. “It’s hard, because you do spend a lot of energy in a five-set match, and you have to refill that tank quickly, but we’re prepared for that. We’ve been training for that all season long.”
For Montreal coach Guazi Guidara, there were no complaints after the demoralizing defeat, as his team gave all they could.
“Our players gave the maximum of what they can do,” said Guidara. “I’m so happy, and we have two more matches to look forward to.”
There was little between the two teams early, and after an initial Montreal run to open play, the Marauders settled to find their rhythm, and the lead at 16-15 as the horn sounded for the technical timeout.
After Veyron-Trudel killed to bring up set points at 24-22, outside Youssef Baati squeezed a shot through a double block to draw first blood.
McMaster appeared poised to level the match, leading 21-17 late in the second set with an increasingly encouraged Burridge Gym crowd behind them.
But the Carabins had other ideas, constructing a eight-point run with Phillippe Carrier providing steady service from the line. A late timeout from the Marauders did little to stem the tide, and after a Carrier ace brought up set points, Allyson Francillon killed to take advantage of the first opportunity.
Once again building a mid-set lead, the Marauders proved more adept at holding it in set three, taking a five-point advantage into the technical timeout after Richards tipped through the block for 16-11.
Showing no sign of slowing down, McMaster’s lead swelled to seven at 20-13 after a massive swing from Craig Ireland, and the Marauders sped to the finish line from there. Koppers brought up set points with a kill, and struck again through the pipe to extend the match to a fourth set.
Again, it was midway through the set when McMaster made its move, ending a strong series of points with a double block from Koppers and Peter Khodkevych for 14-10. Three points later, the Marauders hit the technical timeout with a four-point cushion after an errant shot flew well wide from Veyron-Trudel.
But Montreal surged back into contention as the finish line loomed, pulling within one when Veyron-Trudel’s shot kissed the tape and found the floor, bringing up a McMaster timeout.
Two pivotal points from middle Josh Ecklund, a kill and solo block through the middle, brought McMaster back into the lead, and after Ireland killed to bring up set points, a Mikael Dagenais serve found the tape to send the match to a fifth and deciding set.
Tension was at an all-time high, but the Marauders were the more composed team in the fifth, winning four of the first five points and taking an 8-7 lead into the changeover.
A service error from Ireland and attacking error from Richards levelled the set at 10, before the Marauders once again, winning five of the next seven points to dramatically seal the comeback when Koppers killed for 15-12 and 3-2.
Players of the Game
- McMaster: Brandon Koppers
- Montreal: Gabriel Chancy