Queen's settles for fourth after losing bronze medal match

Manitoba Bisons beat Gaels 3-1 to claim third place at nationals

All-Canadian outside hitter Joren Zeeman congratulates Manitoba players following the Gaels' 3-1 loss.
All-Canadian outside hitter Joren Zeeman congratulates Manitoba players following the Gaels' 3-1 loss.
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The men’s volleyball team lost an emotional bronze medal match to the Manitoba Bisons on Sunday.

“Right now, the fact that they came fourth probably isn’t at the forefront of their minds, so much as the fact that they lost their last two matches,” Queen’s coach Brenda Willis said.

The Gaels’ national top four finish is the first-ever for Queen’s and only the second time since 1998 that an Ontario team has done it.

Eight Gaels played their last-ever games for Queen’s this weekend. Five years ago, Willis brought in six rookies with hopes that they would grow into contenders for this 2012 tournament.

“I’m really proud of this group,” Willis said, choking up in a post-game interview. “We were 1-3 the second weekend [of the regular season] and 5-4 at Christmas.

“And, we’re fourth in the country.”

The second-seeded Bisons were coming off an upset loss to the third-seeded Laval Rouge et Or in the first semifinal on Saturday. The fifth-seed Gaels were swept by the first-seeded Trinity Western Spartans later that night.

The Gaels were underdogs going into Sunday’s match — Manitoba was the higher seed in the tournament and was the only Canadian team to beat the Spartans this year. The Bisons beat Queen's 3-1.

Manitoba's bronze medal was head coach Garth Pischke’s 23rd CIS medal in 26 tournament appearances – it was the Gaels’ sixth CIS championship appearance in Willis’ 25-year career.

After ARC’s attendance record was broken two nights in a row with 1,802 on Friday and 1,994 on Saturday, there were only 1,231 people at Sunday’s game — the gym was noticeably more quiet.

The Bisons took an early lead and won the first set 25-22. The teams were tied 19-19 in the second set, but a controversial net violation call against Queen’s gave Manitoba a late two-point lead and the Bisons took the set 25-23.

“We got some bad breaks from the officials at pivotal times in the second set,” Willis said.

With his team down 17-15 in the third set, Queen’s All-Canadian fifth-year Joren Zeeman went on a five-point serving streak to put the Gaels up 20-17. Queen’s won the third set 25-19.

“You put everything you have into the third set, like Queen’s did, and usually there’s not too much left after that,” Manitoba coach Garth Pischke said.

The Gaels couldn’t keep their momentum in the fourth set — their passing game fell apart, and the Bisons used a strong serving game to prevail 25-18 and clinch the bronze medal.

Zeeman led his team with 22 kills in the last game of his Queen’s career.

“We expected Joren to play as well as he did,” Pischke said.

Pischke’s son, Dane, matched Zeeman’s 22 kills.

“It could have been his best match as a Bison,” coach Pischke said. “He was just clutch, scoring everywhere.

“We expect that out of him, but he just gets better every time he plays and he gets more and more physical.”

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