Young team uses pre-season to learn

Recapping the Gaels invitational

Queen's celebrating point against Trinity Western.
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This weekend, the men’s volleyball team faced their first test of the season at home during the Queen’s Invitational men’s volleyball tournament in the ARC. 

The tournament featured the top teams from across Canada, including the reigning CIS champions, Trinity Western Spartans and runners-up, McMaster Marauders.

These were the Gaels’ first matches since coming off a disappointing end to their 2015-16 season. While they made the OUA playoffs last season, they suffered losses to the Ryerson Rams in quarters and the Waterloo Warriors in the bronze medal match, missed out on the CIS national tournament.

While Queen’s only managed to win one set across their three matches, there were a lot of positives to take away from the weekend. 

On Friday, against the Trinity Western Spartans, Queen’s was highly competitive despite the match ending in a 3-0 loss. 

The close competition of their match might have come as a surprise to some, as the Gaels were seemingly mismatched against the Spartans. 

The collective experience of the Gaels’ starters, in terms of years of eligibility, was a mere 15 compared to Trinity Western’s 21.

After graduating Ivo Dramov, Tyler Scheerhoorn, Marko Dakic, Scott Brunet and Mike Tomlinson, the Gaels are only left with one of their starters from last year, setter Jamie Wright. 

While they’ll also see the return of veterans Markus Trence and Will Hoey, who were both injured during last season, for half their team, this weekend was their first experience playing at a university level.

After keeping it tight with the Spartans during sets one and two, the team came loose in the final points, dropping them 25-22 and 28-26 respectively. 

In the third set, Queen’s was no match for their opponents, losing 25-18.

On Saturday, the Gaels faced the reigning OUA conference champions, the McMaster Marauders. 

The first set was close throughout, with the teams going point-for-point at the start. Down 18-15 midway through the set, the Gaels battled back to take the lead at 19-22 before eventually dropping the set 25-23. 

The second set was a well matched battle throughout and unlike their previous inability to close out the final points of the set, Queen’s overpowered the Marauders to take the set 20-25. The final two sets were also close but resulted in losses both times, with end results of 25-23 and 25-22. 

On the final day of the tournament the Gaels were up against the Montreal Carabins, resulting in a 3-0 decision. The first two sets were easy victories for the Carabins, with 25-17 and 25-12 results.

The third and final set saw the Gaels regaining some power and giving Montreal a tougher competition with a final scoreof 25-19. 

Notable changes in the line-up include 6’4” setter Thomas Ellison. This is Ellison’s fourth year on the team.

In his first year, he recorded 203 assists over 14 matches, in his second, 80 assists over 10 matches, but in his third he was limited to four matches due to injury, recording a career best 8.33 assists per set, with 100 total.

In the three sets on Sunday, Ellison recorded 15 assists, with the team having trouble converting on their 81 total attacks, with a .049 efficiency rating, compared to Montreal’s .390.

Looking forward to the rest of the season, with the loss of many of last year’s starters, including last year’s OUA Rookie of the Year, Chris Brunet, comes opportunities for other players. 

Markus Trence and Dylan Hutcheson made it clear this weekend that they’ll be forces for this Queen’s team. In his first games since injury last year, Trence was a two-way player. 

Against McMaster, the outside hitter registered 14 kills, and added 14 digs on defense.

After playing off the bench for most of last year, Hutcheson was strong for Queen’s, leading the home side with 10 points on six kills, three aces and one block against Trinity Western and adding another 14 kills against McMaster.

Head Coach Brenda Willis thinks that the tournament was an important experience for the young team going into the season. 

“We’re playing some of the very best teams in the country in this tournament which is great learning for us, but based on the years of experience in my lineup, there wasn’t a huge expectation around winning,” Willis said.

Looking forward to the start of the season, Willis thinks that the team will be in a good place. 

“We face a lot of teams in our league that are weaker than these teams and hopefully the fact that we have these experiences will make thatseem easier.”

 

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