Volleyball edges Rams

Five-set victories for both men and women

Elyssa Heller (6) attempts a block in a Jan. 11 game against Western as teammate Christiane Taylor looks on. Heller recorded 11 kills for the Gaels in their five-set victory over Ryerson.
Elyssa Heller (6) attempts a block in a Jan. 11 game against Western as teammate Christiane Taylor looks on. Heller recorded 11 kills for the Gaels in their five-set victory over Ryerson.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

It was closer than they might have liked, but both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams eked out five-set victories against the Ryerson Rams in Toronto Saturday.

The contest was the men’s eighth five-set match so far this season—more than any other team in the OUA. Setter Devon Miller said the Gaels’ continued inability to put matches away early is due to a lack of “mental toughness.”

“We are playing well, we’re playing very, very well,” he said. “It’s just the next step to start closing out those teams.” Going into the match, Queen’s was third in the OUA with a 9-4 record, while Ryerson was sixth with a 6-6 record. Every set was close: the Gaels eventually pulled out a 27-25, 25-23, 23-25, 23-25, 15-11 win.

Head coach Brenda Willis said she didn’t mind the Gaels taking five sets to earn the victory, but would have liked to see better play from the team in the third and fourth sets.

“I wasn’t disappointed that we didn’t win in three [sets],” she said. “I was disappointed that we were in very good control in the third set and then made some errors.”

Willis said the extraordinarily low roof in Ryerson’s gymnasium was something the Gaels had to prepare for in practice.

“[The low roof] is a big problem in volleyball,” she said. “All week, we were trying to remind guys ‘That dig is too high’ or ‘That set is too high’.”

Third-year libero Stu Hamilton said adjusting to Ryerson’s gym isn’t easy, even after playing there several times.

“We always have to make a mental effort [to keep digs low] in the practices coming up, because we know that it’s a shit-show here,” he said.

The extra practice seemed to pay off, as the Gaels only hit the roof four times during the match.

Queen’s outside hitter Jeff DeMeza was credited with a match-high 24 kills, the highest number recorded by any OUA hitter this month. Rookie left side hitter Niko Rukavina added 14 kills, while middle hitter Nick Gralewicz put up a match-high six blocks.

The game featured two of the top servers in the OUA, Ryerson’s Oleh Kovalchuk and Queen’s Devon Miller, first and second respectively in the league in service aces. Kovalchuk recorded two of his 27 service aces against the Gaels Saturday, while Miller put up four to increase his season total to 25.

Willis said Kovalchuk’s serve was made even more difficult by the low roof.

“He’s one of the best servers in the league,” she said. “[His serve has] got so much power that if you dig it the normal way, you hit the ceiling.”

Willis said tough serves are less of a problem when the Gaels are at home, due to the higher roof.

“Then we treat it like a normal dig,” she said.

Willis said she was pleased to earn the win in difficult surroundings.

“I’m real happy to get out of there with a win,” she said. “To beat Ryerson at Ryerson is always tough.”

For the women’s team, 3-9 going into the match, a win against Ryerson was crucial to their hopes of post-season play. The 3-9 Rams were tied with Queen’s for the fifth and final OUA East playoff spot heading into the weekend, but were almost assured a win against the hapless Royal Military College Paladins the following day. The Gaels stepped up to the challenge, however, and pulled off a 25-21, 25-16, 24-26, 17-25, 15-8 win.

Head coach Joely Christian said the wins in the early sets were more due to errors from Ryerson than strong play from Queen’s.

“It wasn’t so much that we started out strong, they just hadn’t woken up yet,” she said.

Christian said it was a return to the team’s strategy that saw them prevail in the fifth set.

“I actually went back to them and said ‘You know, we’ve got to take care of what we do best,’” she said. “’You’ve started playing their game, their volleyball, you’ve gone away from the game plan, you’ve got to come back to what we do best.’”

Rookie Colleen Ogilvie led the Gaels with a game-high 15 kills and three service aces, astonishing numbers from her middle hitter position. Ogilvie said the Gaels could have pulled out the win earlier.

“I thought we could have taken it in three [sets],” she said.

Libero Karlye Wong led the team with 14 digs.

“It was a little bit messy, but I think that coming out in five, although we did it in five, it showed we have the capacity to come out of tough situations,” she said.

The Gaels host the York Lions and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues this Saturday and Sunday at Bartlett Gym. On Saturday, the women play at 6 p.m. and the men play at 8 p.m., while on Sunday, the women’s match starts at 1 p.m. with the men’s game to follow at 3 p.m.

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