After struggling through an injury-plagued campaign, women’s volleyball capped the year off with an inspiring performance against the OUA’s top team.
A fifth-place finish in the OUA East and a 10-9 record means the Gaels won’t be making the trip to the post-season this year for the first time in head coach Joely Christian-Macfarlane’s seven-year tenure.
“It was a season of ups and downs,” Christian-Macfarlane said. “The highs were high and the lows were low, in terms of wins and losses.”
Queen’s started off the season hot, wining five of their first seven games, but dropped both matches against Ottawa and Toronto — two of the top teams in the OUA East — in the final two games before the winter break. With the pair of losses, the Gaels went into the holidays with a 5-4 record, only a few points out of a playoff spot.
The team started to heat up again when action resumed in January, winning four of six games. Unfortunately, the team ran into injury troubles, losing their starting setter, libero and left side hitter to injuries after the holiday break.
Despite having a win percentage above .500, the Gaels were unable to catch the top four teams in their division and snag the final playoff spot.
Faced with an inevitable early off-season, the team began to perform up to their potential.
In each of their last four games, the Gaels took their opponents to five sets. Their 1-3 record over this span doesn’t accurately portray the growth the team experienced over this stretch.
Not only did they play better each game, they faced tougher competition each match. Three out of the four teams they played were ahead of them in the standings.
Playing the tougher teams at the end is something the Gaels are used to and relish in.
“It’s nice to play the toughest teams at the end because I think it prepares us for playoffs,” Christian-Macfarlane said.
The run culminated in a 3-2 victory over the OUA-leading Toronto Varsity Blues, who finished the year with a 15-4 record.
The game showcased the Gaels’ true potential as they battled down to the last point, capturing the fifth set to go out on a high note.
Outside hitter Kelsey Bishop and left side Brett Hagarty had notable years. Bishop placed in the top five in the OUA in points, kills and blocks, while Hagarty finished in the top 10 in points and proved her defensive worth by finishing third in digs.
With the season now over, Christian-Macfarlane’s focus shifts to filling the roles that will be vacated by three graduating players.
Fifth-year Shannon Walsh will definitely not be back in the fall. Leading scorer Kelsey Bishop and captain Katie Hagarty are both in their fourth years and also aren’t expected to return.
With the departures of the graduating players, second-years Brett Hagarty, Becky Wilson and Ali Shamie are expected be major components of the Gaels’ young core. The trio all played pivotal roles on the court this year.
“We all knew each other coming in,” Brett Hagarty said. “I’m really looking forward to next year because it’s so much fun to play with your best friends.” The team’s setting will be in good hands next year as Shamie and rookie Gabrielle Down both gained valuable experience and showed flashes of brilliance this season.
The pair, who possess greatly different skill sets, will provide the Gaels with a number of different looks, offensively and defensively. The team is only losing two of their starting six players to graduation, so the young core will have plenty of time to develop over the next two years.
“I’m confident that we have the players to step in and take on those roles,” Hagarty said.
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