After a very successful season, the Marauders finish their campaign off with a bronze medal win at the U Sport national championship on their home court
After a long season full of successes and long undefeated streaks, the Marauders have ended their mesmerizing season with a bronze in the U Sports national championship in Hamilton. The journey was a long one, having played a total of 34 games this season. There have been many ups and downs, with the main highlight being the astonishing 18 game winning streak in the Ontario University Athletics regular season.
In their final game of the season, the bronze medal game, the Marauders came out on top of the University of Alberta Golden Bears in a three set sweep, which brought their first national medal in years. The podium finish would have been impressive on it’s own, but the fact that it game against the first seeded team nationally made it that much sweeter.
“For me, coming into this program and seeing it already getting done before I came here, and seeing that the legacy has been continued, it’s something that I really wanted to be a part of. It’s been a goal for us, attaining a medal in the end knowing that we had home support,” said Sam Cooper, a fourth-year veteran player on the team and 2023 championship tournament all-star.
The game was a huge one for the Marauders; not only was this game the last one of the season, and for a medal in front of a hometown McMaster crowd, but it was also Dave Preston's last game as the head coach, after an astonishing 20 season career that featured all 12 of McMaster’s provincial titles.
“Leaving with hardware is a really good feeling. Although there were expectations of the colours being a bit different, we will still take it. . .Hats off to Alberta, they’re one of the best volleyball teams in Canada and to win against them for third place is a huge achievement. To have the medal is also a great honor for me that I’ll carry for the rest of my life,” explained Preston.
The preluding semifinal ended up in a disappointing three to one loss to the Trinity Western University Spartans, which is the game that sent McMaster to the bronze medal round. Breakout star Brendan Mills did not have the best game in the semifinal, having been subbed off for the injured Maxime Gratton after two sets, and started the game against Alberta with a couple of mistakes yet again. Fortunately, Mills quickly turned around by the end of the game, becoming an x-factor in having secured their third-place finish.
“My year started with a rough patch, so this set of games was not something that I was not used to. My whole year was full of ups and downs, and I feel that near the end of the season I managed to put the pieces together. In particular, in the OUA playoffs and nationals my performances got better. Yesterday (against TWU) was not my best game. The start today was not my best either, but I managed to get it together during the game, which I feel is better than getting myself together over a longer period, so I’m happy with that,” said Mills.
The Marauders have once again had an unforgettable season. There were many highlights to behold, such as the 18-game winning streak, or the OUA semifinals and finals sweeps against York and Windsor for their eleventh title in 15 years.
Although there may be regrets over falling short of the long-awaited gold medal in the nationals, the team can be absolutely delighted with the show of character and mesmerizing display over the season.
Marauders men’s volleyball sweeps their way through the first round as they head into a semi-final matchup against a historically difficult opponent
Mateusz Wlodarski with the recovery, Robbie Fujisawa with the set and Thomas Williams seals the deal with a spike to secure the third and final set. It’s not just déjà vu. The closer has struck again.
After a disappointing finish to their 2021-2022 national championship run, the Marauders made sure that they would not be upset again by way of a dominant victory and sweep against the Saskatchewan Huskies. The second seeded Marauders did away with the seventh seeded Huskies with final set scores of 25-19, 25-20, and 25-20.
The Huskies immediately move into the consolation bracket, where the best result they can achieve is a fifth place finish. The Marauders will continue on into the semi-final round, where they will face off against the western powerhouse Trinity Western University Spartans. The Spartans have proven a challenge for head coach Dave Preston and co. historically speaking, having taken four of the last six matchups.
“They’re one of the premier programs in the country. . . You’re into the top of the top, there’s no ducking. This is what [fans] pay for, this is why we’re here, this is what we want to do. Are we concerned? No. Are we excited? Yeah, very,” said Preston.
The major points of optimism from this game come in the form of superstar Sam Cooper, and breakout star Brendan Mills. After a concerning provincial championship game, Cooper is finally looking like himself again, finishing as the game leader in both kills, and aces. Meanwhile, Mills would continue showcasing his balanced style of play, taking home player of the game honors.
