Volleyball triumphs in five-set thriller

Two weekend wins for men’s volleyball, women lose close five-set matches to both Western and Windsor

Queen’s setter Devon Miller (4) makes a block Friday as teammate Michael Amoroso looks on.
Queen’s setter Devon Miller (4) makes a block Friday as teammate Michael Amoroso looks on.
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Setter Ellen Gray (11) and teammate Colleen Ogilvie go up for a block Friday against Western outside hitter Elaine Screaton.
Setter Ellen Gray (11) and teammate Colleen Ogilvie go up for a block Friday against Western outside hitter Elaine Screaton.
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Libero Stu Hamilton makes a dig against Western Friday night. The Gaels won in five sets.
Libero Stu Hamilton makes a dig against Western Friday night. The Gaels won in five sets.
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A sharp contrast in results marked the Gaels’ weekend volleyball matches. As the men picked up two wins against the Western Mustangs and the Windsor Lancers, the women suffered two losses. The pair of victories improved the men’s record to 8-4 and vaulted them into fourth place in the league, while the women’s losses left them with a 2-9 record, in sixth place in the OUA East and ahead of only the winless Royal Military College Paladins.

On Friday night, the men’s team took on the 6-4 Mustangs before a packed Bartlett Gym. It was an emotional match: the Mustangs’ five-set victory over the Gaels earlier in the season lent fuel to Queen’s already blazing traditional rivalry with Western.

Rookie hitter Joren Zeeman, who recorded 16 kills for the Gaels despite limited playing time, said the Gaels’ fans’ animosity towards Western made the game more important. “It’s a great rivalry,” he said. “The fans were great. It was a good atmosphere.” Zeeman said the fan support made the difference for the Gaels.

“This is our barn, this is our house, and we pulled it off here because of the fans,” he said.

Queen’s came out strong and won the first set 25-21, but Western fought back to take the second and third sets, setting up a crucial fourth set. The Gaels came through in the clutch, though, eking out a 25-23 win in the fourth and a 19-17 victory in the decisive fifth set.

Outside hitter Jeff DeMeza led the Gaels with 17 kills, including several immediately after he was blocked by Western’s Joshua Chisholm late in the final set.

DeMeza said Chisholm’s block fired him up.

“You always take it personally when someone does that,” he said. “You want to step up.”

Libero Stu Hamilton said he was excited to play most of the game after missing much of the season thus far due to a back injury.

“Holy cow, this has been a long time coming,” he said. “It feels good to get back on the floor.”

Middle hitter Nick Gralewicz said the exhibition tournaments the team played over the break helped prepare them for the return to league action.

“The tournaments helped a lot,” he said. “We feel a lot stronger about where we’re at coming off of those tournaments. There’s a little bit of rust, but it’s coming off.”

Head coach Brenda Willis said the win was largely due to the Gaels’ depth.

“It was a really good team effort because 11 guys contributed on the floor in that match,” she said.

“Jeff had 17 kills, Dan McCrae had eight kills, Sam Pedlow had 10 kills, Nick Gralewicz had 8 kills: [Setter] Devon [Miller] distributed the ball really, really well.”

The next night, a Gaels’ lineup composed primarily of rookies easily beat Windsor, handing them a 25-23, 25-16, 25-23 defeat.

Willis said she was particularly pleased with the efforts of first-year setter Daniel Rosenbaum, who played much of the match.

“He didn’t get a lot of good passes when he went in, but he ran a pretty stable offence,” she said. “I’m really pleased that every single one of the rookies are looking good: Dan’s going to be a great setter, [middle hitter Michael] Amoroso showed some good things. We’re well on our way.”

Amoroso said the key to the team’s dominance in the second set was enjoying the game.

“I thought that we were having fun,” he said. “We played like a team, looked like a team, and showed what we can do.”

The women’s team had a less fun-filled weekend, dropping close five-set matches to both Western and Windsor, who were respectively 7-4 and 0-11 entering the weekend. Friday night against Western, the Gaels were hammered 25-12 in the opening set, but rebounded to push the match to five sets.

Head coach Joely Christian said the clash with Western was one of the team’s strongest performances so far.

“It was one of the better matches we’ve played,” she said. “We’re starting to show the things we need to do to be a contender in the OUA East and the OUA in general.”

Setter Ellen Gray said she was pleased with the team’s effort despite the loss.

“We played a lot better than we have so far,” she said. “It was a good fight, for sure.” On Saturday, the Gaels faced Windsor, the last-place team in the OUA West. Queen’s took the first set, but Windsor won the next two. The Gaels emphatically claimed the fourth set 25-18, but collapsed after taking an early 7-3 lead in the fifth, losing 15-13.

“I thought there were good moments and I thought that there were moments where we lost a little bit of focus, and those came back to haunt us a bit,” said assistant coach Chris Galbraith.

Second-year outside hitter Louise Hamill, who led the team with 15 kills, said the fifth-set collapse took her by surprise.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “We didn’t push like we should have.”

Rookie outside hitter Colleen Ogilvie said the Gaels have the talent to succeed, but still have lots to work on.

“I think we’ve got the right skills, but we just need time to put it all together,” she said.

On Wednesday the teams host the Royal Military College Paladins, whose men’s and women’s teams are both winless this season. The women play at 6 p.m. and the men’s game follows at 8 p.m.

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