Golden Bears win, Gaels bail early

Western teams dominate Coast-to-Coast Classic in Kingston while injured hosts struggle

Alberta Golden Bears outsider hitter Taylor Hunt attempts a kill during the gold medal game at the ARC on Sunday.
Alberta Golden Bears outsider hitter Taylor Hunt attempts a kill during the gold medal game at the ARC on Sunday.
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Western Canadian teams dominated the Coast-to-Coast Classic at the ARC this weekend.

On Sunday, the Alberta Golden Bears came back from a two-set deficit to beat the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds 3-2 in the gold medal game, while the Calgary Dinos defeated the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds 3-0 to clinch the bronze medal.

The Gaels were plagued by injuries to veteran players and finished seventh.

Queen’s Athletics organized the Coast-to-Coast Classic as a test run for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships they’ll host in March. Athletics director Leslie Dal Cin said it was the first time the school has hosted an indoor championship.

A team from the Canada West conference has won the national title every season since 1995 and is favoured to win again at nationals.

The Trinity Western Spartans, last year’s national champions, were representing Canada at the Club World Championship in Doha, Qatar last week and didn’t attend the Queen’s tournament.

Golden Bears coach Terry Danyluk said he was impressed with the way the Coast-to-Coast Classic was organized.

“Queen’s did a great job. It’s a great idea to do a trial run,” he said. “The venue was awesome and the guys really enjoyed playing in that gym.”

Tournament MVP Mitch Irvine of the Golden Bears said he expects his team to be back in Kingston for nationals in March.

The Gaels fell 3-1 to the Varsity Reds in the quarter-final on Friday, lost 3-0 to the Western Mustangs in the consolation semifinal on Saturday and beat the Montreal Carabins 3-1 in the seventh-place match on Sunday.

Four of the five fifth-year Gaels are currently injured. Setter Dan Rosenbaum and outside hitter Bryan Fautley are both out with long-term injuries, outside hitter Joren Zeeman missed the weekend with a sprained ankle and outside hitter Niko Rukavina played through an ankle injury. Middle hitter Michael Amoroso is the team’s only healthy fifth-year.

“We’re pretty beat up. We’re missing a lot of our key guys,” head coach Brenda Willis said. “We’re really anxious to see some medical progress.”

The injuries meant rookies saw playing time. Willis said she was particularly impressed with first-year outside hitter Mike Tomlinson, who had 18 kills in the quarter-finals to earn the team’s MVP award on Friday.

Willis said she’s convinced her team will post better results against the nation’s best teams when her top players are healthy.

“It’s going to be tough for us,” she said. “But our veterans [have] played at that level and are confident.”

Regardless of their success in the OUA playoffs, the Gaels will be entitled to an automatic advance to nationals as the host team.

The Gaels will fly to Calgary to play in the Dino Cup next weekend. Willis said she hopes she’ll have some injured starters returning to the lineup to gain experience against the country’s top teams before nationals in March.

The Gaels will play the Alberta Golden Bears, the Calgary Dinos and the Regina Cougars during the round-robin in Calgary. The medal round is scheduled for Saturday.

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