By Fraser Caldwell
Sport Information Officer
Looking to shake off a disappointing loss on the road, the Marauders returned to Burridge Gym Saturday with one of the nation’s top teams across the net, and forced the Blues to play some of their best volleyball to escape with the win.
Mac led 2-1 through three sets, but the U SPORTS no. 4-ranked Toronto was able to swing the contest late and take the fifth set by the minimum, sealing a 25-16, 20-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-13 win over McMaster.
The Marauders fell to 3-4 on the season with the result, while the Blues improved to 5-1.
Spreading the offence, McMaster saw four hitters notch nine kills apiece in the loss, with middle Hailey Kranics, outsides Jessie Nairn and Marina Vesovic and converted setter Rebecca Maxwell each managing that mark.
Kranics led Mac with 16 points, adding two aces and five solo blocks to her kill count, while rookie setter Nikolina Malic enjoyed her first full game at the creative controls and came away with 34 assists for her trouble.
Vesovic finished the night as Mac’s leading defender, notching a match high of 16 digs.
The night started poorly for the hosts, who fell behind by nine points at the technical timeout as Alina Dormann drilled one of her four kills in the set for 16-7.
Finding some form with Hailey Kranics stepping to the service line, the Marauders proceeded to rip off seven consecutive points and pull within two at 14-16, with Ellie Hatashita providing the cap with a block.
Unfortunately for the hosts, that momentum was short-lived, as the Blues proceeded to answer with a run of their own, winning nine of the last 11 points of the set to carry it handily. After Dormann brought up set points by tipping a kill past a McMaster double block, and her teammate Anna Licht made the most of the first of those to kill for 25-16.
Mac turned the tables midway through the second set, finding a transformative service run from Jessie Nairn and putting its offence on display. Wrapping six consecutive points around the technical timeout, the Marauders worked their way into a 19-11 lead when Hailey Kranics perfectly timed the slide.
That built an insurmountable lead for the home side, and any fears of a Blues comeback when they pulled within four at 21-17 were squashed when the Marauders reeled off three straight points, including two kills from Hatashita, to bring up set points. Toronto saved three, before McMaster clinched the set on their fourth opportunity.
After falling behind early in the third, the Marauders engineered a turnaround at the midpoint, and took a 16-14 lead into the technical timeout when a Blues cut shot found the tape.
Toronto fought back to tie at 19, before McMaster put another late run together to snatch control of the third and the overall lead. The hosts took four straight points to move two from the finish line at 23-19, and three points later they wrapped it up, as Nikolina Malic aced the Blues.
Showing no sign of disappointment after dropping the third, the Blues started brightly in the fourth set, taking a commanding 14-6 lead after a pair of kills from Dormann. The visitors’ lead was six at the technical timeout, and swelled to eight at 19-11 when Licht denied Vesovic.
Mac pulled to within as few as four points at 16-20, but was unable to make up any further ground, and after a Marauders service error brought up set points at 24-19, Dormann killed to level the match two points later.
There was nothing between the teams as they barrelled toward the final points of the match, with Kranics perfectly dispatching the slide play for 9-9 in the fifth set. But the hosts crucially blinked first, conceding five of the next seven points as the Blues earned three set points when Dormann killed for 14-11.
Mac dodged two of those, before Dormann proved clutch yet again, tooling the Marauders block for the final kill.
NEXT UP: McMaster remains at home at Burridge Gym to wrap up the fall portion of its conference season when the Waterloo Warriors visit Hamilton on Saturday, November 23.