Volleyball masters Marauders

Men overcome slow start

For most starting athletes, being pulled off the court mid-set is cause for distress.

For volleyball player Jeff DeMeza, it was just what he needed.

“I guess there are always, on a team, the starters, then somebody coming off the bench to bring energy,” he said. “I’m more comfortable doing that.” The Gaels just returned home from a stellar weekend on the road, beating McMaster in four sets and Guelph in three.

Up against the Marauders on Friday, DeMeza, who sits seventh in the province in points per game, began the match with more errors than points, and head coach Brenda Willis decided he needed a break.

She said the whole team was trying too hard and losing focus. “We just seemed over the top. We just wanted it so bad they were doing things that were a bit outside our comfort zone.”

McMaster took the opening set 25-21. Before sending the men back onto the court for the second set, Willis rearranged the line-up, moving DeMeza from the left to the right side of the court.

“He played right side so he didn’t have to pass, and he was on fire,” she said.

DeMeza said taking some time to distance himself from the game made all the difference in his performance. “It’s a lot easier to sit on the bench and see what’s going on in the game, observe that, then come in and make the difference.” The team had another rocky start to the set, going down 19-12, but a timeout and a quick pep talk helped the men find their groove. Gaels’ All-Canadian setter Devon Miller served five consecutive points to put the Gaels within two.

“We broke away at 21-20 and, really, we never looked back,” Willis said.

She used Saturday’s game against Guelph to rest her starters and give the younger players some good experience. With six games left in the regular season, Queen’s is tied with Ryerson for first in the league. Willis said the team’s status as defending provincial champion means the rest of the league is
gunning for them. “Last year we kind of slipped in under the radar,” she said. “No one expected us to win.” But DeMeza said he isn’t feeling the pressure.

“I’m not sure we’re not still the underdog,” he said. “There’s still a lot left that we have to prove."

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