The Western Mustangs men's and women's volleyball teams defeated the Guelph Gryphons in three straight sets on Saturday night, capping off their successful regular seasons with bittersweet senior night wins.
The women’s team improved to 14–5 with the victory and will play the Queen’s Gaels in the first round of the Ontario University Athletics playoffs. The men’s team improved to 13–4 after the win and will meet the Toronto Varsity Blues in the first round of the postseason.
The Mustangs honoured the graduating seniors playing in their final regular season games in the purple and white, including Evan Cranshaw, Evan Hammond, Nathan Phelps and Matt Hooker on the men’s team as well as Kelsey Veltman, Courtney Sestric and Leah Mousseau on the women’s team.
The women started off their match against the Gryphons, exchanging points until both teams were tied at 22 apiece. The Mustangs were able to pull ahead with a late lead, winning the close opening set 27–25.
The second set saw more back and forth action until the Mustangs took the lead after being tied at five points a piece. The team enjoyed and maintained a multi-point lead until the end of the set, taking the second set convincingly, 25–18.
Senior middle Kelsey Veltman was a prominent force for the Mustangs during the second set, creating lots of noise from five of 12 kills on the night during the set.
The third and final set was as close as a match can get. The Mustangs battled through with multiple lead changes throughout the match, leading up until the set was tied 27–27. Veltman and Kate Van Camp finished the set and the match for a Mustangs victory with back-to-back kills.
Mustangs head coach Melissa Bartlett mentioned that her squad had to make some pre-game adjustments just minutes ahead of the matchup.
“Guelph used a little bit of a different lineup than we were expecting, so we had to really adjust on the fly,” said Bartlett. “We definitely made more unforced errors than we'd like to, but I think it was just focusing on the other areas of our game, our defense was pretty tough, we were pretty scrappy, to kind of make up for some of those points we were giving away.”
Rachael Grove, who had a team-high 13 digs during the match, also commented on her team’s performance during seniors night.
“It wasn't our best, but we managed to pull it out at the end,” said Grove. “We were really playing for our seniors tonight, honouring them and it was a great team effort. I really think that we should be proud of how we played.”
The men’s match began with early momentum generated in the first set from kills by Evan Cranshaw and Gianfranco Sartor, creating a 3–0 lead. The Mustangs continued to dominate with a multi-point lead, taking the opening set, 25–20.
The second set started off with Guelph accumulating multiple kills and four unanswered points to erase the Mustangs’ momentum and took an early 7–2 lead. The Mustangs managed to crawl their way back, tying the set 13–13 before taking back the lead. Western eventually won the set 25–22.
The Mustangs were able to finish off the night after a third set victory, 25–18. Sartor’s five kills, along with multiple attack and service errors by the Gryphons, which included the final bad set point awarded to the Mustangs, capped off the match victory.
Mustangs assistant coach and former player Mike Choja said that he really likes where his team is moving forward into the postseason.
“As coaches, we were looking at each other and saying this is looking good,” said Choja. “If this is where we can sustain our level of play, I really liked our chances going forward.”
Mustangs senior outside hitter Evan Cranshaw talked about how he felt playing in his final regular season game as a Mustang.
“It's bittersweet because it's our last regular season game, but we're coming back here in a week grinding again with the same guys,” said Cranshaw. “We knew who their guns were, and we knew who they were going to go to in most situations. We just locked those guys down and then let the other guys sort of have free reign. We were able to slow them up enough that we could transition into it and get some kills on our side.”
With the wins, the Mustangs extend their winning streaks to eight straight victories for the women’s team and six straight for the men’s team heading into the first round of the playoffs. Both teams will begin their playoffs on March 2 at Alumni Hall.