Saturday March 5, 2011
Langley Events Centre
Langley, British Columbia
The Consolation Semi-Finals were played out on Saturday, to decide which two teams were to compete for fifth place overall in Men's CIS Volleyball. The two matches to be played on Saturday were McMaster vs. UNB, and Alberta vs. Sherbrooke. The winning teams will play on Sunday, March 5th, at 12:00 pm PST. All of the teams playing today had to deal with a first round elimination on Friday. The emotional drain of having to reassess your goals can often reak havoc on a teams performance. These four squads, each representing a different feeder league for the CIS, had to pull it together to represent their respective provinces appropriately.
McMaster Marauders vs. UNB Varsity Reds
McMaster and the University of New Brunswick hardly get exposure to each other throughout the regular season. That didn't stop these teams playing as if they were old rivals. The sets remained close, and both teams managed to remained composed throughout the early frames. The first two sets were decided by pushes down the final stretch. In the first frame, McMaster led for the vast majority, and put forward a professional effort through the final points. The first set ended 25-22 for McMaster. The second set looked to end in the same fashion, as McMaster led by five points with very little volleyball remaining. That's when the second set push began. UNB's 15 Jacob Kilpatrick, who consistently finds a way to become a crucial part of the storylines, headed a run that turned into an 8-1 spree. The effort was enough to close out the second set with UNB victorious 25-23.
The emotions, after a tough start for everybody in the consolation bracket, were finally at an appropriate level for a National Championship game. As the third set began, both teams were ready to go. Rallies began to go deeper, and balls found a way to stay off the ground. Early on, a hard McMaster serve handcuffed the Varsity Reds' libero 2 Kyle Blanchard. His teammate, 5 Julio Fernandez, refused to let it drop with a huge save way beyond the service line. McMaster took the ensuing freeball and set 12 Tyler Santoni down the middle. The attack caught a piece of Fernandez, somehow bounced off the top of his head, and remained in play. UNB couldn't get it back over the net, but the energy was evident on both sides. McMaster used the early momentum to extend their lead to 8-4.
UNB tightened the gap briefly, but McMaster's 3 Shayne Petrusma put some distance between the teams again. First, he participated in a double block for a point. Then, he rocked an attacked off of the opposing block and out for another. The rattled Varsity Reds accidentally pushed a free ball long beyond the service line, and suddenly McMaster led 13-7.
Though both teams remained energetic, and rallies continued to impress, McMaster maintained their lead. One rally, which spanned at least four digs per side, ended on an emphatic kill from Marauders' 18 Tyson Alexander when he was fed an easy overpass by the UNB defence. That put McMaster up 21-14. Even Jacob Kilpatrick couldn't provide a spark, as he was roofed on McMaster's first set point. The Marauders made more of a statement with this set by winning 25-16.
The fourth set began competitively. Both teams remained tied at 5-5, and looked to continue in that fashion. Varsity Reds' Fernandez put a hard attack away off of McMaster's libero's shoulder. However, he gave away the advantage by missing his own serve on the next point. McMaster began something of a streak from there. A double block from Petrusma and Alexander, combined with an Alexander quick put the Marauders ahead 12-6 after a 6-0 run.
The smallest McMaster's advantage got was three points. Right then, UNB's Fernandez went back to serve at 18-15. He put the ball right in the corner, but it was called long on a somewhat suspect decision. From there, McMaster began to sprint. Alexander put up a huge solo block for one Marauder point. Then 10 Kevin Stevens provided a huge dig off a service reception error. UNB tried to take advantage of a free ball, but again Alexander put up a huge block. He also padded his stats with a quick to force match point before McMaster finished it off. After Fernandez's missed serve, McMaster went on a 6-1 run to finish UNB's CIS National Championships with a 25-16 set victory.
Alberta Golden Bears vs. Sherbrooke Vert et Or
The second consolation semi-final looked significantly different from the first. Sherbrooke, ranked at the bottom of the National Championships, already had a rough night on Friday dealing with the top ranked Calgary Dinos. Now, they were in tough once again against a Canada West powerhouse in Alberta.
Right away a talent gap became evident between the two teams. Alberta stormed out to an early 4-1 lead and proved to themselves right away that they had the tools to win this match. However, their quick lead began to dimish, and the first set remained tight early at 7-6. Sherbrooke didn't do themselves any favours by missing their next serve, but it Alberta soon decided they should extend their advantage. As though it were a matter of flicking on a switch, the Golden Bears' block returned and they strung together a 7-2 run.
The middle of the set had its sloppy moments. Alberta's 12 Justin Merta put away a well-run quick to emphasize the Golden Bears lead. It only helped that Merta's facial hair is wild enough to make him look like a blonde Captain Morgan.
However, soon Alberta became sedate with their lead once more. What once stretched to seven points slowly decayed to three at 22-19. Most of Sherbrooke's points came off attacks that ricocheted off of Alberta's block and out. When in danger, the Golden Bears often fed 2 Spencer Leiske. He destroyed an attack from the backcourt and made it look easy to go ahead 23-19. He provided another backcourt attack off the block at 24-21, but his team let him down with a missed serve to give Sherbrooke new life. Naturally, Alberta fed Leiske another set, which he happily hammered off of the Vert et Or block. With that, Alberta won the first set 25-22.
The second set looked like a carbon copy of the first. Though Alberta seemed like the better team throughout, the set remained close for a good portion of time. Silly errors kept Sherbrooke in the game, though they constantly trailed by one or two points. At one point, the two teams missed four consecutive serves. The set was up for grabs and neither team seemed intent on taking it.
Queue Alberta's Leiske to re-enter the scene. He added a point for Alberta with a backcourt attack that the Sherbrooke block couldn't handle. With the game tied 17-17, Alberta's setter 4 Tanner Nault had to give some breathing room with a quick dump on the second touch. After that, Leiske changed the flow of one point with a well placed tip. Next, he joined his middle, 7 Simon Lidster, for a block they made look easy. Lidster then went to the other side of the court to join another dominant double block. The next Sherbrooke set reunited Lidster and Leiske for a third, morally deflating, roof. Once Alberta decided they wanted to win the set, they went on an 8-1 run to finish the set 25-18 Golden Bears.
The third set was not like the first two. The Golden Bears had seen enough, and Sherbrooke were on their heels after the way the second set ended. Alberta hit them early and often. A 4-1 extended to a 10-4 lead before anybody noticed. Another nice dump on the second touch for Alberta's setter Nault almost seemed unfair at this point. Sherbrooke was forced to take a timeout after an ace put Alberta ahead 16-5. Soon enough, substitutes populated the floor. The final set was never in question, and Alberta won it quickly 25-9.
The win puts Alberta up against McMaster Sunday, March 6th at 12:00 pm PST. It will be the first match on Championship Sunday, and these teams both have the firepower to impress the Langley crowd. McMaster will look to be the only team to give a Canada West team a loss at the 2011 Nationals.