By: Graham West
Returning to the U Sports National Championships, the McMaster men’s volleyball team suffered a tough loss against the second-seeded Trinity Western University Spartans in the opening round; a familiar foe ending the Marauders’ hopes at winning another national medal following last year’s bronze.
This sent the team to the consolation semifinals where they took a heartbreaking loss in a rematch of the provincial finals against the Queen’s University Gaels. Even though the outcome of the tournament did not go the Marauders’ way, they still gave it their all to finish off the season.
Going into their first game, the team knew it would be a tough road getting past Trinity Western as they’ve played before in the national tournament. The Marauders, following their Ontario University Athletics silver medal, was given a disadvantaged position as the seventh seed in the tournament, setting them up to face No. 2 Trinity.
Mac was well aware of this possibly-discouraging matchup but tried to use the familiarity with their opponent to their advantage.
“They’re obviously a very good team and they’ve had some serious success in the past,” starting outside hitter Andrew Richards said. “We’re going into this the underdogs and we’re going to take that mindset and use it to our advantage. For us we have nothing to lose and we’re just going to give it all we have.”
Ultimately this was not enough to give the maroon and grey the win, losing 3-1 to their British Columbian foes. Despite the early exit from the tournament, the week did feature a bright spot.
🏐🚹 @McMasterSports head coach Dave Preston reacts to his team loss against the @TWUSpartans // L’entraîneur de McMaster Dave Preston réagit à la défaite des siens contre Trinity Western #ChampSZN pic.twitter.com/XTwrJRexhq
— U SPORTS Volleyball (@USPORTS_VBall) March 16, 2019
Over the weekend, Richards was awarded All-Canadian Second Team honours for his contributions to the Marauders’ success on the court this year, placing in the top 10 in Canada in aces per set (0.51) while leading his team with 185 kills over the season.
Richards was also awarded the Dale Iwanoczko Award for being an outstanding student-athlete and demonstrating excellence off the court. Richards is the first Marauder to win the award since its inaugural year in 1994.
“It’s a good way to end my five-year journey at university,” Richards said. “It’s an individual award, but I really can’t take all the credit for it.”
“I’ve had some amazing mentors and leaders in my life that have always challenged me to do that, so without them I really would have never been recognized for something like this.” Richards added.
Richards’ mindset going into nationals was the same one which has made him such a great player in the first place: a mindset predicated on fierce competitiveness, mutual respect from his teammates and a genuine love of the game. This was Richards’ last chance at competing for a national championship and he took the opportunity just like he takes all of his games.
“I was talking to one of my coaches today, and he wanted me to sit down and think about once I’m done from Mac, in a couple of years, how do I want to think back and remember these last couple of days,” Richards said. “For me, I want to look back and know that I enjoyed my last matches and competed hard and that I was a good teammate and regardless of the outcome.”
This year marks the last year Richards will be wearing maroon for the men's volleyball team as his years of eligibility run out. While the team’s finish at nationals may not have been ideal, they still left their all on the court. Richards, and the teams he has been a part of, have left behind a tremendous legacy of numerous records, medals and trophies, and is one that will surely not be forgotten.
After you lose the trust of basketball coaches around Ontario University Athletics, how to do you bounce back to show them that you were worth a shot? You get named to not only the OUA All-Rookie team but the U Sports All-Rookie Team too. After just one season with the McMaster men’s basketball team, first-year guard Jordan Henry has proven a lot of naysayers wrong.
Henry, like most basketball players, first encountered the game through street basketball at just three years old. He first joined a team when he was in the fifth grade and has had quite a journey since then. Shorter than the average basketball player, Henry did not let his height stop him from going after what he loved.
“My love for basketball came from just watching it on television,” said Henry. “Watching players like Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, I wanted to be just like them when I was younger.”
Henry’s talent started to speak for itself when he was in the tenth grade and he went to Pine Ridge Secondary School, a school in Pickering, Ontario with a well-known basketball program. During this time, he also played for Team Canada along with first-year Duke sensation R.J. Barrett and was part of history when the under-19 team became the first national team to win gold in basketball at any International Basketball Federation or Olympic event.
The national team was led by the Ryerson University Rams’ head coach Roy Rana, so it seemed like the obvious fit for Henry to commit to Ryerson when it was time for him to choose where he would take his talents in post-secondary. But things didn't go exactly as planned.
Shortly after making the verbal decision, Henry decommitted. This decision had a lot of people scratching their heads, but for Henry, his decision was one that many high school students have made. With Ryerson’s campus downtown and close to his home, he knew he would not be getting the ‘university experience’, and class in a concrete jungle was not what he wanted.
