Gratton out, Cooper GTD for men’s volleyball TMU revenge playoff game
Marauders men’s volleyball continues to deal with wavering health as they head into the first round of the OUA playoffs
With the playoffs set to begin, the Marauders playoff rotation remains unclear. Maxime Gratton will be sidelined for the first-round matchup due to a lower body injury, while Sam Cooper will be a game time decision as a result of a foot fracture that kept him sidelined through the second half of the season.
Cooper, a 2021-2022 OUA first team all-star, as well as a 2021-2022 U Sport second team all-Canadian, is an integral part of the team, and the lack of his presence has been felt heavily of late. Losing another star player in Gratton has just made things that much harder for the team.
“[Cooper's] on his return to train, but we won’t put him in a position where he’s not ready. If he is ready then we kind of have to ease him into game mode because he hasn’t played since early January. Even if he was ready [physically] I’m not sure if he would be ready to play. . . He’s chomping at the bit to get at the floor, but we have to do what’s best for their health and wellbeing,” said Dave Preston, the head coach.
Between injuries to Cooper and Gratton, as well as load management for regulars Mateusz Wlodarski and Tyler Pavelic due to the growing urgency for health bodies, the Marauders have struggled of late.
McMaster dropped their final two games of the regular season, snapping their perfect record on the year while also suffering their first regular season loss since 2020, and their first back-to-back loss since the 2016 season.
Despite having lost Cooper in January, the Marauders maintained their position atop the standings, finishing in the first seed. Their first-round playoff matchup is none other than the Toronto Metropolitan University Bold – the team who ended the Marauders hopes of perfection in the second last game of the season.
“A 20-0 regular season was never something we talked about, it was never one of our goals. Our first goal was to secure as much home court advantage through the playoffs as we could, and we did that. . . There’s two ways you look at it; sometimes you win, sometimes you learn,” explained Preston.
The upcoming game is an opportunity for revenge against the bold, and there is a sense of growing anticipation amongst the team. They are confident, and ready for their shot at redemption.
“Yes, there is a lot of excitement to play them again. . . They played great when we played them down there, they earned every point of that victory, but it’s a new match Saturday,” said Preston
Heading into the playoffs, the team has spent their reading week preparing. As for what has changed in the past week, the answer is nothing. There is a reason the team has had so much success in recent years, and why they were able to put together such a strong season again this year. Now they’re ready to trust the process when it comes to playoff prep.
“Absolutely nothing [changed], the guys know what it takes. We’ve done it day in and day out for the last seven months. This isn’t something to change anything, this is the time to trust your training. . . It was really good to see two days prior to how locked in they were. The communication was impressive, the focus was impressive. These guys know what they’re doing. This isn’t a time for change, this is a time for trust,” said Preston.
The highly anticipated game will take place on Feb. 25 at 8:00 PM in Burridge Gym, as a result of the team having secured home court advantage throughout. It will immediately follow the women’s playoff game at 6:00 PM.