Volleyball Gaels' backs against the wall

Men's team loses to rival McMaster in first of three-game OUA finals

It was a clash of Ontario volleyball titans Tuesday night: the two-time defending champion men’s volleyball team dropped the opening match of their best-of-three OUA final with the undefeated McMaster Marauders. The Gaels have one last shot at the OUA title and a berth at the national championships.

The match was the second time all year Queen’s lost a game at home in Bartlett Gym—the first defeat was against the same team two weekends ago.

It was also the first time all year the Gaels lost in straight sets.

McMaster took an early 19-10 lead in the first set, but the Gaels clawed eight straight points back with the aid of outside hitter Sam Pedlow’s strong serving. The Marauders again increased their lead to 23-19, but Queen’s battled back to tie the match at 24. The first set was sealed when brothers Nathan and Jeremy Groenveld recorded back-to-back kills for McMaster.

The Marauders came out strong in the second set, racking up a 14-5 lead. Queen’s regrouped after a timeout, cutting the lead to 18-16—only to fall 25-21 following a tip from fifth-year outside hitter Parrish Offer, a Kingston native.

The Gaels fought hard from the start of the third set, and even briefly held an 8-7 lead, but McMaster regained the lead and held the Gaels off after they closed the gap to 17-15, scoring eight of the last ten points to take the set 25-17 and clinch the first match of the playoff series.

OUA Rookie of the Year Joren Zeeman led the Gaels with a match-high 15 kills, while OUA Libero of the Year Stu Hamilton recorded a match-high 15 digs. OUA first team all-star setter Devon Miller put up a match-high 38 assists for Queen’s. The Gaels held OUA Player of the Year Nathan Groenveld to only two kills on seven attempts, but Offer and Jeremy Groenveld stepped up, recording 13 and 10 kills, respectively, for the Marauders.

McMaster’s win pins the Gaels’ backs against the wall. Because there’s only one OUA berth in the CIS championships this year, Queen’s will have to beat the unbeaten Marauders in two straight games in Hamilton Thursday night and Saturday afternoon.

McMaster hasn’t been quite as dominant at home as they have on the road: five of the seven sets they’ve dropped over the course of the year have been in Hamilton, including two in a close-fought Nov. 24 win over Queen’s.

For the Gaels, everything rides on Thursday’s game: a win gives them a chance to become three-time Ontario champions Saturday and keeps their hopes of success at the national championships alive.

A loss ends the season on a sour note.

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