‘Ball best among Gaels

Women’s team tops the Journal’s ranking of Queen’s winter squads

Women’s basketball went on a Cinderella playoff run this year, beating Laurentian and Laurier before losing in the Final Four.
Women’s basketball went on a Cinderella playoff run this year, beating Laurentian and Laurier before losing in the Final Four.
Netminder Caitlyn Lahonen backstopped the Gaels on the way to a third-place finish in the regular season standings.
Netminder Caitlyn Lahonen backstopped the Gaels on the way to a third-place finish in the regular season standings.

1. Women’s basketball

After most Queen’s squads made an early playoff exit, women’s basketball’s surprise run to the OUA Final Four earned them top spot in our winter power rankings for the second straight season.

While the Ryerson Rams brought the Cinderella story to an end in the provincial semi-finals, the Gaels’ season was still successful.

Queen’s only finished seventh among OUA schools at the end of the regular season after being plagued by injuries, including a concussion sustained by All-Star forward Gemma Bullard.

The struggles ended once the post-season kicked off. The Gaels rode the long ball to defeat the Laurentian Lady Vees in their playoff opener, advancing to an OUA quarterfinal match-up with the second-seeded Laurier Golden Hawks.

Veteran wing Jenny Wright’s 24 points led Queen’s to an overtime victory and a spot in the Final Four.

Wright earned OUA First-Team All-Star honours, while fifth-year guard Liz Boag wrapped up her Gaels’ career with a Second-Team berth.

Guards Emily Hazlett and Abby Dixon provided secondary scoring, averaging 9.6 and 8.5 points per game respectively. Robyn Pearson was a force on the glass, pulling down a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game.

With Boag graduating, the pair of Hazlett and Dixon will be focal points for the offence alongside Wright next season. If healthy, the Gaels could find themselves back in the Final Four — this time, without the underdog tag.

— Sean Sutherland

2. Women’s hockey

After two straight trips to the OUA final, a first-round exit was a disappointing result for women’s hockey this season.

While the sweep at the hands of the Laurier Golden Hawks was painful, the Gaels still embarked on a strong regular season showing. They finished third in a tightly-contested OUA and won an overtime contest over the eventual CIS champion Western Mustangs.

Queen’s finished with 71 goals in 24 games, tied with the Golden Hawks for most in the conference. The team also converted on a league-high 19.3 per cent of their power play opportunities.

Centre Shawna Griffin led the way with 26 points, while winger Taryn Pilon added 25. Both Griffin and Pilon were named to the OUA Second All-Star Team.

Defensively, the Gaels allowed 41 goals, fourth-lowest in the conference. They were led by the trio of Mary Coughlin, Danielle Girard and Alisha Sealey on the back end and Caitlyn Lahonen in goal.

First-year winger Addi Halladay and defenceman Amber Sealey were members of the OUA All-Rookie squad, marking the fifth time the Gaels were represented in the last six years.

Despite a premature end, the 2014-15 campaign showed Queen’s remains near the head of the pack in what might be the OUA sport with the most parity.

— Sean Sutherland

3. Men’s hockey

After years of playoff mediocrity, men’s hockey has found continued playoff success.

The Gaels defeated the Laurentian Voyageurs in three games to advance to the OUA East semi-finals last month. There, Queen’s was bumped from the post-season in two games by the East’s top team: the McGill Redmen.

The semi-final exit marked the second straight season the Gaels made it past the first round, after having failed to do so in head coach Brett Gibson’s first seven seasons with the team.

The feat was made possible by the expert goaltending of Kevin Bailie and the scoring punch of first-years Darcy Greenaway and Spencer Abraham. Both earned spots on the CIS All-Rookie Team, with Abraham bringing home the national Rookie of the Year award.

Queen’s regular season was hindered by inconsistent results. The Gaels had just one winning streak of more than two games, coming out on top in their final four regular season contests. A terrible January was marred by a 2-8 stretch and included a six-game losing skid.

