At home in Hamilton, volleyball Marauders send off legend Preston with U Sports bronze


Published March 20, 2023 at 10:15 am

Dave Preston and his wife Gloria kiss after the U Sports bronze-medal game in Hamilton on March 19. (CBC Sports/U Sports)

The legacy of Dave Preston was writ large by how his McMaster Marauders volleyballers saw something more than a bronze medal to play for in Hamilton on Sunday.

The ideal ending for the Marauders in their final ride under Preston — capturing that long-sought national championship win on their Burridge Gym home court — dashed by a defeat in the semifinal against the eventual champions. The Marauders and their nucleus that includes, but is not limited to, outside hitters Brendan Mills and Mateusz Wlodarski, setter Robbie Fujisawa, and middle hitter Wojciech Kraj, saw to it that McMaster would have something tangible to show for the striving.

At a packed gym, where the emotion generated easily came through the screens of the CBC streaming audience, the Marauders pulled themselves together for a straight-sets 25-21, 25-23, 25-23 win against the longtime nationals nemesis Alberta Golden Bears, who themselves came east as the No. 1 seed. It was an in-command performance; up two sets, the Marauders nursed a two- to four-point edge over a perennial power through the closeout set. Two Mills kills and a straight-down-the-net spike by Wlodarski provided enough cushion to absorb Alberta and U Sports player of the year Jordan Canham saving three match points before Mac got the decider.

Kraj, the 6-foot-10 native of Poland, was player of the game in his final match for McMaster after notching six kills.

During the celebration, Preston hugged his daughters Gabby and Grace, then kissed his wife Gloria. The coach also took time to acknowledge all four corners of the gym.

Preston announced his decision to retire on Jan. 21. He has been a head coach in OUA for more than 30 seasons, including 10 with the Western Mustangs prior to his move to McMaster.

The Marauders, by the numbers, made 15 appearances in the Canadian championship tournament, 11 Forsyth Cup wins as Ontario (OUA) conference champions, and tallied a 363-92 overall record under Preston. More than 50 players have received OUA all-star recognition over that span. This season, Wlodarski, who is a master’s student in biochemistry at Mac, became the sixth Marauders male volleyballer to win OUA’s Dale Iwanoczko Award for his combination of athletic and academic accomplishments.

The Trinity Western Spartans won the title with a straight-sets 25-16, 25-20, 25-16 win against the Sherbrooke Vert et Or later on Sunday night.

No OUA team has won the U Sports men’s volleyball title since the nationals adopted a single-elimination format in 1985. The Marauders’ ambition to end that drought was squelched in a four-sets 25-27, 25-20, 25-21, 25-21 defeat against Trinity Western on Saturday.

Fujisawa quarterbacked the Marauder squad with 35 assists in the losing cause against Trinity Western. Sherbrooke swept Alberta in the other semifinal.

Friday, McMaster had a straight-sets quarterfinal win (25-19, 25-20, 25-20) against the Saskatchewan Huskies.

Ian Eibbitt, Preston’s lead assistant coach, is expected to serve as interim coach until McMaster formally hires the successor to Preston.

Mohawk curlers nab nationals bronze

The Mohawk Mountaineers men’s curling rink of skip Jacob Jones, vice Eric Just, second Joel Matthews, and first Liam Little mined some precious metals at the Canadian (CCAA) championships in Sudbury last weekend.

Mohawk earned the bronze medal after the Jones-helmed team beat the Sault Cougars 9-3 in their final match, closing out a season that also included winning the Ontario (OCAA) league title. Jones, Waterdown native Matthews, and Little were recognized as first-team all-stars, and Ancaster native Just earned second-team epaulets.

The Mountaineers were undefeated on the season against all opponents except the SAIT Trojans. The Calgary-based team outthrew Mohawk 10-7 in the semifinal, and also accounted for the Hamilton squad’s only defeat in the tournament round-robin.

The bronze medal is the Mountaineers’ first at nationals since winning silver in 2017.

Former Bulldogs captain hoists University Cup

Three seasons after captaining his hometown Hamilton Bulldogs, Isaac Nurse came up big while the New Brunswick Reds (UNB) captured the David Johnston University Cup this weekend.

The 24-year-old right wing factored into decisive late third-period goals for UNB during both the final and semifinal at the Canadian university men’s hockey championship in Charlettetown. With 5½ minutes left in a one-goal championship contest, Nurse forced a turnover and set up Cole MacKay to score the dagger goal in a 3-0 win against the Alberta Golden Bears in the final.

On Saturday, Nurse scored the final two UNB goals during his club’s 6-3 semifinal win against the Trois-Rivières Patriotes, who were the defending champions and ultimately took the bronze medal.

Nurse, who is the younger brother of Team Canada/PWHPA superstar Sarah Nurse, played for the Bulldogs from 2016 till ’20. The alumnus of the Hamilton Huskies youth hockey program contributed to the Bulldogs’ first Ontario league (OHL) title in 2018, served as alternate captain in ’18-19 and wore the “C” in ’19-20.

The victory gave New Brunswick its ninth national title under coach Gardiner MacDougall, tying him for the most all-time with Tom Watt. (Watt won his titles at the University of Toronto, and was a Canadian Olympic team and NHL head coach). MacDougall was the interim coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs when they won the 2022 Memorial Cup at the expense of the Bulldogs.

Mountaineers competitive at women’s basketball nats

Individual efforts by guards Celina Chung and Rachel Guanzon stand out from the Mohawk Mountaineers’ run at the Canadian (CCAA) women’s basketball championship on their home floor last week.

Mohawk was 0-3 in the tournament, with their closest margin coming in a 10-point setback against the Red Deer Queens in the bronze semifinal round. Chung, a second-year guard from Toronto, hooped a season-high 20 points in Mohawk’s finale, a 97-63 defeat against the Mount Saint Vincent Mystics in the seventh-place game on Friday. Graduating fifth-year veteran Tia Stys, a St. Catharines native, also chipped in 10 points during her final game for Mohawk.

Guanzon kept Mohawk in contact with Red Deer during the 80-70 bronze semifinal defeat, scoring 20 points through just 10 shot attempts thanks to her 5-of-6 shooting on three-pointers. Chung also came through with 11 in her sixth-woman role off the bench. (In the CCAA’s format, the teams that lose in the quarterfinal remain in contention for the bronze medal.)

The Vancouver Island Mariners and tournament MVP Harriette Mackenzie won the title with a 60-54 victory on Saturday against the Saint-Jean Géants on Saturday. Mackenzie had 17 points and 19 rebounds in the final for three double-doubles in as many contests. Her MVP performance included 17 points and 21 rebounds in just 21 minutes in Vancouver Island’s quarterfinal win against Mohawk on March 15.

Teams from Québec got 2-of-3 podium spots. The Dawson Blues, from the Montréal area, won bronze with an 87-70 win against Red Deer on Saturday. Marie-Denise Ntambue poured in a game-most 23 points for Dawson and Eden Monka added a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double.

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