Volume 91, Issue 76
Thursday, February 12, 1998
Horses almost bumped out
PUT THIS IN YOUR MOUTH! Western's Travis Wintjes lays it into the ball as Mike Wilson [no. 10] looks on in Tuesday night's playoff volleyball action. The Mustangs survived by the skin of their teeth to play another day.
By John Intini
The Guelph men's volleyball team was poised to grab a major upset in the Ontario University Athletics West Division semifinal on Tuesday night, but luckily for the Western Mustangs, the home-town crowd stood up and snatched victory from beneath the Gryphons' claws.
In the most thrilling and electrifying volleyball game at Alumni Hall in recent history, a fired-up Western crowd played a huge role in preserving the Mustangs' perfect season, turning what looked to be a season-ending playoff defeat into a nail-biting comeback victory (7-15, 15-9, 14-16, 16-14, 15-11), which lasted three hours and 10 minutes before the final spike was hammered into the Gryphon season.
Players and coaches on both teams agreed emphatically that it was the support of the crowd that took the win away from the Gryphons. Up 2-1 in games and sitting at match point 14-11 in the fourth game, the crowd of approximately 450 rose from their seats to cheer on the Mustangs dramatically lifting the spirits of the home team who, in turn, scored the next five points to close out the game.
"The impact of the crowd was simply massive," Western head coach Dave Preston said. "I looked up near the end of the fourth game and was astounded to see them all standing up. They carried us."
Gryphon right-side player Jamie Yantzi agreed with Preston, adding that the only Mustang edge came from the venue.
"Through the whole match the crowd was backing them and when the band started to play in the fourth game the momentum shifted. It was almost impossible to hold everything together," Yantzi said. "They have a great team and do very few things wrong. We had them on the ropes but they had home court."
The Gryphons, who finished the regular season in fourth place in the West with a 7-5 record, seemed to surprise most of the fans in attendance, but Preston said the play of the Gryphons was far from unexpected.
"We played them last week and they took us to five hard games," he said. "Sure, last week was not as tough as this match, but they have six really good diggers and a couple of guys who can really wail on the volleyball, which always makes them dangerous to play against."
At the beginning of the game, three of the Mustangs' graduating seniors, captains Travis Wintjes, Andrew Brunton and Marc Habash, were honoured for their service and as the night wore on it looked more and more like the Western stars would have to bid adieu to their Mustang jerseys.
However, Wintjes said not even match point against his club made him think of his personal situation.
"When we were down in the fourth game, it might have been running through the heads of a few of the guys, but I never even thought how this might be it for my career," he said. "Dave was very calm with us in the timeout and we showed a lot of heart and character as a team. I don't think at any time I lost faith in winning and thanks to the bench and the fans we were able to squeak this one out."
The Mustangs will now prepare to take on the Windsor Lancers tomorrow night at 8 p.m. for the West division title at home in Alumni Hall.
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