Searching for his destination and before he landed at McMaster, he took a pit stop in London, ON.
“I committed and went to Western [University] but unfortunately, that didn't work out,” said Henry. “I was not focusing on school and I knew if I continued, I was going to flunk out. So, after playing one game, I decided to leave Western.”
Unfortunately for Henry, according to U Sports’ Eligibility Rules, a student-athlete who transfers from one U Sports member institution team to another after having been assessed one year of eligibility, must not participate in any competition (conference or non-conference) for a period of 365 days.
However, the one-year wait was the least of Henry’s problems. After bouncing from Ryerson to Western, despite his talent and accolades to prove it, a lot of coaches did not think he was worth the risk, except for Mac’s head coach Patrick Tatham.
“I knew Patrick from high school, and he took a chance on me,” said Henry. “I gained PT's trust by working hard and showing him I wanted this just as much as he did.”
So far, after just one season together, that chance has paid off for both Tatham and Henry.
“Mac has been a good fit for me,” Henry said. “At the start, it was kind of hard basketball wise and I thought I lost my rhythm, but as I worked hard and pushed through, I became more comfortable and it's been easy ever since.”
That in combination with a better understanding of university life thanks to his time at Western, and a few friendly faces including ex-Western teammate Damiann Prehay who also came to Mac this season, set Henry up for success.
In a season of ups-and-downs for the Marauders, Henry was one of Mac’s most consistent players this season. Henry played in all 24 regular season games, starting 21, and had a total of 113 assists by the end of the season, which placed him fourth in assists in the OUA.
He also averaged 11.9 points per game, so it was no surprise when he was named to both the OUA and U Sports All-Rookie Teams. Though the recognition was a humbling honour for Henry, getting to prove those who doubted him wrong throughout the season are the moments that will stick with him forever.
“Winning the big games against Brock [University] and [the University of Wilfred] Laurier are moments I’ll remember,” said Henry. “But winning against Western will stick with me forever because not only did it show them that they lost a good player, it showed me that I made the right decision coming to Mac.”
The team player in every sense has a bright Marauder career ahead of him over the next few years. With goals to get better at basketball and one day make the U Sports Men's Basketball All-Canadian First Team, he hopes to one day play professional basketball and maybe even get into fashion.
For the first time ever, the McMaster women’s basketball team have brought the Bronze Baby home.
It has been a long time coming for Burns, but so worth the wait. The head coach has been with the Marauders for the last 29 years and has yet to win it all like she did this past weekend.
Ending the regular season 21-3, the Marauders turned up the intensity and remained undefeated in the postseason. For Burns, competing and winning at this level was something the team knew they could do from before the season even started.
"We believed we could do it. It's been the mindset all year,” said Burns. “Then, as the year went on and we continued to build, we got better as it went."
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="254" gal_title="Womens Basketball National Championship"]
The U Sports women’s basketball Final 8 festivities kicked off with the annual All-Canadian gala. McMaster veteran Hilary Hanaka made Mac proud, taking home the Sylvia Sweeney Award for Student-Athlete Community Service for her outstanding contributions both on and off the court.
Hanaka is well known for her leadership on the court, but off the court, her work with McMaster Athletes Care, Varsity Leadership Council, McMaster Women’s Athletic Leadership Council, Neighbourhood Hoops Program, Flamborough Fire basketball and St. Mary’s Catholic High School, all contributed in her earning the honour. The All-Canadian was also named a U Sports Second Team All-Star that night.
With the awards wrapped up, the Marauders hit the court for the first game of the tournament, a quarter-final matchup against the Concordia University Stingers. Mac superstar Sarah Gates put up a career high of 32 points and the Marauders took down the Stingers in a dominant 86-68 victory.
Next, McMaster faced the third-ranked University of Saskatchewan Huskies, advancing to the final game with a 73-66 win. When Laval defeated the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees 60-56 in their own semifinal game, the stage for finals was set.
— U SPORTS Basketball (@USPORTS_Bball) March 9, 2019
Heading into nationals, the Rouge et Or were ranked number one due to their nearly perfect season, with only one loss to McGill University, while the Marauders ranked second. With the story of Laval’s Khaléann Caron-Goudreau’s journey airing on Sportsnet’s pregame, it was very clear who the favourite was perceived to be. Yet, quickly after the whistle blew, it was obvious that the Marauders were not ready to go home without what they came for.
The first quarter was low scoring, as not only were both the Marauders and the Rouge et Or playing strong defense, but they also struggled to hit wide-open shots. By the end of the first quarter, Mac was up 11-10, but that was the last time that they would lead the game until the third quarter.
