A missed chance

Men’s volleyball moves into tie for

Last weekend may prove crucial for the men’s volleyball team in terms of determining playoff seedings, but not in the way they had hoped going into it.

McMaster’s loss to the University of Toronto Friday night meant the Gaels’ win over the Windsor Lancers tied them with McMaster for the top spot in the OUA. A win Saturday night would have locked Queen’s into one of the top two playoff seeds and guaranteed the team a first-round bye, but the Western Mustangs got in the way, defeating the Gaels in four sets. They’re now tied with the Mustangs for second place with a 14-4 record, but Western holds the tiebreaker thanks to their two wins against Queen’s this year.

Queen’s came out strong against Windsor Friday, winning the first set 25-15. The Lancers rebounded to win the second set 25-23, but the Gaels took the third and fourth sets 25-22 and 25-19.

Saturday started less auspiciously for Queen’s. The Gaels lost the first set 25-23 but bounced back to win the second set 25-23. They fell behind after that, losing the third and fourth sets 25-21 and 25-18.

Head coach Brenda Willis said the loss to the Mustangs was disappointing.

“Certainly against Western we were hoping for a different result,” she said. “I just think we didn’t come out as strong as we would have liked.”

Willis said the large, raucous Western crowd was a big factor in the Mustangs’ win.

“They did a great job of marketing the game,” she said, adding that the long road trip didn’t help.

“Where you sit around for a whole day Saturday, it’s a long and tiring game.”

Willis said the Mustangs also had an edge from playing the winless Royal Military College Paladins the day before when the Gaels had a tougher task against Windsor. She said the easier match-up Friday allowed Western coach Jim Sage to spend more time preparing for Queen’s.

“He played his Queen’s game plan all week knowing he could train through RMC,” she said. “We felt we couldn’t take Windsor lightly.”

Willis said another factor in the loss to Western was a warm-up injury to second-year middle hitter Michael Amoroso, who suffered back spasms and had to sit out the first couple of sets. She said rookie middle hitter Anthony Pitfield filled in admirably, but the time out hurt Amoroso when he returned in the third set.

“There was a hesitation on Mike’s part,” she said. “He wasn’t as loose as he needed to be.”

Pitfield finished with two kills and no errors on three attempts and Amoroso had two kills and three errors on eight attempts.

The Gaels made 31 attack errors against 45 kills and 19 service errors against 8 service aces Saturday.

Willis said Western has reached a level where they can compete with Queen’s and McMaster for the top spots in the OUA, though.

“I have to give credit to Western; they played really well,” she said. “I thought all year Western was up at that level.”

She said the OUA field is becoming more level.

“On any given day, if you don’t come out to play you’re going to get beat.” Willis said she’s happy to see more parity amongst the OUA teams and said it will bode well for the conference’s representative at the national championships. The OUA teams have struggled at nationals in recent seasons, watching Canada West teams sweep the medals for the past seven years, a development Willis attributes to the higher level of competition in that conference. She said that may change now that teams such as Toronto, Western and Ryerson are putting pressure on Queen’s and McMaster.

“I think that’s a wonderful thing for our league, our sport and our athletes because you have to be prepared to rise to your opponent,” she said. “No matter how good you are, if you don’t bring your A-game anything can happen.”

The Gaels play the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and the Ryerson Rams this weekend.

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