On Jan. 20, the McMaster men’s volleyball team narrowly avoided a division-shaking upset at the hands of the bottom-of-the-division Brock University Badgers. After managing to survive the close five-set match, the Marauders found themselves ranked fifth in the country, holding onto their spot atop Ontario University Athletics West division.
A large reason why the Marauders were able to survive the Badgers was thanks to right side Matt Passalent, who recently returned from a torn labrum that had kept him out since preseason. Passalent’s six aces, 18 kills and team-high 25 points helped the Mac men stay undefeated in the new year.
“It's so good to be back with the guys,” Passalent said. “When you're not doing something for a really long time it makes you really miss it and you can almost take it for granted when you have really tough weeks. It really made me hungry to get back.”
Passalent first returned to action just in time to help the Marauders in two key wins over top-10 teams. The 2018 OUA all-star combined for an impressive 25 kills and 31 points in his debut over the Jan. 12-13 weekend in Burridge Gym. There was a reason why Passalent was named an all-star last year, and his presence was missed in the Marauders’ rotation.
“Just working hard for three years, every day practicing, going to lift,” said Passalent on his all-star campaign. “It's definitely a grind and it's not an easy thing to do at all. I would also say just having my teammates there, it makes it a lot easier to go to a late practice or workout when you have your best friends with you.”
“I'd say we just have a really good bond and culture on our team and the guys always get along and we're all brothers,” Passalent added. “I would say that's a big reason of just why it's so fun to play for this program.”
Passalent has deep ties to McMaster’s volleyball program, going back to his childhood. He was introduced to volleyball through his family, who all played the sport, and he began to play in a Hamilton house league around eight years old.
Being in the Hamilton community, it was a natural progression to get involved with McMaster volleyball as Passalent began to make a name for himself, catching the eye of Mac head coach Dave Preston at a young age.
“Mac's always had a really good program for the last like 12 years,” said Passalent. “I started going to their summer camps… for like six or seven summers straight, and then I'd kind of developed a bond with Dave. Then I didn't really have any doubt that I was going to go to Mac. I mean, it's in my hometown, both my parents went here, so it was definitely the right choice for me.”
Now in his fourth year with the team, Passalent noted how much his role has changed since first donning the maroon and grey.
“Being a fourth-year, I'm kind of more of a leader now,” Passalent said. “I'm a guy I think the younger guys look up to and I like to take some of them under my wing. And obviously, now that I'm a fourth-year, I'm becoming more depended on game-wise, like more load, more volume. So that's definitely changed over the four years of what my role is on the team.”
— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) January 22, 2019
Rounding the corner into the final sprint of the regular season, the Marauders have their sights set on returning to the U Sports Championships once again, which will be held at Laval University this season. After hosting the tournament last year and finishing with a bronze medal, the Marauders know it won’t be an easy task to repeat as OUA Champions.
But before the team can even think about making a trip to Quebec City in March, they still have six regular season games to play. The remaining games begin with two tough weekends ahead, with a trip to a hostile Waterloo University coming on Feb. 2. The following weekend, the Marauders will be hosting back-to-back games against Nipissing University and York University, where Passalent will surely play an integral role in the team continuing their winning streak.