Men’s volleyball team looks forward to season’s second half

Gaels open new semester with game against RMC.

Zac Hutcheson, Dylan Hunt and Jamie Wright at the net.
Journal File Photo

Returning to class with the cold winter upon us, volleyball season is just starting to heat up. The men’s team begin the second half of their season this weekend against a 2-7 Royal Military College team, looking to continue their strong start to the 2016-17 campaign.

When the season began, there were several unknowns about how the team would find success with a roster that appeared to spring from the fountain of youth — the roster contains nine freshmen out of the team’s 18 members. The Gaels roared out to a 5-1 start, one that wasn’t unexpected, but very exciting for head coach Brenda Willis. 

Willis, reflecting on her team’s success thus far, said, “we’re doing so many things well that I’m so pleased about, especially given the youth of our roster in particular.”

The final three games of the fall semester didn’t bring the same success as the first six. The Gaels dropped contests to a trio of very strong squads — Nipissing, York and Guelph. Despite the losses, the efforts have highlighted what the Gaels will need to improve on in the coming weeks.

Against Guelph, Queen’s had numerous chances to get a hold on the game, but allowed it to slip in the crucial moments of the match. Willis attributed this to the team’s youth and lack of late-game experience, something that’s consistently being integrated into their practices.

“We’re working on drills that force us to be aggressive in finishing stretches,” Willis said. “That’s an experience thing. You have to have a lot of confidence to really go after it when it matters.”

This is something that Willis saw improve over the winter break as the team participated in the York Excalibur Volleyball Classic exhibition tournament. In two five-set losses, the youthful Gaels managed to hold strong in the finishing stretches against some of the more experienced squads like Western and International Budo University — a Japanese international school.

In addition to the improvements made in the late-game play over the tournament, Queen’s put on a sensational defensive performance against the “incredibly skilled” Budo, according to Willis. 

“I said to the guys, the way they played defense in that match is the bar for how we measure whether we’re playing good defense because now we know that we’re capable of doing what we did.”

Through the middle of the season, Queen’s has also had some standout individual performances. Outside hitter Markus Trence is currently third in Ontario in kills per set and leads the OUA in total kills with 143. Meanwhile, outside hitter Zac Hutcheson leads the OUA in total digs with 72, a comfortable margin of 11 digs on Trence trailing behind him in second with 61. 

Willis is optimistic about the second half of the season as the Gaels prepare to host RMC on Sunday afternoon. “We’re going into the second half of the season with a schedule that allows us to ramp up gradually and play tough teams late.”

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