CIS Men's Quarter-Final in Review: Brandon vs. McMaster

McMaster's 18 Tyson Alexander came in from off the bench to provide an unexpected contribution on Friday. At this moment, he beats the isolated single blocker.

Friday March 4th, 2011

Langley Events Centre

Langley, British Columbia

Brandon Bobcats vs. McMaster Marauders

The second match of the 2011 CIS Men's Volleyball National Championships featured Canada West's Brandon Bobcat's and the OUA's McMaster Marauders. Canada West has dominated this tournament historically, and with four teams in this years tournament a sweep of the medals is quite possible. The only other team matched-up against a Canada West squad is the lowly Sherbrooke Vert et Or, who have drawn the number one ranked team in all of Canada. Really, McMaster represented the only true threat of unseating a Canada West powerhouse in the first round.

The first set immediately displayed clashing styles from the two provinces. Early on, Brandon focused on running a variety of attackers in an attempt to keep their power hitters free from getting blocked. McMaster's attack was more based around edging around the block and using the blockers arms as a tool. It took until Brandon's 8 Kevin Miller put down an emphatic kill from the left-side that either team managed to pull ahead.

The point of the set came when Brandon's libero, 13 Scott Neufeld, made an impressive dig off a tough Marauders attack. They couldn't transition to attack, and another hard attack came down their throats. This time, 16 Brendan White was there for the dig. Once again, the Bobcats put a free ball back to McMaster. This time, McMaster's 12 Tyler Santoni came through with a heavy quick attack. However, Neufeld still managed to get a slight piece, and White got a second touch on the incredibly difficult attempt. That's where the digging would end, as McMaster did manage to win the point. The Bobcats had woken up defensively, though. The Marauders would have to step up their game to stay in contention.

After Brandon's 5 Paul Sanderson put away two hard kills, it was time for Kevin Miller to really shine. The Brandon left-side player put away a huge kill from the left side to put his team ahead by four points. Next, he slid over to the right side for another emphatic point, now pushing the lead to five. Miller followed it with a service ace, and even a hard attack from the backcourt to push the lead to 18-11. Miller's solo effort on offence, combined with a gritty defence, put Brandon in a great spot to take the set.

Paul Sanderson punctuated the hard work of his teammate Miller with a hard kill on a tandem pattern, followed by another kill even though the McMaster block was as intimidating as they'd been all set. McMaster's 13 Jori Mantha missed an attack, followed by getting blocked by the Bobcats squad, ending the set 25-15 in favour of the Brandon Bobcats.

After Brandon opened the second set with an unblocked quick, the Bobcats block became a deciding factor. After a Mantha missed serve, Brandon stuffed 3 Shayne Petrusma so hard that it packed Tyler Santoni in the face. On the next play, the Bobcats block a Santoni quick. By the time McMaster called their first time out, Brandon was already out to a 5-1 lead.

McMaster's Petrusma managed two consecutive points to keep Brandon from truly running away with the set, but an ace from Sanderson forced McMaster coach Dave Preston to make a change. Starting middle 7 Michael Sjonnensen was replaced with 18 Tyson Alexander. Right away Alexander made an impact. First, with a quick. Then, with a huge block. Right away the blood was flowing, and McMaster slimmed the margin to two points.

However, the constant factor of Kevin Miller kept the Marauders in check. Another easy kill got the serve back for Brandon, and Brendan White contributed two consecutive aces to give Brandon another five point lead. Hard work from the Brandon libero, and another kill from the backcourt for Miller pushed the lead to 15-10.

Having seen enough from the hard-working Bobcats' libero, Shayne Petrusma packed him in the face on the next play. It looked to add a spark to the Marauders team. On the next play, they managed two difficult digs on Bobcat attacks. Unfortunately, the third attack was another kill from Kevin Miller. The kid was unstoppable all day.

McMaster wasn't beaten yet, however. They continued the strong digging and transitioned into an effective attack from 10 Kevin Stevens. Another kill from Stevens narrow the gap to two points. A Tyson Alexander ace that rolled over the tape brought the deficit to one. Sadly for the sole representative from Ontario, one is as close as it would get.

Paul Sanderson managed a huge kill from the backcourt to take back the two point advantage. Next, he muscled an attack right through the Marauders block. After the Bobcats' setter beat Tyler Santoni in a tough joust high above the net, Sanderson contributed yet another kill, this time barely grazing the line but staying in. The effort pushed the lead to set point at 24-19. Kevin Miller happily provided yet another kill to punctuate the set, as Brandon took a two set lead with a 25-19 win.

In the fourth set, McMaster was playing for their National Championship lives. One more lost set, and they'd be out of contention for a medal in 2011. They let the Bobcats know they weren't going anywhere. In the third set, McMaster didn't trail once. They stormed ahead 8-5 early with energetic digging and a consistent block.

From that point on, the lead was never less than three, and never more than six. The two teams exchanged points in a professional manner, indicative of the high level of volleyball hosted by Langley this weekend. McMaster found their largest contribution from Kevin Stevens in the fourth set. He was providing kills, blocks when the setter tried to dump, and rolls when the block became too intimidating. The hardest attack of the set came from Tyler Santoni, who gave the Bobcats' libero another pack to the face for his hard efforts on defence.

At one point, Brandon substituted in 12 Jon Sloane at middle. It's notable since Sloane was named to the Canada West second team all stars this year. He also was sporting a soft cast on his left hand. The injury was enough to keep him out of the first two sets, but once behind Brandon had no issue in using him. Right away he provided a kill on a quick.

However, his contribution wasn't enough. Tyson Alexander, still playing great off the bench for McMaster, ended the set with a quick. McMaster kept their playoff hopes alive with a 25-21 win in the third set.

The tone was set for the fourth set to provide some great CIS action. Tyler Santoni kicked off the set with passion, putting up a huge block, and following it with a kill on the next play. Brandon did what they could to retort, as their feature players showed up once again. Kevin Miller got a point by attacking off of the Marauders' block and out. Paul Sanderson followed that with a service ace. The impressive play had the two teams tied at 7-7.

That's when things broke open a little bit. A dump from the setter on the second ball gave Brandon the slightest of leads. Next, 9 Dan Boutwell provided a smooth quick through the middle for Brandon. Miller, always dangerous, then contributed a kill from the backcourt. McMaster called a timeout to try to recompose themselves, but a fire had been lit under the Bobcats. Scott Neufeld gave the Bobcats a chance with a great dig, but Sanderson's attack was blocked by McMaster. Luckily, Brandon was there for the near-impossible dig off of the blocked ball. Right away, Brandon transitions to another Sanderson attack that goes for a point. The burst worked out to a 7-2 Brandon run, pushing the lead to 14-9.

As the set wore on, Brandon continued to look impressive. Marauders' Kevin Stevens was called on the net, followed by Tyler Santoni getting blocked by the Bobcats. A quick from the middle, combined with another kill from Sanderson from the backcourt, pushed Brandon ahead 20-13. McMaster faced their last opportunity to stay in medal contention, but the Bobcats were simply too much. McMaster's Alexander missed two consecutive attacks long, followed by a Petrusma attack wide to cut the Marauders' CIS run short. Brandon won the set 25-15, and will move on to the next round.