The Marauders returned on Jan. 5 from an extremely successful trip to Florida that saw the team prevail as champions in the annual Alden Cup tournament.
McMaster played host to the tournament that saw seven other Canadian teams make the trip—four of which are currently ranked within the top ten in the country.
The Maroon and Grey managed to sweep their matches against the Mount Royal Cougars (No. 9), the Manitoba Bisons (No. 9) and the Brandon Bobcats (No. 3) in the final match, but in their third match of the tournament, the team were in tough territory against the Calgary Dinos.
The Dinos were a team that entered the match having lost their previous two matches against the Guelph Gryphons and Dalhousie Tigers.
“I think that the Calgary match was the turning point of our tournament,” said head coach Dave Preston.
“They were like a wounded animal. They were fighting for their life and that’s exactly how they came out.”
Calgary dominated the match early on, winning the first two sets 25-20, and 25-19.
After the second set, once Austin Campion-Smith and Jayson McCarthy subbed in, the tone of the match changed completely, and the Marauders were able to sneak away with a 3-2 win over the Western Conference team.
Another important aspect of the tournament for the Marauders was that the entire team saw playing time—even some of the key athletes that have been injured for the majority of the season.
Alex Elliot and Stephen Maar got to play competitively for the first time in months, and given these circumstances, they were able to hold their ground.
“Alex was a little more tender, and Steve’s ankle is still coming around, but its better and better every day and as long as we continue to ease them into it we’ll be okay.”
Hitter Jori Mantha also played in the tournament after being injured for two months.
“There’s some fitness issues we need to deal with, but he’s very attentive to that.”
Elliot, Maar and Mantha will all be contributors to the upcoming match this weekend against Western and Windsor, which is a huge advantage for the Maroon and Grey.
Volleyball aside, another source of pride for the team was not only the fact that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was watching their comeback match against the Dinos, but the way that the team handled themselves in front of one of the most important people in the country speaks volumes to the team as well.
Harper was in the crowd, along with his posse of 30-50 secret agents, because his son Ben plays for the Queen’s Gaels.
“I think it’s a memorable experience for our guys to be able to meet and shake the hand of their Prime Minister,” said Preston.
“We had a really good comeback win, and the Prime Minister saw it. I think that that heightens awareness of what our kids do for their school, and at that time, I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of our team in how we were representing our university than when the Prime Minister was watching.”
Now that the team is back at McMaster, however, it’s back to business as usual.
They will be facing the Western Mustangs this weekend—a team that beat them in their very first match of the season.
The tournament in Florida has served as a test for the team, and they will be able to implement what they have learned into their important match against the Mustangs.
“I know that Western will play out of their minds, they’ll play very well. They’re very well coached, and very, very talented, so we’re going to be ready for that. We’re not looking through this one and we’re up for the challenge,” said Preston.