Sarah-Jane Marois of Laval got hot in the second quarter, finding and making shots to help Laval lead at the half, contributing 13 points in the quarter. The impact of Marois’ ability to hit shots that both teams struggled with earlier made the Marauders head into the half down 27-33.
“The game plan is to always be as tough as we can be defensively, stay positive, and no matter what happens, you just keep picking each other up and good things will happen,” Burns said. “They’re just so resilient. We’re playing a good team, we’re playing No.1 in the country, so they’re going to get their runs, they’re going to score. But when we bent we didn’t break.”
The thing about bending is that there is always a snapback, and snapback they did. Coming into the third regrouped and focused, the Marauders began to play at a different level. Linnaea Harper started off the third quarter strong with a three, followed by a Gates’ layup that helped the Marauders cut the lead to 33-32 in the first minute.
Mac led again for the first time since the first in the third quarter, thanks to consistency from Gates, Harper, Hanaka and most importantly, Christina Buttenham. Buttenham, who went on to be named the player of the game, contributed both offensively and defensively for the team throughout the entire matchup. Buttenham had 13 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three blocks that left her grinning from ear to ear.
Ensuring the Marauders would not fall behind again, Buttenham not only stole the ball but scored off a rebound, helping the Marauders go into the fourth 44-44. Starting the fourth from the free-throw line, the Marauders led throughout. But it was the laugh from regularly composed head coach Burns after Harper’s off-balance shot gave Mac a 10-point lead that made the Marauders and fans watching know that they had sealed the deal.
Not only did the women’s team make Marauder history, they finally were able to give Burns the one thing she has been chasing for 29 years.
“To be able to do this after five years, in my last year is so amazing,” said Harper, the tournament’s most valuable player. “This also means the world to [coach Burns] she’s been doing this for 25-plus years, and to finally make it to the National Championship and win, we’re so happy to do this for her.”
Harper and Gates both contributed 18 points while the eldest Hanaka brought in 12. Laval may have had the U Sports Player of the Year Marois on their side, but the Marauders beat the odds and reminded us exactly what hard work can do.
Women’s Final 8️⃣: @McMasterSports ⛹️♀️ wins their first 🏆 title 🥳
Le 8️⃣ Ultime ⛹️♀️ : Premier titre national pour les Marauders de McMaster 👏
— U SPORTS (@USPORTSca) March 11, 2019
By: Graham West
Heading out to Kingston for this year’s provincial playoffs, Andrew Richards and the McMaster men’s volleyball team went up against the University of Windsor for their 15th-straight provincial semifinal appearance, and won, advancing to the finals.
Unfortunately, their championship bid ultimately fell short, suffering a heartbreaking loss to the hosting Queen’s University Gaels. Although the men’s six-year dynasty was broken, getting to the finals means they also have a spot in the national championship tournament, where they have another chance to go on the court and show everyone why they deserve to be there.
As regular members of the Ontario University Athletics Final Four under head coach Dave Preston for almost two decades, the team has certainly solidified a strong culture of winning. Although, even with prolific numbers and success, Richards says this doesn’t play into their mindset, and that they choose to look at the season on a game-by-game basis.
“Whether it’s a lot of times hosting in a row, or a lot of times being in the Final Four in a row, I think our program does a really good job of not thinking about that too much,” Richards said. “We don't get too far into that because at the end of the day, it doesn’t help us perform on the court. The group this year is really tight and we’re really good at understanding that when we’re on the floor, all that matters is how we can help each other, compete hard and enjoy ourselves.”
The love of the game is one of the biggest factors for the team’s prolific success. Even so much as just being on the court means a lot to Richards and his teammates, making them fierce competitors as not many teams can match their passion.
“I think we’re lucky as student-athletes to even be able to play volleyball for McMaster,” Richards said. “So for us, we’re just thankful to play and have fun, and I know our hard work and all of our training throughout the year will help us get to where we need to go.”
Even though the team did ultimately lose in the finals, it’s only a roadblock on their way to taking on nationals, which has been a big focus for the team all year.
“I’ve found over my four years that the next two weeks happen really fast, so I think it’s easiest to break it up and take it game by game and enjoy things while you can,” Richards said. “Our team has higher goals than just provincials, so for us, it’s going to be crucial to refocus after every match.”
Richards emphasized the role that team chemistry plays in the success of the team, especially when it comes to being able to pick each other up when things are down. This is mostly due to the fact that the team is so close and knows each other so well. This is a key reason why they are such a tough group to get through for any competitor.
