Exhibition: Western Mustangs win Excalibur Classic
Photo credit Western Athletics
TORONTO - The Western Mustangs defeated the New Brunswick Varsity Reds 3-1 (26-28, 25-14, 25-17, 25-22) to win the 32nd annual Excalibur Volleyball Classic, while the host York University Lions finished fourth.
After being blown out by the Varsity Reds 3-0 on day two, the Mustangs were looking for revenge in the big game, and they got it.
The match started out fairly even, with both teams splitting the opening two sets. The Varsity Reds took the first set courtesy of a pair of strong performances from Matt Sweet (O'Leary, P.E.I) and Jacob Kilpatrick (St. John, N.B.). Sweet had three kills and one block midway through the set that put the Varsity Reds in front, while Kilpatrick tied the set at 25 with a thunderous kill and came up with a huge block on the final point of the set to give the Varsity Reds a 1-0 match lead.
The Mustangs, however, turned things around in the second set. An impressive service game from Matt Poulin (Shanty Bay, Ont.) gave the Mustangs an early 6-2 lead, and they never looked back. The Mustangs collected five straight points on Poulin's serve and got another strong service game from rookie Garret May (Scarborough, Ont.) late in the set to tie the match at one apiece. The Mustangs led by as many as 13 points in the frame.
Led by Matt Waite (St. Thomas, Ont.), the Mustangs continued to dominate in the third. Waite made his presence felt at the net with some big kills and blocks that helped propel the Mustangs to an easy set win and a 2-1 match lead.
The Varsity Reds bounced back with a strong fourth set, but the Mustangs would not be denied. May gave the Mustangs an early 6-3 set lead with a big kill and three points on his service game, which included two aces. Not to be outdone, Varsity Reds' veteran outside-hitter Tyler Veenhuis (South Branch, N.S.) surpassed May's four-point run with a five-point run of his own – three service points and two kills – that put the Varsity Reds in front 13-10. Following Veenhuis's run, however, May, Poulin and Waite took over the set and carried the Mustangs to victory. Poulin and May came up with three combined kills late in the set to give the Mustangs match point, and Waite ended the game and the tournament with a monstrous kill.
With the win, the Mustangs captured their first ever Excalibur Classic title and proved why they are the top team in the OUA this season.
In the bronze medal match, the Windsor Lancers defeated the Lions 3-1 (25-21, 20-25, 28-26, 29-27).
After dropping the first set, the Lions fought back to win the second courtesy of some strong play by rookie outside hitter Ray Szeto (Sutton, Ont.), who is the Lions' leading scorer this season. Szeto threw down a thunderous kill that put the Lions up 15-14 and proceeded to rip off eight straight points on his serve to lead the Lions to a 20-14 lead and the set win. Nikola Sandic (Etobicoke, Ont.) came up huge with four big kills late in the set, and Karim Khalil (Mississauga, Ont.) ended the set with a blistering kill of his own.
The Lancers jumped out to an early 7-3 lead in the third, but the Lions clawed back late to tie the set at 24.
Khalil led the Lions with six kills in the set, but it was not enough as a rare Szeto service error gave the Lancers a 27-26 lead and a chance to serve out the set. Lancers' rookie Curtis Loch (Tecumseh, Ont.) did just that, collecting the final point the Lancers needed to take the set and a 2-1 lead.
The fourth set played out much like the third, with both teams trading points late in the set. The Lions jumped out to an early 16-11 lead, but they could not hold on to even the match at 2-2. The Lancers were able to cut into the Lions' lead thanks to three straight points collected off a strong service game from Remy Samanski (Whitby, Ont.). The Lancers then took control of the set late and closed it out on kills from Josh Edwards (Kingston, Ont.) and Kyle Williamson (Essex, Ont.).
The Lancers showed poise in the face of adversity. After winning a controversial round robin match with Budo and losing their semi-final match to the Varsity Reds yesterday, the Lancers bent but never broke in the bronze medal game. Despite a strong fourth set by the Lions, which saw Khalil, Sandic and Szeto collect five kills each, the Lancers came up with big blocks and kills when it counted most. Jimmy El-Turk (Windsor, Ont.) was a force at the net all match and won player of the match honours for his effort.
In the consolation final, Budo University (Japan) defeated the Sherbrooke Vert et Or 3-1 (25-17, 25-18, 21-25, 25-16) in what turned out to be a one-sided affair.
The Lions resume regular season play on Saturday (Jan. 8) when they will host the Excalibur Classic champion Western Mustangs at Tait McKenzie Centre. Game time is 2pm.
32nd Annual Excalibur Volleyball Classic
– Final Standings
7. Montreal and Ryerson
Karim Khalil (York)
Jacob Kilpatrick (UNB)
Taichiro Koga (Budo)
Garrett May (Western)
Matt Poulin (Western)
Tyler Veenhuis (UNB)
Source: Cody Powell, York sport writing assistant