In a strong team showing overall, the game would finish in a familiar style with the closer, Thomas Williams, locking up the victory, just as he did to secure the Marauders the provincial championship one week ago. The team will look to continue their high level of play on Mar. 18 at 6:00 PM on their quest to the finals.
Marauders men’s volleyball continues to deal with wavering health as they head into the first round of the OUA playoffs
With the playoffs set to begin, the Marauders playoff rotation remains unclear. Maxime Gratton will be sidelined for the first-round matchup due to a lower body injury, while Sam Cooper will be a game time decision as a result of a foot fracture that kept him sidelined through the second half of the season.
Cooper, a 2021-2022 OUA first team all-star, as well as a 2021-2022 U Sport second team all-Canadian, is an integral part of the team, and the lack of his presence has been felt heavily of late. Losing another star player in Gratton has just made things that much harder for the team.
“[Cooper's] on his return to train, but we won’t put him in a position where he’s not ready. If he is ready then we kind of have to ease him into game mode because he hasn’t played since early January. Even if he was ready [physically] I’m not sure if he would be ready to play. . . He’s chomping at the bit to get at the floor, but we have to do what’s best for their health and wellbeing,” said Dave Preston, the head coach.
Between injuries to Cooper and Gratton, as well as load management for regulars Mateusz Wlodarski and Tyler Pavelic due to the growing urgency for health bodies, the Marauders have struggled of late.
McMaster dropped their final two games of the regular season, snapping their perfect record on the year while also suffering their first regular season loss since 2020, and their first back-to-back loss since the 2016 season.
Despite having lost Cooper in January, the Marauders maintained their position atop the standings, finishing in the first seed. Their first-round playoff matchup is none other than the Toronto Metropolitan University Bold – the team who ended the Marauders hopes of perfection in the second last game of the season.
“A 20-0 regular season was never something we talked about, it was never one of our goals. Our first goal was to secure as much home court advantage through the playoffs as we could, and we did that. . . There’s two ways you look at it; sometimes you win, sometimes you learn,” explained Preston.
The upcoming game is an opportunity for revenge against the bold, and there is a sense of growing anticipation amongst the team. They are confident, and ready for their shot at redemption.
“Yes, there is a lot of excitement to play them again. . . They played great when we played them down there, they earned every point of that victory, but it’s a new match Saturday,” said Preston
Heading into the playoffs, the team has spent their reading week preparing. As for what has changed in the past week, the answer is nothing. There is a reason the team has had so much success in recent years, and why they were able to put together such a strong season again this year. Now they’re ready to trust the process when it comes to playoff prep.
“Absolutely nothing [changed], the guys know what it takes. We’ve done it day in and day out for the last seven months. This isn’t something to change anything, this is the time to trust your training. . . It was really good to see two days prior to how locked in they were. The communication was impressive, the focus was impressive. These guys know what they’re doing. This isn’t a time for change, this is a time for trust,” said Preston.
The highly anticipated game will take place on Feb. 25 at 8:00 PM in Burridge Gym, as a result of the team having secured home court advantage throughout. It will immediately follow the women’s playoff game at 6:00 PM.
Following their Feb. 17 loss to TMU, the Marauders suffer their second loss of the weekend at the hands of the Toronto Varsity Blues
A poor finish to the regular season isn’t what many expected to see for the Marauders men’s volleyball team after starting their season with 18 consecutive wins, yet, it happened. It marks the first time since February 2016 that the team has lost back-to-back regular season games. Ironically, the Toronto Varsity Blues were also a part of that losing streak.
Though the Varsity Blues are a stronger opponent then the Toronto Metropolitan Bold, sitting fourth in the standings coming in, the 2021-2022 provincial championship rematch was still largely a game McMaster was expected to take. At least this time out, unlike against the Bold, the Marauders provided some resistance. They took one set by a score of 25 to 23, while losing another by a slim 27 to 25. The remaining two sets were lost by a score of 25 to 20.
