Men’s volleyball rolls into playoffs

Men beat York Lions 3-0, while women’s team bows out with a 3-1 loss

Though the results procured were different for each team, this past weekend in volleyball was a success on all fronts, Gaels coaches say.

The women’s squad put in a solid effort but went down in four sets to the York Lions. Despite the result, head coach Chris Galbraith said he doesn’t think the score detracts at all from the team’s performance.

“I thought they played really well,” he said after the match.

Graduating player Amanda Digel had a characteristically strong match, leading her team’s offence with 16 kills and contributing an impressive 21 digs to the defence. She was also awarded player of the match honours. Fellow graduating player Jenny Du showed off her versatility, returning from her stint as setter to her original spot as libero.

The first set started off slowly on both sides, but York found their groove much sooner than the Gaels and powered to a 25-12 first set win.

The Gaels pulled together in the second. The women tightened up the block and saw many more balls hitting the floor on the other side of the net.

After Queen’s took the second set, the Lions answered back with a strong offence led by York’s 6’1” outside hitter Elizabeth Salas-Chavez and took the third by a 10-point margin.

The fourth set was a struggle to the end with the Lions refusing to let up and the Gaels refusing to go under.

After a tough back-and-forth set, York defeated the Gaels by a final score of 12-25, 25-23, 15-25, 26-28.

However, the loss did not hide the strong team effort and perseverance that has carried the team this far, Galbraith said. He added that individual performances spoke for the overall improvement of every member of the team.

Galbraith said that, the way he sees it, teams need to look for successes where they can get them.

“We take the successes and move on from there,” he said.

Along with Du and Digel, Kathryn Kitney, Robyn Scott, Sally Speake, Elaine Lukowski and Jenn McKay will be graduating this year.

On the men’s side, Queen’s secured its spot in second place in the OUA regular season rankings with their three-set defeat of the York men’s squad.

Due to the result of last week’s Western-McMaster match, when Mac beat Western 3-1, Saturday’s win was crucial for the Gaels to get a lock on their number two position. The win also earned them the right to host next Saturday’s semi-final.

“We knew going into the match we had to win,” head coach Brenda Willis said.

With middle hitter Adam Simac still out with an ankle injury, number 12 Nick Gralewicz stepped into the starting spot. Willis said Gralewicz came through when it counted, notching key points for the team, including playing a key part in the game-winning attack.

“[Gralewicz] had two clutch plays in a row,” she said.

He started with a decisive stuff block on York’s power hitter, and followed up with a spectacular dig that was converted into the winning play.

Willis said she was impressed with her team’s focus and their ability to create the intensity necessary to push them to perform.

“We were determined not to let it go to four [sets],” she said.

She added that it’s easy to sit back on a 2-0 lead, giving the other team the opportunity to build momentum. “We’re trying to play with the same urgency when we’re up 2-0 as the team that’s down 0-2,” Willis said.

Graduating player and team captain Ryan McCracken also put in a strong performance, going head to head with a York hitter five inches taller than him. York has three 6’7” middle hitters on their roster.

“[McCracken] handled him so well,” Willis said.

Knowledge of the Lions’ offensive tendencies helped the Gaels predict their opponent’s moves with good accuracy. Libero Steve Willis headed up the new defensive tactics, making 12 digs off of York’s uncharacteristically low hitting.

A change in the setting situation on the York squad also helped the Gaels prepare their defence strategy in advance.

“It became pretty obvious to our blockers what they were running,” Willis said.

Queen’s is looking forward to playing its semi-final match on home court next Saturday. The Gaels’ opponent will be determined by the results of the upcoming matchup between U of T and Western.

Of the team’s continuous improvement, Willis said that the squad has made progress in every match, win or lose.

“You learn from your mistakes not to sit back on a lead and [to] fight until it’s over,” she said.

Willis said she has much confidence in her team and is hopeful about the quick recovery of Simac in time for the semi-finals.

“We’ll be ready,” she said.

Coca-Cola Athletes of the Term

On Wednesday night, Queen’s will honour its athletes of the term at halftime of the men’s basketball game against the RMC Paladins. The game begins at 7 p.m. in Bartlett Gym.

Female recipients:

Molly Groenewegen, forward, women’s hockey
• Has seven goals and seven assists in 22 games this season, placing her in the top 20 in the OUA, and provides leadership to a very young team

Claire Meadows, guard, women’s basketball
• Ranks seventh in the OUA in points per game with 13.24. Also averages 2.38 assists per game and 6.57 rebounds per game, both OUA top-15 stats.

Jan Stirling, running, track and field
• A rookie on the track team, Stirling has been burning up the track with consistent podium finishes both individually and as a member of relay teams.

Male recipients:

Devon Miller, setter, men’s volleyball
• The high-powered Gaels offence runs through Miller. As Journal Athlete of the Week, he posted 108 assists in a pair of weekend games.

Brady Olsen, forward, men’s hockey
• On a team that struggled to score, Olsen netted 18 goals this season, good for third in the OUA and seventh in the country. He added six assists.

Zach Williams, individual foil, men’s fencing
• Went undefeated at the OUA East Sectionals at Trent, leaving him ranked first in the province for the OUA Championships, which take place this weekend.

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