The men’s volleyball team claimed its second preseason title last weekend in the 22nd annual Queen’s Invitational tournament, the final event of their preseason calendar. Head coach Brenda Willis said she was happy to get the win, but not thrilled with the team’s performance.
“It’s always nice to win at home, but I don’t feel we played up to our potential,” she said. “We weren’t pushed by our opponents. The few times we were pushed, it was kind of our own fault.”
On Friday, the Gaels earned a five-set win over the Université de Sherbrooke Vert et Or and a four-set win over the Waterloo Warriors. On Saturday, the Western Mustangs took it to the Gaels in five sets, but Queen’s still finished first in their pool. The Gaels picked up another five-set win over the Laurier Golden Hawks Saturday evening to advance to the final. In a rematch for the title, Queen’s beat Western in five sets.
Despite her dissatisfaction with the Gaels’ play overall, Willis said the team came up strong when the chips were down.
“We got behind 2-0 against Sherbrooke and when our backs were to the wall—typical of last year—we stepped up and won three straight,” she said. “Against Laurier in the semifinals, it was the same sort of thing.” Willis said the team needs to maintain urgency throughout.
“It’s interesting that at this point we are playing well when we really need to,” she said. “I just feel that we should need to all the time, to come out and set the tone. I think we’re allowing other teams’ levels to dictate our intensity and our focus.”
Willis said one of the team’s biggest strengths this year is the variety of talent she has at her disposal.
“The one good thing I’m finding is that we’re deep,” she said. “I’m able to turn in a lot of directions in every position, quite frankly, and so I don’t think that injuries are going to be as serious for us this year as they have been in the past or as they might be to some other team’s lineups. Fatigue also isn’t going to be a huge factor, as I’m not going to need to rely on the same six or seven guys in every match.”
The team lost All-Canadian setter Devon Miller to graduation this year, but Willis said second-year setter Dan Rosenbaum has stepped up to fill the gap. Rosenbaum was named the tournament MVP this past weekend.
“Dan brings some different things than Devon,” Willis said. “He’s certainly a higher block and able to manage the offence closer to the net because he’s 6’4’’. He’s certainly improving every time we play. He’s not Devon; Devon was a fourth- and fifth-year player when he was at his best, and to measure [Dan] against a fourth- or fifth-year player would be unfair, but he’s certainly on par with or past where Devon was as a second-year player.”
Rosenbaum said he felt the MVP award showed he can perform at a high level.
“There’s been a lot of pressure put on me to be an adequate replacement for Devon, so it felt good to play well enough to get that award, but the team played really well and it’s really more of a team thing than anything,” he said.
Rosenbaum said it’s not easy to take over the starting role.
“It’s a difficult task to try to step in and come into a pretty established program and be the new setter, but I really like the challenge,” he said.
Rosenbaum said the team still has a lot of work to do before their season-opening matches against the Windsor Lancers and Western Mustangs this weekend.
“Even though we won the tournament, I don’t think anyone on the team’s satisfied with how we played.”
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