Photo C/O Noah Hoffman

The night of April 2 was the 95th Annual McMaster Athletic Awards Ceremony to celebrate Marauder excellence. The ceremony celebrated McMaster athletes and staff contributions on and off the court over the past year.

The highest honour, the McMaster Athletes of the Year, was awarded to Max Turek (Ivor Wynne Award) of the cross country team, and Linnaea Harper (Therese Quigley Award) of the women’s basketball team. Both led their team to Ontario University Athletics titles, and Harper went one step further, helping bring home the U Sports title for her team.

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Graduating seniors Hilary Hanaka, starting guard of the women’s basketball team, and Andrew Richards, men's volleyball’s starting left side, took home the outstanding graduating student-athlete awards, the Dr. Edna Guest and Dr. Ray Johnson Awards, respectively.

Both athletes have displayed outstanding on- and off-court excellence. Richards and Hanaka had already been recognized by U Sports for their community work this season, so it was only fitting that they took home this honour as well.

McMaster's Rookies of the Year award the Mel and Marilyn Hawkrigg Award, was given to lacrosse player Mitch Pellarin and wrestler Ligaya Stinellis. Stinellis captured a silver medal in the 48kg weight class in her first trip to the OUA Championships, and made McMaster history by becoming the first Marauder woman to win the conference’s Rookie of the Year award.

Pellarin ended the season as McMaster’s leading scorer with 19 goals and 11 assists, which was the highest scoring total among rookies in the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association.

Claudia Continenza, of the women’s soccer team, took home the Les Prince Award for her community service work, and women's hockey president and student therapist Laura Gelowitz won the Bruce Cochrane award for her service to the Athletics Department.

The Joyce Wignall Award, given to a team in recognition of their charitable contributions as a group, was given to the McMaster men’s rugby team for their various charitable efforts throughout the year.

Last night #MarauderNation gathered to celebrate a fantastic year full of great accomplishments by our student-athletes, both on and off the field. Here’s a recap of how the night went down! Thanks to all that attended! 🎉
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.#GoMacGo pic.twitter.com/z8JfEMFShd

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) April 3, 2019

The night of celebrating excellence was capped off by awarding 51 team MVPs from McMaster's sport teams at the varsity and club level, student-athletes who have competed for four seasons while maintaining good academic standing and coaches who have reached benchmarks in their years of service.

All in all, whether athletes had their their season cut short, or managed to come out on top as provincial or national champions, the annual Awards Ceremony once again rightfully honoured the hard work put in by all the various members of the Marauders athletic community over the past year.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Andrew Richards

Being on the other side of my five years here at McMaster, I cannot picture my journey any other way. Although there were times when things may not have gone as planned, there was never a moment in time where I felt like I was not in the right spot.

When I was first asked to write this article, I was kind of uncomfortable because I felt like it makes it seem like I have my act together when I really do not. I am just a senior university student who is still figuring things out. But these are the things that I have learned during my time at Mac and maybe they can help others, especially those who are just starting out on their journey.

Focus on small improvements daily

One thing we are often told to do in athletics and academics is to set these goals for ourselves, especially big end goals. I used to be a big believer of that, and I have made my own goals, but I think there's a different way to look at it.

If you change your mind from, ‘I'm focusing on one big goal’ to, ‘what's one thing today I can get better at’, you are able to get more results. Instead of just chasing after one thing, you are also trying to make yourself better. For me, working on improving every day has made me go further. For example, instead of setting a goal of getting a certain grade, set a goal to study harder every day, and eventually you can reach that goal of getting the grade you want.

 

Be your own friend

It sounds a little cheesy, but I think university is very hard especially as a first-year. Everyone experiences those moments where things really are not going well. So I think one thing that's really important, no matter what you're going through, is to be your own advocate and your own friend.

Things are not always going to go so well, so you have to be the first one to let yourself off the hook and forgive yourself. In the past, I have put a lot of pressure on myself and have been my own worst critic. Looking back now, I know that you cannot expect other people to forgive you or let you off the hook if you can't do that for yourself.

Connect with those around you

One thing that we are lucky to have at Mac is the amazing people that are around us. It is a lost opportunity for someone to try and get through four or five years on their own. Everyone you meet at McMaster, you can take something away for them. Whether it be by building a relationship with them, or by being inspired by them.