The team remained short handed with Sam Cooper remaining out, and Tyler Pavelic having not played per his absence on the box score. However, Mateusz Wlodarski made his return to the court, and Maxime Gratton, whose availability remained in question, also played, making this loss more concerning than the last.
The two losses come as the final two games of the regular season. The Marauders currently hold the second longest losing streak, just to the 20 loss Royal Military College Paladins. On a positive note, the team still finishes as the sole victor of all 10 home games, while also holding the best record on the road.
The Marauders won’t play again until the Ontario University Athletics playoffs, where the quarterfinals begin on Feb. 25. McMaster will hold home court advantage throughout as the number one seed after finishing three wins above the second place Windsor Lancers.
After starting the season on an 18-game win streak, the team has officially lost their perfect record in the second last game of the year
Defeat – something the men’s volleyball team is not used to. The powerhouse Marauders took a shocking loss, their first of the season, on Feb. 17. The Toronto Metropolitan University Bold pulled off arguably the biggest upset of the season. They came into the matchup with a losing record of nine wins and 10 losses while sitting in the bottom half of the standings.
The Marauders struggled to keep up all game, having lost in three straight sets, but was it truly an upset? The team didn’t look like themselves, and this was likely because this wasn’t the team most were used to seeing.
“Still should have got it done, but it’s probably the most injured and sick game we’ve been in,” said Mateusz Wlodarski, a member of the team.
Sam Cooper, a 2021-2022 first team all-star, and Wlodarski, a 2021-2022 second team all-star, didn’t see any time on the court. Cooper has been out since January with a foot fracture, while Wlodarski was out due to load management.
Maxime Gratton, the 2021-2022 Ontario University Athletics rookie of the year award recipient, didn’t enter the game until the second set. Gratton was sidelined from practices due to illness through the week, and his availability was uncertain heading in.
Despite the loss ending the possibility of a second consecutive season of perfection, there is still much to look forward to. The OUA playoffs begin on Feb. 25, where the Marauders will hold home court advantage throughout as the number one seed. The national U Sports championship, also hosted by McMaster, providing the Marauders with automatic entry, will begin on Mar. 17.
The team has moved to a perfect record of 17 wins as they look to close out the final three games of their season on the road
The countdown is on; after a perfect 12-win record in 2021-2022, the men’s volleyball team continue their efforts to repeat their perfect results this year. Before finishing the season, they will face off against the York University Lions on Feb. 11, the Toronto Metropolitan University Bold on Feb. 17, and the Toronto University Varsity Blues on Feb. 19. The Varsity Blues present the biggest challenge as a provincial championship rematch from last season, despite the Marauders having already taken them down earlier this year.
The last few games played really show what the team is capable of as they increased their record to 17 consecutive wins. In January they faced off against the Waterloo University Warriors and the Lions, who rank second and third in the Ontario University Athletics standings respectively. They swept the Warriors three wins to none and disposed of the Lions three wins to one.
Another extremely impressive showing came against the Royal Military College Paladins. The Paladins rank last in the standings, having yet to win a game this season. However, it was the final line score that really impressed. McMaster University would win their sets by final scores of 25 to 16, 25 to eight and 25 to six, executing a blowout through and through in their final home games of the year.
Despite the season long success, the possibility of the perfect record is still in question following star Sam Cooper suffering a foot fracture, which will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the regular season. Last season Cooper was named an OUA all-star, made the U Sports second team all-Canadian, and was named to the Canadian senior national team. He is a major loss, but is eying a playoff return.
Thus far the team hasn’t shown any signs of weakness without him in their recent matches, showing the strength of the team depth. Their ambitions remain high as stars like Mateusz Wlodarski and Maxime Gratton continue to shoulder the load, and breakouts like Brendan Mills have stepped up when needed.
“Our guys are really working hard, they know what’s at stake. . . They’ve got a great opportunity in front of them, and thus far they’re really doing a great job of taking advantage of that,” said Dave Preston, the team’s head coach.
