The men’s volleyball team had a chance to test their lineups against some of the nation’s best competition this weekend on their home court. The 24th Annual Queen’s Men’s Volleyball Invitational welcomed the Trinity Western Spartans, the Brandon Bobcats and the Western Mustangs to the ARC for a tough weekend of volleyball.
Trinity Western and Brandon were both ranked in the CIS top 10 while Western finished third in the OUA last season. These highly respected teams came to play in Kingston as one of two preview events for the 2012 CIS Men’s Volleyball Championship that will be hosted at the ARC from March 2nd to 4th. Though the Gaels were the OUA champions last season and finished fifth in the nation, the weekend’s results showed that meeting a national standard will be difficult.
Action began on Friday with the Gaels facing the Trinity Western Spartans. The game was a rematch of last year’s CIS quarterfinals where the Spartans beat the Gaels in straight sets. The Gaels opened strong, winning two of the three tightly contested sets but the Spartans rallied to take the last two sets and win the match. The final scores were 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 18-25 and 10-15 with the Gaels suffering a tough five-set defeat.
Head coach Brenda Willis said she wasn’t pleased with the result but felt there were things to be learned from the game.
“We played well against Trinity Western,” she said. “We prepared and we competed very well. At nationals we lost [0-3], here it went to five. When it came down to it our passing broke down and our serving wasn’t going anywhere. So it’s hard to get points in that situation.”
Not as much could be taken from the next two games. On Saturday the Brandon Bobcats swept the Gaels handily—16-25, 10-25 and 22-25 in three sets. Despite the respectable performance against Trinity Western, many aspects of the team’s play broke down against Brandon leading to defeat.
“I don’t know what happened, we just didn’t play,” Willis said. “We looked scared and unmotivated. We are looking to contend nationally [and] we came out so tentative that nothing seemed to click, we lost badly. So it’s going to be back to the drawing board on certain things. We need to coordinate our block and rebound defence, we didn’t control the pace of the ball at all.”
Hoping to rebound in their final game against their OUA-rival, the Western Mustangs, the Gaels also fell flat in a three set defeat of 17-25, 23-25 and 18-25. The second two games were a large regression for a team with high expectations.
Willis said that the shock of losing may teach a good lesson to her team.
“It might be a good grounding for us. As reigning OUA champions people are a little bit comfortable and it is going to take a hell of a lot more than we brought this weekend if we are going to repeat and do some damage nationally,” she said. “We finished fifth in the nation last year and we are expecting to do better than that this year.”
The team played without starters Dan Rosenbaum and Niko Rukavina who are both recovering from surgery.
The Gaels will be in Toronto facing off against the Varsity Blues Friday. The game starts at 8 p.m.
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