On a team full of experience and a crop of all-star calibre players, it is often hard to pick just one player who stands out. This has definitely been the case with the McMaster women’s volleyball team with a different player leading the charge in seemingly every match this season.

One Marauder highlighted regularly this year was middle blocker Maicee Sorensen. The fifth-year geography and environmental studies major has been a mainstay on the Marauders’ women’s roster for the past five seasons.

But it was this past season when Sorensen really stepped up her game and made a name for herself on the national stage. Throughout the Marauders’ provincial silver medal campaign, Sorensen nearly doubled her hitting average from the previous season and averaged nearly a full point more per set as well.

“I have been playing in the league for five years now. That time and experience is definitely the main reason I was able to play as consistently as possible,” Sorensen said. “I’ve learned the game by watching others before me.”

“It’s the experiences with my teammates everyday that I’m going to remember. It’s the people that I have met and loved for the last five years that I am most fond of.”

 

Maicee Sorensen
McMaster Women’s Volleyball Team

While she may have learned techniques from past Marauders, Sorensen’s precision and her presence at the net have made her a key starter. This past season, Sorensen played a main role on the court every game, making up half of the OUA-dominating middle with Hailey Kranics. Her on-court presence was also evident on the stat sheet, ranking at or near the top in nearly every major statistical category this season.

Sorensen finished second in Ontario University Athletics in hitting average (.435), fifth in aces per set (.54) and 15th in both kills per set (2.63) and blocks per set (.68). Sorensen also led the Marauders with 3.6 points per set, the tenth highest per set average in the province.

This statistical dominance made Sorensen the first Marauder to win OUA West Player of the Year, and earned her a spot on the OUA West All-Star First Team for the second consecutive year.

Sorensen’s success was also recognized nationally as she was named a First Team All-Canadian, becoming only the second Marauder to gain the designation (the first being Jenn Holt in 2009). Sorensen was also nominated for the Mary Lyons award for U Sports women’s volleyball player of the year as the only player from Ontario to make the final list.

Her success this year and over her career is not only a result of her dedication to the team and her own self-improvement, but also because of her love for the sport itself and the community that surrounds it.

“My top memory of this season is similar to the previous years,” said Sorensen. “I love the sport, but mostly, I love it as a team sport. I have gotten to meet new athletes and I’m excited to watch them grow over the next few years.”

During her tenure with the team, Sorensen’s role has gradually changed every year, from the first time she stepped on the court at Burridge Gym to her final match at this year’s OUA Final in the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

“My role this year on the team is definitely different from previous years,” Sorensen said. “You start out as someone trying your best to take everything in you can from players in front of you, as the years pass you become the player that people look to. I tried my best to lead by example in any way I could and just put everything I have into the sport.”

This evolution has paid dividends for the Marauders. In her time with the team, the Marauders have won two OUA championships and were close to a third this season. The Marauders have always been a top contender in Ontario every season over Sorensen’s career.

Looking back on her time as a Marauder, while the banners the team raised and the individual accolades she has received are nice markers of her achievements with the team, Sorensen will remember the personal moments with her fellow Marauders most of all.

“My fondest memories as a Marauder is winning two OUA championships,” Sorensen said. “But when you think back to memories, it’s the experiences with my teammates everyday that I’m going to remember. It’s the people that I have met and loved for the last five years that I am most fond of.”

While the Hamilton native is unsure of what her future holds, whether it be attending teacher’s college or following her dream of playing pro, her memories of the McMaster community and the women’s volleyball team will always remain a part of her. Her presence both down the middle and in the Marauders’ locker room will be sorely missed.

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By: Griffin Marsh

The Quigley Cup Playoffs, the Ontario University Athletics’ women’s volleyball championship tournament, came to a close. Unfortunately, it ended with the Marauder women being awarded silver.

McMaster lost the final on March 10 to the Ryerson Rams in four sets. McMaster took the first thrilling set 29-27, but lost the next three in a dominant Rams performance.

For Ryerson, this capped off a spectacular season as they finished with a perfect record through the regular season and playoffs.

For McMaster, momentum was not in their favour and an otherwise strong season ended in frustration.

During the Quigley Cup, McMaster got production from all across their lineup including notable performances from Rachel Woock and Aleks Arsovic. They each contributed 11 and 15 kills, respectively.

McMaster’s stellar middle pairing of Hailey Kranics and Maicee Sorenson were somewhat muted from their usual expectations, but still managed to combine for 16 points.

One half of the team’s solid middle, Sorenson, was recognized as the OUA West Division Player of the Year at the conclusion of the regular season, capping off an excellent campaign. Sorenson finished in the top 20 for OUA players for both kills and blocks, and was a key piece of the McMaster attack all season long.

McMaster is a perennial contender: champions last year, runners-up today and are patiently awaiting for more opportunities to come.

