The tenth-ranked women’s volleyball team in the country capped off the first half of their season 8–0 after defeating the third ranked McMaster Marauders on Saturday. The Mustangs took the game in straight sets 25–21, 25–22, 25–17.
“We’re 8–0, you can’t really ask for more than that,” said Mustangs head coach Melissa Bartlett in a post-game interview. “We’re happy to be leading the West division heading into Christmas.”
The team was helped to victory by the strong performance from third-year right side Aja Gyimah, with 13 kills and two blocks, posting a .440 hitting percentage. Her strong performance was enough to earn her female athlete of the week.
“They did everything that we expected them to do, we just executed our game plan perfectly,” said Gyimah after the game. “We wanted to block across the dig line, so that the hitters hit where they want to hit, but then stick a defender there so we can just dig it up.”
The Marauders proved to be an equal match, taking early leads in the first two sets and forcing the Mustangs to come back both times. During the second set, McMaster held a commanding seven-point lead, before the Mustangs took the set 25–22.
“Melissa just told us that we've got to take them 2–1 every point,” said Gyimah. “Every two points for every one they score, and not to give up and keep fighting.”
Despite the point deficits, the Mustangs played a tight game, making a mere 13 errors over the course of three sets in contrast to McMaster's 23.
“There’s some situational times where we made some errors, we had a few serve receive errors as well,” said Bartlett. “But we were able to pull ourselves out of them faster than we have in previous matches.”
The team was well prepared for the McMaster squad, who were previously undefeated until the Mustangs handed them their first loss of the season. The Mustangs exploited the Marauders' shallow defence and played to their few weaknesses.
“I think as attackers heading into set two, we said 'hey, let's remember what our offensive game plan is,' ” said Bartlett. “Aja had a great offensive match, really exploited that deep corner spot.”
This game marks another chapter in the heated McMaster-Western rivalry in women’s volleyball. McMaster has consistently been ranked higher than the Mustangs, despite the fact that the purple and white have eliminated the Marauders from medal contention two years in a row in the playoffs.
“Because we’ve always been head-to-head with Mac, it’s a big accomplishment for our team, especially doing it in three,” said Gyimah. “It feels like were sticking it to USports, and showing them that we should be higher ranked than we are.”
The team will have to face off against McMaster one more time this season — Jan. 21 at McMaster. Every win and every point counts against McMaster, as it might affect on which team gets to host the final four come February.
The team will resume their season on Jan. 15 when they hit the road to take on the Windsor Lancers.