Even if you don't love stuff about them you can still learn from them, and it would be a disservice to yourself and to others to not take advantage of these connections.

 

There is no rush to get where you are going

This is something that I struggled with earlier on. Before I came into university, all the teams that I played on before I had a large role. But when I first got here, I was a small fish in a big pond. So it was difficult for me, and I'm sure a lot of other athletes, because you want to start feeling like you're contributing right away.

Though when I look back at the past five years, I am super proud of everything I have done with my team. I know now that everything happens in time and if you try to force things to happen when it is not time, it will not always work out the way you want it to. Don't be upset if things are not going your way right away, just know that you have time and if you have a plan, things will work out eventually.

Be authentic to who you are

One really important thing in all this is realizing there's no one way to do all of this. There's a lot of amazing people at Mac, but the coolest thing is that everyone is unique. As athletes, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to fit a mould, or to be a certain way.

Looking back, something I wish I allowed myself to do more was just be my unique self. I think it is exhausting trying to put on a face. After being around so many unique people at Mac, if I could go back and encourage my first-year self anything, it would be to just be myself.

I may not have it all figured out, but one thing I do know is that these five things are principles I am going to carry with me as I move forward in life. Whether I go on to play professional volleyball or into the work world, I know that if I always take these lessons with me, it will help take me to my next goal.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

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.

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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.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

After bringing home the provincial silver medal last year, McMaster’s women’s volleyball team missed the Ontario University Athletics playoffs for the first time since 2003-2004. At the end of last season, a large part of the team’s veteran players decided to move on from the program, leaving an obvious hole that needed to be filled.

Jessie Nairn, a third-year commerce student, suddenly found herself as one of the more veteran players on a young squad in a new starting position. One of the youngest players on the court a season prior, Nairn took some time to wrap her head around her new role.

“It was definitely a big change, but I think I'm starting to really enjoy the role of being a leader on the team, and we're definitely really starting to try understand what our new culture is,” Nairn said. “Being able to shape that as a leader on the team is definitely super cool and something I'm really excited for, even the next year coming.”

While they were not able to ultimately finish where they wanted, the team played well considering their drastic roster changes and the fierce competition in the OUA West. The young Marauders were able to stay right in the playoff race until the very end of the season.

Although they didn’t really consider themselves underdogs, they knew the road to the playoffs wouldn’t be easy. As the team adjusted to having significantly less upper-year players than last year, including several OUA all-stars, the Marauders needed to find what their new identity would be.

“I think this year was a big start to try to decide how we want to be as a team, and really how we want to act and prove ourselves.” Nairn added. “I think we're ready, we know what we have to do next year and we're excited for sure.”

One major highlight of the season for this year’s squad was Nairn’s nomination to the OUA All-Star First Team. Making the most of her opportunity, Nairn posted team-highs in aces (34), kills per set (2.97) and points per set (3.8).

“This summer I realized I'd have to step up and be a big role on the team coming into this year,” Nairn said. “From there, I was never really aiming to be on a First Team or Second Team, but I was more so aiming to do everything I could to get the wins for our team and do the best I could.”

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As one of the tallest people in her Grade 8 class, Nairn was originally convinced to play volleyball because “you can’t teach height”. Her love for the sport snowballed from there and her talent soon followed as volleyball became a large part of her life.

“I was definitely big into volleyball and I knew that volleyball is kind of what I wanted to do, so I knew I needed to go somewhere where I would have the training that I could trust in,” Nairn said. “Tim Louks is just one of the best coaches out there, and definitely in the OUA. So, I was really honored when he asked me to be on the team and that's definitely one of the major parts of why I came to the school.”

Also initially attracted to Mac’s engineering program, Nairn entered into Mac and soon found herself surrounded by all-star talent, inspiring her in her young volleyball career. With many nationally-recognized on both the women’s team and the men’s team with whom they are close, Mac’s volleyball program has a palpable competitive environment of success, which helped push Nairn in her career.

This aided in Nairn’s transition from second-year double-sub to third-year starting right side. While the move was initially shocking, she was ready for it, spending much of last year in the front row blocking, which got her excited to attack the offseason with enthusiasm.

“Starting this year was definitely, but more so mentally, to get into the game and be a big role on the team was hard to get used to,” Nairn said. “But once I did, it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed myself, and I think this year for me was just a really big year, and kind of proved to me what I can do and the places I can go and what I want to do with it.”