Ryerson had been and was always going to be a challenging opponent for the Marauders. The Rams were one of two teams to hand McMaster losses this season, and head coach Tim Louks always saw their potential throughout their season.

Coach Louks was also quick to tip his cap to the program Ryerson created prior to their Quigley Cup Championship, saying they were young and that he expected to see them in contention for seasons to come.

While McMaster finished the OUA playoffs with a loss, it should be noted that they survived a fierce five-set victory on Friday night against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.

That was a game where Sorenson and Kranics showed off their all-star form, combining for 25 kills and 32.5 points. This was more in line with the sort of performance you would expect from them, as both have been workhorses for the Marauders’ style of play.

Against the Varsity Blues, consistency was king, as McMaster outlasted Toronto through pure offensive efficiency.

This is also what unfortunately gave Ryerson an advantage in the following round. The consistency left the Marauders’ rotation and Ryerson took advantage when they saw the opportunity.

Ryerson executed a thorough game plan, managing to limit the big names for McMaster. This notably included Jill Eisenhauer, who has been a consistent and versatile force for the Marauder offence all year.

Eisenhauer had seven kills and a .312 efficiency in the Toronto game, putting forth a dominant performance. Against Ryerson however, she was held to three kills with a -.077 efficiency. Ryerson clearly watched the tape and knew where to focus their energy.

While there was contribution throughout the lineup against the Rams, a reality that coach Louks took pride in throughout the season, the stifling of Eisenhauer, Sorenson and Kranics presented an uphill battle that McMaster could not ultimately overcome.

Even with a frustrating end to the season, the future looks bright for the Marauders. McMaster is blessed with a balance of experience and depth throughout their roster. While they will lose a few key pieces due to graduation, these gaps are waiting to be filled by a young lineup.

Carly Health, Joanna Jedrzejewska, Caitlin Genovy and the previously mentioned Sorenson will be heading onto bright futures beyond the friendly confines of the McMaster campus. While the graduating players will be sorely missed, when asked about these keys aspects of the roster earlier in the season, coach Louks was hard pressed to say the team’s success came from any one piece.

He emphasized that volleyball is a team sport, and insisted that every element of their structure was coming together to give them success. This is why the Marauders are in good hands and have a good foundation they can continue to build on.

So we pause to say thank you to long-time members of this Marauder roster, but also look to the future, excited for the prospects that are awaiting their shot.

McMaster is a perennial contender: champions last year, runners-up today and are patiently awaiting for more opportunities to come.

This program is practiced, it’s focused and it’s rich with talent. While one season may come to an end and disappointment may sour our mood, fear not, because McMaster will be back and a whole lot of talent is just getting started.

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The McMaster women’s volleyball team is off to the Ontario University Athletics Final Four once again. Their quarter-final victory against the York Lions ended with three straight winning sets: 25-16, 25-21, 25-20. As the OUA West division leaders, winning is nothing new to the Marauders.

Throughout the season, the 2017 OUA Champions have served and passed well, attacked smartly and efficiently and had a good blocking presence on the court. They did this all while staying focused and mindful, which are the keys to the team's consistent success.

Their 18-2 combined playoff and regular season record, with 12 of those games ending in clean sheets for McMaster, back up their domination. In all of this success, the Marauders know it takes more than just knowing what it is like to be at the top to remain there.

“There is a team that is currently undefeated and everybody is looking at them to be the favourites,” said fifth-year starter Aleks Arsovic. “Also, every other team would love the chance to knock off the defending champs. So we have that added pressure, but we also have that added confidence knowing that we’ve been there before so we can do it again.”

For Arsovic, that is something special that the remaining seniors on the young team bring to the group. Arsovic, Maicee Sorensen and Carly Heath are just a few of the senior players who experienced playing in intense moments like last year’s finals against the Western Mustangs, where Mac won in an extremely close five-setter.

Unlike last year, where the entire starting line up was solely fourth- and fifth-years, there are younger starters on the court as well.

“All the younger players are looking up to you for leadership, so that’s been a humbling experience that adds extra pressure to stay levelled and be that guiding force for our team,” said Arsovic. “I think our fifth-years have done a great job doing that and overall it’s been a really exciting season, especially with the youthful energy on the court here and there.”

For Sorensen, being put in that leadership role certainly adds more responsibility, but it is more than worth it.

“[Being a veteran] can be a bit of a challenge sometimes because a lot of the time in sports, you want to be able to focus on your own game and concentrate on how well you're doing and performing,” said Sorensen. “But when you're a senior player, you have to think about how can I help these younger players succeed. That can be tough, but it's also bittersweet because as we are watching our younger girls, they are doing absolutely amazing.”

