The Western Mustangs women’s volleyball team defeated their OUA west rivals, the McMaster Marauders, in four sets on Saturday (25-17; 19-25; 25-16; 27-25) in the U Sports consolation semifinal.
The team will advance to the consolation final on Sunday at 10 a.m. where they will battle for fifth in the country.
“I thought it was great, we obviously know McMaster very well, we’ve played them a few times, so there is a bit of a rivalry,” said fourth-year setter Kat Tsiofas, who was named the Mustangs player of the game. “We knew our game plan and I think we executed our game plan really well, I think that’s why we won today.”
The first set saw the Mustangs jump out with an early lead, going up 5-1 on the Marauders. McMaster eventually clawed their way back into the set, making it a three-point game before tying it up at 13. The Mustangs managed to regain the lead, making it 16-13 before the technical time out. The Mustangs stretched out their lead after the time out, going on a four-point run to make it 20-14 before McMaster got their next point. The Mustangs held on and claimed the set 25-17.
Western started out the second set strong again, but McMaster was right on their heels, never letting the Mustangs get a comfortable lead. At the technical time out, McMaster had a 16-11 lead over the Mustangs. A late second set comeback saw the Mustangs pull to within two of McMaster, before they went on a run a points run that allowed them to take the second set 19-25.
The third set once again saw the Mustangs jump out to an early lead, with McMaster chasing them down to make it 10-9 early on. The Mustangs managed to keep their cool, and push their lead to 16-10 at the technical time out. McMaster were eager to comeback, managing to get a few point runs in, but the Mustangs squashed the comeback, and held on for a commanding 25-16 third set victory.
The fourth was a tightly-contested affair, with the teams going point for point throughout the entire set. Neither team had the advantage, as there was never more than a one-point lead throughout the game. Despite this, a fifth set was not needed, and the Mustangs closed out the match in four with a narrow 27-25 victory.
“I’m so proud of our team, not only for the execution but for the ability to, bounce back after a disappointing loss yesterday,” said Mustangs head coach Melissa Bartlett. “To bring that intensity and that desire to win against a really familiar team, I was really impressed with them.”
A huge part of the Mustangs' victory was sticking to their game plan and getting off to a strong start. The Mustangs had the first point in every set, a far cry from their past few matches that have seen them go down by several points early in each set.
“We talked today about how, when you're battling the top 10 teams, it's very tough to start at a deficit and expect to win those sets,” said Bartlett. “We tried to play a little mini-game to five at the beginning of each set. I don't know if we won all of them, but we came pretty close."
The game was a rematch of last weekend's OUA gold, which saw the two western conference teams take it to a tense fifth set, where the Marauders narrowly edged out the Mustangs for OUA gold. This was the fourth time the Mustangs have taken on the Marauders this year, splitting the season series 2-2, and continuing what has become a fearsome rivalry.
“We talked about the fact that we have so much respect for McMaster,” said Bartlett. “We knew that they weren’t just going to hand us the game. We had to do the things on our side that were controllable to win the set. They took to the court with a new sense of urgency.”
The Mustangs will now play for fifth coming into the tournament ranked sixth in the nation. This is a chance for the Mustangs to improve on their standing and prove themselves as a top contender in the country. They are looking to close out the national tournament on a positive note, and to make a statement that they will be back next year, ready to compete.
“We were a little disappointed with our loss yesterday, but I think the best way to prove that we can be in the top four in the next few years is to finish fifth and to win a game tomorrow,” said Tsiofas. “We want to prove that when we’re on we can really compete, and we can be in the top four in future years.”
The Mustangs will be looking to finish as the top team in the OUA with a fifth place win, ahead of McMaster and Ryerson, and to prove once and for all that they are the “Best in the West [of the OUA].”