By Gavin Axelrod
On a cold night in downtown Toronto, there wasn’t a hotter sporting venue on Friday than the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), where the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s volleyball team pulled off an upset for the ages.
The Bold took down the country’s No. 2 team the McMaster Marauders, who also happened to have an undefeated, 18-0 record heading into the contest. Friday’s victory marks the first time since 2017 the Bold have earned a win over the Marauders.
“It was our senior night, the three guys that are graduating, I love those boys…I played for them, we all played for them,” said second-year outside hitter Nicholas Hudson. “I didn’t want that to be their last game and it’s not now and we were fearless. We just went out and did our thing.”
TMU didn’t just beat McMaster on Friday night, they dominated them. The Bold won the first set 25-18, the second 25-16 and capped things off by closing out the final set 25-23.
McMaster is a team that’s been nearly perfect this year and their loss Friday saw them drop just their 12th, 13th and 14th sets this season.
“That’s the number two team in Canada,” said Hudson. “They’re undefeated, well, were undefeated and we beat them 3-0. That just shows what we can do.”
TMU found themselves at a rare deficit, down 21-19 in the game’s third set. It seemed like McMaster was finally going to come alive and flash the skill that’s made them a top team in the country, but they couldn’t get their offence into high-gear.
The Bold withstood the late McMaster push, cutting into the opponents lead. A rowdy crowd at the MAC roared with life as the home side retook a 22-21 advantage.
TMU had McMaster on the ropes at 24-22 and were a point away from delivering the knockout blow. Interim head coach Niko Rukavina urged his side to breathe, gesturing to slow things down with team on the verge of its biggest victory this season.
“I think it comes from my experience playing in big games and knowing that the heart rate gets going and we see the victory coming,” said Rukavina. “And against a team like Mac we need to take care of that point. One point could take 10 points to score.”
Friday’s celebration was momentarily delayed due to McMaster scoring a 23rd point in the set, but a rejection at the net by Hudson and third-year middle Alex King sealed the deal. And as the Bold began to jump with excitement, it was hard to find many fans in the building without a smile on their face.
“These were all games that we needed to win,” said Rukavina. “It was a playoff environment and when you got to win to keep going that’s what it has to take.”
Win and live to see another day or lose and go home is the name of the game for TMU with the postseason right around the corner. The Bold were clinging to eighth place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference prior to Friday’s game, but with a victory over McMaster they can sleep a little easier knowing they’ve created valuable separation from the competition.
“We played to the best of our abilities and it showed up on the scoreboard,” said Hudson.
UP NEXT: The OUA regular season closes out over the weekend. Until then, the Bold will have to wait to find out when their next match will be.