Preston had an especially emotional couple of games in their final home stretch, as he will be retiring following the end of this season. In Preston’s time at McMaster, the Marauders would see 10 provincial championship victories, the first having come in the 2007-2008 season. Prior to the game against the Paladins on Feb. 3, McMaster held a pre-game ceremony to honor the reigning OUA coach of the year.
“It tugged at my heart strings pretty good. . . [my family is] woven into that fabric of the team, so it was pretty cool. I didn’t realize until midway through the tribute that it was my daughters that were doing the voice over work. It’s been 21 years here, my family has grown up here, we’ve bled maroon for a long time, so it meant a lot to us,” explained Preston.
Preston has long had the respect of his athletes and as much as he tried to keep his cool through his final home games ever to let the players focus on the game, the team knew what the game meant and what they were playing for.
“When I saw Dave’s family come down to greet him after [the ceremony] it honestly made me throw a tear, really fired me up. . . It feels really good to have such a convincing win and doing what we said we were going to do at home, especially for a moment like that,” said Wlodarski.
Despite the special circumstances between the ceremony for Preston, as well as seniors night on day two of the back-to-back to honor the graduates of the team — Wlodarski, Wojciech Kraj and Jason Wildeboer — the Marauders still kept their professional tone of taking the game in stride and looking at the bigger picture rather than celebrating the smaller victories along the way, taking on the “mamba mentality” perspective.
“We don’t really think of the set score as a gauge of how we’re doing, it’s more so a reflection of the preparation and the work we’re putting in. . . Team goals are to secure as much home court as possible for the playoffs,” said Wlodarski.
With the U Sports national championship taking place at McMaster this March, there is an opportunity for a picture-perfect ending for Preston’s time at the school. Between the newfound motivation for the team, the possibility of a perfect regular season record, the home court advantage all the way through nationals and the potential return of Sam Cooper just in time for the playoffs, the Marauders have all the momentum they can possibly ask for.
When it comes to questioning the goals and ambitions for the Marauders this season, nobody puts it as well as the head coach.
“I think that answer is pretty clear,” said Preston.
A fiery start for the McMaster men's volleyball team yields their fourth consecutive win
The McMaster University men’s volleyball team continues to impress. The reigning provincial champions and U Sports national contenders finished strong against the Waterloo Warriors for a perfect record of four wins and zero losses on Nov. 12.
The early season success comes with little surprise considering McMaster’s perfect regular season record the year prior and an experienced core unit with returning players such as outside hitter, Sam Cooper, and middle, Tyler Pavelic. Both players came up big in McMaster’s most recent four-set victory over the Warriors.
The Marauders swiftly won the first set by a score of 25-20. However, the team lost their initial momentum early into the second set. Despite fighting back from a McMaster time-out, the red and grey team lost the set 23-25.
“I think we started off strong, we were doing everything we said we were going to do. Second set, they came out firing and I think we let off a little bit. Right there, it was clear we had to switch it up,” said Pavelic.
With McMaster landing fewer defensive blocks than usual and a crafty Warriors offence, the team sought to make some changes. The Marauders were able to adapt with a few in-game adjustments and finished with a strong second half.
“After that set, I think we just picked [the energy] up, we just communicated more about what we needed to do before the whistle even blew. At that point, we were able to build some more momentum into that set,” explained Cooper.
McMaster won the third set by a large margin of 25-16 and ran with the momentum to a final set score of 25-18 for an emphatic finish. Cooper led the team’s offensive effort with 13 total kills or unreturned attacks. Pavelic finished with four defensive blocks and six offensive kills. Returning players, Maxime Gratton and Mateusz Wlodarski, also came up big on the offensive end.
Despite the perfect record thus far, the McMaster team remains level-headed. The team still has a long season ahead of them with 18 scheduled games, including two exhibition games against Long Beach State University.
“We’re trying to stay realistic. We’re obviously happy about our wins and that’s what we’re looking to do – win as much, secure as much home court advantage as possible – but also trying to keep the balance of not getting too cocky so we’re ready for any opponent. We prepare the exact same for every opponent that we take on,” said Cooper.
