Home-court hopes dashed

After dropping in standings, men’s volleyball starts playoffs on the road

Men’s volleyball lost home-court advantage in the first round of OUA playoffs with mixed results this weekend.

A straight-set loss to the McMaster Marauders (19-1) on Friday and a four-set victory over the Guelph Gryphons (9-11) the next night weren’t enough to keep the Gaels (12-8) ahead of their first-round playoff opponents — the York Lions (13-7) — for fourth place in the OUA.

The men will face York on Saturday in Toronto in a one-game elimination round.

Guelph needed a victory against the Gaels to make the post-season, something Queen’s head coach Brenda Willis said made for an intense game.

“We went into it with a playoff mentality,” Willis said. “It was a very packed house — it was a very emotional game.”

Queen’s built up several solid leads, only to watch Guelph bound back. The Gaels edged out two of the first three sets, then cruised in the fourth, winning 25-23, 20-25, 25-21 and 25-15.

The Gaels led the first set 11-3 and 18-11, before winning by two points. They led the second set by six points at one interval, before falling short by five.

“I think there [were] moments where Guelph really stepped up and tried to push, and then ultimately, we pushed back,” Willis said. “But it took a little longer than I would’ve liked.”

Guelph’s desire for a playoff spot gave them resilience.

“They really brought everything they had and it was really nice to see our guys respond so well,” Willis said.

Outside hitter Mike Tomlinson had 15 kills, nine digs and five blocks. Fellow outside hitter Markus Trence had 13 kills and six digs, while middle blocker Scott Brunet and outside hitter Aaron Nusbaum contributed eight kills apiece.

The offence centred on setter Jamie Wright’s 46 assists, and the defensive effort was led by libero Ivo Dramov, who had 13 digs.

Friday’s game against McMaster — the top-ranked team in the country — ended after three sets: 25-17, 25-22 and 25-17 for the Marauders.

“It’s a different mentality when you’re playing a team that good,” Willis said. “You can play pretty freely – there’s not a super large amount of expectations on you.”

Willis thought the Gaels played well during the loss.

“We served quite well, I thought,” she said. “We made a few more errors than I would’ve liked, but if you don’t serve really aggressively against a team like McMaster then you’re going to eat the point anyway, because they have so many weapons.

“We decided to take a little more risk and be a little more aggressive,” she added. “That paid off.”

The team’s top scorers — Tomlinson and Philippe Goyer — were each held to six kills.

“It’s always a concern when your top scorers aren’t getting the productivity they wanted,” Willis said.

Willis said the team made a concerted effort to give Tomlinson different offensive looks in Saturday’s match.

“I thought Jamie [Wright] did a very good job of making that change on Saturday and Mike’s productivity was much higher.”

Goyer, meanwhile, was up against two of the country’s top blockers in the McMaster game, Willis said.

Tomlinson and Goyer will likely play integral roles in Queen’s first-round playoff matchup with York.

The Gaels have beaten the Lions twice this season — the first time in four sets at York on Nov. 29 and the second in straight sets at the ARC on Jan. 11.

The Gaels aren’t using these previous wins as an excuse to slack off this week during practice, according to their coach.

“I don’t think there’s any complacency,” Willis said. “There’s definitely confidence.”

OUA playoffs first-round match-ups

Bye: 1) McMaster

2. Ryerson vs. 7. Guelph

3. Waterloo vs. 6. Western

4. York vs. 5. Queen’s

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