a, Sports

Martlets win CIS bronze in improbable playoff run

The Martlets were in action over the weekend in Hamilton, Ontario representing McGill at the CIS National Volleyball Championships. The tournament, comprised of the top eight teams from across the country, concluded Sunday with the UBC Thunderbirds claiming gold, the Alberta Pandas obtaining silver, and the McGill Martlets rounding out the podium with a stunning bronze medal performance.

The road to nationals was a long and hard-fought one for the Martlets. Their path consisted of an often inconsistent third place, 5-10 season play record, and an upset 2-1 RSEQ semifinals victory over the perennial powerhouses Laval Rouge et Or – to secure a National berth. Their journey concluded with a 2-0 RSEQ finals loss to the Montreal Carabins that secured them a silver medal.

The trip to the CIS championships was the first for the McGill women’s volleyball team since 1997. With the bronze medal, they became the first National volleyball medalists in school history.

In addition to the on-court play, the weekend began very strongly for McGill at the annual CIS Awards Banquet on Thursday night.  Daphnée-Maude André-Morin, the third year libero was given the illustrious CIS Libero of the Year Award for her incredible back row play throughout the season. In addition, Kaiva Mateus, the fifth-year middle, was named to the first All-CIS team. 

When play began on Saturday, the fifth-seeded Martlets found themselves paired against the fourth- seeded St. Mary’s Huskies in the quarter-finals.  The match proved to be a thriller, with McGill storming to an early two set lead fuelled by strong play by eventual match MVP Geneviève Plante, who finished with 15 kills and 17 digs.  Despite the slow start, the Huskies came roaring back in the third and fourth sets to tie the match at twos.  Ultimately though, despite an early set deficit, McGill rallied to claim the fifth, deciding set 15-13.

With the quarter-finals behind them, the Martlets set their sights on the talented and extremely aggressive University of Alberta Pandas.  Despite a valiant effort from the Red and White, they failed to pressure  the Edmonton powerhouse throughout the first two sets, dropping both at 16.  Things changed slightly in the third however, as McGill gained some momentum, piggy-backing chiefly on the efforts of the powerful Plante and finding itself down by only one point late in the match at 23-24. Despite the proximity of the score, and the chance to compete for National gold on the line, the Martlets failed to capitalise, dropping the final set 23-25.  The second-year power Plante was again crowned McGill’s MVP.

With the loss, McGill dropped to the bronze medal final on Sunday, against a formidable and familiar foe, the Montreal Carabins.  Despite touting a dreary winless regular and post-season against the cross-town rivals, right from the onset the Martlets looked determined to change that and cap off their astounding playoff run with a piece of national hardware, opening the match with an improbable 25-22 victory.  After shaking off a 13-25 second set beat-down McGill returned to form in the third, again besting the Carabins in the latter stages of the set to win 25-23.  From that point on it was all Martlets, as they led from the start of the fourth to the conclusion, ultimately pushing the point spread to ten and thus claiming the first bronze medal in the program’s history. 

It was an improbable run by the Martlets, who didn’t even manage to finish the season with a .500 record. The team looks to carry this momentum and experience all the way into the offseason and next year. 

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