With aggression, mistakes, and readiness for the ball, the Gaels tackled the Smola Cup exhibition tournament last weekend with two wins in preparation for the Men’s Volleyball regular season.
Playing three opponents between Oct.13 and 15, the Gaels fell to the Alberta Golden Bears, losing three out of five sets on Friday in a tight matchup. Showing their resilience on Saturday, the Gaels rallied back against the Mount Royal University (MRU) Cougars, winning three out of five sets, giving Queen’s a tournament record of 1-1-0. They captured another win after they faced the Trinity Western University (TWU) Spartans on Sunday.
In their first set of the game against TWU, the Gaels had a strong startas Middle Reed Venning, ArtSci ’26, set the tone with a powerful cross-court spike. With previous points from his teammates, the score was now 6-4 for the Gaels.
“I try to stay aggressive and help out my team however I can,” Venning said in a post-game interview with The Journal. “Staying aggressive makes the opponent want to block me, which helps other positions [become] open.”
With a packed stadium of cheering Gaels fans, it was TWU who showed their calm under pressure, as their dominant net presence proved formidable. TWU took the first set, resulting in a score of 18-25, in their favour.
Although TWU boasted a hard-hitting and physical front row, it was Queen’s defense that changed the game’s momentum in the second.
Playing with a sense of determination, Outside player Erik Siksna, Comm ’24, blocked TWU’s Middle John Obi, resulting in a 17-11 lead as a deafening cheer erupted from the crowd.
“On defense it’s always advantage hitter, but we’re ready for anything coming over the net, and willing to chase down the ball,” Siksna said in an interview with The Journal after the game.
With that psychological edge, the Gaels would inch past TWU, taking the set 25-22.
In the third set, the Gaels showed their versatility by responding with their offensive firepower as Setter Chris Zimmerman, ArtSci ’27, absorbed and directed an effortless pass to Siksna for a powerful strike, leaving TWU in shock and resulting in a score of 13-13.
“When I get a chance at a swing, I want to put the ball away,” Siksna said. “If you have the ball on offense, you want to be looking for the openings and create something out of it.”
The Gaels would go on to take the set 25-22.
For the fourth set, TWU leveled the playing field with a score of 20-25 against Queen’s. The Gaels fought hard, letting a few unforced errors get away from them. Despite this, the Gaels’ confidence was unshaken.
“You have to be willing to make mistakes,” Siksna said. “Volleyball is a game of errors, and everyone makes mistakes. When you make a mistake, someone’s got your back, and if someone else makes a mistake, you’ve got their back too. Just knowing at the end of the day that it’s a team game is what keeps us consistent.”
Queen’s would weaponize this mentality and go on to win the fifth set 15-12 with the final blow by Middle Dax Tompkins, ArtSci ’24. The Gaels’ bench cleared in celebration.
Looking to build upon their positive momentum, the Gaels will go on to face the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) Paladins in their season opener at RMC on Nov. 3.
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