Apologies for the delay in this week's edition of Five For Pondering; it was a pretty crazy week at my day job thanks to the upcoming reading break. As always, post feedback and suggested games for next week's edition here or send them to me at andrew_bucholtz [at] hotmail.com.
Game of the past week:
Women's volleyball: McMaster Marauders 3, York Lions 1 (From Feb. 7, set scores of 25-13, 16-25, 25-22, 25-19) [Charlotte Peer, McMaster Athletics]
Why it's notable: This was a rare slip-up from a dominant York team, and marked their first regular-season loss of the year. Moreover, it came at a particularly interesting time; this was their last game of the regular season, so it might have some effects going into the playoffs. It should give McMaster a big momentum swing, and it certainly proves that the Lions aren't indestructible.
The setup: This was always going to be a clash of OUA titans. York came in with an 18-0 record, looking to cap off a perfect season and build momentum for a playoff run. Meanwhile, McMaster's record was nothing to sneeze at either; they entered the game at 14-4, one spot behind Western for first place in the OUA West. The Marauders had more to play for, as a win combined with a Western loss would see them take top spot in their division, but don't underestimate the allure of a perfect record.
The game: Sometimes you'll see teams with nothing to gain from a final regular-season match rest their stars and take the night off, but that doesn't appear to have happened here. It's difficult to tell precisely without having seen the game in person, but York star Thinesa Sriskandarajah played all four sets and led their team in both kills (13) and attempts (37), so that would at least suggest that the Lions were going for it. The surprising thing here is that all of the sets other than the third were won by wide margins; McMaster took the first set by 12 points, while York rebounded with a nine-point victory in the second set and the Marauders won the final set by six. Even that third set still had a three-point margin of victory. That suggests that both teams were up and down all night, with the third being the only time they really collided at a similar level.
The star: It was a real group effort from the Marauders, as none of their players had over 10 kills. Kaila Janssen, Larissa Puhach and Heidi Bench all had strong games, recording seven, seven and six kills respectively. However, Sarah Kiernan's play does stand out; she recorded a team-high eight kills on just 14 attempts (a stellar kill percentage of .570) and added five service aces, a stuff block and seven assisted blocks.
Most of the ripples from this one are yet to be seen, as neither team's played since then. However, McMaster's win combined with Western's surprising loss to Waterloo meant that the Marauders took the top playoff seed in the West. They'll host the surprising Warriors Saturday, while York will face 10-9 Queen's.
The four honorable mentions:
Women's basketball: Lethbridge Pronghorns 71, University of Saskatchewan Huskies 70 (From Feb. 7) [Eoin Colquhoun, Lethbridge Sports Information]
Why it's notable: This was the Pronghorns' third win over ranked opponents in 2009. Curiously, they've only won five games all year (they finish the schedule 5-17). Saskatchewan came in with a 17-4 record, a number-three ranking in the coaches' poll and a tied-for-second ranking in the RPI. They had already clinched the division and a first-round bye, so this may not mean all that much to them, but a loss to a team like Lethbridge has to hurt your momentum going into the playoffs. This is more impressive for the Pronghorns' giant-killing abilities than the Huskies' slip-up, though.
Men's hockey: St. Francis Xavier X-Men 3, University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds 2 (From Feb. 7) [David Kifoil, UNB Sports Information]
Why it's notable: This is an interesting one. Unranked St. FX scored three times on their first four shots and hung on for the win against UNB, ranked first in the RPI and second by the coaches. St. FX did crack the RPI at the 10 spot, so the teams weren't all that disparate, but it's still an upset. The Varsity Reds probably aren't all that upset about it, though, given that they were coming off a tough overtime win against #5 St. Mary's on the night before [Maureen Sparks, UNB Sports Information] while the X-Men were rested.
Men's volleyball: Waterloo Warriors 3, Western Mustangs 0 (From Feb. 11; set scores: 25-20, 25-16, 25-22) [Stacey Beekhoo, Western Sports Information; also see this opinion piece on the game and the season by Western Media Relations Officer Andy Watson]
Why it's notable: This first-round, straight-set playoff upset continued what's been a very odd season in men's volleyball. By all rights, Western shouldn't have even been playing in this game; they had the second playoff seed all locked up going into Saturday night, but lost a four-set match to these very same Waterloo Warriors, who weren't even guaranteed a playoff spot heading into the night. That loss combined with Queen's five-set victory over Ryerson [Jake Edmiston, Queen's Journal] to send the Warriors into the playoffs, keep the Rams on the sidelines, force Western into the midweek #3-#6 battle with Waterloo and give the Gaels a first-round bye. Moreover, Western was eighth in the RPI going into this match and had a 15-5 record against Waterloo's 11-9 mark. Now, we'll see Waterloo clash with 16-4 Queen's Saturday, which might not be the one-sided match you'd expect; the Warriors have handily beaten Western twice in a row now, and the Gaels lost both of their games against the Mustangs this season. Waterloo's got the hot hand at the moment; they won't be easy to beat.
Men's basketball: University of Alberta Golden Bears 86, University of Calgary Dinos 76 (From Feb. 7) [Matt Gutsch, University of Alberta Sports Information Director]
Why it's notable: Calgary was ninth in the RPI and fourth in the coaches' poll heading into this one and boasted a 17-4 record against Alberta's 12-8 mark. Moreover, it was the final regular-season home game for Alberta head coach Don Horwood, a three-time CIS Coach of the Year with three national titles to his credit. Alberta won this one despite Calgary star Henry Bekkering dropping 30 points and his brother Ross adding 13 and eight. According to the aforementioned write-up, there were several crazy plays in this one as well, including an alley-oop dunk from Henry Bekkering and a bizarre Hail Mary combination from Alberta's Harvey Bradford, Neb Aleksic and Patrick Maloney. We could see these rivals go at it again in a couple weeks; Alberta's hosting Saskatchewan this weekend, and the winner will advance to face the Dinos.
Other notable games:
-Lethbridge Pronghorns 6, University of Alberta Golden Bears 4 (men's hockey from Feb. 7) [Paul Cartledge, University of Alberta Athletics]
-Queen's Golden Gaels 5, University of Toronto Varsity Blues1 (women's hockey from Feb. 8) [Anand Srivastava, Queen's Journal]
-Simon Fraser University Clan 87, Winnipeg Wesmen 56 (women's basketball from Feb. 6) [Scott McLean, SFU Athletics]