Men’s volleyball heads for playoffs

The mission was simple: win and they’re in. And that’s exactly what the Laurier men’s volleyball team did on Saturday afternoon, downing the Ryerson Rams in straight sets to claim the final spot in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs.

“A big load of expectations has just been lifted off their shoulders,” said Laurier head coach Shayne White. “Hopefully this can translate into something good in the playoffs.”

After taking the first two sets handily by scores 25-18 and 25-13, the Rams proved to be much stiffer competition in the third. Ryerson led the entire set until the Hawks tied it up at 24. From there the teams traded breaks until Laurier ended up winning 30-28.

“The best thing about what happened in the third is that we were down by quite a bit and had to fight our way back,” said White. “We got a little bit excited about having some opportunites to end it earlier but they didn’t quit and this is a good time for us moving forward.”

With so much riding on this single match, it would have been easy for this Hawks team, which has been inconsistent all season to fold under the pressure. However, according to White, they avoided thinking of anything past Saturday’s winner-take-all affair.

“We just tried to stay in the moment and focus on winning each point,” he said. “I thought it actually looked like Ryerson was really aware that if they won they were in and they started of just brutal, it looked like the pressure got them.”

Coming into the match the Hawks were in the midst of a six-match losing streak, underscoring a woeful second half of the season that saw them win just a single match in 2011. However their second win of the semester proved to be enough to propel the purple and gold into the post-season.

Entering the playoffs as the league’s lowest seed, the Hawks will be underdogs no matter who they play. However, that role works just fine for the purple and gold.

“We’re feeling great, absolutely ecstatic right now. We had a really slow start to the second half of the season but we really picked it up today when we needed to,” said Laurier captain Erik Kroman. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you see us in the final four, we’re going to do some damage.”

For Kroman, Saturday was a bittersweet event. With the Hawks not in a position to host a playoff game the graduating fourth-year played his last game at Laurier.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Kroman of his time at Laurier. “I’ve loved every second of it, everyone here has been great, it’s something I’ll never forget.”

The Hawks post-season begins this Saturday when they visit the McMaster Marauders, a team whom the Hawks lost both their regular season matches to this season.