December 29th, 2010
Tait McKenzie Gym, Toronto
York Excalibur Tournament Semi Final
Western Mustangs vs. York Lions
The last semi final of the York Excalibur Tournament featured the top ranked team in the OUA, the Western Mustangs, up against the host York Lions. On paper, this matchup looked to favour the Mustangs. But the Lions, playing at home, managed to be the first-ranked team in their pool, and actually were seeded above the Mustangs within the tournament rankings. The winners were to move on to face the UNB Varsity Reds in the finals, while the losing team would fight tooth-and-nail for the Bronze Medal against the Windsor Lancers.
The game began with a missed serve from Lions 5 Nikola Sandic. This would serve as a good example of how this match was to play out. Mustangs 6 Matt Poulin, a tournament star, put down an emphatic spike that ended up in the mesh high above the court as the Mustangs kept the gas pedal down. The Lions looked out of sorts as a set fell to the ground with no player making a move towards it, as the Mustangs took the early lead 8-3.
At this point, the Japanese Budo squad interjected a high-energy chant from the spectators’ bleachers. That team sure has “it”!
The Lions came out of the timeout with some of that Budo life, as 1 Ray Szeto put down his first emphatic kill of the game. Sandic followed it with another strong hit through the Western block. Unfortunately, Szeto put the next serve into the net, followed by his next hit into the net. Unforced errors began to be the story of the game. The Lions missed their third serve of the game, but had the Mustangs miss a serve right back. Poulin woke up his Mustangs team with another hard kill, and the next Lions side out ended up in a fourth missed serve for the York team, Sandic’s second of the set, to fall behind 14-8. Mustangs 11 Garrett May had seen enough, and put a kill into the Lions dig hard enough that it hit the ceiling. With another Poulin kill, and another York error, the score was 18-9 at York’s first timeout.
As the set inched towards its close, Lions 4 Gregory Ivan did what he could to even it up. Plenty of solid blocks, quicks, and even a high-arcing set put Ivan at the heart of the Lions comeback attempt. Sadly, York missed another three serves down the final stretch, including another miss from both Szeto and Sandic. May put away a final kill to give the Mustangs the first set win 25-17. All said and done, the Lions missed 7 serves in the opening set, and lost by 8 points.
The second set opened with a close called touch going against the Lions, followed by a display of poor serve receive to give the Mustangs a 4-0 lead early. Though Ivan managed a kill on an overpass, and a fluid quick, Szeto was blocked two times in close succession, and two separate serve receive overpasses ended up in easy Mustang points. They pulled ahead 10-4 at York’s first timeout. Just as York looked to regain momentum off their timeout, a quick sideout is wasted by another York missed serve. Szeto and Sandic put an attack each into the net, and the Mustangs were comfortably ahead 14-5 at another timeout. York’s second missed serve of the set, followed by May putting away a kill made this game look out of reach at 18-7. The Western Head Coach, Jim Sage, decided to give some substitutions playing time, pulling May off the court. Though Sandic began to warm up, and Ivan maintained his team-leading pace from middle, the game was too far out of hand. The Western Mustangs won the second set, on another kill from Poulin, 25-13.
Unbelievably, Sandic opened the third set with another missed serve to mirror how he started the first set. Luckily Szeto began to find his groove with a hard kill early in the set. York 15 Karim Khalil contributed two backcourt attacks off the Western block for points and an early 10-10 tie. Sandic redeemed himself somewhat with a kill on a Mustangs overpass for their first lead of the match. The Mustangs pulled back ahead after an ace from 8 Reid Halpenny, but Sandic put down another overpass to keep close. Unbelievably, he put the ensuing serve into the net for what must’ve been his fifth service error of the match to give Western the 14-12 advantage.
The game turned into a sprint from there. Poulin put down a huge backcourt attack, proving his worth swinging out of service position. Ivan put through an ugly tip that worked for a Lions point, but 2 Felipe Humana-Paredes made the service error to give the Mustangs the 19-18 lead. Luckily, Sandic followed that with a hugh kill down the line that packed a Mustangs player cleanly in the face. The game stayed close, right up to 22-22. The Lions Szeto couldn’t get a hit through the block, but luckily it stayed on the Mustangs side of the net somehow. That’s followed with a May error long for a set point for the trailing Lions at 24-22. Szeto fritters away their first set point with an attack far long. It didn’t end up making a difference, as May gets roofed hard on the next point for a Lions win 25-23 to force a fourth set.
The fourth set opens with two Lions players getting packed in the face on a single point. When the Lions did manage a sideout on the next play, Sandic made another serve error to give the ball back. From there, Western began to chip into a lead. Western never really took off, but would win two or three points each time the York team would win one. From 3-2, to 5-3, to 8-4, a pattern developed. Another missed serve from York was followed by a huge Mustangs block. Mustangs player 7 Matt Waite put down a clean quick kill, followed by stepping back for a serve ace and a 14-7 lead. “Crazy” Greg Ivan kept the Lions in the game with another roof, but Garrett May killed the momentum with a hard crosscourt kill. Halpenny put a heavy kill off Lions defence right into the ceiling shortly after. With their heads spinning, the Lions missed a set entirely and York was forced to call a timeout at 19-9. From there on out, it was routine for Western. May put down two more kills, and the game was punctuated by a Mustangs 14 Phil James quick. The Western Mustangs won the fourth set 25-12.
The Mustangs move on to face the UNB Varsity Reds on Thursday for the Gold Medal Game at 7pm.
The York Lions will play the Windsor Lancers on Thursday at 4 pm for the Bronze Medal.