Queen’s playoff primer

The Journal’s sports editors break down each team’s chances in the postseason

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Playoffs are around the corner for Queen’s winter sports teams, and for some of them they’re already here. The Journal’s sports editors broke down their chances at winning it all. Here are the key players and match-ups for the Gaels in post-season play.

Men’s basketball

The men’s basketball team has had a strong defensive season, winning big games against nationally-ranked teams like Laurier and Ryerson. Their win against Ryerson represented their first against the Rams since 2010 and broke a 20-game losing streak.

Graduating member Harry Range has been an important leader for the team, contributing timely buckets and strong defence. Range, who recently scored a career high of 28 points against Laurier, will be crucial to the team going into playoffs.

Queen’s resident three-point specialist Quinton Gray will need to be sharp, as will rookies Cole and Luka Syllas. They have shown their skills time and again, and they’ve proven to be reliable third options on offence.

Last year, men’s basketball lost to powerhouse Carleton in the quarter-finals after a tense first round win over Laurentian. In order to be successful this year, the team will need consistency on the court.

Lockdown defence and rebounding will be keys to their playoff run, which begins on Feb. 19, but it’s also going to take a little magic to get out of the stacked OUA.

Alina Yusufzai

 

Women’s basketball

The women’s basketball team has had a great season—they’re 13-7, which puts them in a tie for second in the OUA East. They’re currently on a four-game winning streak, going into their last set of games before playoffs.

The team has a solid mix of youth and experience, and an array of weapons on offence that means they can score with any team in the country.

Stars like Sophie de Goede and Julia Chadwick have been stalwarts on both ends of the court, but the Gaels’ strength lies in their passing. Their sublime ball movement means their shooters are often getting open looks.

Last year, the team lost against the York Lions in their first round of the playoffs. This season, under the new leadership of Head Coach James Bambury, the team is looking to get back to nationals for the first time since 2017.

They’ve proven they can hang with the best—Queen’s won games against nation-leading teams such as Ottawa and Carleton this season. If the Gaels can ratchet up their defensive intensity to the next level, they’ve got a good shot at making it to the Final Four and beyond.

—Alina Yusufzai 

 

Men’s hockey

Following a fairy-tale season last year in which the men’s hockey team won the Queen’s Cup for the first time in generations, some key figures departed over the off-season.

OUA MVP Slater Doggett, captain Spencer Abraham, and goalie Justin Fazio all either graduated or went on to play in professional leagues. Their absence has been evident—the Gaels’ regular season record slid from 18-10 last season to 12-16-1 this season, primarily due to an anemic offence.

Queen’s finished seventh in the OUA East, and they’re now in the midst of their first-round playoff series against the UQTR Patriotes. The Gaels played the second-seeded Patriotes close this season, splitting the season series.

They lost the first game of the best-of-three series at home on Wednesday, 3-1, and so their season hangs in the balance, pending a can’t-lose game on Saturday in Trois-Rivières.

The Gaels will lean on forwards Alex Row and Luke Edwards to carry the offence, and goalie Luke Richardson is going to have to pull out all the stops if they’re going to have any chance to come from behind to upset UQTR.

But the Gaels have playoff experience on their side, and under the guidance of two-time OUA East Coach of the Year Brett Gibson, anything can happen.

—Jack Rabb

 

Women’s hockey

Following last year’s bitter playoff exit where they were bounced by two overtime losses to Ryerson, the Gaels have had an up-and-down season.

Their 13-10 record has them in sixth in the OUA with just one game left against Windsor. They won’t be able to catch Waterloo for fifth, but Ryerson, Western, and Guelph could all hypothetically leapfrog Queen’s in the season’s final games, so the playoff picture is quite murky.

Queen’s is the highest-ranking team with a negative goal differential, which tells their season’s story. They’ve scored by committee—Kaylie Dennis leads the team with 11 points—and played smart hockey to win winnable games.

They’ve held their own against stronger teams as well, beating higher-ranked teams like Nipissing and Brock, but they’re 0-4 against OUA leaders Toronto and York.

Depending on where the Gaels end up when the playoff seeding is finalized, they’re great candidates to pull off a few upset wins. However, it’s going to take a Herculean effort from goalie Makenzy Arseneault if these Gaels are going to go all the way.

—Jack Rabb

 

Men’s volleyball

This year, the men’s volleyball team is looking to defend their OUA crown.

Following a slow start to the season with losses against York, Nipissing, and the University of Toronto, the team found their form, winning nine of their last 10, with the sole blemish being a 3-1 loss to the OUA East-leading Varsity Blues.

The Gaels are ranked seventh nationally, and a big reason why is their explosive offence—setter Zane Grossinger and outside hitters Zac Hutcheson and Adam Boljkovac have been lethal. 

Grossinger leads the OUA in assists per set and Queen’s leads the OUA in kills per set. 

With the experience from their deep playoff run last year, these Gaels are aiming to make noise at nationals. It’s not clear who they’ll face on their way there, but if they can up the ante on defence and keep the ball rolling on offence, it won’t matter who’s in the way.

—Alina Yusufzai

 

Women’s volleyball

Led by senior Danielle Corrigan and sophomore Arielle Palermo, the 10-6 Gaels have the inside track on third place in the OUA East with three games to play.

This Gaels team is young and without a significant amount of playoff experience, but their athleticism and energy on the court can keep them in any game.

They’ve knocked off contenders in Toronto and the University of Western Ontario throughout the season owing to standout serving and strong passing. Where the Gaels lag behind, however, is on defence—they rank tenth in the OUA for digs per set, and eleventh in blocks per set.

The playoff picture is still murky, but the women could be dark horses to make a deep run if they can pull things together on the defensive end of things.

—Jack Rabb

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