By Jordan Bell
YEARS OF USING "JUMP SHOES," HE FINALLY GOT HIS HEAD OVER
THE NET. Mustangs libero John Hong leaps during Western's loss to
Just when it appeared
the Western Mustangs men's volleyball team was going to pull another one
of its Herculean comebacks, two middle blockers put up an impenetrable
The University of Guelph Gryphons 6'5" rookie middle Matt Peters
and 6'4" veteran middle Gabe Ho had a huge impact on the match. They
blocked the first three points of the fourth set and finished the set
with six blocks combined to lead the Gryphons to a three sets to one victory
(25-17, 25-23, 20-25, 25-15) in front of an energized playoff crowd at
Alumni Hall Wednesday night.
The victory gives the Gryphons a 1-0 lead in the best of three Ontario
University Athletics semi-final.
Guelph head coach Doug Dodd agreed that his middles were paramount to
the significant victory.
"A lot of what [Chris Simek, rookie right side and leader in kills
in the nation] gets is because of our middle guys. Peters is a rookie
and is getting a lot better and Ho, in his last year, is extremely focused,"
The match was extremely tight throughout the first three sets, with the
Mustangs seemingly gaining momentum as it progressed. Unfortunately, they
were not able to force the Gryphons on their heels in the fourth set,
quite possibly the result of the Mustangs' recent hectic schedule.
The Mustangs defeated the McMaster University Marauders, and their former
head coach Dave Preston, on Feb. 5 to secure a satisfying playoff berth.
Then, in a barn-burner at Queen's University in Kingston on Feb. 8, the
Mustangs vaulted back from two sets down to defeat the Golden Gaels to
advance to the semi-finals.
"We've been on an emotional roller-coaster," said Mustangs head
coach Jim Sage, concerning the intensity of his squad's schedule. "It
was almost impossible to get to the level of intensity we needed to beat
Fortunately for Western, they still have the opportunity to do what they
do best: sway the tide and storm back into contention.
Sage was able to take the victory with an open mind, sarcastically expressing
the key to the Mustangs' rematch in Guelph on Friday. "We definitely
want to score more points," Sage joked, while adding, "Our backs
are against the wall again."
The fans in attendance, especially the row of girls taunting the Guelph
players with cries of "you're hot," were treated to an extremely
heated match. Like David and Goliath, Mustangs right side Jeff Mattingly
and Simek squared off in an arm-strength duel for the ages. Unfortunately,
in this contest, Mattingly was David and Simek played the role of Goliath.
"It's a product of a long-standing rivalry between us," said
Western left side Rob Arntfield. "Dodd has been around a long time
and instills [passion] in his boys. They're two very passionate players,"
he added, regarding Mattingly and Simek.
Even casual bystanders got into the action when Mustang Brian Cram, a
player who was inconspicuously absent for the first three and a half sets,
blocked a Simek kill and then performed the "stare-down finger point."
The Mustangs (like Mattingly) may have been the small, meager David in
their Wednesday showdown, but remember, David was eventually victorious
in the end.
The Mustangs hope scripture holds true to form.