Winning out West

Men’s volleyball came back from Western and Windsor two wins richer.
Men’s volleyball came back from Western and Windsor two wins richer.

The men’s volleyball team strengthened their hold on second place this past weekend with wins over Western and Windsor, improving their record to 7-2 on the season.

“We expected a really tough match,” said Gaels head coach Brenda Willis of the trip to Western.

The team used the week prior to Saturday’s match to solidify their game plan, knowing that the Mustangs posed a significant threat, Willis said.

Their extensive planning paid off as the Gaels downed the Mustangs in straight sets. The first set was a close contest. Tied at 22-22, it could have gone either way, Willis said, but solid serve reception helped the Gaels close out the set.

In the second set, good serves and exceptional passing meant the men were able to run their offence just as they had planned.

They carried their momentum into the third set, taking advantage of the lagging Western squad. The final score was 25-23, 25-18, 25-16.

Ryan McCracken led the Gaels offence with nine kills and contributed three solo and two assisted blocks to the defence.

Willis said the match was a good team performance. She said Western-Queen’s matchups are always exciting because of the ongoing rivalry between the two schools.

What’s more, the team was able to avenge its loss at the hands of the Mustangs during the pre-season.

Following the win the Gaels traveled to Windsor. Sunday’s match against the Lancers was a whole new ball game.

Willis said that due to the preparation needed before playing Western, the team spent little time looking ahead to Windsor.

“Not that we were going to take them lightly,” she said. “But playing in Windsor is very different from playing in most other schools.”

The Lancers’ home court is a field house instead of a gym and Willis said that sort of quick change is difficult to handle.

“The feeling is very different from a gym,” she said.

The men were slower off the start than on Saturday. They had trouble running their offence and struggled to adjust to Windsor’s high, outside balls.

An early substitution of middle hitters Nick Gralewicz and Chris Vandyk onto the court helped the team settle into a better rhythm.

The Gaels went up two sets to one but spent most of the fourth playing catch-up, eventually giving it up to Windsor.

The fifth set saw starting middle hitters McCracken and Adam Simac back in action.

“[It] seemed to be a really good, stable performance in the fifth set,” Willis said.

The Gaels stepped up their offence, shutting down the Lancers for a final score of 20-25, 25-22, 25-18, 23-25, 15-12.

Willis said she was very happy with her team’s success, knowing how tough it is to carry momentum from one match to the next.

“It’s always difficult to come up with the same kind of intensity,” she said.

With one more match left before the winter break the team is looking forward to a rigorous holiday schedule, including a trip to Holland and Germany, before returning to Canada for a tournament at York.

The Gaels will travel to York this weekend for a preview, and Willis said she has high hopes for the match.

“If we can stay focused and prepare like we did against Western, we can come away with another good road trip,” she said.

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