Volleyball keeps composure

Men fall in five to York, rebound to beat Ryerson

Devon Miller goes for a tip against the Ryerson Rams on Saturday.
Devon Miller goes for a tip against the Ryerson Rams on Saturday.
Credit: 
Quinn Richardson
Nick Gralewicz (left) and Stu Hamilton block a hit by Ryerson’s Ryan Vandenburg in their five-set win over the Rams Saturday.
Nick Gralewicz (left) and Stu Hamilton block a hit by Ryerson’s Ryan Vandenburg in their five-set win over the Rams Saturday.
Photo: 

The men’s volleyball team didn’t take long to rebound after suffering their first loss since Nov. 19. After
losing to York in five sets Friday, the Gaels regrouped to defeat rivals the Ryerson Rams in five sets in front of a full house on Saturday.

Gaels’ setter Devon Miller said the team’s relatively newfound composure contributed a lot to the team’s ability to bounce back, first from Friday’s loss, and then from two sets down against Ryerson.
“We’re not a panicky team at all anymore,” he said. “We used to be pretty up and down. We relied on
our emotions.” Miller said Friday’s loss was unusual for the team.

“We didn’t play like ourselves ... It was really strange.” The Gaels never found their stride, playing disjointed and unfocused volleyball. They couldn’t neutralize York’s right-side attack and had difficulty hitting around a formidable block.

But Miller said there’s still a bright side to an otherwise weak performance.

“It’s a good thing; that way we don’t write off next weekend.” If the Gaels had won both their weekend matches, they would have clinched the number one spot in the league over Ryerson. As it stands, they need to win at least one of their last two games to finish first. Head coach Brenda Willis said York was a bit of a wake-up call for the men.

“When you don’t lose a league game in a while you can get comfortable and even complacent—
cocky really,” she said. “I think York reminded us of that.” It was clear the Gaels had taken the lesson to heart when they took on Ryerson the following night. He said the huge home crowd also made a difference to the atmosphere in the gym. Power hitter Jeff DeMeza said the Gaels identified Ryerson’s
strengths early on and worked to adjust accordingly. During the first two sets, Ryerson won points on the same shot to the right side of the court, so the coaches moved defensive specialist Steve Willis to where all the balls were landing.

“The defence and blockers knew where it was going,” DeMeza said. “We just [had] to get there and
make the dig.” Despite posting a game-high 27 kills, DeMeza was quick to pass credit on to his teammates. “Dan McCrae had the best game of the season,” he said. “He completely picked us up.”
McCrae was team MVP in 2004 and was the team’s top scorer last season.

McCrae was also hesitant to accept the praise. “In order for one guy to play a good game, everybody has to play a good game.”

Despite his usual comfort coming off the bench, DeMeza said he looked forward to starting against Ryerson. “I was pretty jacked up.” He and the rest of the team started out looking cautious, unable
to find a good rhythm, especially on their block. Ryerson made quick work of the Gaels, winning the first set 25-16. Improvement was slow but steady through the second set, as the Gaels adjusted to Ryerson’s game plan. They lost the second set by three points.

Ryerson appeared to fall prey to the same complacency Willis warned of, relaxing when they
found themselves up two sets to none. Willis said the motivation to keep fighting came straight from
the players.“I barely said anything,” she said. “They challenged each other to step up.”

It was in the third set that Queen’s finally found a way to contain Ryerson’s 6’ 9” power hitter Ryan Vandenburg, nicknamed Snake. Willis said the team took a practical approach to controlling Vandenburg’s attack. “Our experience with number nine is that he’s going to get his share of kills but as soon as you get him a few times, he starts to play more guardedly.”

Vandenburg began to unravel halfway through the third set after being blocked on two consecutive points by Gaels Stu Hamilton and Nick Gralewicz.

Shortly thereafter, Vandenburg was given a yellow card for arguing with the referee.

DeMeza said the blocks by Hamilton and Gralewicz were great motivators for the rest of the team.

“It’s definitely a huge energy boost when your [6’3”] libero goes up against a 6’9” guy and blocks him,” he said. “We’re such a tight team; when one guy steps up, it brings us all up.”

Willis said the team will be taking a few days for some much-needed rest and recuperation.

They will play their final two games of the season against the University of Toronto and the Royal Military College on the road this weekend.

“I think the best thing we can do is rest and catch up on school,” Willis said after Saturday’s game.
“We were going to spin at three tomorrow but I called it off,” she said, adding that her players earned the day off the watch the Super Bowl.

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