The team will lose captain Corey Bureau this off-season, as well as forwards Kelly Jackson, Braeden Corbeth and Tyler Moore.

With the rest of the team’s core returning next year, Gibson has the opportunity to lead a strong, experienced roster — one that may be able to crack the division final.

— Brent Moore

4. Women’s volleyball

After missing the playoffs and finishing last in our 2014 power rankings, women’s volleyball bounced back with a solid, though ultimately short season.

The Gaels embarked on a 12-7 campaign in head coach Michael Ling’s first year at the helm of the program — good enough for the fourth and final playoff spot in the OUA East.

A loss in the season finale against the Guelph Gryphons cost Queen’s third place and an easier playoff match with the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Instead, the Gaels fell in straight sets to the Toronto Varsity Blues.

A strong defensive game helped Queen’s this year, as they averaged the second-most digs per set in the league. Libero Becky Wilson racked up 4.6 digs per set, third-highest among all OUA players.

Outside hitter Brett Hagarty was the sole Gael to make the OUA East All-Star team, and a pair of rookies earned recognition at the provincial level: setter Danielle Blumentrath and outside hitter Caroline Livingston, both of whom earned spots on the All-Rookie roster.

Veteran Katie Hagarty is one of only a few players set to graduate. The rest of the core is set to return. With most of the team entering fourth-year, the opportunity is there for the Gaels to go deep in 2016.

— Sean Sutherland

5. Men’s volleyball

The Gaels fell well short of their preseason goal of a spot in the CIS championships.

Things looked good at the outset of the year — outside hitters Mike Tomlinson and Philippe Goyer were attacking well, libero Ivo Dramov was holding down the backcourt and setter Jamie Wright had stepped up to complete the opening lineup.

But a lacklustre season and a one-and-done playoff performance meant the Gaels finished far from a CIS invitation.

Queen’s dropped key games, including two losses to the eighth-seeded Windsor Lancers.

Unable to finish opponents consistently, the Gaels finished the regular season with a 12-8 record, claiming the OUA’s fifth seed going into the post-season and losing out on home-court advantage in the opening round.

They won both regular season matchups against the fourth-seeded York Lions, but dropped their playoff battle in four sets.

One of the season’s highlights was the Gaels’ straight-set loss to the McMaster Marauders on Jan. 18. Though they didn’t win a set, the men served aggressively, challenged at the net and generally played cohesively and competitively against the province’s top team.

The Gaels will look largely the same next year, with all but one starter returning. Goyer is graduating, and although his contributions, both offensive and defensive, will be missed, Queen’s has an opportunity to address this year’s mistakes and earn an invitation to next year’s CIS championship.

— Brent Moore

6. Men’s basketball

The only Queen’s team to miss the post-season, men’s basketball claims the last spot in our rankings.

Hampered by injury after injury, the Gaels never fielded a consistent lineup and struggled to find offensive consistency.

The result was an underwhelming campaign that didn’t extend into the post-season.

With several games still left in the regular season, head coach Stephan Barrie and his team knew their playoff ambitions hinged on the final game — a road matchup with the rival Toronto Varsity Blues.

The Blues and the Gaels battled for four quarters, but Queen’s was eventually undone by Toronto’s cool free throw shooting. The Blues won 87-79 and earned the OUA’s final post-season spot.

Fifth-year guard Greg Faulkner was Queen’s most efficient scorer over the course of the entire season while third-year guard Sukhpreet Singh, coming off a long layoff after hip surgery, brought a sense of urgency to the post-Christmas games.

Next year’s team will be without Faulkner’s scoring prowess and athleticism. He will be missed, but there are a number of players who can put up those points, including Singh and third-year swingman Patrick Street.

And the injury-ridden season also had its upsides — several younger players, including first-years Tanner Graham and Sammy Ayisi, saw regular court time and subsequently matured quicker than they otherwise might have.

Next season should be better. Singh and Street will lead the way, while the youngsters will bring the fire after experiencing the discomforts of disappointments.

— Brent Moore

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