Mac takes it 'slow and steady'
The Marauders are reaching the final stages of their successful season, which has seen them ranked the number one team in the CIS, with an outstanding record of 17-1 and they haven’t even reached their peak yet.
There are two more games in the regular season that are coming up this weekend where Mac will face the York Lions and Nipissing Lakers, but after these two games comes what Coach Dave Preston likes to call the “fun” part of the season - the OUA Championships.
Due to the Marauders first-place ranking in the OUA, they will get a bye through the quarter-finals, which Coach Preston sees as a major advantage for his team.
“We don’t have a match to prep for next week, so we can take care of our league matches this weekend and close the regular season out,” said Preston.
“And then the first week of our playoffs we get to ramp up our training a little bit, mainly physically, so that we can taper off of it after.”
Preston’s plan is to get the team to work hard in their bye-week, so that they can bounce off of that during the OUA Championships where they will taper their training.
After the OUA Championships, the team will have little time to rest for the CIS Championships, as they will have about a week between the OUA semi-finals on the Feb. 21 weekend, to the first round of the CIS Championships which will be taking place at the University of Calgary on March 2.
“It’s within nine days of each other, so you don’t have time to readjust things in there. You just stagger and go. From a planning perspective it works out pretty well,” said Preston.
So far this season, Preston is very pleased with the team before heading into the Championships, especially with their performance without star-hitter, Jayson McCarthy on the right-side.
McCarthy - the 6’9 hitter - has seen a major decrease in playing-time over the past couple of weeks due to a nagging ankle injury.
Although this may seem like a major setback for the Marauders, it hasn’t been, as Shayne Herbert has stepped up in the role and has done a tremendous job thus far.
When McCarthy was healthy for the first part of the season, the position was undoubtedly his. But after Herbert’s ability to take advantage of his starting role, the position is officially up for grabs.
“Shayne is playing great for us right now. It’s not Jay’s spot, it’s the spot, and Shayne and Jay are battling for it,” said Preston.
The battle for the right-side isn’t a bad thing, though. It just means that the Marauders have tremendous talent both on the court, and on the bench.
“The luxury for us is we’ve got two really good right-sides right now,” said Preston.
Aside from the players on the court that have contributed to the Marauders successful season thus far, lots of work has been done by the assistant coaches—Nathan Janzen and Parrish Offer -- to assist the Maroon and Grey with their winning formula.
During and after every single game, against every single opponent, Assistant Coaches Janzen and Offer get together and create a detailed sheet of the statistics of every contact and play of the game, and they rate it at a five-point scale.
So they get to keep track of how the other team is passing, hitting, blocking, serving and digging - and then they relay the information to the team, so that they can make the necessary in-match adjustments.
Due to the Marauders seeing teams multiple times during the regular season, they have managed to see patterns with each team that remain consistent. This information allows them to have each team in the OUA down to a science.
“We’ve got 5 or 6 matches on Queens, 8 or 9 matches on Waterloo, 8 matches on Western, we’ve got ten matches on York. We’ve got almost half of the sizeable data we’re getting now, so you start to see some tendencies. When you start to put ten matches on a team, their repeatability starts to show.”
Preston credits this “information-gathering” method of coaching to his experience with coaching Team Canada. Professional and international teams use the same kind of method, which gives them that extra edge on the competition.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and this is what you do internationally, this is how pro teams work, this is how national teams work, this is how you win Olympic championships,” said Preston.
Another part of the Marauders success lies in four main principles that Preston drills home to the entire team, every single day.
These four principles include: simple, repeatable, manage risk, and reduce variance.
“It’s not rocket science. We’re not flashy,” said Preston.
“The tactical, the technical, the physical, the mental, we don’t need to be pushing five thousand pounds one day and not pushing the next. Just do what we do and do it right.”
Before the Marauders get too ahead of themselves, however, there are still two more games in the regular season that they will need to get by this weekend before the OUA play-offs begin.
Preston is very happy about where the team stands heading into the play-offs, and he knows that his team is more than prepared for any adversity, or obstacles that they may face along the way.
“There’s always the unknowingness of sport. That’s kind of why we do it though, that’s the adrenaline rush to it. But we’re ready for it, we’re prepared for it,” said Preston.
“This isn’t a challenge that is beyond them or too much for them. This is what they came for, this is what they want to do. So from my perspective, we’re going to keep doing what we do, whether it’s our regular season or playoff season or national championship, we’re going to play our game.”
When it comes to the Marauders season so far, Preston compares it to the children’s parable that he reads to his two daughters for a bed-time story - The Tortoise and the Hare.
“Slow and steady wins the race. I don’t really prescribe to the slow part of it, but steady for sure. Just know who you are, keep doing what you do, and know how you do it.”
The Marauders will look to keep doing what they’re doing this weekend against the York Lions and Nipissing Lakers in their last two games of the regular season, before they work harder than they have all season in their bye-week.