Fraser Caldwell

Sports Editor

 

If the Marauders were starved for competitive practice leading into their conference season, they received more than their fair share of it over the course of their opening weekend.

In a pair of home contests against the Windsor Lancers and Western Mustangs on Oct. 21 and 22 respectively, the Marauders played host to consecutive five set matches. The Maroon and Grey would win the first of these in comeback fashion against the Lancers, before dropping the second against the defending OUA champion Mustangs.

Both matches were hard-fought affairs, but also demonstrated the oscillating form that has been the trademark of a young Marauder squad that is still adjusting to radical systemic and roster changes.

But if repetition is the key to accustoming McMaster’s players to the OUA game, then 10 sets of volleyball over the course of the team’s first two nights of competition should help the cause.

Marauder veteran and defensive stalwart Meagan Nederveen believes that the extended matches that her squad played out most recently can only help the Marauders improve.

“To win a five-set match is always exciting, and to lose one means that you’ve played enough to gain something from the experience,” said Nederveen. “I don’t think we would shy away from any match, whether it was three or five sets.

“It’s not something that I would be afraid to do again, and I don’t think any of our other players would be either.”

For her part, the fourth-year libero was the undoubted star of the Marauders’ opening weekend, amassing an astounding total of 65 digs through the team’s 10 sets played.

The defensive haul has vaulted the local product to the top of the OUA’s statistical charts by a wide margin, as she leads the nearest defender in the province by 24 digs.

More important than the sheer number of passes completed is the manner in which Nederveen has achieved that total, producing several sterling plays to extend rallies and thwart seemingly certain kills.

In fact, her on-court exuberance almost resulted in a crippling injury for the libero on Oct. 22. After successfully producing one of her many digs, Nederveen toppled over a nearby line judge and twisted her ankle late in the match against the Mustangs.

Initial fears were that the fourth-year had sustained a high-ankle sprain, but the libero has returned to practice and looks set to be back in the lineup once again when the Marauders travel to Waterloo and Guelph this coming weekend.

Despite her immaculate early form, Nederveen refused to boast and stressed instead that every week presents she and her teammates with an opportunity to improve.

“The feedback I’ve gotten so far has been really positive,” said the libero. “But I think everything is a learning experience and you have an opportunity to grow and take a step forward with every serve and every defensive play.

“I think I’m on my way and I feel like I’m heading in the right direction, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

That personal growth comes in an environment of adjustment for the Marauders as a whole, and Nederveen believes that the squad is progressing well in their effort to acclimatize to the demands of a conference campaign.

“I think that our adjustment is coming along really well,” the fourth-year remarked. “I’m really enjoying playing alongside our first years and I think we have an unbelievable amount of untapped potential. That’s really exciting.”

On the topic of her squad’s inconsistency in the early going, Nederveen acknowledges that the concern had been put forward, but cautions that it remains too early in the Marauders’ young season for such a worry to be urgent.

“It’s still the beginning of the season, so I think a little bit of inconsistency is to be expected,” said the libero. “It’s been discussed, but at this point no one is harping on us just yet. I think that overall we’re moving in the right direction as a team, both in keeping everything in-system and in working towards our own goals.”

Nederveen herself will be a central figure as the team works towards these goals, being one of only two fourth-year players on McMaster’s young roster. However, the libero argues that leadership is nothing new for her, and that the current crop of Marauders is making her role exceedingly easy.

“It’s definitely a new role that I have to take on,” Nederveen said of her leadership position. “But I’ve also been lucky enough to play in a position that I feel has always involved a leadership role on court. To be honest, my teammates, especially the third years, are very responsible.

“It doesn’t feel like I’m out there leading alone at any point. And our first years are very driven and determined. So it hasn’t been a very difficult task.”

Nederveen will take up that responsibility once again when the Maroon and Grey continue their OUA campaign on the road this weekend.

McMaster travels to Waterloo to battle the Warriors on Oct. 28, before visiting the Guelph Gryphons the next night.

Jeff Tam / Silhouette Staff

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