Gaels sweep RSEQ leaders Laval

Exhibition games go Gaels way, 3-2 and 3-1

Outside hitter Zac Hutcheson spikes the ball very hard.
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The winter break invigorated the men’s volleyball team, and consecutive weekend wins over a terrific Laval team have set the tone for 2020.

After a relatively slow start to the season, with losses to Nipissing and York, the Gaels are—in the words of Head Coach Gabriel DeGroot—“connecting on all cylinders.”

“We put ourselves in a situation knowing that we want to be ready for Nationals,” DeGroot told The Journal after Sunday’s win. “So that means we have to be in situations where we’re competing against the teams that we're going to see there.”

Laval is certainly a team Queen’s remembers seeing on the national stage. They beat the Gaels in a nail-biter at Nationals last spring and eventually came away with a bronze. Currently ranked third in the country, Laval leads the RSEQ with a record of 7-1.

Queen’s took the Jan. 5 exhibition game in four sets, and on the Sunday they were looking for a repeat performance to further vindicate last year’s loss to the Rouge et Or.

The Gaels got ahead early in the first set. Laval burned through some timeouts to try to stem the bleeding, but Queen’s composure didn’t allow them to sustain any momentum. They won 25-17.

Laval played with a lot more urgency in the second set, aware that a two-set hole was a daunting place to climb out of, and would, in all likelihood, spell a sweep for them.

Service errors hamstrung Queen’s in this set, and the Laval side was getting heady with the sensation of the turning tables. Laval got up by as many as seven points. DeGroot called time, and Queen’s managed to pull within striking distance, making it as close as 21-17.

The visitors pulled it together though. Fifth-year Zac Hutcheson sent a serve long, which was followed by a tricky off-speed spike from Laval, and the Rouge et Or came away with the equalizing set. 

In the third, the teams started getting a little riled up as some unconventional parts of the rulebook were called upon by the referees. One call left DeGroot staring in disbelief, while another had Laval Head Coach Pascal Clément pulling at his hair. 

They went point for point until Queen’s managed a run, forcing a Laval timeout with the score at 15-11. Hutcheson and outside hitter Adam Boljkovac were magic in this set, and throughout the game. Their inspired hitting, as well as strong play at the net by Julian Krygel, led the Gaels to a 25-18 win. 

In the fourth and final set, the Gaels were poised and played mistake-free volleyball. The momentum from the previous set carried over, and they jumped out to a quick lead. A cheeky tip by all-star setter Zane Grossinger made it 6-2, but then some close calls brought Laval back into it. 

However, strong defence paired with strong team play had the Gaels back in the driver’s seat in short order. Hutcheson read a Laval hitter perfectly and blocked his sneaky tip to make it 20-15. After they traded some more points, outside hitter Erik Siksna landed a big spike, and then Boljkovac put the game away. The set ended 25-19 in Queen’s favour.

“Our reception to attack right now is absolutely incredible, our serving is amazing. We’ve just got to find a few more ways to steal some points on our blocking and on the defensive side of the game, but if we can enter the season playing the way we are right now, and stay healthy, we're going to be in really good shape,” said DeGroot. 

Queen’s (4-3) is ranked eighth in the country but fourth in the OUA East, so they’re looking for a strong January to secure home-court advantage in the playoffs. 

The Gaels will ease themselves back into conference play with games against Trent and RMC (a combined 1-14 on the season) this weekend.

 

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