Two sweeps for post-season berth

Tomlinson shines as Gaels lock up final OUA playoff spot

Queen’s didn’t drop a set en route to two wins in their final home games.
Queen’s didn’t drop a set en route to two wins in their final home games.
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Men’s volleyball punched their ticket to the playoffs by sweeping both their weekend matches.

The Gaels topped the visiting Ryerson Rams on Saturday before wrapping up their regular season with a victory against the Toronto Varsity Blues the next afternoon.

The pair of victories gave Queen’s the sixth and final playoff spot in the OUA, where they’ll face the third-seeded Waterloo Warriors in the quarterfinals on Feb. 15.

The Gaels initially struggled against a playoff-bound Ryerson squad, falling behind early in the first set. Committed defensive play and hustle allowed Queen’s to pull ahead of the Rams to take the opening set 28-26.

“I think [winning the set] certainly added confidence,” said Gaels head coach Brenda Willis. “Once we secured that set, we were at our best emotionally.”

The Gaels dominated the next two sets, using crisp defence and physical blocking to keep the Rams at bay. Queen’s captured the second set 25-13 before taking the final frame 25-15.

Willis said beating Ryerson required every Gael to play their absolute best.

“We couldn’t do it if we were half a man in one position,” she said. “They’re a very physical team and I think our tactics put them off-balance.”

Outside hitter Mike Tomlinson starred for the Gaels, registering 14 kills and making several key plays in the first set to give Queen’s the advantage. On the defensive side, libero Ivo Dramov led the team with 12 digs.

The victory over Ryerson locked up a playoff spot, leaving Willis slightly concerned her team might become complacent the next day. In the opening set against Toronto, Queen’s was anything but, controlling the frame and winning it by a score of 25-13.

“In the pre-game meeting I talked about keeping the playoff mentality and trying to push ourselves forward,” Willis said. “In the first set I thought we did and U of T wasn’t able to respond — 25-13 is pretty decisive.”

While Queen’s continued to stay ahead of Toronto, Willis felt the Gaels became overly comfortable and made mistakes in the second and third sets. Willis used the team’s timeouts to help the players get back into a playoff mindset.

The win over Toronto was an important step for the Gaels, as they lost in four sets to the Varsity Blues in their first meeting on Nov. 23.

Tomlinson was still recovering from a torn ACL during that game and was used sparingly in the back row. He was a major presence for the Gaels on Sunday, scoring 18 kills and 24 points in the contest.

With their regular season now complete, Queen’s can focus on their upcoming playoff meeting with Waterloo, who they’ve lost to twice this season. Willis said this weekend’s victories are a major boost for the Gaels heading forward.

“You always want to be playing your best volleyball going into playoffs,” she said. “Our goal is to get to CIS, and the first step was to make the playoffs. That was a tough squeeze for us, but we did it.”

OUA Quarterfinal Series

3. Waterloo Warriors [16-4] vs. 6. Queen’s Gaels [9-11]
4. York Lions [13-7] vs. 5. Ryerson Rams [12-8]
BYES: 1. McMaster Marauders [19-1] and 2. Western Mustangs [17-3]

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