By Amit Shilton
“Jaws of life!”
The men’s volleyball team rushes to the windows of the old coach bus as firefighters circle a blue Hyundai on the side of the road. As emergency crews start cutting open the driver’s door, anxious whispers circle around the bus as to what happened.
After several minutes of struggling, an elderly woman climbs out of the car unharmed.
The team, which is on its way to Hamilton for a game, has already been driving for two hours, but the bus is still stuck on the Queensway.
As the bus nears McMaster, several players ask for the bus to stop at Tim Hortons. Middle Matt Fugard explains that the team runs on such a high caffeine level that is they don’t stop for a coffee before a game, they’ll lose the opening set. The bus doesn’t stop, instead it brakes for a pre-game meal at Wendy’s.
Before the game even starts, the McMaster fans let everybody know that they came ready to play too. Fans in the first few rows pull our flutter boards, banging them against the metal stands to try and psych out the Rams. They cheer, jeer and blatantly call out Ryerson’s players not only during breaks in the game, but in the middle of play.
Halfway through the first set it becomes apparent that maybe the team should have made that stop at Tim Hortons. Things don’t look good and the Ryerson fans start to get antsy when coach Mirek Porosa calls a timeout after going down 12-7. Ryerson eventually loses the set 25-14, but Porosa doesn’t seem to be worried.
Between sets one of the flutter boards jerks, who Ryerson fans referred to as the “Yeti” leaves. For the first time during the game, the gym was quiet. But, just before the second set started, he appeared from the back of the stands with a drum. Yes, an actual, physical, marching drum.
Despite the unsportsmanlike pounding seconds before Rams’ serves and kills, our boys come back strong. Ryerson trades points with McMaster, but eventually they break through and win a tight one, 26-24. But Mac surged back to win the third set, putting the Rams with their backs to the wall.
With the game on the line, Porosa starts setter Greg Marszalek to open the fourth set, and the move pays off. The Rams play their best volleyball of the season and take care of the fourth set 25-21, pushing the game to an indredible five set marathon.
The Rmas are down 15-14 in the fifth set and the whole gym is shaking. McMaster fans are in the aisles stomping their feet, flutterboards are being smashed, the drummer is on his feet trying to rally his troops.
But, thanks to clutch performances from Ryan Vandenburg, who finished the game with 23 kills, and Nic Beaver, who provided some key blocks at the end of the game, the Rams held on to edge out the Marauders 18-16 in the final set.
At the end of the game, referee Renzo Milan said that although the McMaster fans made ridiculous noise during Ryerson serves, the behaviour was generally “mild” compared to other schools like Western of the University of Toronto.
“Only if they physically interfere with the game does it become our call,” he said, noting that unsportsmanlike conduct is up to the home team’s discretion.
But, when talking to a McMaster official, he refused to quiet the home crowd. he explained that he wasn’t about to stop fans from supporting a team that hasn’t received a lot of fan support in the past, not even if they literally drum up support.
The Rams play McMaster at home on Jan. 14. Bring your drum.