Beyond the stats: women’s volleyball

Gaels to face rival Mustangs in first round of playoffs 

The women's volleyball team is 10-9 going into the OUA playoffs.
The women's volleyball team is 10-9 going into the OUA playoffs.

After going 5-8 through the first part of the season, the women’s volleyball team has been one of the hottest teams in the OUA, winning five of their last six games. 

With a 3-1 victory over the Brock Badgers in St. Catharines last weekend, the Gaels closed out the regular season at 10-9 in third place, earning a spot in the OUA quarterfinals this coming weekend. 

At certain points during the season the playoffs seemed out of reach for the team. However, in what became a true tale of two halves, the Gaels laid down one strong performance after another to close out the year. Prior to the winter break, though, the young Gaels squad struggled to take three sets on any one day, dropping six of their first nine contests. 

The momentum shifted after winter break, as the team gained more experience together on the court. They opened the season’s second part with home-and-home sweeps of local rivals RMC — only conceding under 70 points over the two matches and needing only the minimum six sets to get back to winning ways. However, a trip to Toronto the following weekend saw the team struggle against undefeated OUA East leaders U of T, and the second-place Ryerson Rams. 

Sitting on a record of 5-8 after consecutive losses, it seemed the Gaels were in a tough position to cement a spot above either Nipissing or York to secure the division’s fourth and final place in the OUA playoffs — certainly not without an impressive run of wins. But that they did. 

The Gaels added two victories in strong showings against Trent and Lakehead, with 3-0 and 3-1, respectively, before hosting York in a game with certain playoff implications.

It was a match that was so tense it had to be decided in five sets, with the tension best seen in a first set where the Gaels eventually prevailed 27-25. Outlasting the Lions with a 15-9 triumph in the fifth set, the Gaels made it back to .500 for the first time since November, after entering the game with a 7-8 record (the same record as York).

On a short turn-around just a day later, the team was still able to direct any remaining energy they had towards what ended up as one of their most impressive, and important, matches all year. The Gaels ultimately welcomed playoff rivals Nipissing to Kingston with an emphatic straight set performance and another extended first set victory at 26-24. The victory pulled Queen’s ahead of both opponents from that weekend and into third place — a position they’ve held onto since. 

At the forefront of much of the team’s success was third-year captain Caroline Livingston. With well more than 200 kills and 150 digs, she became vital to the team’s successes with the ball on both sides of the net. Part of a trio of the most senior players on the team, along with outside hitters Isabelle Korchinski and Victoria Wensley, the three third-years played an important role on a team that at times may have struggled with a lack of experience at the varsity level. However, as seen in recent games, when it mattered the most, the entire team found their best efforts to launch the Gaels into the postseason.

Queen’s incredible second-half will not be getting any easier, though. They travel to London this weekend to face OUA West second-placed Western, with the winner earning a birth in the OUA semifinals — and the chance to play for a spot in the U Sports Championship in Toronto.

Although, in their one game this season, the Gaels fell to the Mustangs 3-1, with their recent run of form, no opponent will be taking this team lightly. 

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