Gaels strike down Lions

Though York has more time to practice, Gaels win in straight sets

The extra training sessions the York Lions held thanks to their teaching assistants’ strike didn’t help their 3-13 men’s volleyball team Friday night. They lost in straight sets to Queen’s. With the win, the Gaels’ record became a mirror image of York’s with 13 victories and three losses.

Queen’s head coach Brenda Willis said she was concerned going into the match that York’s extra practice time might have made them more dangerous than usual.

“For a couple months now, it’s almost like they’re dealing with full-time athletes instead of student-athletes,” she said. “There’s no distractions. … It could be an unfair advantage.”

But the Lions didn’t live up to their expectation and fell 25-19, 27-25 and 25-22 to the Gaels. Willis said the close set scores were a product of Queen’s playing down to its opponent. An easy mid-week win against the 0-16 Royal Military College Paladins probably contributed to the Gaels’ lethargy.

“To be honest, we didn’t put in our best performance,” she said. “When you’re dealing with two teams that obviously aren’t going to make the playoffs, it’s a bit harder to get motivated. I would have liked a better performance, especially serving.”

Willis said the tight scores didn’t represent a struggle, though, as the Gaels went with a younger lineup to give key players, including Michael Amoroso and Sam Pedlow, a chance to rest and recuperate from minor injuries.

“I didn’t go into this game playing our strongest lineup,” she said. “I was looking at this week as a chance to let them heal.”

Willis said she substituted her veterans in during the brief stretches when the Gaels trailed, and they performed admirably.

“As soon as I made those changes, we came right back,” she said.

Willis said she was pleased with the team’s blocking and defence.

“We’ve been working a lot on the positioning of our block and digging clean angles,” she said. “I thought our blocks channeled blocks to our libero quite well.”

Veteran libero Stu Hamilton recorded 11 digs in the first two sets, and rookie libero Alex Oneid made five in the third. On offence, outside hitter Bryan Fautley led the Gaels with 10 kills on 14 attempts and five service aces to one service error. Outside hitters Joren Zeeman and Jeff DeMeza also recorded 10 kills each.

Willis said Fautley’s performance was the exception at the line and the serving from the rest of the team was weak. Queen’s marked eight aces and 18 service errors on the night. Willis said the Gaels will need to improve on that performance in next weekend’s games against the 6-10 Windsor Lancers and 12-4 Western Mustangs.

Fautley said the team needs to improve their on-court communication.

“I found there was a lot of confusion on the court,” he said. “There were a lot of mistakes that made us look kind of dumb just because they were such simple things. We need to really put our focus on the simple pass and really just go back to the core of passing and free balls and master that before we start working on the complicated stuff.”

It can be tough to maintain focus against teams like York and RMC, Faultey said, but Willis tries to ensure that the team takes each opponent seriously.

“Brenda does do a really good job of keeping our feet on the ground and making sure that we are approaching every team the same way,” he said. “However, when you are facing a team that has a ranking or has a history like both York and RMC do, it is hard to go in with the same mentality that we would against Western or Mac.”

He said he’s looking forward to this weekend’s clashes with Western and Windsor, because they may decide who earns the OUA’s coveted second playoff seed.

“It’s a huge weekend and I’m really excited about it.”

The Gaels play the Lancers Friday in Windsor and then face the Mustangs Saturday in London.

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