Marauders year-end recap: Three teams battled hard for national championships

With the 2014/15 varsity season now in its mid-year break, McMaster Athletics and the Marauder fan-base can pause to appreciate what has been an incredibly exciting semester of sports action.

As student-athletes prepare for exams and make holiday plans, we reflect on a fall season that saw three McMaster teams advance to CIS national championship games.

“The last three months have seen some wonderful results from our Marauder teams,” said Glen Grunwald, director of Athletics & Recreation. “I’m very proud of the efforts of our student-athletes and coaches, and we all share in their success. I’m looking forward to more of the same in the second term.”

The women’s rugby team broke new ground by winning the first OUA championship in McMaster history, and doing it in front of a large maroon-clad crowd at Ron Joyce Stadium.

Advancing to the national tournament in Guelph, the Marauders defeated the hometown Gryphons and the Ottawa Gee-Gees to face St. Francis Xavier in the final. In a hotly contested match, the Marauders fell 43-34 to bring home the silver medal. With almost the entire team eligible to return in 2015, McMaster served notice it will be a threat again next season.

Moving to the soccer pitch, the McMaster men’s team was fortunate to play the OUA Final-Four at Ron Joyce Stadium. With two berths at the national championship at stake, the Marauders won a thrilling semi-final versus Ryerson, with a dramatic finish coming in penalty kicks.

Despite losing the OUA final to York, the Marauders travelled to UPEI for the CIS tournament and the roller-coaster ride continued as McMaster went to penalty kicks in both of its first two matches against New Brunswick and UQAM, with Marauder keeper Angelo Cavalluzzo coming up huge to help send the team to the national final. Again, the York Lions forced the Marauders to settle for silver, but the final result was the best finish by the men’s soccer squad since 1992.

The McMaster football team was something of a Cinderella story, as most pundits had the team slotted into a middle-of-the-pack finish in the OUA. From the opening overtime victory over Guelph, the Marauder gridiron gang showed that it was on a mission. After a first-place finish the team captured the OUA Championship and beat Mount Allison in the Mitchell Bowl to advance to its third Vanier Cup appearance in four years.

Faced with the daunting task of beating the Montreal Carabins in their own hometown, the Marauders played one of their best games of the year and came up a single point short of bringing home a national title.

In addition, the men’s cross country team and the women’s water polo team both captured OUA bronze medals for McMaster, while men’s water polo and men’s rugby advanced to the final-four in their respective seasons, but just missed making the medal podium.

On Oct. 21st, McMaster Athletics hit some unseen heights when nine Marauder teams were ranked in the CIS top-ten national rankings — an accomplishment without precedent in McMaster history.

With 2015 on the horizon, the winter varsity season looks to be just as promising in terms of prospects for some major accomplishments.

Both Marauder basketball teams are ranked in the national top-ten, and each has the potential to make deep runs into the playoffs with berths at the CIS tournaments a distinct possibility.

The men’s and women’s volleyball teams will both resume play in January, sitting in first-place in their OUA divisions, with the men ranked second in Canada and the women making it into the top-ten earlier this season. There is a decent likelihood that both of the volleyball squads could host their respective OUA final-four events at McMaster in February.

The swim teams are also primed to make a big splash in the New Year. The Marauder men have had some great results and have been a consistent presence in the top-ten, while the women have flirted with the rankings all year but expect to challenge for a spot on the podium at the OUA championships.

The new year will also see men’s and women’s wrestling enter the weekly rankings and the Marauder men will be OUA contenders again, while the women’s team is hoping to improve on last season’s finish. Wrestlers on both squads will challenge for medals at the OUA and CIS levels, and whoever peaks at the right time will dictate where the Marauders end up in the team standings.

McMaster fans have a great deal to cheer about as we enter the new year, with maroon and grey emerging as a dominant colours across Canada.

This article was initially published at dailynews.mcmaster

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