Hanging tough

Rookie setter earns first start in weekend homestand

Rookie setter Jamie Wright recorded 37 assists in his first start for Queen’s.
Rookie setter Jamie Wright recorded 37 assists in his first start for Queen’s.

Men’s volleyball played above their 5-7 record last weekend, hanging with a top OUA club and sweeping a close rival.

After losing to the Waterloo Warriors at home on Saturday in four sets (20-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-18), the Gaels reorganized on Sunday and handled the Guelph Gryphons in straight sets (25-16, 25-22, 25-18).

The first game back after the holidays was against second-place Waterloo, and the Gaels initially rose to the occasion. Halfway through the first set, Queen’s pulled ahead and didn’t let up until they had secured that game.

At one point in the second set, the Gaels trailed by six, but a swing in momentum saw the home team tally several points and forced Waterloo to call a timeout.

Strong hitting from Queen’s tied the match at 23-23, but the visitors came out focused and scored two straight points to take the set.

Waterloo continued to move well and controlled the next two sets to take the victory. Gaels head coach Brenda Willis attributed Waterloo’s success to the team’s speed.

“Their offence is as fast as any offence in the country and it rattled our block,” Willis said.

Frustrated by poor blocking, the Gaels were unable to muster a rhythm for their passing and hitting, and serving also became a problem at one point in the game.

“After we made a couple serving errors, I thought we got a little conservative [while] serving,” Willis said.

She brought this issue up before Sunday’s game against Guelph, encouraging the men to serve aggressively.

“With this scoring system, an error is no worse than an easy serve that comes pounding back at you, and that gives more motivation to the other team,” she said.

Outside hitter Mike Tomlinson finished the contest with 14 kills and seven digs. Fellow hitter Philippe Goyer had 11 kills and seven digs and first-year setter Jamie Wright supplied 39 assists.

The Waterloo game saw Wright earn his first start as a Gael. Over the team’s winter tour of Bulgaria, he played for the injured Thomas Ellison and has since earned the trust of the hitters.

The Gaels’ second game of the weekend was against Guelph, who also came in with a 4-7 record and hopes of a playoff spot down the line.

Queen’s opened strong, winning the first set 25-16. One play saw the ball bounce off the head of a confused Scott Brunet, who came back the very next play with a decisive kill.

The Guelph offence mustered a few well-placed kills early in the second before the Gaels regained control. The third set was all Queen’s, with Aaron Nusbaum driving home the final kill.

Nusbaum finished with 11 kills and five digs, while Tomlinson provided 14 kills and three blocks.

“Guelph is best up the middle, and they hardly got to run middle at all,” Willis said.

Next weekend, the Gaels will face the Windsor Lancers (4-8) and Western Mustangs (9-3). Willis will be focusing on Friday’s game at Windsor, another team hunting for the OUA’s final few playoff spots.

“It’s critical we stay ahead of Windsor,” she said.

OUA Standings

1. McMaster [12-0]
T2. Waterloo [9-3]
T2. Western [9-3]
T2. York [9-3]
5. Ryerson [9-4]
6. Queen’s [5-7]
T7. Guelph [4-8]
T7. Windsor [4-8]
9. Toronto [4-9]
10. Nipissing [2-10]
11. RMC [0-12]

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