On Wednesday night at Alumni Hall, the Western men's volleyball team was in a must-win situation. On the line in their game against the McMaster University Marauders was the sixth and final playoff spot in Ontario University Athletics.
The Mustangs responded with an impressive 3-1 (25-20, 25-22, 23-25, 25-19) victory over the Marauders to clinch the final playoff spot.
The Mustangs had a well-balanced attack and got strong performances from both starters and players coming off the bench. In the opening two sets, Western's hitting and blocking was too much for the McMaster defense. Right side Jeff Mattingley and left side Peter Sidler took turns pounding the ball.
The third set went down to the wire. A late McMaster run put them ahead for good. Mac took control early in the fourth set and held a slight lead before the Mustangs stepped up their defense and took over. Their perfect passing and setting allowed Western to find gaps in the Marauder defense, and with the score 24-19, Mattingley took a perfect set and dropped the ball into the open floor, sending the Mustangs to the post-season in the process.
The Mustangs' ability to make a good first pass was a key factor in the victory. "Our passing consistency was huge," Mattingley said. "When we pass well, we play well it all starts with the first contact."
The Mustangs' goal at the beginning of the season was to make the playoffs and now that they have that monkey off their back, they have until Saturday to focus on the playoffs and their opponent, the third-ranked Queen's University Golden Gaels.
Western played two regular season games against the Golden Gaels and lost both by scores of 3-0 in November and 3-1 two weeks ago in Kingston.
"We're underdogs every game now. We've never been in this position before, but we have a good shot and anything can happen," Mattingley said.
Western coach Jim Sage said he is also optimistic about the team's prospects and stated simply making the playoffs won't do.