Pair of victories put volleyballers in the hunt

Team must focus on securing home court, Sage says

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

After soundly defeating its division rivals the York Lions 3-0 on Friday night, the Western men’s volleyball team moved on to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, also besting them 3-0.

The pair of wins couldn’t be more important to the squad, currently occupying fourth place in Ontario University Athletics, a highly-competitive league where only the top six teams make the playoffs.

“Right now, the parity in the league is making every game an absolute must-win,” assistant coach Patrick Johnston said. “There’s [the] McMaster [Marauders] in first place right now, and then everyone else is within a game or two of each other.

“The difference between second place and seventh place is a matter of a few wins. It makes every game really important.”

In addition to trying to nab a playoff spot, the team is also hoping to secure home court advantage, something head coach Jim Sage said is a huge asset in the postseason.

“Home court advantage in the playoffs is a major advantage,” Sage said. “However, our first priority is securing a spot, regardless of whether it is home or away. Once we get there, we will be fine.”

Right side Josh Chisholm reiterated the importance of simply making it into the postseason for the team.

“First of all, we want to make the playoffs,” he said. “That’s 100 per cent our biggest goal right now. Every game is pretty important at this point in the season. [In the next few weeks], we play Guelph [Gryphons] on the road and play York [Lions] on the road, and all those games are just huge for us.

“We pretty much have to clean house or come close to it in the second half of our season to ensure that playoff spot.”

Sage said winning close match-ups will be crucial to the team’s success in the coming weeks.

“Learning to win the tight games will be important for us,” he said. “We’ve had great success against quality teams, but haven’t been able to finish when it counts.”

One of the squad’s biggest challenges will be facing the Marauders in Hamilton on Feb. 1. The Marauders currently hold an impressive 15-0 record.

“If you are going to get out of Ontario, you are most likely going to have to go to Mac and beat Mac,” Sage said. “On the road, it will be a big test.

“The only team that has really separated themselves from the rest of the league is McMaster. Of the five other teams at the top of the league, it is really a matter of who shows up to play on that particular night.”

For his part, Chisholm is excited to face off against the league’s best.

“It would be unbelievable to beat McMaster,” Chisholm said. “It would be the highlight of my career if we went into their house and we took them down.”

The men’s volleyball team will host the sixth-place Ryerson Rams at Alumni Hall on Friday, Jan. 25. The action starts at 8 p.m.

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