Game in Review: Womens Queen's Gael's vs. Lakehead Thunderwolves

Lakehead 15 Sarah Reid tries to pound a kill through the Queen's block as OUA play resumed this weekend.

January 9th, 2011

Queen’s University Athletic Complex

Queen’s Gael’s vs. Lakehead Thunderwolves

The Queen’s University Gael’s hosted the Lakehead Thunderwolves on Sunday afternoon. Lakehead were coming off a narrow five-set defeat to RMC the night before, while Queen’s hadn’t yet played a match in 2011. Lakehead would have to hope their warm-up the day before could push them past a Queen’s team with a significantly better record going in.

The Lakehead team came out with a look that differed from most strategies. Instead of a dominant middle or power hitter, their most aggressive offensive weapon came from left-handed 6 Vanessa Chorkawy on the offside. The variance would require Queen’s to be on their toes, and to adapt to the fresh look. Queen’s put forward a relatively well-distributed attack.

Early, the court rust showed on the Gael’s. Lakehead stormed out to a 7-1 lead early while the home team struggled to find their footing. Queen’s 1 Natalie Fisher gave them a nice wake-up call with a huge kill. On the next play she threw down a hard one again, but this time the Thunderwolves dug it. Regardless, the home team got the message. 7 Colleen Ogilvie put in two straight aces for the home team before missing her serve entirely, but the massive deficit was shrinking. A Lakehead miscommunication lead to an error, even though they were just reaching to put over a free ball. After that, the Lakehead serve receive fell apart and shanked two consecutive serves. Queen’s took their first lead of the game at 12-11.

Lakehead realized they were letting an advantage slide and added an extra bounce to their step. First Queen’s Fisher was blocked right into the face of Ogilvie for a pack. On the next play, Chorkawy threw down a hard offside kill to take the lead back. The two teams traded points until 18-18. There, Fisher added to her kill count to give Queen’s a narrow lead. A miss-hit ball gave them a two-point advantage, and Lakehead were forced to call a timeout. From there, momentum took over. The Queen’s team roofed Lakehead hard for a 21-19 advantage. Then the Lakehead serve receive shanked another ball, that was luckily saved by a diving 3 Jenna McDonald before Queen’s eventually put it away on their attack. Lakehead’s Chorkawy was doing an obscene job of digging everything her way, but the points were still mounting up for the home team. Queen’s 12 Natalie Gray packed Chorkawy hard in the face for all of her troubles, and on the next play a block won the set for the streaking Queen’s team. The final result was 25-20 Queen’s after a 24-13 run.

The second set had a couple new players to the starting lineups. For the large part they stayed consistent as the first set was toughly fought. Lakehead introduced 2 Claire Morrison to their attack. Queen’s added 9 Katie Hagarty, but would vary her role throughout rather than reassessing their strategy.

Chorkawy kept up her torrid pace of hitting right off the beginning for Lakehead. Queen’s responded with an ace from Hagarty, freshly on the court. The teams missed a couple serves each early on, and the score remained incredibly tight because of it. Lakehead 12 Jorie Daymond began heating up with a couple kills to give her team a 10-8 lead. Queen’s tied it up again on a nice kill down the line from Gray. Lakehead’s Chorkawy then took off for three straight kills, including one from the backcourt for a very slight advantage. Lakehead setter McDonald contributed with a cheeky little dump, followed by a poor serve receive from Queen’s for the first three-point lead of the entire set at 17-14.

As the set neared the last points, the pace picked up for both squads. McDonald put a shoot set up for the middle, who whiffed on it entirely. However, the ball continued over the net and landed on the Queen’s side. I’m still not sure if it was intentional, but it worked. The Gael’s managed a huge block against Chorkawy as they finally began to catch on to the Thunderwolves strategy. That didn’t stop the visiting team from using her, as the next point barely got through the Queen’s block for a slight advantage late. On the next point, Lakehead managed two incredibly difficult digs, and followed them up by blocking the Queen’s attack right in to Hagarty’s face for a pack. The momentum looked to be on their side at 24-21, but they gave the home team a new life by missing a serve. Queen’s brought it right to 24-23, and managed a huge dig to keep their chances alive. Unfortunately, that dig floated just over the next and the overpass was thrown right down their throats for the set win. Lakehead won the second set 25-23 and Chorkawy moved up to 9 kills on the day, leading all players.

Queen’s reverted to their initial starting lineup to begin the third set, but changed their starting libero from 10 Beky Billings to 11 Shannon Walsh. Lakehead stayed with their second set line, but they didn’t start with the momentum the ended the last set with. Queen’s streaked ahead 9-3 early on. They began to time Chorkawy’s attacks from the offside, and continued their streak all the way to 12-5. At this point, the set seemed over. As it deepened, Queen’s maintained their huge lead at 16-6. The best part was that they refused to slow down. Players were still diving face first to get balls off the block. The home coach realized his players may work hard enough to injure themselves, and began throwing reserves into the lineup to finish the set. They even put in their alternate setter by the end, and Queen’s won 25-13 in a set that was never in question.

11 stayed as Queen’s libero after such a dominant set. Queen’s 13 Katie Matthews, who had been consistently putting down step attacks all match kept up her pace with a strong kill followed by a successful tip early on. Queens lead 8-5 early, and Matthews managed to equal Chorkawy for 11 kills on the day at the top of all players. Queen’s continued their proper timing on Chorkawy’s attack and blocked her twice to push their lead to 13-7.  As a team, the Gael’s were really moving fluidly now. The lead widened all the way to 16-9 before Lakehead really woke up. A big block gave them a new life, and they began clawing their way back to 18-14. At that point, there was a scary moment in the match as Queen’s Matthews landed on an opposing ankle and went down. Luckily, she was wearing standard ankle braces and got back up after collecting herself.

In a move that I found odd, Lakehead opted now to remove their starting setter in favour of 11 Sonja Wolski. After that substitution, their team managed to only get one more point. Queen’s pushed forward with hits from Matthews, an ace from Billings (the first set libero, now shifted to server), and two more aces from Matthews to end the set 25-16 Gael’s.

After the game, Lakehead Jorie Daymond and Queen’s Colleen Ogilvie were named players of the game. Katie Matthews ended up ahead off all players with 13 kills after Queen’s managed to shut down Chorkawy in the final set (she ended with 11, managing only 2 in the last 2 sets).

Lakehead gets next weekend off, while the Queen’s Gael’s meet Waterloo and Laurier on Saturday and Sunday.