McMaster continues to level up their defensive and offensive strategies with a focus on high-ball attacking, service pressure, service reception, small-ball defence and block defence. With most of their games taking place over the weekend, the team can regroup and identify areas of improvement during the week.
“It’s definitely a good feeling to go undefeated so far. I think we just got to keep learning from our mistakes, what’s not going well and kind of fix it throughout the week and be able to execute it on the weekends so we can come out and continue on that pace run,” explained Pavelic.
There’s lots more in store for this McMaster team and its fans. Looking ahead, McMaster is on the road for two away games against Toronto Metropolitan University on Nov. 18 and Brock University on Nov. 20. The fan-favourite team will return on Nov. 25 for a six-game home stand.
To keep up with the team, visit their website or Instagram. Students of McMaster University can attend games free of charge in Burridge Gym, only needing their student cards for entry.
C/O Colin Wouda, McMaster Sports
The men’s volleyball team make OUA history once more, capping off the perfect final season for star veteran, Jordan Pereira
The McMaster Marauders men’s volleyball team is finally back on top of Ontario. In a back and forth battle starting in the 2005-2006 season, either the Queens Gaels or the Marauders have won the provincial title every year. McMaster currently holds nine titles while Queens holds the other six. In the previous two seasons the Gaels brought home the OUA title, but after an incredibly strong showing this past year, the Marauders have taken the trophy back to Hamilton.
With stars Sam Cooper and Jordan Pereira, the team was able to cap off their regular season with a perfect 12-0 record. Heading into the OUA playoffs the Marauders had some trouble with the Windsor Lancers, but managed to pull away before beating the Brock Badgers in the west division final and the Toronto Varsity Blues in the Forsyth Cup final.
“The whole playoff run was a good battle . . . Getting to play the finals at home in my last year and winning the game and having everyone celebrating really was a surreal feeling. After losing the last two, getting to win this one, I was crying after the game. I was overwhelmed with emotion,” said Pereira
On top of their legendary title run, several members of the team ended the year with individual recognitions. Dave Preston took the coach of the year award. Robbie Fujisawa and Maxime Gratton made the all-rookie team while Gratton also won the rookie of the year award. Wojtek Kraj and Mateusz Wlodarski were named to the second all-star team, while Sam Cooper and Jordan Pereira found themselves on the first all-star team.
The star-studded team continued their journey past the OUA playoffs and into the national tournament less than a week later. The team had their sights set on gold, but ended up losing their first matchup against the Calgary Dino’s, meaning that their first loss of the year would immediately send them into the consolation bracket.
“The quarter finals [of nationals] was a tough battle. Calgary is a really good team and we fell a little short. We fought really hard. Obviously it was a tough pill to swallow, losing in the quarter finals. We had our hopes on winning a national title,” explained Pereira.
The Marauders would follow the loss with two more wins against the Queen’s Gaels and the Manitoba Bisons, yielding a bittersweet fifth place finish in the tournament.
There were many emotional moments in the nationals run, but the player who was arguably most flooded with emotion was Pereira, who was playing the final game of his university career.
“In the Manitoba game right after the second set I was just sitting there on the bench like ‘woah, this is my last time wearing this uniform’ . . . I remember in Winnipeg after the last match I had my jersey on. Everyone was taking theirs off and changing, but I kept mine on. I didn’t want to take it off,” said Pereira.
Pereira spoke extremely highly of his time with the team, both this year and in the past. In his rookie year he became a champion with the team winning the OUA title. Now, he leaves a champion as well, cementing his legacy in maroon.
“Getting to win that in my final year was a great honour . . . I’m glad I chose this school. I made so many good friends, good relationships [and] met my girlfriend. It was really a great journey. We’ve had a lot of success, we’ve won some championships, we’ve lost some championships, but at the end of the day I’ve grown a lot as a person, as a player and as a student at the school. I’ll forever be grateful for picking this school,” explained Pereira.
Despite losing a star, the team is still set for years to come. It’s a very young team and the roster won’t experience much turnover heading into their next season. Pereira felt confident that the team will continue to find long term success and will have several more opportunities to reach their goal of a national title.
