Gaels' optimism ringing in new year

Queen’s hold 7-2 record, first in OUA East with playoffs on the horizon 

Second-year Zane Grossinger is ranked fifth in the OUA for digs (70).
Second-year Zane Grossinger is ranked fifth in the OUA for digs (70).

The men’s volleyball team has momentum heading into the final nine games of the regular season.

Currently holding an OUA East-leading 7-2 record, Queen’s edged out some of the country’s best teams in the fall, establishing the team as a legitimate OUA playoff contender. 

Gabriel DeGroot, the Gaels’ first-year head coach, said his team’s biggest test thus far was during an early November, five-set win over the McMaster Marauders, who at the time were ranked first in the country. 

The win marked the Gaels’ first against McMaster in nine years. 

“That was a huge, kind of a milestone win for us,” DeGroot said of beating the Marauders, adding they feel they can beat anyone. “Any opponent is a team we can beat … all it takes is a team that believes in themselves.”

DeGroot noted both of the Gaels’ losses this season—five-set defeats to the University of Windsor and U of T—are matches they wish they could play again. 

Regardless, both matches served as learning experiences, Degroot said.

With a 7-2 record, Queen’s is almost repeating its 2015-16 season, when they were 8-2 heading into the winter break. At this point last year, the Gaels were 4-3. DeGroot said there are still things his team could work on, specifically offensively, but he has faith in his roster of young athletes. 

“There’s definitely room to grow and we definitely know that there has been success [so far]. [C]ertain elements of our offense aren’t running yet,” DeGroot said. 

While the Gaels lost two star players, Markus Trence and Jack Peckham, to gradutation. DeGroot noted contributions from fourth-year Zac Hutcheson have helped fill their absence. Hutcheson currently has 137 kills this season—nearly double the numberof their second kills-leader, Mitchell Neuert, who has 77 kills. 

“He[’s] definitely carried a huge load for us,” DeGroot said of Hutcheson. In addition, DeGroot believes that many players, including Hutcheson, are building off the strength of second-year setter Zane 

Grossinger, who earned OUA East Rookie of the Year honours last year and is ranked fifth in the OUA for digs with 70.

At the moment, Queen’s is riding a five-game winning streak. But for the remainder of the season, DeGroot has set out goals for the Gaels to continue their success into the winter. Their first goals is a first-place finish in the OUA East and the subsequent home-court advantage in the OUA quarter-finals. DeGroot is hopeful this would increase his team’s chances at securing a spot in the OUA Final Four. 

Deeper into the season, DeGroot hopes to reach the OUA final, which would give the Gaels a berth in the U Sports National Championships. The Gaels know what they still need to do to accomplish these goals and, according to DeGroot, are “well aware of what those pieces are.”

The team has one week remaining until it gets back on the hardwood. The season will resume on Jan. 18, when they Gaels travel to Guelph to play the Gryphons. They’ll return home the week after to host U of T and Ryerson.

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