Zane Grossinger making noise on the hardwood in first season

Setter wins countless awards in first year with Queen’s

Zane Grossinger ranked third in the OUA in assists per game (9.72).
Zane Grossinger ranked third in the OUA in assists per game (9.72).
Supplied by Shawn MacDonald

Oftentimes, an athlete’s rookie season is a time of growth and adaptation to university-level competition. For men’s volleyball first-year setter Zane Grossinger however, it feels as though he’s skipped this step entirely since his first game in November.

“It’s been a thrilling experience,” Grossinger said on Wednesday morning just moments before the Gaels’ bus left for McMaster for the coming weekend’s U Sports National Championships.

Grossinger’s debut at Queen’s has been nothing short of dynamic, with the setter recently being honoured with the OUA East’s Rookie of the Year award. In 20 games this season — including three playoff games — Grossinger’s statistics only validate his right to the award. He ranked third in the OUA in assists per set (9.72) and fifth in digs (129), Grossinger is just the fifth player in Queen’s volleyball history to win the award.

“To get Rookie of the Year was overwhelming and an honour,” Grossinger said. “When I looked down the list I was like, ‘What?’” On Wednesday night, he was named to the U Sports All-Rookie team.

Grossinger’s road to becoming a staple in the Queen’s starting lineup has been an unexpected but swift process — not to mention highly impressive.

Going into the season, the setter’s position was assumed to be held by fifth-year Thomas Ellison for the foreseeable future. Despite splitting minutes with Ellison during the preseason, Grossinger didn’t expect to be starting for the Gaels early in the year.

But with Ellison injured before their first match against Nipissing, Grossinger was thrown into the Gaels starting lineup. In his first game, he finished with 35 assists and four digs in a straight-sets win.

“I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity and play at this level in [large] part thanks to the team I have,” Grossinger said. Since that first contest against Nipissing, Grossinger has started in all but one of Queen’s games.

The team’s most unique characteristic has arguably been its unparalleled youth — 12 of the team’s 17 players are currently in first or second year. As a member of the team’s young nucleus, Grossinger said his success has been cultivated by his confidence in his teammates, regardless of their experience. 

“We have a lot of skilled people on our roster … that’s really helped me have the confidence to distribute the ball everywhere,” Grossinger said. He noted veterans such as Markus Trence and Jack Packham as key facilitators of the team’s cohesive environment this season.

While Grossinger’s accolades were unexpected, success in volleyball is nothing new to his family. With his father having played volleyball for the University of Toronto and his brother currently on the Western Mustangs’ roster, Grossinger is cognizant of the role his family has played in realizing his success in the OUA.

“[My dad and I] drove 45 minutes to practice last year three times a week,” Grossinger said. “My dad has been a huge impact on my volleyball life.”

Being awarded Rookie of the Year, Grossinger said, showed the result of his father’s efforts. “[Winning Rookie of the Year] was really exciting — I called my dad … he cried.”

Since claiming the OUA silver medal last weekend in Hamilton, Grossinger and the Gaels now make their way back to McMaster to compete in the U Sports National Championships. It’s their first visit to the championships since hosting the tournament in 2011-12.

Going into the weekend as the seventh seed, the Gaels are set to play the second-seeded Alberta Golden Bears on Friday as they begin their quest for the program’s first ever national championship. 

Owning a 6-1 record in their last seven games, the Gaels come into the tournament with momentum that Grossinger believes could help Queen’s make considerable noise. 

“I’m more excited than anything,” Grossinger said. “We’re a feisty team — don’t ever count us out. We work hard and we’re there to play.”

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