Men’s volleyball upset Western in OUA quarterfinals

Victory pushes Gaels into OUA final four

The men’s volleyball team will play Ryerson on Friday in Hamilton.
The men’s volleyball team will play Ryerson on Friday in Hamilton.
Supplied by Lucy Villeneuve

On Saturday night, the men’s volleyball team pulled off an upset victory after defeating the Western Mustangs 3-1 in the OUA quarterfinals. Now, the Gaels are faced with an OUA semi-finals match where they will play the Ryerson Rams, the OUA East’s top seed.

Strictly based off stats, Queen’s and Western had different regular seasons. While the Gaels had an up and down year, finishing 10-8, the Mustangs finished the year as one of the OUA’s top teams with a 14-3 record. 

Despite the clear differences in the two teams on Saturday, Gaels head coach Brenda Willis said she knew her team had a good opportunity to win against Western after the first round.

“There was no surprise. It was a fantastic win and all that, but we felt we could win,” Willis told The Journal on Sunday afternoon, adding “[W]e have more work to do.”

When these two teams met earlier this season, it was one of Queen’s closest games of the year. After five sets of back and forth volleyball, Western won the deciding last set 15-13. With third-year Zac Hutcheson out due to a leg injury at the time, as well as both Zane Grossinger and Lucas Kaufman playing sick, the loss had its positives for Willis.

“We felt that with a healthy team, it wouldn’t have been close … We used that in kind of a constructive way and reminded ourselves of it going into [the game],” Willis said.

On the weekend, Queen’s led the Mustangs in nearly every statistical category. The Gaels finished with 65 kills to Western’s 47 and 63 assists compared to their 43. For Willis, the most important statistic was her team’s defensive play. They finished with 49 digs to their opponent’s 37.

“We dug some spectacular shots by Western [late] in the game — shots that would in most cases score,” Willis said.

With a game high 23 kills and 13 digs, outside hitter Zac Hutcheson said he was pleased with the Gaels’ performance on Saturday.

“We came in [and] we were really scrappy. We hustled, we played as a team and stuck to our game plan, which really helped,” Hutcheson said. He also said their position as the lower-ranked team helped their play.

“We came in with that underdog mentality and a lot of high energy.”

Now in the OUA final four, the Gaels are set to play the Ryerson Rams in Hamilton on Friday night. Against a Rams team they beat in straight sets just three weeks ago, Queen’s heads into the match with high stakes. A win would propel them into the OUA finals and guarantee them a spot at the U Sports National Championships. If they win there, they would also secure a spot at championships in Hamilton.

On the other hand, a loss on Friday would have the Gaels play for OUA bronze.

With the unique opportunity to play on the national stage at hand for this young team, Hutcheson hopes their play this past weekend will carry over against Ryerson and beyond.

“If we come out with the same energy levels, I think we can take them again,” Hutcheson said. “It’s just good that we’re peaking at the right time.”

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