Beat by East’s best

Gaels swept by Toronto in playoff return

First-year outside hitter Caroline Livingston was named to the OUA East All-Rookie team.
First-year outside hitter Caroline Livingston was named to the OUA East All-Rookie team.

Women’s volleyball’s post-season run came to a quick end against a top-ranked opponent.

The Gaels faced the Toronto Varsity Blues on Feb. 14, falling in straight sets on the road and ending their playoffs in the first round. The Varsity Blues lost only once during the regular season and had topped Queen’s in both their previous meetings, on Nov. 1 and Jan. 24.

The Gaels were no match for Toronto in the playoff bout, as they fell 14-25, 12-25 and 17-25.

The squad was plagued by attacking errors, committing 19 over the course of the match. The lone Gael to shine against the Varsity Blues was outside hitter Brett Hagarty, who recorded 10 kills.

The early exit wasn’t the result Queen’s was looking for, but their first season under new head coach Michael Ling was an improvement from 2013-14, when the team failed to crack the post-season for the first time in seven years.

The Gaels finished the regular season 12-7 — good enough for the fourth and final playoff spot in the OUA East, with a record that reflected their position relative to their opponents.

They lost all four games they played against the division’s top two teams — the Varsity Blues and the Ottawa Gee-Gees — and dominated lesser clubs, dropping just one set through four matches with the Nipissing Lakers and RMC Paladins and handily beating most of their OUA West competition.

The Gaels’ most important game of the year came in their season finale, when they blew a 2-1 set lead and lost to the Guelph Gryphons. Had Queen’s held on to win, they would have overtaken the Ryerson Rams for third place in the East and set up a slightly easier playoff game against Ottawa.

Queen’s found some success on an individual level, as Hagarty earned a spot on the OUA East Second All-Star Team. She recorded the eighth-most kills per set in the division with 2.67, and her 4.00 digs per set ranked fourth.

Libero Becky Wilson sat third in the entire league with 4.60 digs per set.

Two other Gaels received solo accolades for their regular season performance. First-year setter Danielle Blumentrath and outside hitter Caroline Livingston were named to the division’s All-Rookie Team.

Blumentrath averaged 6.35 assists per set, while Livingston recorded 38 kills and eight blocks in 36 sets.

Several Gaels will depart at the end of the year, including four veterans of Queen’s 2011-12 OUA championship roster: in libero Alexa Scarcello, outside hitter Shannon Hopkins and middles Emilie Normand and Katie Hagarty, who was a Second-Team All-Star last year.

Despite the departures of those veterans, a relatively young team will have a chance to improve on this season. Wilson and Brett Hagarty and fellow key contributors Niki Slikboer and Shannon Neville are all heading into their fourth season with the Gaels, and should continue to improve.

While this year ended early, Queen’s looks primed for a deep playoff run in 2015-16.

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