Veteran presence

Strong play by Zeeman and Fautley give Queen’s four points.

A strong weekend road trip by the men’s volleyball team was highlighted by their win over the Western Mustangs in London. Queen’s got the ball rolling on Friday night against the Windsor Lancers, defeating them in straight sets. After falling behind 2-1 Saturday night, the Gaels rallied back to win the game over their OUA rivals, the Mustangs Head coach Brenda Willis said the team is playing with confidence that was reinforced by the addition of fourth-years Niko Rukavina and Dan Rosenbaum to the line-up.

“It’s the reinjection of some of the vets that’s made a difference,” she said.

Veterans Bryan Fautley recorded 21 kills against the Mustangs and Joren Zeeman had 16 against the Lancers.

“The media tends to focus very highly on kills and [Fautley and Zeeman] definitely are our top two kill guys,” she said. “But just as essential is the setter who delivers the ball. [Setter] Rukavina passes more court than anyone else on our team. Without the pass, we can’t run the set and those guys don’t get to score.”

The nationally ranked Gaels took on the 6-9 Lancers in a game that saw outside hitter Zeeman reach double digits in kills for the fourth consecutive game. He is now ranked seventh in the CIS with kills per set. Rukavina recorded 10 kills and seven digs while libero Alex Oneid had nine digs.

The Gaels focus was on their Saturday match against the Mustangs who they had lost to twice this year, both coming at home. The Queen’s Invitational saw a rare straight set loss for the Gaels and later in the regular season, Queen’s battled in five sets against Western.

The Gaels have been forced to five sets in only five games this season, losing two of the matches. Western offers Queen’s the type of tough and intense competition that they will see in the playoffs and at the CIS level. Willis said the quality of games makes them important for the Gaels, who dropped their first game to the Mustangs in five sets at the ARC.

“The more we play teams that are at our level and higher, the better we get,” Willis said. “Both the Western coach and I, when we shook hands, said ‘gosh I wish we could play each other more often.’ ... We got a lot closer [to] beating them in five in their gym, [which] shows that our progression as a unit is moving at a pace that is higher than their progression.”

In the fourth set, with Queen’s down 2-1, Willis changed the Gaels’ approach.

“We’ve been playing with a couple different serve-receive systems and we now have more options in our passing game,” she said. “I don’t think we went through any discomfort in making that change. We’re more versatile now because of it ... We looked more polished in the fourth and fifth [sets].”

With competition in Toronto coming up, Willis said the Gaels simply need to focus on their own progress as the playoffs get closer.

“My biggest concern is simply that we need [to] serve tougher and more consistently,” she said. “The tough servers aren’t consistent and the consistent servers aren’t tough. We need to shore that up. The other part of our game that I’m feeling is not at championship level is our passing, so that will continue to be a prime focus in our training for the next several weeks.”

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