Still sixth by a hair

Gaels gouged by McMaster, but control playoff fate heading into final weekend

Head coach Brenda Willis praised the play of Queen’s middle blockers against McMaster.
Head coach Brenda Willis praised the play of Queen’s middle blockers against McMaster.
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The Gaels won the second set against McMaster, but fell 25-13 in the final frame to lose 3-1.
The Gaels won the second set against McMaster, but fell 25-13 in the final frame to lose 3-1.
Photo: 

Men’s volleyball is on the inside track to the playoffs after a predictable weekend split.

Hosting the nationally second-ranked McMaster Marauders (17-1) on Saturday, the Gaels (7-11) fell in four sets by scores of 25-21, 22-25, 25-20 and 25-13. The next day, Queen’s went up against the winless RMC Paladins (0-18) and rolled over them in straight sets: 25-20, 25-20 and 25-17.

Currently, the Gaels are tied with the Windsor Lancers (7-11) for the sixth and final OUA playoff spot. Queen’s holds the tiebreak based on head-to-head records, having beat Windsor twice this season.

Topping both the Ryerson Rams (11-7) and the Toronto Varsity Blues (5-13) in their final regular season games next weekend would ensure the Gaels reach the playoffs. The feat is a tall order, as Queen’s lost to both squads in their first meetings in November.

“We’ll have to battle hard this weekend to secure our playoff spot,” said Gaels head coach Brenda Willis. “We’ve got to do some work, and hopefully come out with two wins.

“You’re in control of your own fate, which is good, but at the same time it’s nerve-wracking.”

Willis said her team’s performance against McMaster on Saturday was better than their previous matchup with the Marauders, which the Gaels lost in a sweep on Nov. 16. The coach credited the standout play of Queen’s middle hitters Darren Edwards and Scott Brunet.

“It was certainly the best our middle connection with our setters has been all season,” Willis said. “To score that many points out of the middle against what are some of the best middle blockers in the league, that’s really good.”

Willis said the Gaels’ play during the fourth set was disappointing, however.

“After playing close to as well as we can for a couple sets, and getting down 2-1, it kind of took the life out of us,” she said.

Outside hitter Philippe Goyer led the Gaels in scoring against McMaster with 13 points, including 10 kills. Fellow hitter Markus Trence also added 10 kills.

Queen’s had to shift their playing style on Sunday against the shorter and less physical Paladins. The change in pace between the two games meant the Gaels had some difficulties adapting to the slower tempo.

“[RMC] played us pretty evenly until the midway point in the first couple sets,” Willis said, “and then we sort of broke away after that.”

While she wasn’t thrilled with the Gaels’ performance, Willis said her team grabbed the points they needed to.

Outside hitter Aaron Nusbaum led the offensive charge against the Paladins, recording 16 kills in the victory.

With only two games remaining in their season, next weekend’s matchups are the Gaels’ most important yet. They host Ryerson Saturday before taking on Toronto the next day, with both games starting at 3 p.m.

Windsor will face the Guelph Gryphons (5-13) on Friday and the Waterloo Warriors (15-3) on Saturday, and need a better result than Queen’s to make the playoffs.

OUA Standings

1. McMaster [17-1]
T2. Waterloo [15-3]
T2. Western [15-3]
4. York [12-4]
5. Ryerson [11-7]
T6. Queen’s [7-11]
T6. Windsor [7-11]
T8. Toronto [5-13]
T8. Guelph [5-13]
T8. Nipissing [5-13]
11. RMC [0-18]

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