A loss in the season’s final game kept women’s volleyball from surpassing the Ryerson Rams for third in the OUA East.
After sweeping the OUA West-leading McMaster Marauders (15-4) on Friday, the Gaels lost a five-set marathon to the Guelph Gryphons (11-8) the next day.
Queen’s fourth-place finish means they’ll face the Toronto Varsity Blues (18-1) on Saturday in the first round of the playoffs. The Varsity Blues are currently tied for first in the CIS national rankings.
Toronto beat the Gaels in four sets in their first meeting on Nov. 1 in Toronto, before sweeping Queen’s in Kingston on Jan. 25.
Had the Gaels (12-7) come away with wins in both matches, they would have finished ahead of Ryerson (13-6) by virtue of a 128-118 point advantage in their matches with the Rams this season. It would have also meant a first-round match-up with the second-place Ottawa Gee-Gees (16-3).
Middle blocker Katie Hagarty said the Gaels didn’t place any stock on the playoff implications of the McMaster and Guelph matches, since both Toronto and Ottawa are tough opponents.
“In my opinion, it doesn’t matter who we play — we need to beat them,” Hagarty said. “We need to beat every team to win the championship, so it doesn’t matter when we meet them.”
The Gaels started the weekend on a high note, beating McMaster 25-20, 25-22 and 25-17. With the Marauders sitting 10th in the CIS rankings, Hagarty said the victory felt like a culmination of all the effort they put into this year’s campaign.
“We beat them quite handily and we were expecting a battle,” she said. “We just proved that all of our hard work was finally paying off.”
Setter Ali Shamie had 26 assists against McMaster and added her first block of the season. Middle blocker Niki Slikboer racked up nine kills, while Hagarty and outside hitter Caroline Livingston added eight apiece.
The Gaels didn’t find the same success the next night, dropping their match with the Gryphons 22-25, 30-28, 25-20, 13-25 and 7-15.
“We didn’t play terribly, but things weren’t going as well as they did against McMaster,” Hagarty said. “Guelph played very well. They were digging up balls that McMaster wasn’t and we were getting frustrated.”
After the tightly contested first three sets, Queen’s began to falter with the chance to put the Gryphons away and to improve their playoff position.
The Gaels fell behind early in the fourth set and were unable to regain their footing. The same scenario took place in the final set, and Queen’s lost the match without ever holding a lead in the final two frames.
Hagarty said the Gaels’ lack of patience against Guelph was the reason they lost.
“We just wanted to get the kill right away instead of letting the rally go on and then waiting for the right opportunity to score,” she said. “We just were really impatient and ended up making a lot of mistakes.”
With Toronto up next, Hagarty said the Gaels are confident they can come away with a playoff win — even against one of the country’s top teams.
“We’re definitely the underdog, but it’s kind of fun being the underdog,” she said.
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