“Over my years here at Mac, we’re one of the tighter teams,” Richards said. “It’s easy for teams to play well and feel good about themselves when things are going well on the court and you’re winning, but I think when it really comes in handy to have a tight team and work through things together is when things aren’t going well.”
By earning a spot in the provincial finals, the Marauders have also clinched a place at the national championships. The men’s volleyball team will be one to watch during the national championships as they look to make a huge statement after provincials and certainly have the potential to take home the national gold.
On March 15 at 6:00 p.m., the No. 7 Marauders will take on the No. 2 Trinity Western University Spartans to kick-off the U Sports Final Eight. The Spartans are also coming off a provincial silver medal, losing to No. 1 Brandon University in the Canada West Championship.
After falling to the Queen’s University Gaels for the Ontario University Athletics Forsyth Cup, the McMaster men’s volleyball team are headed to the U Sports Men’s Volleyball Championships, but not exactly where they would like to be.
For the first time in seven years, the Marauders are heading to nationals, not as OUA champions. Although surely grateful that they still get to compete at the national level, the disappointment is still there. After a change in OUA men’s volleyball structure, the men’s team had to play their final game on the Gaels’ home court, despite being the number one seed.
The close matchup saw the Marauders and Gaels play five sets. After ending the first set 19-25, the Marauders bounced back strong, winning the second and third set 25-19 and 25-23, respectively. Unfortunately, the Gaels were in the comfort of their own home and were able to outscore the Marauders in both the fourth and fifth set, 16-25 and 13-15.
This result landed the Marauders ranked seventh place going into nationals in Quebec City this weekend. Not only is this McMaster's lowest seed at the national tournament since Mac hosted in 2007, but their first opponents are also their longtime rivals, British Columbia’s Trinity Western University Spartans.
The number two seeded team has faced Mac several times in the national playoffs, and for the last four years, they have outplayed Mac. For First Team All-Star left side Andrew Richards, this is the last Canadian university volleyball championships he will ever play in. So hopefully the Marauders will be able to shake the curse and come out victorious against the Spartans.
First serve is scheduled for this Friday at 6:00 p.m.
Tonight, Thursday Feb. 28, is the semifinal playoff game for the McMaster women’s basketball team and the rematch of the 2018 Ontario University Athletics Critelli Cup finals. Facing the Carleton University Ravens in Burridge Gym will be a nostalgic match, as the Ravens walked away with the Cup last year on the Marauders’ home court. Luckily for Mac, this year they are going to the semifinals as the third best team in the nation while the Ravens’ are seventh.
Ending the regular season 21-3, the Marauders earned their right to a first-round bye, and faced the Brock University Badgers in the OUA quarter-finals. Although the Marauders headed into the game with as much success as they did, the game was not as easy as they would have liked. After struggling for the first half, it was in the third quarter that the Marauders were able to break away and win the match 81-70.
Sarah Gates, who was chosen for the 2018 OUA All-Rookie Team after a strong rookie campaign, scored a whopping 28 points, shooting nine of 16 from the field and five of 10 from three-point range. Her performance was a testament to her overall season, even securing a spot on the OUA All-Star Second Team.
Senior Hilary Hanaka helped out offensively as always, scoring 12 points. Both Hanaka and Linnaea Harper, who sat out of the quarter-final game due to injury, were recognized as First-Team All-Stars.
For the Marauders, staying consistent and not letting the memories of the last Carleton-McMaster matchup get in their heads unless to fuel them, will be the key for the Marauders to return to the Critelli Cup finals once again.
After a slow start to the season, the women’s volleyball team is rolling and looking to lock up a spot in the playoffs. Their slow start can be attributed to the major shift in the roster, with many upper-year players graduating, but the newer players are filling in admirably and the roster is loaded with potential.
They’ve won four out of their last five games, which is in large part due to a few players stepping up their play. Most notably, right side Jessie Nairn’s recent play earned her the Pita Pit Athlete of the Week for leading the team in points and kills over their weekend trip to Thunder Bay.
Stuffing the stat sheet in all facets of the game, Nairn’s 13 kills in the team’s Jan. 27 win over Lakehead University is a perfect example of what she brings to the rotation.
The Marauders are back on track as they are riding a string of good games, with their only loss in the past five games coming from the undefeated and first in the division University of Waterloo Warriors.
“Even though we lost against Waterloo, we played a really good game against them,” Nairn said. “And if we play the way we did, we can definitely beat, if not at least play a really good game against, all of the teams coming up in the next couple of weeks.”
Nairn says the team is still in the process of finding its identity after losing so many of its veteran players. However, their development over the course of the season thus far is why they’ve been on a hot streak lately, which should easily transfer to next season.
