Queen’s Men’s Volleyball faced off against the Western Mustangs twice this weekend, emerging victorious both times. Friday’s game ended in five sets and the Gaels took Saturdays game in four.
The ARC was packed for both games and the energy from the crowd propelled the Gaels to victory.
As outside hitter Erik Siksna told The Journal, having home court advantage and the crowd on their side was huge for the team, especially since there were “high tensions coming into [the] game.”
Western and Queens were neck in neck in the standings heading into Friday’s game.
The first set opened with a big kill from third-year middle Cole Davidson, setting the tone for the rest of the game. The Gaels were relentless on offense and had kills from all over the court.
Western proved themselves to be strong rivals, causing the Gaels to struggle defensively before they found their stride and took the first set 25-19.
Western started the second set with momentum. The Mustangs’ drive—paired with some questionable calls from the ref—lead the Gaels to fall short, 25-20.
The third set was heated both on and off the court. Western’s coach received a yellow card for yelling at the referee and the Gaels bench was told off for celebrating too much when their team got a point. They went point for point until the Mustangs pulled ahead to win 30-28.
The stakes were high heading into the fourth set. Siksna made it clear he was an offensive weapon, getting kills from everywhere on the court with placing and strength the Mustangs couldn’t beat. He obtained 34 kills this game—more than the rest of the team combined.
Siksna has been a huge asset to the Gaels throughout entire season and deservedly won U SPORTS Male Athlete of the Week last week.
“It was definitely a great honour,” Siksna said of this achievement.
“[It was] not something that was top of my mind. To already come out of the weekend with two big wins, it was definitely nice to see that recognition with a lot of great players and great matches this week.”
The Gaels turned things around in the fourth set and played as a cohesive unit for a 25-19 victory, then took the final set 17-15.
For three of the Gaels, Saturday marked the last regular season home game of their university career. The team honoured Lachlen McBride, Shane Gabel, and Matthew Hedden for their academic and athletic achievements throughout their undergraduate careers.
McBride—who had a total of 27 kills across both games—spoke to The Journal in a post-game interview.
“Playing here has been really awesome. It was a perfect night to go out on.”
Libero Gabel, who accrued 21 digs in the double header, also spoke to the energy in the ARC.
“It’s really special. I mean, I’m from Winnipeg, [and] the ARC is much different from my home gym—my high school gym. The crowd’s insane. It’s really surreal. Until you’re there you can’t really explain it.”
The Gaels fans did their graduating athletes justice and brought energy for the second game in a row. Despite the previous day’s referee reprimanding, the bench continued their excitement, pulling out all their best cheers including bowling balls, archers, and the canoe.
The Gaels carried their strong offense from Friday’s game into Saturday’s match.
Despite several big kills, the Gaels struggled a bit with their serves, and the Mustang women in the stands didn’t help. They seemed to have it out for each server, chirping them relentlessly as they prepared for service. As McBride put it: “Western was trying to spoil the night.”
Despite the high tensions, the Gaels pulled out a four-set win and celebrated with the crowd to the tune of “Sweet Caroline.”
“Obviously the Queen’s-Western rivalry makes it a little sweeter,” McBride said.
The fans agreed and gave the Gaels a standing ovation after the win.
The Gaels head to St. Catharines to play the Badgers next weekend on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. The game is available to stream on OUA.tv.
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