After splitting two weekend games against Western, Queen’s record now sits at 11-5, ranking 10th in the U SPORTS Top 10 Women’s Volleyball ranking.
On Friday, Feb. 4, the Gaels came out on top in a five-set battle with the Mustangs. The game was intense as the team alternated winning and losing sets. The Gaels barely scraped by in the fourth set, but Mary Stewart led the Gaels to confidently win the fifth.
“It was nice to beat Western on home court […] I think we showed some good moments and took control of points,” said Arielle Palermo, an outside hitter for the Gaels.
In commemoration of the final home game, the team honoured their four graduating players and one graduating coach. Teah Cook, Vivian Zanutel, Rachael Meilikhan, Palermo, and Averi Bodnar received speeches, flowers, and photographs. Friends and family members of the players packed the stands and brought posters to celebrate the last home game of the season.
Palermo, who is graduating from Queen’s this year, told The Journal that playing in front of a full house makes the home games even more fun.
“Seeing everyone out there, seeing everyone celebrating our points with us, it makes us have more energy on the court and it makes us want to play better. It’s the most amazing thing as an athlete, being able to experience that.”
Both teams fought hard during the first set, but the Gaels struggled to finish and win points. Western came out on top 25-17, scoring lots of kills.
The Gaels caught fire during the second set, making many skillful saves and kills. Western called a time-out to try and stop their momentum after Queen’s scored five points in a row, but the Gaels remained unphased, finishing off the set 25-19.
A comeback for Queen’s seemed promising after the second set, but the Gaels struggled to carry their energy into the third. Queen’s continuously subbed players off the court, but their strong defense couldn’t tame the Mustangs, who bounced back to win the set 25-15.
The fourth set had the crowd on the edge of their seats, as the score went back and forth with no team holding a big lead. Although Queen’s consistently blocked outside hits from Western, they struggled to win points. Western won the set 27-25 to end the game.
Shea Baker has been a key player for the Gaels all season, and she was a huge asset in the fight against the Mustangs, with a total of 37 assists. Palermo was a force to be reckoned with on the receiving end, finishing Saturday’s game with 10 digs.
This is Palermo’s fifth and final season with the Gaels, and she told The Journal her time with the team has been filled with ups and downs.
“I think the program is really well respected—not just in OUA but in U SPORTS—and that’s such a big thing to have. That team chemistry that we have, it’s very special.”
The team will also be saying goodbye to Assistant Coach Averi Bodnar, who will graduate this year from Queen’s with a MPH.
Originally, Bodnar came to Queen’s after a successful undergraduate career with the Nipissing Lakers. In her 2019-20 season, she finished second on the team in kills and eighth in the OUA, averaging 0.52 aces per set. She signed with the Gaels in 2021 but joined the coaching staff after suffering a career-ending injury.
“It was definitely not the result I expected […] but honestly I took the opportunity with open arms,” Bodnar said.“I wanted to do anything that I could do to be involved with the team while I am still in school. It was an amazing opportunity.”
The end of the Gaels’ regular season is approaching. With less than three weeks until the OUA playoffs, the team is hoping to nail down their strategy and gameplay during their final games.
Next up are the Brock Badgers on Feb. 10 and 11 in St. Catharines.
ARC, split, Volleyball, Western
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