Vaulted from their spot in the final top 10 of the season to the upper echelon of their sport by their performance at the OUA Final Four, McMaster enters this weekend’s U SPORTS Championship with no shortage of buzz and the no. 2 seed.
Awaiting them, as they look to win their first national quarterfinal in their fourth attempt, are the Trinity Western Spartans, the Canada West bronze medalists who were awarded the no. 7 seed as the chips fell Sunday.
McMaster rides into the national championship tournament on the high of their third OUA banner, won in a thrilling, five-set tussle with the Western Mustangs Saturday at Toronto’s Goldring Centre.
Libero Carly Heath was a standout for the Marauders over the course of Final Four weekend, with a combined total of 70 digs over eight sets played between wins over Ryerson and Western. She will once again serve as the defensive backbone of Mac this weekend, as they look to silence some of Canada’s top hitters.
With a team-high total of 21 points in Saturday’s OUA final, Joanna Jedrzejewska continued to shoulder the heaviest offensive burden for McMaster, and will remain Mac’s versatile, high-usage hitter on the left.
The matchup that may prove critical Friday comes on Mac’s right side, where fifth-year veteran and OUA Second Team All-Star will go to work against Trinity Western’s outside star, Sophie Carpentier. The Spartan finished the regular season third in the country in kills with 350, and first with 48 aces, and will see the majority of Trinity Western’s usage Friday.
But Steckle is no stranger to tough matchups, spending all season as Mac’s lockdown defender on the opposition’s top left side, and adjusting well to a matchup against Western’s Kelsey Veltman in the OUA final.
The possibility exists of a national semifinal rematch with the Mustangs, should both OUA teams clear their Canada West hurdles in Friday’s opening round.
But Mac’s eyes will be firmly on the quarterfinal, as they look to advance to uncharted waters in 2017.
The Marauders and Spartans kick off the tournament, playing the first of Friday’s quarterfinals at noon at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Team (playoff finish: regular season record / playoff record)
1. Alberta Pandas (Canada West champions: 22-2 / 2-0)
2. McMaster Marauders (OUA champions: 16-3 / 3-0)
3. UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West finalists: 20-4 / 3-1)
4. Montreal Carabins (RSEQ Champions: 15-5 / 4-0)
5. Dalhousie Tigers (AUS Champions: 19-1 / 2-0)
6. Western Mustangs (OUA finalists: 15-4 / 2-1)
7. Trinity Western Spartans (Canada West bronze medalists: 21-3 / 3-1)
8. Ryerson Rams (OUA 4th place/hosts: 15-4 / 1-2)
SCHEDULE (All times ET)
Friday, March 17
12:00 p.m. Quarter-final #1: No.2 McMaster vs. No.7 Trinity Western (USPORTS.LIVE)
2:00 p.m. Quarter-final #2: No.3 UBC vs No.6 Western
6:00 p.m. Quarter-final #3: No.1 Alberta vs. No.8 Ryerson
8:00 p.m. Quarter-final #4: No.4 Montreal vs. No.5 Dalhousie
Saturday, March 18
12:00 p.m. Consolation #1: Loser QF #1 vs. Loser QF #2
2:00 p.m. Consolation #2: Loser QF #3 vs. Loser QF #4
6:00 p.m. Semifinal #1: Winner QF #1 vs. Winner QF #2
8:00 p.m. Semifinal #2: Winner QF #3 vs. Winner QF #4
Sunday, March 19
10:00 a.m. 5th place
1:00 p.m. Bronze medal
4:00 p.m. Championship final