After nearly two years without competitive play, the Men’s and Women’s volleyball teams are making their return to the court.
Ahead of their regular season debuts, The Journal sat down with Women’s head coach Ryan Ratushniak and Men’s head coach Gabriel Degroot to discuss what to expect from their respective squads this season.
For Ratushniak, their exhibition games against the University of Montreal Oct. 17 and RMC Oct. 23 were more about enjoying their return competitive play rather than engaging in hard competition.
“It was the first time we were putting on the jersey and playing against an opponent in a very long time,” he said. “So, you know, we just wanted to enjoy the experience.”
Ratushniak iterated that this team’s strengths lie in an aggressive style of play and serving ability.
“Our offense is based on running some very good, fast-tempo offense with our middles, and also a good tempo to our outside hitters,” he said. “We try and open up gaps in the block and expose the defense based on the speed of our offense.”
“We serve with a lot of velocity, and we serve into a lot of conflict zones on the floor.”
Ratushniak remarked that in these early days of the season, the team is still learning a lotabout their game—but so far, he’s focusing on improving their block defense and transition offense.
“Once we start playing our regular season games, that will tell us a lot about where we’re at and what we need to work on,” he explained.
Referring to this year’s roster and recruits, Ratushniak noted that the rookie class is larger than usual since all second-year players have yet to compete at the university level.
“Our second-year student athletes were all Junior National Team players the summer before coming to Queens, so they have some international experience,” he said. “They are very strong players and people with a lot of character.”
In preceding years, the Women’s volleyball team has had little difficulty qualifying for the OUA playoffs—but they’ve ultimately failed to make any deep runs in recent memory.
On this topic, Ratushniak said that returning players have learned from these experiences, and that with every year comes new players and new opportunities.
“We learned that we need to play a little bit more consistent and with a little bit more resiliency from the last season where we competed,” he said.
“We want to play to win points and keep that as consistent as possible, and be resilient throughout the course of the set, throughout the course of the match, and from match to match.”
On the men’s team, head coach Gabriel DeGroot said their pre-season matchups against Windsor Oct. 16 and McMaster Oct. 23 helped the team find their level of cohesion.
“We’re trying to use our lineup in a way that’s trying to create as much cohesion amongst a bit of a core group […] It was a good test for us,” he said.
Turning to the roster’s strengths ahead of the season, Degroot spoke to their dominant receiving ability, emphasizing that it makes the team an offensive threat.
“We’ve got a very good core of serve receivers. So, it’s going to put us in a good place offensively,” he said. “At the end of the day at this level of men’s volleyball, it comes down to serve and pass.”
From a strategical standpoint, Degroot is leaning into the team’s block and defensive game.
“[We have a] very physical starting lineup that is capable of scoring a lot of block points. In men’s volleyball, [this] can shift or change the game pretty drastically,” he said. Touching on the team’s new recruits, Degroot hailed the calibre of rookies Cole Duncanson and Benjamin Moffat.
“Even though [Duncanson] is a rookie, physically, he’s going to hold his own on the court very early on. I’m really excited to see what he does. I think he’s going to be a big contributor and a big point scorer for us.”
He followed up by saying Moffat will help fill a hole in the team’s setting spot following the departure of veteran star Zane Grossinger.
“[Moffat] is stepping into some big shoes there, but from what we’ve seen in preseason so far, he’s going to contribute a lot.”
In their past two seasons, the Men’s team won back-to-back Forsyth Cups and placed fifth at the 2019 National Championships.
This year, Degroot is confident the team will resume this level of success.
“I would probably be selling my team short if I didn’t think that they were capable of repeating that that OUA title and getting themselves back to the National Championship” he said.
“With the big gap we’ve had from previous competition, we just need to slowly get back at it and trust the long-term process.”
The 2021-22 volleyball season begins on home court with both the Women’s and Men’s teams squaring off against X University Nov. 5.
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