Gaels preparing to face nation’s best at U SPORTS Championship

The Journal’ sits down with Men’s Volleyball Head Coach Gabriel deGroot
Image by: Herbert Wang
Queen’s hosts the U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball Championship in the ARC March 14-17.

With the Queen’s Men’s Volleyball team preparing to face the best competition from across Canada at this weekend’s U SPORTS National Championship tournament, The Journal sat down with Head Coach Gabriel deGroot to discuss how the Gaels are doing.

Coming from a place of confidence with his team, deGroot said very little work will be done in terms of adapting to the competition they’ll be facing. Instead, he says it’s about playing the level of volleyball the Gaels know they can play at.

“We’re very much trying to stay focused on how we want to execute and how we want to play the game and in terms of our style,” deGroot said. “[We’re] not getting caught up in trying to do things differently, because all of a sudden we’re on a national stage.”

The Gaels were eliminated from the OUA playoffs in the championship game against the McMaster Marauders. Facing the possibility of meeting their rivals once more—only this time on a national stage—deGroot mentioned some areas where he’d like to see his team improve.

“I think we probably needed to execute a little bit better in parts of our game—and probably some individual performances need to look a little bit different, but I don’t think we’re going to try to rewrite our playbook going into a national championship,” he said.

Queen’s has played five of the eight teams playing at Nationals this year, hosting Trinity Western University, the University of Alberta, Mount Royal University, Sherbrooke University, and McMaster University in the Smola Cup tournament back in October. The Gaels held their own at McMaster, beating both the Mount Royal Cougars and Trinity Western Spartans.

“I think for our athletes to have seen that very early in the year, now we know what the expectation is and the caliber of play that we need to play out in the national championship,” he said.

The added attention associated with hosting a national tournament is sure to fill seats this weekend. Whether it’s athletes from other competing teams, families, or students, the ARC will be loud.

“I think nerves have to be embraced,” deGroot said. “We’ve talked about that with the team a lot. That nervous energy is your body telling you something exciting is about to happen.”

deGroot knows the implications of playing the tournament at home and the benefits coming with it.

“We know [that] to get Trinity Western off of their game in the first round, in quarter-final match, we’re going to have to use the crowd and score some big points,” he said. “Hopefully we can get the crowd into it early.”

This isn’t the first time deGroot has been in this situation. Back in 2012, deGroot was with the team as an assistant coach when the Gaels last hosted U SPORTS Nationals. The team’s only win was in the quarter final against the Alberta Golden Bears when they won in four sets.

Adding to the experience of the team, deGroot said that his team is not new to these high-pressure situations, playing in the OUA championship game at McMaster last weekend served as preparation for the high-stakes games to be played this weekend.

As one final note, deGroot wanted to squash anyone’s excuses to avoid the U SPORTS National tournament.

“This is the best volleyball at this level, besides the national team. There’s no professional level in Canada, so you’re seeing the best of Men’s volleyball,” he said. “It’s an opportunity no one would want to miss.”

Tags

ARC, Gabriel DeGroot, Men's Volleyball, U Sports Championship

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