The McMaster Marauders took aim at the stars this past year, and for a time, it seemed that the program would be forced back to earth.
Head Coach Dave Preston embarked on a recruiting drive nearly a year ago with the stated mission of chasing down the very best.
The only problem: the best rarely stay north of the 49th parallel.
â€śI told our players that we were going after some blue chip guys this year,â€ť explains Preston. â€śI warned them what that could mean.â€ť
The â€śblue chipâ€ť class in question was headlined by Danny Demyanenko and Stephen Maar, two leading members of the vaunted Toronto Crush club team that successfully toured the United States before winning yet another national club title in May.
The pair earned virtually every accolade available to a Canadian youth player, be it a club title, beach championship or selection to provincial and national teams. Their accomplishments were such that Division I schools in the NCAA â€“ who rarely mine Canada for talent â€“ sat up and took notice.
Recruiters flocked to the Crush, particularly after the team swept a tournament in Southern California as the only Canuck entrant and earned a berth in the U.S. National Club Championship.
The offers rolled in from premier programs south of the border, and the Marauders increasingly resigned themselves to losing out on the stars they coveted. Competitive as McMaster is among CIS schools, it is a minnow when swimming with Division I sharks.
â€śTheyâ€™re all really good players,â€ť says McMaster middle Alex Elliot of his teamâ€™s targets on the Crush.
â€śWe knew that if he (Preston) was going for all of these big names, hopefully weâ€™d maybe get one of them. When they were all interested in going to the States, we thought, â€śWell, there goes those guys.â€ťâ€ť
UCLA â€“ a perennially ranked powerhouse in Division I â€“ took a keen interest in Demyanenko, while the University of Hawaii wooed Maar. The pair was forced into a difficult decision as their Ontarian roots clashed with the glamour and competitive edge offered elsewhere.
â€śAfter a few tournaments in the States, we got a little bit of hype and there was a lot of excitement over the schools in the States. It led me and a few of my teammates to wonder whether there was something better there,â€ť Demyanenko admits.
â€śThe conflict was really about how competitive things would be,â€ť says Maar. â€śThe OUA compared to the MPSF (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) â€“ the conference Hawaii is in â€“ thereâ€™s a pretty big difference.
â€śThe weekly competition â€“ playing Waterloo as opposed to UCLA â€“ is really different.â€ť
Maarâ€™s painstaking selection process came to an end in May, and to the surprise of many, he turned aside Hawaiiâ€™s overtures and declared his intent to play at McMaster.
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