Strong opener for volleyball

Rookie substitute Zeeman leads team with 34 kills over weekend

Gaels’ middle hitter Chris Vandyk unsuccessfully tries to dig a ball Saturday.
Gaels’ middle hitter Chris Vandyk unsuccessfully tries to dig a ball Saturday.

The men’s volleyball team began their OUA title defence this weekend with a pair of close wins over the Laurier Golden Hawks and the Waterloo Warriors.

On Friday night, Bartlett Gym was packed with enthusiastic Queen’s fans who came to see the team’s home opener against the Golden Hawks. It was a patchwork Gaels’ lineup, as the team was missing key players—outside hitter Dan McCrae and libero Stu Hamilton—due to injuries. Rookie Joren Zeeman filled McCrae’s slot, while third-year outside hitter Pete Galbraith came in to take Hamilton’s place at libero.

Head coach Brenda Willis said the substitutes put in strong performances.

“We’re missing some starters, and that showed a little bit, but I thought the guys who stepped in did really well,” she said.

Galbraith said he enjoyed getting to play a new position.

“I loved it,” he said. “It’s actually the first time I’ve played there: I was a power [hitter] last year, and I set in first year, so I’m definitely getting around.” The evening started poorly for the Gaels as they lost a close first set 26-24. Queen’s bounced back to take the second set 25-22, and looked like they had the game wrapped up with a dominating 25-15 win in the third.

Laurier fought back to win the fourth set 25-22, setting up a winner-take-all fifth set. McCrae made a brief appearance as the teams battled through the fifth set, coming in for Zeeman with the score tied 11-11. Laurier kept up the pressure, building a 14-13 lead and needing only one point to clinch the win.

Willis then put Zeeman back in, which seemed to supply the spark the Gaels needed. Two kills from veteran Jeff DeMeza tied the score at 15. A kill from Zeeman gave the Gaels the lead. Fifth-year setter Devon Miller, who was an OUA first-team all-star and a CIS second-team all-star, recorded a service ace to give Queen’s a 17-15 victory.

Zeeman led the Gaels with 18 kills, followed by DeMeza with 15. Miller recorded 41 assists for Queen’s.

Zeeman said the late win showcased the team’s character.

“It was pretty gutsy the way we pulled it out in the end,” he said.

Willis said she wasn’t happy with the team’s performance Friday.

“I thought it was mediocre for us,” she said. “We made far too many serving errors.…There was a point where we missed five out of six in the fifth set. I don’t think we deserved to win the fifth set based on that.” Miller said allowing late comebacks, like Laurier’s in the fourth set, has been a problem for the team throughout his career.

“We have a team down, we let them up, and they make a push back and we’re in trouble,” he said. “That’s been a problem for us a lot in [the last] five years.”

The Gaels faced the Warriors Saturday night. Queen’s won the first set 25-23, but then dropped the next two, including a close 29-27 defeat in the third.

The Gaels rebounded and Zeeman again played a large role in the turnaround, coming in for McCrae partway through the third set. Queen’s took the fourth set 25-22, and then won the fifth 15-10 on strong play from Zeeman, DeMeza and middle hitter Chris Vandyk.

Zeeman and DeMeza finished tied for the team lead in kills with 16 apiece, and Miller again had a strong game with 54 assists.

Galbraith said the game showed the team’s ability to overcome obstacles.

“Character-building would be a good description,” he said. “We passed better for sure, that was a definite improvement. …Generally, just slow and steady improvements, and I think we’re getting on track to where we need to be.”

The team’s next game will be at the Royal Military College Friday.

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