“After losing a really big graduating class last year, I’d say that our skills aren’t really spread out yet and we haven’t found out what our strengths are, so we’re slowly starting to get to that point,” Nairn said. “Although we’re a really big blocking team and we’re definitely one of the best blocking teams in the league, we’re definitely a big offensive team. Where we struggle is starting the offence, so passing and stuff like that, but when we have that done, it’s when we’re at our best.”.
It’s been a tough transition going from losing only five regular season games over the past two seasons to having lost six already this season, but Nairn is confident the team can close out the season successfully.
The roster is filled with talent and potential but is lacking experience. With that being said, it hasn’t stopped the team from remaining in playoff contention despite the roster’s youthfulness.
“In the past years, we’ve only lost two or three games. So for my first two years, it was a big deal losing,” Nairn said on the team’s recent struggles. “Learning to lose, and then learning to learn from that, knowing that it’s going to be ok and that we are good enough to win and win the whole league — we just need to have the mentality to get there because we don’t know how to deal with losing yet, but we're getting there.”
Nairn believes the team still has the capability of going far in the postseason and they still have their sights set on a trip to nationals.
“Our goal is definitely still to win, even though our path to get there is looking a little rocky,” Nairn said. “We’ve played really good games against some of the teams that are definitely going to be in the final four this year. For instance, our very first game this season where we were nowhere near as good as we are now, we went to five sets with [the University of] Toronto and they’re looking like a team that will definitely be in the final four.”
The women’s volleyball team has had it’s fair share of struggles so far this season but they are a bright young team, with a roster full of talented players and greatness on the horizon.
“Give the ball back, fucker.”
He brandishes his knuckles. He spits on the ground. He is six.
“Heard what I said?”
I shuffle my feet in the ground and squeeze the ball in my hand. It is a bright orange, the kind that glints even in the weakest of sunlight. Besides for the colour, it is plain. Nothing seems particularly attractive about it in the slightest. Even when under my grip, it bends and reshapes poorly. I continue to compress and decompress, the elasticity giving way underneath my fingers. He continues to speak.
“It isn’t your ball.” He takes a step forward.
I stop squeezing. I tell him how I found this ball here at my feet. It rolled my way while I was wandering the playground. I picked it up and played with it for some 40 days. This was its new history. Didn’t that matter anything?
“No. I was given it by my teacher.”
I whisper. “And I was given it by chance.”
“That was then. This is now. I’m taking it back.” He doesn’t flinch when he says it. A civil war could be going off, and he wouldn’t notice. His world is the ball and the ball, the world.
I dig my feet in the ground again. He steps forward. I ask him how could I be sure if it was his ball at all.
“Because it is, shithead.” My six year-old mind wonders what a shithead looks like. I imagine a sentient toilet bowl. But lacking such visual stimulation, I just look in front of me at the boy whose face is contorted and red.
I continue to press the orange ball between my fingers. “Do you mind if I play with it or not for a while? Or maybe we can toss it around in a game of catch?”
“It’s mine. What don’t you understand?”
“Well, how it’s yours.”
He takes another step forward, and swings. The six year old hits like a trained boxer. I fall to the ground.
Things blur. The ground licks my lips. Liquid iron tickles my tongue.
Before I can reorient, he is on top of me. His left hand raises and lands on my chin. His right, my left cheek. There on the ground, part of me can’t help but wonder if he’s done this before. He’s a professional. He wastes no time.
The other part of me is leaking out bit by bit by bit.
I jut my hips upwards and wiggle. My knee frees from under his, and I slam it into his side. He winces. For a few seconds, he is caught in between an inhalation and an exhalation, neither breathing nor not. A sound comes out from him like two freight train colliding - just the awkward moment of pause between life and death.
He scurries to his feet and tries to breath in all the oxygen his little lungs can load. Blood has seeped into my eyes. I try to clear my eyesight for his next onslaught, but the dirt on my hand only clumps on the wound. In a few moments, I’m blind. In a few other moments, I figured, I’d be dead.
This is it. I think. Six years of life go by. It isn’t much, but it’s enough. It’s all I know, all I have.
I wait lifeless, my limbs at my side. It is only a matter of time.
Only a few more seconds.
Okay. Maybe he just needs to catch his breath.
I listen around me, but I do not hear panting. Instead, I hear patting on the ground and mumbling. I focus and hear, “Where is it? Where is it?”
With my eyes closed, I ask, “What?”
He says, “The ball.”
In the violence and name-calling, the punches and the verbal abuses, I had forgotten about it. It was just a ball after all. I guess absentmindedness can be forgiven.
It might even be expected. God willing, of course.