By Fraser Caldwell
With their backs against the wall, Saturday, the Marauders found an inspired patch of play and the means to engineer a dramatic comeback at Burridge Gym.
Erasing two match points from 22-24 down in the fourth set, McMaster won four straight points to level the match before taking it in the deciding fifth, sealing a 17-25, 26-24, 18-25, 26-24, 15-12 victory to conclude the fall portion of its OUA calendar.
The Marauders ended their eight-match fall slate with a 4-4 conference record, and drew level with the Warriors for third in the OUA West division with the result.
Reprising her usual role as Mac’s high-usage outside hitter, Jessie Nairn led the team with 14 kills in the win and added two aces and a solo block for good measure.
Enjoying her best offensive showing to date, middle Kamila Haase had eight kills on 16 attempts with just one error (.438) and notched four solo blocks and two aces.
After the hosts initially reeled off a run to take an early lead in the first set, the Warriors clawed all the way back, and took a 16-12 advantage into the technical timeout after a Marauders service error.
Waterloo’s lead only swelled from there, and after Marina Vesovic dumped a bailout shot into the tape to bring up set points, the Warriors capitalized on their first with a kill for 25-17.
There was nothing between the two teams for much of the second set, as Mac took a 16-15 lead into the technical timeout after a well-worked kill by Nairn on the right edge. The tide seemed to be turning decisively when the visitors won five consecutive points to overhaul a 19-21 deficit and bring up three set points at 24-21.
But McMaster had other plans, and dramatically reeled off five straight points of its own to not only eliminate the set points against, but snatch the second set entirely after a pair of errors from Andrea Girard.
Mac looked well in control until the midpoint of the third set, when Waterloo embarked on a fateful rotation with Girard heading to the service line, and ripped off nine consecutive points to overturn an 11-14 deficit and power into a 20-14 lead.
A few promising offensive moves from middle Kamila Haase helped the Marauders close to within four at 18-22, but that was as close as the hosts would come in the third, as Sarah Glynn took a shot off the block to end it.
Trailing for much of the fourth set and looking second best, the Marauders made their move at the set’s conclusion to inject some more drama into the night.
A roller from Maddie Lethbridge caused havoc in the Waterloo defence and drew a timeout at 18-19, before the visitors re-established their grip with three of the next four points, and brought up a pair of match points at 24-22.
But the Marauders once again found an inspired run of form with their backs against the wall, saving both match points and winning four consecutive points to force a fifth set, as Kamila Haase flushed an overpass and Ella Stewart missed a shot wide.
Riding the wave of their late momentum, the Marauders stormed out of the break to win the first four points of the abbreviated fifth set and send the Warriors to a timeout when Nairn smoked a cut shot. With Waterloo struggling to keep the ball in play, the home side raced to a nine-point lead at 12-3, with Nairn hammering down an ace to bring the Marauders within three points of the finish line.
It all got rather tense from there, though, as Waterloo embarked on a 7-1 run to cut Mac’s lead to just three after a Mackenzie Vallee kill. The Marauders brought up match points when Maxwell killed the next rally, but needed three looks to get the job done, and clinched the match when Waterloo’s setter Gagne was called on a double contact.