December 30th, 2010
Tait McKenzie Gym
York Excalibur Tournament Bronze Medal Match
Western Mustangs vs. UNB Varsity Reds
The Gold Medal Match of the York Excalibur Tournament was contested between the Western Mustangs and the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds. The two teams met earlier in the tournament, during round robin play. UNB came out with a victory in straight sets, but even their head coach Dan McMorran acknowledged both teams were throwing varied lineups at each other. Thursday night brought out the heavyweight lineups as the OUA and AUS aggressively played it out for Gold.
I generally feel missed serves do more to sway momentum than a tough rally, and an early miss from the Mustangs had the Varsity Reds up 5-2 out of the gate. Western’s 6 Matt Poulin, who had lead the Mustangs through the tournament, continued his pace with a strong kill followed with a point off his service to stay close. The UNB squad managed to put together a 4-2 rally, with those two points coming off Varsity Reds’ missed serves. The Mustangs’ 11 Garrett May put an end to the streak with a roof, and Poulin put away an easy kill off an overpass from the ensuing serve. The missed serves allowed the Mustangs to pull within one point at 13-12.
The game fell into something of a groove, with May and Poulin providing heavy attacks from the Western side, and consistent team play and a huge block coming from UNB. May put away a kill, then the Varsity Reds won a point off of May’s block. The next play saw another May kill and the score 21-19 for UNB. Poulin then took his swings, first missing from backcourt and then finishing emphatically right after from the same position. Being down 22-20, UWO head coach Jim Sage elected to run a couple plays without a setter. The UNB block was heavy enough of a presence to force the extra attackers. The teams stayed neck-and-neck and were forced into extra points. UNB looked to have roofed the Mustangs at 24-24, but the ball landed just barely out. Varsity Reds’ 15 Jacob Kilpatrick put the next quick down emphatically to force more points. A Poulin mishit gave UNB their first set point, but Western’s 14 Phil James came through with a huge roof to keep the Mustangs alive. The UNB block dictated the final two points, and both points ended on a roof. The Varsity Reds won the first set 28-26.
The second set was not the first. By a long shot. May and Poulin kept rolling, but UNB fell asleep between sets. A Poulin ace started four consecutive serves for the 3rd year player. Western missed a serve to bring the game to a reasonable score at 8-4. However, the Varsity Reds fell apart on their serve receive, and were giving away points before they could begin. The two teams entered a farce of three consecutive serves missed, and the Varsity Reds were running out of time down 15-6. Though there were some nice kills here and there from both teams, the end was really far from enthralling. The two teams missed another three serves towards the end of the set, and the Mustangs claimed a decisive 25-14 win to even the sets at one.
The third set cleaned up the on-court action. The two teams remained competitive, with UNB electing to triple-block May more regularly to some success. The Varsity Reds developed a slight early lead, but gave the advantage away with a missed serve at 7-7. From there Western picked up the pace. Mustangs’ 14 Phil James put down a quick that landed inside the opposing attack line. In a five-point stretch, May put down three kills to give Western a 19-14 lead. Mustangs’ 7 Matt Waite got into the offensive action with a kill, and momentum was building. A couple of hardworking digs led to a transition kill, and a point went off the UNB block for a 23-17 advantage. A tight game opened up right at the end, and the Mustangs rolled to the final two points, never giving up the lead after they took it. The final score was 25-17 Mustangs.
Honestly, I thought the Varsity Reds looked good to do well against the Mustangs. Though the Western team ranks higher overall in the CIS top ten, its hard to tell exactly how teams will do against each other. The second and third sets seemed more one sided than most would expect.
The fourth set began with two missed serves back-to-back, and both teams looked to rebound at 1-1. The Mustangs’ May put in consecutive ace serves for an early lead, but the Varsity Reds weren’t taking it sitting down. They put down a hard kill down the line to end the streaking Mustangs. Western kept the ball consistently off the floor, but UNB was there to finish the plays when the ball came back. The East Coast team took the lead with an ace of their own from 6 Jean-Simon Bedard, and stretched the lead to two with another ace from 14 Mathieu Lapointe. The UNB team looked to take May out of the game with some strong blocking, so Phil James stepped up to the plate. A kill off a quick set, followed by two nice blocks on one play kept the Mustangs close. A missed serve from UNB gave the ball right back to the Mustangs while they were pushing hard for the lead. Then the Mustangs’ Waite put two consecutive overpasses on serve receive for quick points. Western tied the game 14-14 with the streak.
As the game entered the final stretch, May missed a serve to give UNB the ball. The Mustangs found success setting 8 Reid Halpenny, and kept going to him for a 20-18 lead as match point looked within reach. The teams exchanged points by attacking off the opposing block before Poulin made his return to the scoring with a heavy kill from the right side. A poorly hit ball floated long for the Varsity Reds and they were forced to take a timeout down 23-20. UNB’s 10 Tyler Veenhuis came flying out of the timeout with an emphatic kill, but the Mustangs’ responded with another kill from May for their first match point. UNB managed an important stuff for a point, but the ensuing serve received went off of the Varsity Reds’ block and out for a 25-22 Mustangs win. They win the set, match, and York Excalibur Gold Medal.