Queen's records first quarter-final win at national championship

KINGSTON, Ont. (02/03/2012) - 2012 CIS Men's Volleyball Championship - Queen's Gaels vs. Alberta Golden Bears.
KINGSTON, Ont. (02/03/2012) - 2012 CIS Men's Volleyball Championship - Queen's Gaels vs. Alberta Golden Bears.

In front of the largest crowd the ARC has ever seen, the men’s volleyball team won its quarter-final match against the Alberta Golden Bears in four sets to record Queen’s first-ever victory at the national championship.

In all of the Gaels’ previous championship appearances, they’ve lost in the quarter-final and joined the consolation bracket. Middle hitter Mike Amoroso said Friday’s victory is a major accomplishment for the Queen’s volleyball program.

“Historically, we haven’t had the results we wanted,” he said. “For us to do this at home, in front of the crowd … this is a dream come true for us.”

The win puts the Gaels in the CIS semifinal on Saturday night, against the first-seeded Trinity Western Spartans. But Alberta head coach Terry Danyluk predicted the Spartans will beat the Gaels.

“Trinity is a very, very strong team,” he said after his team’s loss. “If Queen’s played the way they did against us today, they’re not going to have enough to beat Trinity.”

The Golden Bears were missing all-Canadian outside hitter Mitch Irvine, but Danyluk said that wasn’t an excuse.

“We put the things together that I thought would be good enough to beat Queen’s,” he said. “We just didn’t get the performance we needed.”

The Gaels trailed for most of the first set — but with the game tied 21-21, Queen’s outside hitter and first-team all-Canadian Joren Zeeman completed back-to-back serving aces to give his team a two-point lead.

With the Gaels up 24-23 and Alberta outside Taylor Hunt serving, the crowd cheered the loudest it did all game. Hunt’s serve went into the net, giving the Gaels the first set 25-23.

“I was trying to toss it high enough so I could get a decent torque on it, but I tossed it low,” Hunt said. “Right from then, the crowd was on me.”

The 1,806-person crowd set an attendance record for the ARC. Queen’s supporters chanted ‘Taylor sucks’ whenever he served for the rest of the game.

The Gaels came out stronger in the second set. Outside hitter Alex Oneid — who missed all of the Gaels’ OUA playoff games with a sprained ankle — came in late in the second set and aced his first serve. The Gaels won the second set 25-18.

When the Gaels went up 24-21 in the third set, it looked like they would sweep the Golden Bears. But Alberta stormed back to take the third set 27-25.

Earlier in the season, the Gaels had trouble closing out games after taking early leads. But the Gaels powered through Friday’s fourth set and won 25-23.

Trinity Western, the defending CIS champions, will be a tough matchup for the Gaels — the Spartans have only lost one match to Canadian competition all season. They’re also coming off a Canada West championship.

“We do have a chance against Trinity Western,” Queen’s coach Brenda Willis said. “For Queen’s, at this point, getting through the first round is a benchmark.”

The Gaels travelled to B.C. over the Christmas break for two exhibition games against the Spartans, losing 3-0 and 3-2.

“Not to shortchange my guys, but it’ll take an exceptional performance to beat Trinity,” Willis said. “They are very good.”

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