Men's volleyball ousted from playoffs by undefeated McMaster

Gaels struggle in their attack due to passing woes

The men's volleyball team in a game earlier this season against U of T. The Gaels recently lost to the McMaster Marauders, ending their season.
The men's volleyball team in a game earlier this season against U of T. The Gaels recently lost to the McMaster Marauders, ending their season.
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The men’s volleyball team closed out their season this Saturday with a 3-0 loss to the undefeated McMaster Marauders in the quarter-finals of the OUA playoffs.

While the Marauders dominated the first set 25-15, the Gaels were able to put a little more pressure on their opposition in final two sets, ultimately dropping them 25-19 and 25-21, respectively. On the night, Queen’s had five more errors than the number-three-nationally-ranked Marauders, and were outhit .296 per cent to .013.

One of the biggest struggles the Gaels faced this season was the depletion of their roster when they graduated the majority of their starters at the end of their 2015-16 season. Head coach Brenda Willis pointed to this lack of experience on the team’s roster as a point of struggle throughout the season.

“With Jamie Wright as the only returning regular starter, our experience was fairly limited. If you compare the starting line-ups, on the floor, in [McMaster’s] top line were three fifth-year players, two fourth-years, and two third-years,” Willis said. “In those seven guys, that’s 29 years of CIS and I believe six had junior national team experience.”

The Marauders were intense competition for the Gaels and had dominated their regular season without a single loss. “There's a reason they're ranked number three in the nation … they're extremely physical, extremely experienced, skilled and disciplined. No one in Ontario and very few anywhere else in the country have been able to crack that nut,” Willis said.

Willis pointed to two challenges that the Gaels had to face during Saturday’s game. “The two main things that are so challenging are their serving velocity, which we don't see against other opponents in our league, and the size of their block,” Willis said.

She also pointed to a deficiency in the Gaels’ passing as an issue throughout the game. “Our left side hitters, who were quite effective all year long, were rendered neutral because our passing didn't allow us to run a deceptive offence and they were able to close against our power attack,” Willis said.

While the Gaels weren’t able to achieve the level of success that Willis and the team had hoped for this season, she’s got high hopes for next season’s roster. “We have signed a fabulous recruiting class, with size as a priority and now that our young players have a year of starting experience under their belts, I suspect we will be right back in the hunt for final four,” Willis said.

Sunday also marked the final games for veterans Jamie Wright, Will Hoey and Austin Payne.

Fellow veterans Markus Trence and Thomas Ellison are set to continue with the team next year, going into their fifth and final year of OUA eligibility. Willis sees this season as one of growth and thinks that with some key leadership coming from returning players the team will be successful next year.

“Although the scores may not have reflected it, I was very proud of our guys as I thought they played a disciplined and strategic match. And they pushed very hard in the final set,” Willis said. 

“With nine new players on the team and only one returning starter, I think we came a very long way. Making playoffs with this group was a strong accomplishment and I suspect that if we had earned a different match up in the first round, we would have contended for a final four berth.”

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