For all the girls, the season has had a lot more highs than lows. One such highlight of the season was beating one of their biggest rivals, the Mustangs, on their home court. The Marauders were able to do this even with one of their bigger hitters off, but for Mac, it is the low moments where they draw their inspiration from.

“Honestly it was pretty nice to get swept in Kingston. It was nice to play a team who prepped so well for us,” said Arsovic. “I think it's important to get a loss somewhere in your season because then you know what it’s like to lose but you have that extra motivation and you don’t want to let that happen again.”

The Mac women have not lost since their contest against Queen’s, and hopefully, the Marauders can maintain their momentum as they go on to face the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in the OUA Final Four at Ryerson University.

The Marauders beat the Varsity Blues 3-1 earlier this season, which was one of the game’s in which Mac’s rookies, Rebecca Maxwell, Maddie Lethbridge and Brenna Peacock, really stepped up to show the range of depth on the McMaster roster.

If the Marauders play their best offensively, they should have no problem punching a ticket to the championship game where a much-wanted rematch will more than likely take place against that undefeated team, the Ryerson Rams. The 19-0 team gave the Marauders their first loss, so not only will Mac be looking to defend their OUA title, but for redemption.

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By: Ryan Tse

When you talk to Maicee Sorensen and Hailey Kranics, you quickly get a sense of their easygoing, friendly personalities. The two middle blockers on the women’s volleyball team describe each other as amiable and outgoing off the court.

On the court, the two blockers alternate in the rotation so that one is always in the front row, giving McMaster a formidable blocking presence and a more than adequate offensive option at all times.

Sorensen is the more experienced player, already in her fifth year at Mac. Originally from Hamilton, Sorensen started playing club volleyball in Grade 10 as a middle before becoming acquainted with Mac’s head coach Tim Louks and deciding that McMaster was right for her. She has excelled in the middle position over the past five years, something she attributes to hard work and dedication every offseason.

“I think the most important thing individually is to watch a lot of video on professional teams and yourself as well,” Sorensen said. “Just because we are not in season does not mean you cannot be getting better. I try my best to commit my summers to volleyball and not just during the school year. I also try my best to watch a lot of video these past few years on people who are better than me at my position.”

Kranics is relatively young compared to Sorensen, as this is only her second year in maroon. Her volleyball experience is also quite short — she only began playing club volleyball in Grade 11, with her primary focus being soccer before then. It was a hard decision for her to switch sports at such a late age, but she has no regrets about her decision.

“I think I fit better in the volleyball world just with my body type and what I like to do,” Kranics said. “I did not like running in soccer [laughing]. It was a big decision to drop something I had been doing for such a long time and risk getting into this sport — but I’m happy about it.”

“It definitely suits her,” Sorensen added.

Despite Kranics’ inexperience, she has a love for the game that has allowed her to learn quickly. She did not start any games last year for the team, but instead spent the year learning and watching.

“Last year, I was just a sponge,” Kranics said. “I did not get any playing time, so it was just about watching Maicee and Alicia Jack as middles that were three years older than me. I took everything they were doing and tried to work through it and apply it to my own game.”

Sorensen has been impressed with how fast Kranics has progressed so far.

“It’s honestly crazy,” Sorensen said. “She has improved immensely. All first years are very fresh to the game, but Hailey did start volleyball later. Coming to university, it’s scary at first, but she has done a really good job. She has worked really hard just to behave like a sponge and just take everything in that she can. That’s the best part of her as an athlete.”

“All athletes have to be able to do that,” Sorensen added. “There are people out there that are better than you, and if you don’t watch, you’re not going to get better.”

In return, Kranics is appreciative of Sorensen’s role as a veteran on the team.

“She’s very dedicated, determined and supportive — very supportive of everyone,” Kranics said. “Everyone on the team is a good friend of Maicee’s.”

As the two main middle blockers, Kranics and Sorensen work together during games. Even though they are not on the bench at the same time because of the rotation scheme, they exchange strategy during timeouts and breaks in play.

In Kranics’ opinion, part of what makes the two blockers successful is that their styles of play complement each other.

“I can play a high game and she can play a fast game,” Kranics explained. “When I go on, the other team sees a totally different game from the middle, and when she goes on, it’s different as well, so I think we complement each other in that sense. It throws the other team off. We work together by working very differently.”

Regarding Kranics’ ability to play a “high” game, she is still trying to work out how to best use her tall frame to her advantage. Specifically, she says she is trying to become a more efficient blocker by controlling the height of her block in relation to the opposing hitter.

Sorensen is always trying to improve as well. Right now, she is focused on reading the other team’s setter and figuring out when to deploy different types of blocks.

The complimentary style of Sorensen and Kranics has helped McMaster enjoy another strong season. The team currently sits third overall in blocks per set, one indicator of the two players’ contributions, though Sorensen insists that blocks alone do not tell the whole story.

