Women's volleyball poised for strong 2018-19 campaign

Gaels build off strides made last season, host home opener on Oct. 27

Head coach Ryan Ratushniak is heading into his second season with the women’s team.
Head coach Ryan Ratushniak is heading into his second season with the women’s team.

After a difficult loss to Western in last season’s OUA quarter-final, the women’s volleyball team is ready to hit the hardwood. But coming off a season that marked significant improvement for the team, the Gaels are gearing up for the year with hopes of a better final outcome. 

The Gaels—who haven’t passed the OUA quarter-finals since the 2011-12 season—are entering their second season under head coach Ryan Ratushniak, who sounded optimistic in an interview with The Journal earlier this week.

He said the Gaels are adjusting to some changes in personnel as they try to implement a new playbook into their offence. This year’s roster will see the absence of last season’s captain and First-Team All-Star, Shannon Neville. 

“She carried a big load offensively, and was also a very strong leader for us,” Ratushniak said of Neville. “She’s the type of player that, regardless of our offensive personnel, is always going to be missed.”

“There’s [currently] a greater understanding of our systems and how we want to play together as a team. But right now, we’re still going through a phase of actually figuring out how to execute that in competition.”

For the 2018-19 season, fifth-years Victoria Wensley and Isabelle Korchinski will captain the team.

In addition to the seniors on the roster, the team has several promising rookies who “read the game well,” according to Ratushniak. 

The four new incoming first-years will be a welcome addition to a team who made massive strides last season and finished with a 13-6 record—a stark improvement from their 10-10 finish the year before. One of their wins last season came against McMaster, who ended the season with an OUA East-best 17-2 record.

So far, first-year outside hitter Arielle Palermo has become one of the rookies Ratushniak thinks could make a difference. 

“She’s a very dynamic player in terms of her movement and jumping ability—[she] hits the ball hard,” he said. “She’s a very exciting player.”

As for the team navigating their new on-court dynamic in competition, the Gaels faced some strong teams in their first slate of exhibition games this fall.  

Over the weekend of Oct. 12-14, the team travelled to B.C. to play in the West Coast Classic exhibition tournament. Although the Gaels fell short in their three games against Trinity Western, UBC, and Thompson Rivers, Ratushniak said his team performed better as the tournament continued. 

He also predicts UBC and Trinity will crack top-five in the country based on their previous year’s performances. “[That’s] good experience for us, and we got more consistent as the games went on,” he said. “We need to keep working on consistency and familiarity for each other.” 

For their OUA season opener, the Gaels will host the Windsor Lancers on Oct. 27. 

When the Gaels faced the Lancers last season, they won in five sets. Accordingly, Ratushniak thinks it’ll prove a tight and “very challenging” match. 

“I think it will go down to a wire, and either team will win,” he said. “We have to come prepared for them and be ready to fight for points.”

“[Windsor has] a lot of strong athletes, strong players, they can extend rallies … We’re going to have to execute our serving game very well against them. We’re a strong serving team, so I think we’ll have to keep pressure on them.”

After their game against Windsor, the Gaels will face the Mustangs at home on Oct. 28—a team Ratushniak said will be very strong in the upcoming season, along with McMaster, Toronto, and Ryerson. Queen’s finished behind Toronto (15-4) and Ryerson (19-0) in the OUA East last season.

Overall, Ratushniak sees the OUA getting stronger as a whole—but that doesn’t seem to worry him. 

“I think the lot will be similar to last year in some ways, but only time will tell.”

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