Laval wins fourth national men's title

QUEBEC CITY (March 3, 2013)The fifth-seeded Laval Rouge et Or claimed their fourth national title, their first in their own building Sunday evening, defeating the No. 3 McMaster Marauders in four sets of 26-24, 22-25, 25-22 and 25-21 at the CIS men’s volleyball championship at PEPS Stadium, in Quebec City.

Championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mvball/index

Laval grabbed their first Tantramar trophy since 1994 and ended an 18-year domination from the Canada West conference. The Rouge et Or, silver medallists last year in Kingston, had also prevailed in 1990 and 1992. It marked the first title at home in nine attempts for Laval, which had won its first two banners in Winnipeg and the third one in Halifax.

En route to the title, Laval had to beat three higher-ranked teams, including the No. 4 Alberta Golden Bears, top-seeded Brandon Bobcats, and McMaster.

For McMaster, the silver medal is the best result in program history. The Marauders’ previous best finish was fourth in 2009.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time! All week long, I refused to think about it. We had to go point per point, set per set. But in the fourth, I struggled not to think about it. When we reached 19, I knew we would get it done,” said head coach Pascal Clément, who led his team to the national championship at his second year with Laval.

“It is pure happiness! Those kids were brave and they dared. I didn’t remember that feeling, it’s been too long! It is so big, and even more because it’s at home. I’ve been with this group of players for four years now, and because it’s their last match, I am very happy for them,” Clément continued.

The Marauders were off to a good start, thanks to powerful kills from CIS rookie of the year Dany Demyanenko (Toronto, ON). Down 4-1, Laval started to rally and under the spotlight was RSEQ player of the year Frédéric Mondou (Verchères, QC), who dug a couple of tough balls. The game remained tight, but service errors from McMaster allowed the Rouge et Or to take a 16-13 lead at the pause. Service problems continued to haunt the OUA champions in the latter part of the set, allowing Laval to take the first frame 26-24.

Both teams traded points early in the set. The noisy crowd continued to be a factor on McMaster’s servers, but Laval also had trouble controlling their service. Tommy Bélisle (Pierreville, QC), with a fourth service error, marked the beginning of a four-point sequence by the Marauders, which then led 12-8. From being ahead 16-12 at the break, McMaster saw Laval come up to a single point, but never let their lead go, taking the set 25-22 and levelling the match 1-1.

The war continued in the third frame. Kills from Mondou on one side and from Demyanenko on the other set the tone. McMaster lost a few points on technical mistakes at the net, but still managed to keep the lead at 16-15. Leading 21-19, the Marauders committed three straight fouls, the last two on out-of-bounds hits. Head coach Pascal Clément then made a good call by inserting middle Anthony Campbell (St-Hyacinthe, QC), who made two crucial blocks to give Laval the set by a score of 25-22.

Laval’s diversified attack struck early in the fourth. Up 6-5, the RSEQ champions saw Bélisle and Mondou nail three consecutive kills and Bruno Lortie (Ottawa, ON) make a timely block, bringing the score to 12-8 in the Rouge et Or’s favour. Laval’s lead, which was at 16-13 at the technical timeout, never completely dissipated. McMaster came as close as 21-20, but powerful strikes from Mondou and Bélisle allowed the hosts to serve for the championship at 24-21. A chance the Rouge et Or didn’t miss, spreading hysteria throughout the 3000 fans gathered at PEPS Stadium.

Right side Tommy Bélisle was selected player of the match for Laval, while the honour went to middle Dany Demyanenko for McMaster.

Laval’s middle Jérémie Lortie (Ottawa, ON) was chosen tournament MVP. His teammate and team captain Justin Boudreault also found a spot on the championship all-star squad.

Other tournament all-star include McMaster’s Dany Demyanenko and Austin Campion Smith, Alberta’s Jay Olmstead, Brandon’s Sam Tuivai and Western’s Garrett May. UNB’s Julio Fernandez won the R.W. Pugh Fair Play Award.