Volleyball wins title at home

DeMeza, Lichty, tournament all-stars; Miller named MVP

Jeff DeMeza celebrates after a point against York during Saturday’s semi-final.
Jeff DeMeza celebrates after a point against York during Saturday’s semi-final.
Wonjai Park

The men’s volleyball team finished their pre-season in promising fashion this weekend, winning the gold medal at their own Queen’s Invitational Tournament in a dramatic, five-set win over the Ryerson Rams on Sunday afternoon in Bartlett Gym.

Jeff DeMeza and Luke Lichty were tournament all-stars and Devon Miller was named tournament MVP.
The men added the medal to the two bronze they won at Ryerson and McMaster earlier this year. The Gaels opened the four-team tournament with a five-set win over the Western Ontario Mustangs in round-robin play Friday night. The Gaels faced the Rams on Saturday morning in round-robin play, both teams going into the match with two wins. Queen’s made uick work of Ryerson, sweeping
the Rams, 27-25, 25-20 and 25-19. Both teams advanced to the semifinals on Saturday evening. The Gaels executed their second straight-set win over the winless York Lions Saturday evening in Bartlett gym to advance to Sunday’s gold-medal game against Ryerson.

After their swift defeat the day before, the Rams were hungry for retribution. But the Gaels demonstrated for the third time in three days that the poise that brought them through six of seven five-set matches last season hasn’t diminished. The Gaels were sluggish out of the gate and a botched opening serve set the tone for the first set. Though they never trailed by much, the men were on the
defensive throughout. Led by the 6’10” power hitter Ryan Vandenburg, the Rams powered through the Queen’s defence and kept the Gaels off balance. Nevertheless, there were several bright moments in the set with quick-thinking by setter Devon Miller and impressive kills by power hitter Jeff DeMeza but
they couldn’t string more than a few solid plays together. Several miscommunications led to easy
balls hitting the floor and the Gaels dropped the set 25-15.

But far from losing hope, the Gaels found their stride early in the second set taking control at 9-9 and winning nine straight points.

Led by Stu Hamilton, the Queen’s defence was able to Vandenburg’s heavy hitting. Strong hitting from
DeMeza and Dan McCrae closed out the set 26-24.

Both teams were strong going into the third set and Vandenburg and DeMeza exchanged kills until
the score was 9-9. A solo block from Miller looked like it might be the turning point but the remainder
of the set was marred by more missed serves and another dropped ball, allowing Ryerson to win it 25- 0. The Gaels jumped out to a quick lead in the fourth set. At 10-5, the Gaels unleashed a spectacular play on the Rams. Miller made a quick set for Chris Vandyk in the middle, but Vandyk dropped out mid-air, leaving room for McCrae to take off from behind the attack line and hit through the middle for the kill. The Rams looked stunned. Although Ryerson was able to even the score at 24-24, the Gaels
overpowered them in the end to take the set 27-25. The fifth set was an exercise in mental toughness as the Gaels found themselves down 13-9 in the tiebreak. The Gaels battled back to 13-13 and a controversial call gave the Rams match point.

They couldn’t convert, however, and a block by Nick Gralewicz and Luke Lichty at 18-18 diffused Vandenberg and gave the Gaelsmatch point. DeMeza scored the winning point with an unreturned serve. After the match, Gaels’ head coach Brenda Willis said she was extremely pleased with the team’s progress, not only through this tournament, but in the pre-season as a whole.

“We went to the Ryerson tournament and we got better every game and at [McMaster] we played our best ball at the end,” she said. Willis said playing five matches in three days with fewer subs than normal was a good test of the Gaels’ fitness level. “The jar was pretty much empty but they showed great character.” DeMeza credits the team’s off-court chemistry with their on-court success.

“I think the foundation of the team from last year was really good,” he said. “We get along probably better than anyone in the OUA.”

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