After a shaky start to the season, the Gaels got back on their feet with a win last weekend in Waterloo.
The men stormed the Waterloo Warriors (3-4) last Saturday, winning the match in straight sets. A little extra motivation was present for the Gaels (2-3), since the Warriors bounced Queen’s from last year’s OUA playoffs last year.
Head coach Brenda Willis saw no low points in the Gaels’ performance.
“Every single guy did their primary job very well,” Willis said. “It just shows what we’re capable of and I think everybody is encouraged now that we’re on the right path.”
Everything seemed to click for Queen’s, both on offence and defence. The Gaels won all three sets handily: 25-15, 25-20 and 25-15.
Willis credited the team’s smooth execution of their offensive system.
“It opened things up for both [outside hitters] Phil Goyer and Markus Trence to come out of the back row and it upped our percentage on the outside,” she said. “They just didn’t know where to block.”
The system was implemented earlier in the fall and the team saw success with it during the pre-season. That success, however, hasn’t wholly translated to regular season games.
Queen’s went 1-3 over the first two weekends of the season, losing twice in straight sets and eking out their first win of the year in five sets against the Toronto Varsity Blues on Nov. 1.
The Waterloo match was never as close.
“It’s the first time it really connected the way it’s supposed to,” Willis said.
“As a coach you kind of start thinking ‘I wonder if I’m trying to run more than we can handle’ but I guess it just took time.”
Part of the winning equation was the quality play of second-year setter Jamie Wright, who put up 37 assists.
Goyer, a fifth-year outside hitter, racked up 17 kills, while Trence added seven kills and four digs.
Fourth-year outside hitter Mike Tomlinson returned after sitting out last week’s games due to a shoulder injury, adding 11 kills and nine digs.
The win, although early in the season, was important for the Gaels.
“I felt we really needed to win to keep our confidence and our aspirations to be a final four team alive,” Willis said.
Maintaining a healthy squad is imperative to Queen’s playoff hopes. Second-year middle blocker Will Hoey may return this weekend after sitting out the start of the season.
“We’ve kind of settled into using the middles that we have,” Willis said. “Hopefully in the next week or two our full roster will be active.”
The men return to the ARC this weekend, hosting the Guelph Gryphons (6-1) on Saturday and meeting Waterloo again on Sunday.
Willis is confident despite Guelph’s solid record.
“They do have some tendencies that we’ll be able to adjust our defense around,” Willis said. “[There are] some deficiencies in their block pattern I think we can go after.”
Willis suggested that the Gryphons’ record isn’t as impressive as it looks.
“There’s so much parity in the league,” she said. “The last few losses we had were us just not doing what we needed to do.”
Willis added that she’s looking forward to a strong turnout this weekend.
“Hopefully come away from this weekend with two more wins,” she said.
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