McMaster falls into bronze medal round after tough loss to powerhouse Trinity Western
After an extremely back and forth game between two of Canada’s most elite volleyball programs, McMaster will be competing for the bronze
In what seemed like an extremely evenly matched game throughout, the Trinity Western Spartans managed to pull away with a victory against the Marauders in four sets. Despite McMaster taking the first set 27-25, the Spartans took the next three in a row via scores of 25-20, 25-21 and 25-21.
In front of a sold-out crowd, the Marauders played exceptionally well despite the outcome. In the entirety of the first set, the largest lead either team had was only by two points, which would quickly become a commonality over the four sets.
The Marauders excelled early with Sam Cooper, Tyler Pavelic and Wojciech Kraj really leading the way. Cooper finished the game as the leader in both kills and aces, while Pavelic finished third in kills and first in blocks, and Kraj finished second in aces and blocks. Both Pavelic and Kraj had some clutch, well timed plays in the first and second set that really led to the Marauders success.
Cooper, who put on a show in the first couple sets, continued to sustain a high level of play throughout the match, alongside Mateusz Wlodarski, the other consistent option through the night. The two combined for 21 kills, while Cooper took player of the game honors. The two were bright spots for the team in what ended up being a rather underwhelming outcome.
“Pretty disappointed I think, not in ourselves, but in the result. We were really well prepared for this, and the fact that the games were that close, it’s exactly where we want to be. Hopefully we’re on the other side of that more often than not, but tonight we weren’t. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but we’ll be alright,” said Cooper.
The breakout of Cooper for a second consecutive game is a big deal for the team as they shoot for the bronze in their next game. The former Ontario University Athletics all-star struggled of late coming off his foot injury but has finally seemed to recover to his previous high level.
“It’s where I want to play, because I wasn’t there when I wanted to be or needed to be for the team. I knew that it’s where I wanted to be and worked as hard as I could to get that back. Just time, touching the ball again for a little while, [and] fortunately I was able to put up some good performances,” explained Cooper.
One of the biggest surprises of the game came in the third set when breakout star Brendan Mills, the player of the game in the first-round matchup and the provincial championship game, was subbed out in favor of Maxime Gratton, who was playing through injury. Mills didn’t see the court in either of the last two sets, and while Gratton played well, many were surprised not to see Mills make a return.
There are many different directions the team could go with for their bronze medal game, especially given that it doesn’t get any easier from here. They will be taking on the number one nationally ranked Alberta Golden Bears, making a bronze medal finish no easy accomplishment. The team will have a hard-fought battle ahead in what will be the final game in the legendary career of head coach Dave Preston.