The Marauders lose in five sets to well-matched Long Beach State opponent in North America Challenge exhibition game
The McMaster University men’s volleyball team warms up for the final stretch of their Ontario University Athletics season with two exhibition games against Long Beach State University. McMaster hosted the first game on Jan. 5, which resulted in a tough loss in a nail-biting fifth set.
The visiting Long Beach State University is known for its men’s volleyball program that achieved back-to-back National Collegiate Athletic Association championships in 2018 and 2019. The powerhouse Long Beach team is currently ranked third in America, which made for an exciting match against the second-ranked McMaster team.
The Marauders were unable to match Long Beach State University’s energy in the first set. The Marauders took an early timeout to slow the Long Beach momentum, but the Marauders continued to trail throughout the set. Despite a strong effort from McMaster to close the lead, Long Beach continued their dominant performance to win the first set 23 to 17.
McMaster came into the second set with newfound energy generated in offense by outside hitters, Sam Cooper and Brendan Mills, the latter of which had a true breakout game for McMaster. The two teams went neck and neck throughout the set. Long Beach State used both timeouts late into the set, but McMaster maintained their momentum for a 25 to 23 win.
“I don’t usually start games but my job when I come in is to be a high-flier, kill the ball and bring some energy. So it was really, really exciting to get in [the game] and do that,” said Mills.
The third set closely resembled the first. McMaster was unable to gain early momentum and lost the first couple of determining points. Despite a strong effort on the offensive end from Cooper and Mateusz Wlodarski, McMaster lost the third set by their largest deficit of 25 to 15.
Once again, the Marauders bounced back in the fourth set. McMaster won the set 25 to 19 with several electrifying plays and offensive kills or unreturned attacks. Most notability, several clutch defensive blocks were made by Cooper and setter, Robbie Fujisawa, creating a sense of momentum heading into the next set.
With back-and-forth victories, spectators headed into the unknown as the fifth and final set began. Burridge Gym was buzzing with excitement as the teams tied up 11 to 11. However, McMaster’s defense fell short in the final key moments and the Marauders lost the set 15 to 12.
“There were a couple moments in that fifth set and some moments in earlier sets where we would’ve had opportunities to shift the pendulum and in those moments we didn’t take advantage of that,” explained Mills.
Overall, several Marauders finished with strong performances. Cooper totaled 16 kills and six service aces alone. While Wlodarski and Mills followed with seventeen combined kills.
McMaster tallied 23 total errors, compared to 18 from Long Beach, which was a clear difference maker in the match. With the second game following just two days after the first, the Marauders look to fine-tune their offense and minimize blunders in crucial moments.
“I think we’re going to come out with a newfound confidence because we know we can totally play with these guys. I think everyone is just going to be super, super excited and just dialed in, ready to go,” explained Mills.
Following the two-game set against Long Beach State, the North America Challenge will have completed. McMaster is set to return to their OUA schedule on Jan. 13.
As December and the holidays approach, so does exam season. And for McMaster student-athletes, that means hitting the books and taking a step back from the athlete side of things. But as November comes to a close, there are still a few more games Mac fans can check out.
Both the men’s and women’s teams will take on the York University Lions this Friday at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. The women are ranked No. 5 in the country, and will be looking to improve their 7-2 record before the break. Meanwhile, the men will be looking for a much-needed home win after losing on the road back-to-back in Ottawa this past weekend.
The men and women will be heading to London to face the Western University Mustangs this Friday. The men’s team, who has won six consecutive conference titles, will be looking to improve their 6-1 record against the 5-3 Mustangs. The women’s team currently holds a 4-3 record while the Mustangs sit at 5-3.
Although this will be it for the majority of December as the Marauders buckle down for exams, the men’s volleyball team will take a trip down south to Long Beach, California, to participate in their annual North American Challenge. The men have performed well against their American counterparts, holding a 7-0 record against their usual rivals for the challenge, the Ohio State Buckeyes. This year, they will face off against Long Beach State University, who they beat in back-to-back games last year, and the University of California Santa Barbara. The challenge will begin on December 29 and will continue until New Year’s Eve. Although they will not be close to home for the holidays, the Marauders should have no trouble entering the New Year undefeated once again.
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