“If there happens to be a block, that’s great, but our main goal as a blocker is to take up space and to funnel the hitter into hitting somewhere they don’t want to hit,” Sorensen said. “If they are hitting right at one of our defenders because they cannot hit anywhere else, that’s what the blockers consider a good job. That’s one of the things we are getting better at this year.”

It is not just the middle blockers that are having a good year. The whole team has thrived, looking poised to repeat as Ontario University Athletics champions. To make that happen, Sorensen and Kranics will have to continue to work together to anchor the middle of the court.

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Crossing the mid-point of the 2017-2018 season, the McMaster women’s volleyball team find themselves sitting alone atop the Ontario University Athletics West division. With six other teams in the West vying for the number one spot, the Marauders continue to execute their game plan in each contest, dominating their opponents.

After a close loss to start the season, the Mac women have rattled off 10 consecutive wins, leaving the Ryerson Rams as the only team with a better record in the entire province. The Rams are also in the unique position of being the only team in the province to hand the Marauders a loss this campaign.

While a revisit to this nail-biter matchup may want to be discussed as playoff season approaches, a deep dive into the 3-2 Marauder loss back in late October will remain in the film room. The Marauders still have eight games remaining in their impressive season, and like any experienced team, are taking it one game at a time.

“It’s going really great,” said fifth-year Aleks Arsovic on the season. “We had a really strong preseason and a nice trip to Poland where we got to play some pro teams. [We] started the season off with a loss which was interesting. The team is working really hard day in and day out, and we are hoping to repeat as OUA champions again this year. I think we have the right group to do it. Some really exciting things happening.”

The Mac women have resumed their strong season with an extra spark: the return of their starting outside hitter Aleks Arsovic. Following a long rehabilitation process of an ankle sprain suffered during the team’s preseason trip to Poland, Arsovic jumped back into her starting role with authority.

In her first weekend back in the starting rotation, Arsovic racked up 20 kills and a combined 27 points. By far the most impressive offensive weapon on either side of the court, Arsovic earned herself Pita Pit Athlete of the Week honours.

While this was her first weekend back starting, Arsovic got some playing time during the season’s first half, but nothing significant. Luckily, she was able to lean on her past experience with the team to immediately make an impact once she was back to 100 per cent.

“In the position I play as outside hitter we get a lot of out of system balls,” said Arsovic. “I have worked really hard over the years in expanding my shot selection and we have a really great setter and great passer, so it is really easy to put the ball away when the rest of your team is doing their job.”

Given her tenure with the team, it is no surprise the outside hitter was able to step into such an offensively dominant role so quickly. Arsovic also sees a bigger role for herself on the team beyond just being a point machine.

“We have really great captains on our team that lead the way for the most part,” said Arsovic. “I just like to be out there, be loud and supportive of my teammates when I can. Personally I like to be that rock on the team that can put the ball away whenever or in any scramble situation. I just try to do my part and support others when they are doing theirs.”

While Arsovic was able to support her teammates from the sidelines, her presence on the court was certainly missed. Yet while many teams tend to struggle when they lose an offensive asset like Arsovic, the Marauders’ depth was able to save them from any sort of slump.

“It was nice to get some of our younger players on the court and get some experience for other left sides,” Arsovic said. “I think we have such a deep roster that anybody can go in at anytime and we normally come out with a pretty good result. While it was frustrating being on the sidelines going into my last year, it was nice to just see the team come together and still pull out some big wins.”

Arsovic’s starting weekend happened to coincide with the annual #OneTeamForMentalHealth McMaster varsity event in support of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative. With fans sharing their thoughts on mental health and sporting temporary tattoos and thunder sticks to bring the noise in support of this event, the importance of mental health awareness was not lost on the athletes.

“Personally, as a varsity athlete, I think everybody has their tough times,” said Arsovic. “Bell Let’s Talk is such a great initiative to get the conversation started and let people know they are not alone. Being a student is hard enough but being a student-athlete is just a whole other level and it’s always great to have your teammates, your staff, your support system there when you’re struggling. I think Bell Let’s Talk is such a great cause and really brings awareness to the matter.”

As the Mac women turn towards the rest of the season, the Marauders will play host to the U Sports volleyball championships this March. However, only one team will be able to represent Ontario at the national championships this year.

Now there is an extra pressure for OUA teams to not only make the championship game but bring home the provincial trophy as well. It is safe to say the Marauders have their sights set on repeating as champions again this year, but they know there are other teams in their way.

“We do play Western at home in a month or so and that is normally a big game for us,” said Arsovic. “But like I said, every game is just one by one and focusing on each week. I think our team is doing a really great job of staying on task and holding ourselves accountable. Hopefully that leads to a good result.”

With a deep rotation of talented players like Arsovic, the Marauders have a clear set path to success. A pathway that could very well lead to a repeat provincial title and a fruitful national campaign

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