Western blocks McMaster at the net

Mustangs Mount Marauders in High Tension Matchup

Western Mustangs Men's Volleyball

Emily Renneberg

In the last game of the beginning half of the 2018-2019 season, the Western Men’s volleyball team hosted the McMaster Marauders last Saturday, with a OUA West contest that saw palpable tension, tight sets, and big action. With the Mustangs coming off of a loss against the Windsor Lancers in the weekend previous and the Marauders looking to extend their four game winning streak, both teams recognized this half season closing game as an opportunity to grab one last win to carry their team into the new year, just before the winter break settles in.

The Mustangs began the first play of set one with a massive block that disappointedly failed to follow through, opening up the scoring to the guest team, but after a chain of kills and serve errors, the Western team posted a 7-4 lead early on. After McMaster called the first time out of the match-up early in, they came back to the court in a flurry, with a powerful kill bringing their team back and allowing them to follow it up with four consecutive points. Struggling in the second half of the first set, the purple side appeared to be contending instead with the court lines, giving up easy points to McMaster after several attempts found themselves on the wrong side of the boundaries. By battling back from 13-13 and slowly posting points, Western took the opening set 25-21.

The tension between the two teams, who have yet to see each other this season, began to show during the second set, where a number of attack errors from the Western court allowed McMaster to keep the score within one or two points for the majority of the set. Both teams took turns controlling the game, bouncing the set leader back and forth, and bringing the score up to a close 25-24 for Western, with McMaster’s Nathan Delguidice leading his pack with a handful of pivotal kills. As both teams continued to unsuccessfully take the two point lead required to end the set, the score crept up to a 29-28 lead for the Marauders, who eventually won the set 30-28 off of an offensive misplay by Western.

As the game thundered on, Western took the first point in set three, with some more back and forth action to follow for the duration of the third. As with the last two sets, the Mustangs snagged the first few points but allowed the Marauders to claw their way back to a tied score just before hitting the halfway mark. The servers on both ends of the court received increasingly loud heckling from the opposing bench and fans in the stands, especially during the later end of the set where both the action and the score were again tight. Big defensive play from the purple and white side kept the home team in the game, until a cleverly placed burgundy jersey kill evened the score to 18-18. Juggling points between teams, Western took a timeout to settle the players down at 23-22 - in favour of the Marauders. Unable to use the regroup to their advantage, the Mustangs dropped the set 25-23 on a service error from rookie Gianfranco Sartor.

The fourth set was much of the same, as tensions continued to grow between the two teams. Both sides had short discussions with the referee after he was forced to whistle the players away from heated conversation with each other through the net. Western quickly took the score up to 5-1 and were able to manage the spread until about the halfway mark of the set. Sitting at 13-13, a number of attack errors from Delguidice gave the purple and white the lead once again, in a set that they needed to take in order to maintain the chance to win the match. Following a few more errors from the away team, Western stayed alive and grabbed a 25-20 victory in the largest set spread in the game.

Acknowledging that winning was not going to be a simple task for either side, both the Western and the McMaster teams brought the heat in the tie-breaking final set. McMaster was able to seize the early lead until the Mustangs stormed their way back, taking the score from 8-8 to 12-8 in a matter of four plays. As the Western team brought the set to 14-10 - one point away from winning the match - they were unable to capitalize on opportunity, as McMaster saw new life to push to 14-12 after a few nail-biting plays that went their way. The Mustangs managed to beat the heat and earn their last point off an attack error from the opposition, as the rest of their bench ran out to embrace the players on the court in a final 3-2 victory for the home squad.

Taking a fresh win into 2019, the Western Men’s volleyball team will be back in action on January 12th to take on the Brock Badgers in an away game to start the second half of the season.