Facing a downtrodden opponent isn’t always easy, according to women’s volleyball head coach Michael Ling.
That mantra held true for the Gaels last Friday — but it didn’t stop them from beating the Waterloo Warriors 3-1, surging ahead late in the third and fourth sets to scrape out their first road win of the season.
The women improved to 4-3 with the victory, tying them with the York Lions for fourth in the seven-team OUA East.
Waterloo (1-7) remains mired in a last-place deadlock in the West. After sweeping the RMC Paladins (0-7) in their season opener, they dropped six straight matches prior to their tilt with Queen’s, including four consecutive 3-0 losses.
“Teams like that are a little bit dangerous,” Ling said. “They had lots of variation in their lineups [in previous matches], which made scouting them a little bit difficult. We were going in just cautious, but knowing that we had to take care of our side in order to kind of handle them.”
Waterloo initially looked destined for another quick defeat against Queen’s, as Ling’s side never trailed en route to a 25-16 first-set victory.
The run didn’t last. The Warriors edged out a 25-20 advantage in the second frame, winning a set for the first time since Oct. 25.
Back and forth play characterized the final two periods, which saw seven lead changes and 23 tie scores. The Gaels prevailed both times, first erasing a 20-20 impasse to take the third set 25-21, then tallying the match’s final four points in a 25-23 fourth-set comeback.
“We were actually down in those two sets for quite a while,” Ling said. “I think it’s just that we were more stable — we didn’t get too out of control, we didn’t freak out that we were behind. We knew we could push through.”
Third-year outside hitters Brett Hagarty and Shannon Neville paced Queen’s with 12 and 11 kills, respectively, while setter duo Ali Shamie and Danielle Blumentrath combined for 40 assists.
Three players hit double digits in kills for the Warriors, who were hamstrung by 31 total errors. The Gaels committed 22 errors — a number that rose steadily as the match progressed, Ling said.
“For us right now, it’s mostly just consistency — not getting too high, keeping the lows not too low, keeping the highs not too high,” he said. “We have been a little bit of a roller coaster team. Just trying to stabilize some of the emotion and the up and down play that we’ve had.”
Fourteen players saw court time for Queen’s, including six that appeared in all four sets. Ling, a former Alberta Pandas assistant coach, told the Journal before the season that he wouldn’t lack for lineup options in his debut campaign with the Gaels.
“It’s still trying to find that right mix of players,” he said. “There are several first-year players that are quite good that I do want to test out and see what they can do. I always try to give them opportunities when the timing is right.”
Each of the women’s three losses to date came against teams currently above them in the OUA East standings. Queen’s four wins include a home sweep of cellar-dwelling RMC and victories in all three of their matches with West opponents.
They’ll face two more West squads this weekend at the ARC, welcoming the Lakehead Thunderwolves (1-7) tonight and squaring off against the Brock Badgers (5-4) tomorrow evening.
Queen’s will cap off the fall portion of their season on Nov. 29 and 30, with divisional road matches against York (4-3) and the Nipissing Lakers (3-4).
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