The men’s volleyball team crushed two teams’ playoff hopes this weekend, clinching the coveted second seed in the OUA playoffs and its accompanying first-round bye in the process. Their opponents didn’t make it easy, though. The Gaels were taken to five sets by both the 8-10 University of Toronto Varsity Blues on Friday and the 10-9 Ryerson Rams Saturday. Both Toronto teams traveled to Kingston needing a win against the Gaels to secure a spot in the OUA quarter-finals but came up short.
But the Gaels needed more than just two wins to take the second spot. Going into Saturday’s match, Queen’s shared second place with the 15-4 Western Mustangs, who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Gaels. Western lost to the 10-9 Waterloo Warriors Saturday, giving the Queen’s-Ryerson clash new meaning.
Saturday’s match went back and forth between the two teams, with the Rams taking the first and third sets 26-24 and 25-20 and the Gaels winning the second and fourth sets 25-23 and 25-21. Queen’s prevailed 15-10 in the fifth set.
Head coach Brenda Willis said the news of Western’s loss gave the team the motivation they needed to come through in the fifth set.
“It’s always tough when your destiny sits in someone else’s hands,” she said. “The fact that we found out early in the fifth that they went and lost to Waterloo really changed the level of urgency because we had something on the line.”
Willis said her team’s lethargy during most of the game was from fatigue and the conception that a loss wouldn’t change much; if the Gaels had lost on Saturday and Western had won, Queen’s was guaranteed third place.
“Toronto took it to us pretty hard last night; it was almost midnight before we got out of here,” she said. “Our tank was a little empty today so when there wasn’t a lot on the line we weren’t really competing, we were just playing. Once we knew our destiny was back in our control you could see the change.”
Willis said she was especially impressed with the play of setter Dan Rosenbaum Saturday. He recorded 52 assists and three Gaels finished with over 10 kills each.
“I thought Dan Rosenbaum did a fabulous job of distributing the ball,” she said.
Willis said the two challenging matches from non-playoff contenders were evidence of the growing competitiveness of the OUA.
“We’re getting to that point in the OUA where if we come out at 80 per cent, or even 85 per cent, we put our result on the line,” she said. “And that’s against teams that aren’t making the playoffs.”
The weekend’s wins brought the reward of a week off—the Gaels’ next game isn’t until Sunday when they will host the winner of the quarter-final matchup between the sixth-ranked Guelph Gryphons and the third-ranked Western Mustangs.
Veteran outside hitter Jeff DeMeza said the way the Gaels served against Ryerson won’t win playoff games.
“Against the top teams in the league you can’t serve like that and think you going to get away with it,” he said. “We’ve got to get serves in and we’ve got to start serving tough.”
DeMeza said the tight wins this weekend showed the team how important home advantage is.
“It built the confidence that come late February, games in this barn are ours,” he said. “No matter how ugly the win, it’s going to happen for us.”
The men’s first playoff game will be at 7 p.m. Saturday in Bartlett Gym.
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