Women lead way in winter

Hoops, hockey reach OUA finals and top seasonal hierarchy of varsity teams

Jenny Wright was one of three Gaels to average double digits in points.
Jenny Wright was one of three Gaels to average double digits in points.
Mary Coughlin and the Gaels fell just short in the OUA final against Laurier.
Mary Coughlin and the Gaels fell just short in the OUA final against Laurier.

1. Women’s basketball

Capturing the OUA East title and a spot at nationals this season, women’s basketball was the choice for top spot in our winter rankings.

A 16-6 regular season — buoyed by a seven-game win streak to wrap up the year — helped propel the Gaels into first place in the East. Including playoffs, the streak would reach nine games, after Queen’s held on in overtime to top the Carleton Ravens in the division championship.

Though a loss to Windsor in the OUA final snapped the streak, the Gaels still qualified for nationals. They couldn’t beat Saskatchewan and Alberta at the CIS tournament, but the Gaels’ year was impressive nonetheless.

Queen’s had the East’s top offence, putting up 63.6 points per game. Guards Liz Boag and Jenny Wright and forward Gemma Bullard made up the East’s only trio of teammates averaging double-digit figures this season.

Boag and Wright’s play this year earned them spots on the OUA East first All-Star team, while Bullard was a member of the second team. Rookie centre Andrea Priamo wrapped the team’s awards, being named to the division’s All-Rookie squad.

They couldn’t bring home OUA or CIS gold, but an impressive turnaround from an 7-13 season in 2012-13 put the Gaels back among the elite of the OUA East.

Sean Sutherland

2. Women’s hockey

Finishing one win shy of becoming repeat OUA champions in a rebuilding year made for an impressive women’s hockey campaign.

A pair of 2-0 losses to the Laurier Golden Hawks in the OUA finals kept the Gaels from capturing the title they won last year. Earlier in the playoffs, Queen’s played several overtime games in a row, en route to dispatching the Windsor Lancers and the top-seeded Guelph Gryphons.

The loss of 11 members from last year’s squad made it remarkable that Queen’s came so close to winning it all once again.

Head coach Matt Holmberg brought in a full cohort to replace his departed players. Among the rookies to contribute this season was forward Clare McKellar, whose 20 points ranked second among all first-years in the province.

Captain Morgan McHaffie finished her final year at Queen’s with 31 points and her fourth appearance on the OUA All-Star team, helping the Gaels to a fourth-place finish during the regular season.

While the departure of McHaffie and fellow veterans Mel Dodd-Moher and Marlee Fisher will hurt the Gaels next year, the youth they brought in will keep the team strong moving forward.

Sean Sutherland

3. Men’s hockey

Seeded dead last in last year’s power rankings, men’s hockey turned the ship around.

In front of goaltender and OUA East MVP Kevin Bailie, Queen’s defence was the province’s best, conceding 10 less regular season goals than any other Ontario team. They rode this sterling play to the East’s fourth seed and a milestone playoff win.

Bailie’s arrival from the major junior ranks buoyed the Gaels’ rise, but a slew of other youngsters also played a part. Chris Van Laren, Patrick McGillis and Jordan Coccimiglio all assumed major offensive roles in their first full seasons.

There were small stumbling blocks along the way. Carleton and McGill dealt Queen’s three straight losses in mid-January — their first regulation defeats of the season — and RMC goaltender Evan Deviller stopped 52 Gaels shots on Feb. 6 to steal the coveted Carr-Harris Cup.

While the first half of the Gaels’ season was a mark of consistency, the latter portion was defined by resiliency. Queen’s split two games with UQTR to end the regular season, then swept Ottawa from the first round of the playoffs.

It was the Gaels’ first-ever series win under bench boss Brett Gibson, but they weren’t quite done there. Clawing back after a humbling 6-2 loss to Carleton, Queen’s forced a deciding game three, before finally bowing out deep into the second round.

Seventeen games without a regulation loss is the largest takeaway from this season. Heading forward, Gibson has built a team that will be judged solely on wins.

Nick Faris

4. Men’s basketball

Though Queen’s held steady, the OUA East unfolded as it always should have.

After a year in which the Gaels added eight new recruits and tallied eight extra wins, rising further in the country’s toughest division wasn’t going to be easy. Queen’s finished with the same amount of victories and an identical playoff result to 2012-13 — but the potential is there for larger gains down the road.

Six of Queen’s 12 losses came against the national champion Carleton Ravens, the CIS runner-up Ottawa Gee-Gees and the perennially stingy Ryerson Rams, who also bounced the Gaels 86-76 in the first round of the post-season.

Upsetting one of the top dogs is an achievable goal for the near future. Roshane Roberts and Sukhpreet Singh established themselves as a dangerous second-year backcourt, while Greg Faulkner carried the offensive load before missing the tail end of the season due to injury.

Faulkner will be back for a final year in 2014-15, while sophomores Patrick Street and Ryall Stroud should continue to develop into productive players. Both appeared in every game this season and led Queen’s bench in minutes and scoring.

With all but two players returning to next year’s lineup, a playoff win is a likely next step for this developing bunch.

Nick Faris

5. Men’s volleyball

They were injured, inconsistent and indisputably ordinary.

An uneven OUA campaign left Queen’s smack in the middle of the pack. Two years removed from a provincial banner, the rebuilding process has been a work in progress for legendary head coach Brenda Willis.

Outside hitter Mike Tomlinson made the second OUA All-Star team, but his presence — or lack thereof — was felt most at the outset. He missed the start of the year to fully recover from ACL surgery and didn’t return to full force until winter.

A 3-1 opening record was quickly derailed; the Gaels lost five straight matches in November and didn’t surpass .500 for the rest of the campaign.

Only once did Queen’s beat a club that finished higher than them in the standings. A late-season sweep of the fifth-place Ryerson Rams helped secure the OUA’s final playoff spot, but the Gaels were edged out by the Waterloo Warriors upon reaching that stage.

Contributions from rookie setter Jamie Wright were a positive sign in the second half of the season, while Tomlinson’s rapid return to top form bodes well heading into the off-season.

Better luck could mean a few more wins in 2014-15, and a hopeful step towards the OUA’s ruling class.

Nick Faris

6. Women’s volleyball

As the only Gaels team to miss the playoffs this year, women’s volleyball had a disappointing season.

The OUA’s move to a two-division setup for women’s volleyball put the Gaels at a disadvantage, as the five top teams from 2012-13 competed for four playoff spots in the OUA East. While a 10-9 record was solid, it wasn’t enough to net the final berth.

The Gaels went 3-5 against the East’s playoff teams in the regular season; when coupled with a late-season loss to sixth-place RMC, Queen’s found themselves just outside the playoff chase.

The team was snake-bitten with injuries. Several starters missed time in the second half of the season, a major reason the Gaels lost three of their final four games.

There were a few bright spots for the team, though, as sisters Brett and Katie Hagarty were both named OUA Second-Team All-Stars. First-year setter Gabrielle Down was also honoured, being named to the All-Rookie team.

Even with the individual strength they had, the combination of injuries, a tough division and late-season struggles kept Queen’s from making the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Sean Sutherland

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