Who's making the playoffs?

Sports editor Gilbert Coyle weighs in on each varsity team’s post-season chances

At 10-5, the women's volleyball team has defied preseason expectations.
At 10-5, the women's volleyball team has defied preseason expectations.
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Women’s volleyball
With 12 rookies on the roster, the women’s volleyball team wasn’t supposed to be this good. But at 10-5, the Gaels are a legitimate OUA contender, fighting for second place in the league.

The team’s success has come down to its veteran players.

Fourth-year outside hitter Natalie Gray leads the OUA with 161 kills, fourth-year outside hitter Becky Billings is close behind with 131 and third-year setter Anna Pedjase is third in assists with 9.4 per game. On defence, Billings and second-year middle Katie Hagarty are tied for fifth in the OUA with 27 saves each.

After suffering their first stumble of the season with a two-loss road trip earlier this month, the Gaels bounced back with two straight-set wins in Thunder Bay last weekend. With only three regular-season games left — including a home game against the second-place Ottawa Gee-Gees tonight — the women’s volleyball team can start looking to the playoffs.

The Gaels are 5-1 at home in the ARC this season — if they beat the Gee-Gees and secure second place, they’ll have home-court advantage until the OUA Final Four. After that, the OUA title will be up for grabs.

Men’s hockey
In October, men’s hockey coach Brett Gibson said his team could compete in the OUA as long as his already-depleted roster could survive until Jan. 1.

But first semester went worse than expected. With eight injured players, the Gaels ended 2011 outside the playoff picture with a 6-7-1 record.

After a five-week holiday break, a healthier team has won five of eight games in 2012 and sit at ninth in the OUA, four points behind the third-place Nipissing Lakers. Forward Jordan Mirwaldt has recorded eight points since his return from injury on Jan. 3 while captain Jon Lawrance has broken out of his slump, scoring five points in eight games.

Six games remain in the regular season and nothing is certain. The Gaels have two games in Toronto against the seventh-place Ryerson Rams, a trip to Trois-Rivieres to play the second-place UQTR Patriotes and a home game against the Lakers to close out the season.

The Gaels are good enough to move up in the standings. But one bad game could make them miss the playoffs entirely.

Women’s hockey
Last weekend at the Memorial Centre, the women’s hockey team lost 4-0 to the second-place Guelph Gryphons and beat the eighth-place Brock Badgers 3-2 — an accurate reflection of the season so far.

The Gaels are third, but they’re a notch below the first-place Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the second-place Guelph Gryphons. They’ve lost all games played against both teams this season, and one loss was a shootout loss.

The Gaels are also struggling of late. They’ve lost four of six games since returning from winter break and now sit only two points ahead of the York Lions and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues with six regular-season games left.

Forward Morgan McHaffie leads the OUA with 33 points and should be in contention for the MVP award, while her sister Brittany has 22 points. But Brittany’s out with a knee injury and there’s no timeline for her return.

Head coach Matthew Holmberg also hasn’t declared a starting goaltender — Karissa Savage has better statistics, but Mel-Dodd Moher has started 12 of 21 games. It’s unclear who will start in the playoffs.

Last season, the Gaels finished fourth in the league, but went on to win the OUA title. No matter where they finish in the standings this season, it would foolish to count them out for a long playoff run.

Men’s basketball
It can’t get any worse for the men’s basketball team.

At 0-14, the Gaels are tied for dead last with the Royal Military College Paladins. They’re losing by an average of 20 points per game and trail every team but the Paladins in all statistical offensive categories.

This was expected — with a new coach and only two players with over two years of Queen’s experience, it was always going to be a rebuilding season.

Guard Mackenzie Simpson — a transfer student from St. Lawrence College — has been the team’s most consistent scorer with 11.5 points per game, while first-year player and fourth-year student Mike Farine has quickly become a regular contributor. And with second-year guard Ryan Golden, second-year forward Nikola Misljencevic and rookie forward John Lenz earning significant minutes, the future looks bright.

The Gaels are still outside contenders for a playoff spot. They trail the eighth-place York Lions by three games, but have a home-and-home series against the Paladins before travelling to York on Feb. 17.

If the Gaels win their games against the Paladins and the Lions, they will be tied with York. But the Lions still have a game remaining against RMC on Feb. 18 — a Lions win over the Paladins would likely eliminate the Gaels from contention.

Women’s basketball
Last week, the women’s basketball team was 7-5, third in the OUA East and pressing for a first-round playoff bye. But that was before they had seen the Carleton Ravens and the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

The Gaels lost by a combined 54 points to the league’s top-ranked teams — including a 59-27 defeat to the Ravens that head coach Dave Wilson called “one of the worst performances I’ve seen in my history at Queen’s.”

With eight games left — one against the Ravens and the Gee-Gees each — the Gaels are in fourth place at 7-7 and need to overtake the Ryerson Rams to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Fifth-year guard Brittany Moore — fifth on the OUA all-time scoring list — has carried the team with 17.5 points per game, second-year point guard Liz Boag is playing over 27 minutes in every outing and post Sydney Kernahan has proven herself a starter. But the Gaels are a middle-of-the-pack team. They’ll make the playoffs, but won’t get past the second round.

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