Chemistry factors in win streak
The Marauders are winning, and they’re doing it by committee.
A team that was forced early in the season to rely heavily on its few remaining veterans is seeing its balanced approach to the second half pay dividends on the scoreboard and in the standings. After dropping a tight five-setter on the road at Brock to begin the new semester, McMaster has reeled off four consecutive wins on home court.
“Our mentality has changed so much, that now we can go out on court and trust every single player,” said third-year outside hitter Kailee Stock of her team’s winning perspective. “Where, when we were losing before, you would feel personal responsibility to score, we have to remember that it’s still a team game.
“It’s a huge deal if we can trust everyone on court. I can trust that if Lauren [Mastroluisi] gets set she will get the point, and that if Mira [Krunic] is up to serve she’ll get it over. It’s awesome that we can rely on the rookies like we can, because not every team can say that. We’re very fortunate to have the rookies that we do.”
When asked to identify the source of that newfound trust, players are unanimous in their belief that the their holiday exploits in Florida allowed for a crucial period of bonding for a group still looking to come to grips with one another. While other technical areas of the Marauders’ game have been tinkered with, it is their mentality itself that players point to as the force behind their recent success.
“Honestly, I think the biggest thing has been our chemistry,” said Stock of her team’s adjustments in the second half. “In Florida I think we improved our game planning and everything – improved our serve, passing and our out-of-system game – but our biggest change has been our chemistry.
“When we went to Florida, we all had such an incredible time and bonded so well as a team. Ever since then, we’ve been able to go out on court and play for each other all the time. It’s been amazing because we trust each other so much out there. It’s nice to go to practice and have everyone want to be there as opposed to just going through the motions.”
Alongside the team’s progression as a unit, Stock has seen a marked improvement in her own game. The veteran left side is enjoying a new level of efficiency on the wing that has reaffirmed her place as McMaster’s chief scoring threat.
With regards to the cause of her recent spike in form, Stock believes that her success can be directly traced to her heightened awareness and a measure of offensive understanding that allows her to improvise when the Marauders are out of system.
“On court, I think my out-of-system game has gotten a lot better,” said the wing player. “We worked a lot on that last semester, just learning to manage situations better. Obviously I’m not going to get a perfect ball every time, so the focus is on making the smart play. I think I’ve gotten a bit more intelligent on the court.”
Their changes, both personal and team-wide, have lent the Marauders a new sense of confidence and optimism as they head into the final few weeks of their OUA campaign. Entering the home stretch, Stock believes that the prospect of playoff ball and the guarantee of a berth in the year-end CIS Championship have helped to focus the team on further progression.
“Things have changed a lot, that’s for sure,” said the outside of the atmosphere in the locker room. “It’s not like we were in a bad mood in the first half of the season or anything, it’s just kind of a downer obviously if you’re not winning games.
“It’s been great to start winning and we’re so excited to practice every time out, because we know that we’re getting closer and closer to beating the top teams and being at the CIS tournament.”
In the meantime, Stock and her teammates look to continue their win-streak on the road this coming weekend, as the Marauders travel to London and Windsor to take on the Western Mustangs and Windsor Lancers on Jan. 28 and 29 respectively.
The Saturday battle with the Mustangs provides McMaster another opportunity for revenge, coming as it does against the squad that handed them their first loss of the season at the Burridge Gym.
Alumni Hall has historically been unkind to the Maroon and Grey, and that fact will only serve to further motivate the visitors to succeed according to Stock.
“We definitely look at it as a chance for revenge,” said the outside hitter of the upcoming match in London. “It was only our second game of the season when we lost, but that really doesn’t matter at all. It’s been a while since we’ve won in Western’s gym, so every time we go there we’re ready to go.
“It’s going to be a great game and I know that we’re going to play well. We’re going to bring it, so they should get ready.”