Sports recap: Lions defeat Windsor Lancers for OUA bronze and a spot at the nationals

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The York University Lions men’s volleyball team completed a thrilling comeback in five sets to defeat the University of Windsor Lancers and win the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) bronze medal at the Burridge Gymnasium in Hamilton, Ont., on Saturday, Feb. 20.

The York Lions men's volleyball team celebrate their OUA victory
The York Lions men’s volleyball team celebrate their OUA victory

The win qualified the Lions for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship tournament for the first time since 2005.

Saturday’s OUA semifinal did not start the way the Lions would have hoped, as they struggled to string together points and ended up dropping the first two sets to the Lancers by scores of 25-23 and 25-21.

The Lions finally started to build some momentum early in the third set, taking a 6-3 lead and, ultimately, a 16-11 advantage at the technical timeout thanks to a big ace by Ray Szeto. They continued to add to the lead throughout the end of the set and got back into the match by taking it 25-20.

The Lions continued the strong play into the start of the fourth set and again led early, forcing Windsor to call a timeout at 11-8 and eventually holding a 16-13 advantage at the technical timeout. The Lancers were never able to catch up, and the Lions evened the match at two sets apiece with a 25-19 fourth-set win.

It was the Lancers who jumped out early in the fifth and deciding set, winning the first three points. The two squads traded mini runs after that, and the Lancers forced a York timeout at 7-4. The Lions then won five of the next six points to lead 9-8, and after trading a couple of points Josh Henderson went on a run to push the Lions to within one point of the win at 14-9.

Windsor got two points back to make it 14-11, but on the Lions’ third match point Henderson hit a massive kill that just caught the edge of the back line to complete the remarkable comeback.

Szeto was named the player of the match after finishing with a game-high 24 points on 19 kills, three blocks and two service aces, as well he added four digs. Henderson was also tremendous with 20 points on 18 kills, one block and one service ace.

Nikola Sandic recorded an impressive 55 assists and also added 3.5 points and four digs on the night. Middle blocker Arthur Swarcz had a big game with 14 points on 10 kills, three blocks and one service ace.

Windsor’s leading scorer was Gabriel Burlacu with 20 points on 18 kills and two blocks.

The Lions will be heading to Saskatoon next week for the CIS championships. Their first match will be on Thursday, with the opponent and time still to be determined.