The Western Mustangs avenged their OUA championship final loss one week ago on Saturday afternoon at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, defeating conference rivals McMaster by a score of 3-1 (25-17, 19-25, 25-16, 27-25) in the consolation semifinals.
Rookie Kelsey Veltman picked up a game-high 19 kills to go along with 2.0 blocks and five digs, while Aja Gyimah added 17 kills ,1.5 blocks, and an ace in the victory for Western, who fell in their quarter-final match to UBC on Friday night.
“So proud of our team not only for the performance but for the ability to bounce back from a disappointing loss yesterday and compete against a team that we see about four to five times a season,” said Mustangs coach Melissa Bartlett. “To bring that level of intensity and fire against a familiar team was really impressive. We have so much respect for McMaster and knew they weren’t just going to hand us the game and we had to do the things on our sides that were our controllables in order to win.”
Western player of the game Kat Tsiofas chipped in with an impressive 52 set assists to go along with four kills, seven digs, and a pair of aces.
“We obviously know McMaster quite well, so we knew our game plan well coming into today,” said Tsiofas. “I think we executed our game plan really well today. We’re both in the West (division) so we are constantly battling for that top spot in the West all year. And we always seem to see each other in the playoffs towards the end of the season, so it’s great that we came (out) on top today.”
One week after defeating the Mustangs in a five-set thriller to claim the OUA banner, the Marauders dropped their second game in as many days, ending their U SPORTS championship weekend. Alicia Jack led McMaster with eight kills, 2.0 blocks and an ace while working at a .353 hitting efficiency, while Aleks Arsovic and Maicee Sorenson each added seven kills for the Marauders.
The Mustangs jumped out to an early 5-1 advantage in the opening set. After back-to-back blocks from Tsiofas (Toronto) and Tia Miric (Toronto), McMaster coach Tim Louks called timeout to steady the Marauders. Joanna Jedrzejewska (Hamilton, Ont.)  picked up an ace to cut the lead to a pair, but Tsiofas responded with a floating serve that handcuffed the Marauders to restore her team’s four-point lead.
The OUA champions stormed back with four-straight points to even the match on Sorenson’s serve. The Hamilton native picked up an ace during the streak, but Western responded with a mini-streak of their own to take a 16-13 lead at the technical.
Veltman caught fire following the break, scoring her team’s next three points to push the lead up to five. The Brampton, Ont. product put her squad up by six following McMaster’s second timeout, and a long dump that found the back corner from Tsiofas would help the Mustangs claim the first set.
Jedrzejewska briefly put the Marauders ahead with an ace, but Veltman continued to thwart the Marauder defense, picking up a booming middle strike in response. Sorenson replied with back-to-back rejections as the top teams in the OUA battled to a 10-10 score in the early going of the second. Another big block from Rachel Woock sparked a 5-0 Marauders run that prompted a Western timeout.
After not tallying a block in the first set, McMaster continued to make its presence felt at the net in the second, denying the Mustangs two more times to take 16-11 lead at the technical. An ace by Woock (Richmond Hill, Ont.) coming out of the break pushed the lead to six, before Western railed off four-straight to stay within striking distance.
The Marauders would not be denied, however, and another Marauder block, this time from Jack (Hamilton, Ont.) evened the match at 1-1. McMaster finished with seven blocks in the set.
Western picked up four consecutive points to take an early 7-5 lead in the third. Rookie Melissa Langegger (Oakville, Ont.) heated up with three kills from the left-side to help the OUA silver-medalists spread the lead to four. The Mustangs capitalized on a Marauders miscue and pushed their advantage up to six by the technical.
Candice Scott (Kitchener, Ont.) picked up her second and third consecutive aces coming out of the break to give her team a commanding lead, and the Mustangs would cruise to a 2-1 match lead.
After the teams traded points in the early going of the fourth, the Marauders went on a 6-0 run to take a 15-11 lead. Western responded by taking five of the next six points to even the set 16-16. The teams then went back and forth into the latter stages of the set, neither side holding more than a one-point lead. Gyimah found the court with a short cutter that gave Western a 22-20 lead, but Woock responded with an ace to even the set once again. Jack tallied another ace to give McMaster a set point, but Veltman answered from the left side to even the match.
An ensuing rejection from Tsiofas put Western on match-point, but Veltman’s floating attack went just long, and the set continued. Veltman made up for her miss, however, with a clever tip in the open court, and Scott ended the match on the following play with a hard strike that McMaster couldn’t get up.
The Mustangs move on to the fifth-place game, where they will take on either Ryerson or Dalhousie, on Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. (EST).
“The fifth-place game is now our gold medal game,” said Bartlett. “We talked about it this morning that it doesn’t matter where we are at the end of this, we want to win that last match of the season, which we’ll remember and take into the summer and offseason.”