Men ousted from nationals

Volleyball team ends season with ‘two poor performances’

Chris Van Dyk goes in for the kill against UBC last Friday
Chris Van Dyk goes in for the kill against UBC last Friday
Credit: 
Supplied

The men’s volleyball team learned this weekend that the competition in Ontario isn’t enough to prepare
them for what they face at the national level.

In their second consecutive appearance at the national championships, held this year at McMaster University in Hamilton, the Gaels came up short in their opening round match, losing in straight sets to the secondseeded University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. With the loss, the Gaels were relegated to the consolation bracket.

In the consolation semifinal on Saturday, Queen’s showed flashes of the skill that won them the provincial title but still couldn’t make it past the sixth-seeded Laval Rouge et Or.

“I feel like we didn’t bring our best game here,” head coach Brenda Willis said after Saturday’s game.
She shuffled the lineup in the fourth set but it was too little too late to slow Laval’s momentum.

“I thought [Sam] Pedlow did a great job coming off the bench,” she said. “I could have made that
switch earlier.”

Outside hitter Jeff DeMeza said things didn’t feel right from the beginning. “I just don’t think the team was focused all day.” DeMeza, who averaged more than four points per game during the regular season and posted 22 kills in the Gaels Ontario championship win, was held to 10 kills in Friday’s game and posted only six against Laval.

“It’s tough when a team ends its season with two poor performances,” he said.

But he said the team has learned from the experience. If they hope to hold their own in national competitions, DeMeza said, Queen’s will need play more aggressively in order to counter the sheer size of the western teams. “It’s something that just can’t stay the same if we’re going to compete.”

Stu Hamilton, who moved from defensive specialist to left side hitter for the last few games of the year, said the team will need to change the way they approach the season. He said teams need to start planning for nationals in September instead of treating the tournament as an afterthought.

Eighth-seeded McMaster, who took the top-seeded and defending champion Trinity Western University to five sets, were more successful than Queen’s because they knew from the beginning of the season they would be competing at nationals, he said. “We can’t be thinking about winning OUAs anymore. We
have to be thinking about how we’re going to do [at the national championships].”

He added that it was tough bouncing back from the first-round loss.

“When we lost the first set, it just kind of felt like that was it, that was our shot to prove to everyone
that we could do it.” Willis said increasing parity within their league means the Gaels will need to keep pushing their game.

With the introduction of athletic financial awards for incoming student-athletes across Ontario, Queen’s will need to rely on the strength of its program to draw top-quality athletes.

But she agreed they will need to adjust their outlook on the competition.

“In the OUA, you can hit shots that aren’t very disciplined and still score.”

At least a handful of players will spend the summer training in Kingston, and Willis will stay with them, she said, focusing on the technical side of the game while looking to make some gains in the weight room.

For now, she said, the team needs to focus on the positives from the year, knowing the losses in Hamilton don’t diminish what they’ve already accomplished. “When we walk away from this, the banner will still be in our gym.”

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