Gaels march through quarter-final

Waterloo no match for an experienced Gaels roster at home

Despite the early departures of students for Reading Week, the ARC was still full of cheers and smiles as the men’s volleyball team kicked off their 2010-2011 playoff run with a solid showing. There would be no upsets at home as the third-seeded Gaels made short work of the number six Waterloo Warriors in three sets winning 25-23, 25-20, 25-17.

The first set suggested that the match would be a tight exchange. The two teams went point for point right up to the wire: late in the set the score read 18-18, then 20-21 for Waterloo, 21-21, 22-21 for Queen’s, all the way up until 23-23. The veteran Gaels took over for the last two points, with Middle, Michael Amoroso, punctuating the set with a big block to take the frame 25-23.

The two teams had a similar back and forth during the season. Their first matchup in November was taken by the Gaels in a five setter: 25-17, 25-20, 18-25, 22-25, 15-4. The Warriors took the second match in January with an upset win in only four sets: 22-25, 20-25, 30-28, 20-25.

Despite these previous close matches the Gaels wouldn’t let the game get any more thrilling than the first set. The team took off in the second with a 10-3 start and never let Waterloo get within two to round out the set 25-20. The third was more of the same theme as the Gaels took a 10-6 start and closed the quarter-final match 25-17 for a solid straight set win. Amoroso said that the Gaels pulled away because of their veteran roster.

“[The second set] was where we showed our experience and we broke away, mainly because we have guys that have done this before,” he said. “For us, even though the intensity is high, it’s just another game. We are ready to play, we are calm, we are relaxed. I think the nerves got the better of them in that second set.”

The win came on the back of strong efforts by all of the starting players. Amoroso finished with thirteen points and nine kills, outside hitter Bryan Fautley also had thirteen points with ten kills, setter Daniel Rosenbaum finished with 32 assists, and outside hitter Joren Zeeman had twelve kills and twelve points.

The sight of Gaels starting outside hitter Niko Rukavina on crutches on the sideline at the start of the game was the one obvious weakness in the Gaels lineup. However, his replacement Matthew Taylor performed solidly. Rukavina had surgery for a torn ligament in his ankle in September and further aggravated the injury with a series of micro-fractures in his ankle bones. On Tuesday he landed on this same foot awkwardly, forcing him out for the remainder of the season.

Head coach Brenda Willis said the team hasn’t lowered their goals.

“That was upsetting but we have enough depth that the goals are still the goals and I think if everyone does their job it is still realistic for us to win the OUAs again,” she said. “It’s a little bit bigger challenge but what is sport without challenges?”

While the team feels confident, Willis added that their passing still needs work, particularly in the absence of Rukavina.

“Passing [needs to improve] more than anything, we are still digging the hard-driven ball on our angles well, but we aren’t scrambling as well as we need to and [Waterloo] required a lot of scrambling.”

The Gaels now look forward to next Friday’s semi-final matchup against the McMaster Marauders. The team lost both matches this season to the Marauders with both games going to five sets. The scores were 22-25, 25-20, 25-15, 23-25, 15-12 in the first game in Hamilton and 25-19, 22-25, 25-20, 22-25, 9-15 in the second match at home. The Gaels will give it all they have in hopes of defending their OUA championship, and it should make for some good volleyball.

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