Waterloo blues

Women’s volleyball drops a pair of weekend games to Waterloo and Laurier

There come times in sport, as in life, when one needs to take a moment to pause for reflection. For the women’s volleyball team that time is now, said head coach Chris Galbraith. Coming off a four-match losing streak, the women have no choice but to stop, re-evaluate their position, and try to pick up the thread once again.

“Our destiny is no longer in our hands,” Galbraith said.

The Gaels’ troubles began in Thunder Bay on Jan. 14 and 15. The team faced off against Lakehead, and fell in two straight matches. Their misfortune was coupled by a pair of losses to Laurier and Waterloo on Jan. 20 and 21 respectively.

“Lakehead has sort of turned the league on its head,” Galbraith said.

Only one place ahead of Queen’s in the rankings, Lakehead is a short team whose strength lies in the speed of its offence.

Galbraith said the strategic emphasis for the Gaels has now become more specific, focusing on the individual successes of players. He said the idea has always been to set process goals and let the outcomes take care of themselves.

“We’re a very young team,” he said. “We’ve been saying all along that this is a process.” With the recent lack of success on the scoreboard it has become even more important that each player sees improvement in her own aspect of the game.

“[If you don’t do that] you can get set with the feeling you didn’t accomplish anything,” Galbraith said.

This attitude is helping the women to keep a positive outlook on the remainder of the season, he added

“Losing is tough on any team, there’s no question,” Galbraith said. “[But] there is still a fairly positive fence around the team.”

The prognosis is not all bad. Despite the disappointing end result of the Lakehead road trip, Galbraith said he was pleased with the way his team performed.

“We ended up really picking up our game quite dramatically [against Lakehead],” he said.

Galbraith cited several players who have had exceptional performances over the past few weeks.

Power hitter Robin Scott and middle Sally Speake were able to put Lakehead middle hitter Danielle Walker, who Galbraith called the “scourge” of the league, off her game with some well-executed blocking.

“It was great to see that we could key on an athlete like that,” Galbraith said.

Left side hitter Kathryn Kitney also put in a strong performance in last Saturday’s match at Waterloo.

“Our team defence is better than it’s ever been,” Galbraith said.

The other Queen’s squad, however, waits for no man.

The men’s side is charging ahead at full speed, looking to overtake the Ryerson Rams for the number-one spot in the league. The Gaels improved their season record to 12-2 last weekend, dropping the Waterloo Warriors 3-1 and securing their eighth consecutive win as well as their eighth five-set win of the season with a victory over the Laurier Golden Hawks.

Though the team had high hopes going in, the season is shaping up better than expected and head coach Brenda Willis said she is pleased with the team’s prospects.

Willis said they have a realistic shot at finishing the regular season in the top two, earning them a bye into the second round of the playoffs.

The Gaels’ excellent showings have allowed the coaching staff to spend some time training up the rookies, Willis added.

With starting power hitter Andrew Bridgeman out with a sprained thumb, first-year player Stuart Hamilton stepped in and proved he could handle the situation.

“[He] did exactly what we needed,” Willis said.

She said he has been training as a second libero and was able to bring some consistency to the team’s passing and service reception.

Veteran middle Ryan McCracken was an imposing presence in the match against Laurier, scoring on seven of eight balls received.

The Gaels will be facing more pressure now than ever from both inside and out. Willis said they are in a difficult position, with every other team gunning for their ranking.

But Willis said she feels her team is up for the challenge, citing their tendency to play their best in tight situations.

“My feeling is we’ve only been playing one hundred percent when our backs are against the wall,” she said.

But she admits that if ever there was a time to bring the A game, the fifth-set tie break is definitely it.

She also said that a continued focus on the process of playing will help ensure that the outcomes take care of themselves.

A major boost for the Gaels is the knowledge that their playoff aspirations are not at the mercy of any other team’s results. McMaster is closest behind Queen’s but is carrying four losses to the Gaels, which means that as long as the Gaels can keep up their winning ways, no other team is in a position to overtake them.

“It’s always a great thing in sport when you have control over your own destiny,” Willis said, echoing the sentiments of Chris Galbraith.

This weekend will be an important one for the men as they face Ryerson and U of T in Toronto.

“The bottom line for us is about performing consistently, making good decisions during the game,” Willis said.

She said with the home court advantage and the top spot to lose, Ryerson will be out for blood.

“It’s going to be a tough match,” she said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

The women will join their counterparts for a pair of games in Toronto this weekend.

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