“This might be one of the most athletic teams we’ve had. The ceiling was really high . . . At the end of the day, we all play McMaster volleyball. Dave [Preston] runs a good show. I think they can expect the same as always with Dave as the coach because he’s built such a great culture. It’s the kind of thing that just keeps feeding into itself. Excellence breeds excellence. This team has a bright future. I see ourselves winning a championship one day,” said Pereira
Over the course of the season, the volleyball team had to be one of the most entertaining to watch for students, packing the house in the provincial championship matchup. With much of their core still intact for next season, they will continue to be a team for students and fans to keep their eye on for years to come.
C/O Barry Gray, Hamilton Spectator
Men’s volleyball team wins their 12th straight and is heading to the playoffs with their hearts set on the gold
It’s official: Mar. 5 2021 has become a day to remember for the men’s volleyball team at McMaster. It became the day that they would finish their season with a perfect record after winning all 12 games this past season.
Historically speaking, men’s volleyball has long been a strong player in McMaster sports, having amassed a combined record of 203-25 over the last decade. In that span on the national floor they accumulated two silver medals and four bronze medals. This accompanies the six consecutive provincial titles they won from 2012-2017.
Despite incredibly strong performances season after season, this might be their best shot yet at McMaster’s first national title since U Sports volleyball began awarding medals in 1967. Undefeated seasons are no easy feat.
Going into the final regular season game, there was a lot of stress for players and fans. They were taking on the Windsor Lancers, a team that they had swept earlier in the season. Early in the game the Marauders struggled, losing the first set and just scraping together a win in the second. Tensions were high, but they were ultimately able to separate themselves in the second half.
“We were pretty confident that if we put our best product out there on the floor that we’d take the win. We had a bit of a slow start . . . We felt that maybe we were a little too confident going into that matchup. They got the better of us, but we responded well and put that product out there by the end of the match,” said Sam Cooper, McMaster’s game leader in Kills-Aces-Blocks.
The final two sets came much easier for the Marauders, who won by scores of 25-20 and 25-14, cementing their legacy with a perfect record.
“It was a cool moment to see what we had accomplished . . . In our last game losing that one set was probably a good thing for us,” explained Cooper.
Cooper largely credited the success seen by the team this season to a sense of closeness within the young group. Having only a few graduating members on the team, it came as a surprise to many to see such a wonderful performance. However, members of the team itself may have been motivated by being perceived by others as green players.
“I really feel a sense of cohesion on our team with all the guys. The biggest difference [from past McMaster teams] is probably our age. We’re a pretty young team with only one graduating senior on the floor . . . Lots of guys are getting their first shot to play here and that lends a kind of excitement to our game. That’s allowing us to play older than we are and achieve some of those same things that teams older than us have done in the past,” explained Cooper.
In their first playoff game of the season the Marauders will take on none other than the team they closed out their perfect record with — the Windsor Lancers — on Mar. 12 at home. McMaster is the clear favourite in the matchup after having been rated second in the country by U Sports.
“Overall we’re not necessarily happy with the number two position, but we understand that there's lots of things that go into making that number happen . . . Trinity Western is in that number one position. I think we’re in good company there. We have a healthy respect for them. I think the rankings show that we’re pretty close. We’re right at their heels,” said Cooper.
In the playoffs the team is dead set on the gold. They feel confident that they are the best team in Ontario University Athletics and have a serious chance to do damage on the national level, should they make their way through this provincial round of playoffs.
“Our goal is to secure the OUA final — the OUA gold. That’s the number one goal . . . The mentality going into it is that it’s a new season. The teams that we’re going to play, even though we’ve played them in the past, we’re expecting that they’re going to elevate their game and we’re going to need to be prepared for that and be the more prepared team,” explained Cooper.
All eyes will be on the team heading into the playoffs as they make a push for their first provincial title since the 2017-2018 season. This is a team that has what it takes to make a push for nationals so they’ll be a great team to follow over the next few weeks.