Men’s volleyball goes south for holidays

Men finish sixth in Florida, fourth in Toronto during exhibition play

With renewed vigour and a killer tan, the men’s volleyball team returned last week from and 11-day road trip.

After Christmas, the team headed to Clearwater, Fla., for the Cay Clubs Men’s Volleyball Invitational where they went up against seven other teams, including two NCAA schools.

Head coach Brenda Willis said the team’s main goal for the tournament was to get back into game shape and prepare for the second half of the regular season.

“We were trying to make sure we didn’t come back with any serious wear and tear, so play was pretty spread out.”

The Gaels went 1-2 in their pool and played McMaster for fifth place, losing in four sets.

The University of Alberta Golden Bears, ranked first in Canada, beat Pepperdine University to win the gold. Ohio took the bronze.

The Gaels’ starting setter Devon Miller was named a tournament all-star.

Willis said that, more than anything, the tournament was a chance for the team to gain experience playing with other nationally-ranked teams.

“There are a lot of shots that score in the OUA, and serves that win points in the OUA, that won’t do that with these teams.”

Queen’s is currently ranked eighth in the country.

Willis also said that volleyball is one of the few sports in which Canadian university teams rival American teams.

“It’s probably the only sport where the best CIS teams in the country beat the best NCAA teams.”

In addition to spending time on the court, the team took advantage of their location to squeeze in some vacationing.

“[Florida] was more about getting our game back and when we got to York we were going to get back to business.”

And while the Excalibur Classic in Toronto helped the men prepare for the rest of the season, Willis said it was clear that fatigue had set in. Playing their eighth match in 10 days, the Gaels lost to Dalhousie University in the semifinal round. Willis said Dalhousie was much fresher than Queen’s, having had more time to rest between games. She said Dalhousie’s last game had been an easy win against a team from Mexico whose level of play was nowhere near that of the top Ontario teams.

The Gaels then lost the bronze medal to Laval University in four sets. Queen’s got to within one point of forcing a fifth set, and Willis said three controversial calls in favour of Laval cost them the game.

“It kind of was stolen from us a bit,” she said.

On the last play of the match, the referee called the ball out to give Laval the win. Willis said it was clear the ball had been touched by Laval before going out of bounds.

“Even the other team’s fans were booing the ref.”

Despite the frustrating end to the weekend, Willis said she’s pleased with her team’s improvements. Outside hitter Luke Lichty was named a tournament all-star.

The Gaels will be in action again tonight at 8 p.m. in Bartlett gym and again tomorrow at 8 p.m.

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