Heading into next season with a much more cohesive team, and the incredible administrative and fan support the team receives as praised by Nairn, the Marauders are poised for an exciting season.

“I’m excited. I think our team is going to be very strong next year mentally and physically because I think this offseason is going to be one of the hardest we've ever had just because of the outcome of this year,” Nairn said. “I think it's really going to drive us to be a very good team. I'm excited for the competition because I know none of the schools around us are getting any weaker, they're only getting better.”

While this might have been the first year they have missed the postseason in recent memory, having players like Nairn, Hailey Kranics and Zoe Mackintosh, along with an assortment of rising stars, the future looks bright. There probably won’t be any missed playoffs anytime soon.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

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.”

 

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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.”

 

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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.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

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.

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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.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Coby Zucker

Coming into the Ontario University Athletics playoffs as the fourth-ranked team in Canada puts a target on your back. Add to that a record-breaking six-year stretch where McMaster has taken home the Forsyth Cup for first place in the OUA playoffs, and you now know which team is the one to beat.

And yet, pressure is nothing new for head coach Dave Preston who has been leading the team since 2002.

“The way our program and the way I deal with [pressure] is that I don't think that there's anybody outside of our team room that expects more out of our program than us,” said coach Preston. “So I think when teams start to feel pressure, it's because the external expectations become greater than what the internal expectations can handle. There isn't anybody who expects more out of us than us. So pressure is not an issue.”

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Playing on such a decorated team, it is safe to assume the Marauders have lofty expectations for themselves with none loftier than those of fifth-year hitter Andrew Richards, who will be playing in his fifth and final OUA playoffs this season. Richards welcomes the competition and the opportunity to leave it all on the floor.

“I definitely know teams want to beat us with our history of having the success that we've had in Ontario,” said Richards. “I'm sure it would be a sweet feeling for someone to try and knock us off but that motivates us even more to know that any time we play a team they're going to bring the best they have and they're going to be motivated to take us down. So it's something that we welcome almost. We want other teams to play their best, which in turn will make us play our best.”

One game into their playoff run, the Marauders’ opponents’ bests have not been good enough. The York University Lions certainly looked motivated this past Saturday coming into Burridge Gym taking the first set 25-27, but their momentum was quickly stifled.

The Marauders proceeded to take the next three sets (25-23, 25-15, 25-19) in a mirror of their last meeting with the Lions in the regular season. Next, it is onto Kingston to face the University of Windsor Lancers for the semi-finals on March 8.

♂️🏐 | RECAP

@MACMVB edged a tight second set and powered on from there, beating York in four sets to advance to the @ouasport Final Four for the ninth straight year. #GoMacGo

READ ⬇️https://t.co/20sI8BdneC

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) March 3, 2019

For the first time in seven years, McMaster will not be hosting the OUA Final Four due to formatting changes that no longer guarantee home court for the overall highest-seeded team. Continuing their seven-year streak will potentially require they face off in the finals against the Queen’s University Gaels, the only team against whom the Marauders have a losing record in the regular season, in Queen’s own gym.

“We've kind of adapted to this road warrior mentality where we'll go into anyone's gym and do our thing,” said Richards. “We sort of feel comfort in the sense of being uncomfortable, if that make sense? We want to sleep in hotels, we want to play in different gyms, we want to be in front of other fans. It's just the kind of identity our team's going to take on here in the playoffs.”

 

It remains to be seen how the Marauders will adapt to this wrinkle in their era of dominance. They certainly still have all the tools they need to succeed, including seasoned players, a veteran coach and an all-star-calibre player in Richards who, along with fellow fifth-years Connor Santoni and Jeffrey Driediger, is looking to put his final stamp on a McMaster legacy. The Marauders themselves are not lacking in confidence.

“I love the way our guys are playing right now,” said coach Preston. “I love our style. I think we probably have another level or two left in us to play at. But the way our guys play? The style we play? The passion that we play with? It's everything a coach could ask for.”

Competition remains tough as the Marauders head into their final weekend of the OUA post-season, with the Lancers, the Gaels and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues all looking to displace the reigning champions. It all goes down March 8 and 9 in Kingston.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

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.

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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.”.

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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.

 

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