Men's team discusses ups and downs of season

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

It was another season packed with highs and lows for the Mustangs men’s volleyball team, who were bounced from the Ontario University Athletics postseason by McMaster University on Feb. 16.

The 2007-08 season began with the Mustangs picking up the silver medal at the Ryerson Invitation Tournament in late September.

At the tournament, Western won all of its round-robin games 3-0, defeating Queen’s, York, Laurier and Ryerson universities, before falling to Ryerson in a tight five-set championship game.

The squad then got off to a strong start in the regular season, besting teams like Laurier, the Queen’s Golden Gaels, Royal Military College Paladins and the Guelph Gryphons early on. However, things began to slow down mid-November, with losses to McMaster, Waterloo and Ryerson universities.

Mustangs head coach Jim Sage said the team had to make a few adjustments before solidifying its starting lineup.

“It was tough to figure out what lineup was going to be the best on the floor,” he said. “For example, we experimented a bit and moved Eric Simon from middle to left side. It was definitely a move that allowed us to gain some confidence.”

For his part, Simon said the team’s ability to finish games was essential to improving during the second half of the season.

“One of the highlights this season was bouncing back from a terrible finish in the first half,” he said. “We came out and started to play with a lot more heart and intensity. Our defence began to pick up as well.

“We began to close out games when we had the lead, as opposed to coasting through the rest of the game and making it close or potentially even losing.”

As the season started to wind down in late January, the team began jockeying for a playoff position, hoping to secure home court advantage or even a first-round bye.

Unfortunately, with a loss to the Toronto Varsity Blues on Feb. 9 in its second last regular season game, Western’s placement in the standings was affected.

Simon named this loss as one of the low points in the season.

“Blowing a great chance at second place and a bye through the quarterfinals [was disappointing],” he said.

However, the squad was soon able to break its “quarterfinal curse” by defeating the Waterloo Warriors 3-0 at Alumni Hall, which marked the team’s first playoff win in several seasons.

“I think our playoff game in the quarter-final against Waterloo was definitely one of the best moments this season,” right side Josh Chisholm said.

“They were a team that we had trouble with throughout the regular season, but then we came out really strong and beat them in three in front of a home crowd. It was some of the best volleyball I’ve been a part of.”

After beating Waterloo, the squad faced its toughest challenge yet: taking on the undefeated McMaster Marauders in the OUA semi-final in Hamilton.

Unfortunately, the team’s season ended with a 3-1 loss to the Marauders.

“I was pleased with the game at Mac,” Sage said. “We came out in the first set and executed our game plan and won the set. It was probably one of the best sets we’ve played all year. They fought to the end and they definitely didn’t give up.”

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