Game in Review: Queen's Gaels vs. McMaster Marauders Women

Saturday February 12, 2011

Queen’s University Athletics and Recreation Centre

Queen’s Gaels vs. McMaster Marauders

 On the last weekend of the OUA regular season, two of the top-ranked women’s teams competed head to head. The Queen’s Gaels and the McMaster Marauders match-up on Saturday afternoon would play a role in deciding the final rankings at the top of both the OUA East and West conferences. Though McMaster came in as the number one team, Queen’s threw a barrage of home court advantages including cheerleaders, two different bands, and a Celtic dance crew.

 Being the first game of the afternoon, the energy started off low for both squads. Queen’s 12 Natalie Gray provided the first real kill to start the points rolling for the Gaels. However, points off blocks and minor errors dictated the majority of the early first set. It wasn’t until the Marauders were up 14-11 that an intense rally broke out. Finally both teams began digging and the tone was set for the match to continue as the competitive match everybody expected. Queen’s 13 Katie Matthews, hitting a fluid step attack from the offside, eventually won the rally.

Marauders 13 Kailee Stock swung the momentum back McMaster’s way by overpowering the Queen’s block on two occasions. Queen’s picked away at the Marauders lead, but nothing was dropping easily. The Marauders squad managed a dig off a fully stretched pancake, and followed by digging more attacks on the same rally. Unfortunately, they could only keep the rally alive on defence, and lost the point by failing to transition to attack. That rally tied the game at 16-16. For the rest of the set, neither team would pull ahead by more than two points.

At this point, the rallies became increasingly impressive. Both teams found their defensive groove while playing consistent offence. Marauders 14 Larissa Puhach, who leads the team in digs and kills, put down an emphatic kill to take a marginal lead. It was truly the hardest hit for a set dictated by defence. In response, Gael’s Natalie Gray won back two consecutive points by winning points off the McMaster block. Those two points tied the game at 19-19. As the set came closer and closer to its conclusion, the points became harder to come by. The Marauders would take a brief lead with a fluid quick, and then Queen’s would show up for a team block to tie the game again.

At 21-21, the match took a drastic turn. McMaster set a beautiful tandem attack, having their middle run through as a decoy while having their offside player run right through the same pathway for a kill at middle. The problem: Marauders offside player 7 Kaila Janssen got tangled with her own teammate on the way down. Janssen went down clutching her ankle, and she required assistance off of the court. The point was won, but a key player was lost.

The Marauders substituted in fifth-year player 6 Genevieve Dumas for the injured Janssen. Both teams came out slow from the injury timeout. First there was a foot fault called on the new substitution, Dumas. Then a poor Marauders serve receive gave Queen’s the first set point. Queen’s followed with their own errors, with Gray putting an attack directly into the net. McMaster was happy to give the ball back, and poorly overpassed a ball. Luckily, their setter, 9 Amanda Weldon, kept her cool and blocked the Gaels’ Matthews in her attempt to win the point on the overpass. Queen’s put their next attack far out to give McMaster a chance to win the set. After a bizarre rally, riddled with free balls, McMaster won the point on a block and took the first set 27-25.

As the second set began, Janssen could be seen with her shoe off, foot elevated, icing her injured ankle. There was obviously no plans for her to return to the court. McMaster stuck with Dumas as her replacement. Queen’s took advantage of it early and often. They stormed out to an 8-1 lead right away. The Gaels continually found success setting Gray out on the left side. In an attempt to swing some momentum back their way, McMaster substituted their starting setter for 10 Heather DeBoer. Initially it was met with success, as the Marauders tightened a 12-6 game to  just 12-9. Most of their success was found in blocking Queen’s Katie Matthews. The Gaels’ middle is constantly a source of offence for the team, but today couldn’t find any rhythm or consistent string of points. They found much more success from Gray and 1 Natalie Fisher on the left side.

The Marauders managed to keep the set within three until Janssen’s sub, Dumas, missed her serve at 18-15. From there, the Gaels took over. A 7-2 run ended the set with Queen’s victorious 25-17. By the end of the game, the McMaster lineup had seen three different substitutions as they tried to find their rhythm once again.

The third set started out similar to the way the first two had gone: Katie Matthews getting blocked. Queen’s reverted to their favourite source of offence of the day in Ms. Gray. The McMaster squad became wise to the strategy, and suddenly Gray was forced to hit multiple times per rally to get the point. She managed to find success early by tipping over the block for a point. Next, Gray threw down a cross-court kill. The very next rally, Queen’s pushed another couple sets to Gray. She was blocked twice in the same rally as McMaster took the point. Queen’s took the message, and set Katie Matthews for a smooth step attack. Ms. Matthews took the rare kill as an opportunity to celebrate as much as she could. It was an emphatic celebration, with a double fist pump that went from floor level to high above her head.

McMaster made attempts to claw back into the set, but miscommunication from Dumas on serve receive led to another Queen’s point. The home team looked in control with a 14-9 lead. Gaels’ Fisher added to the lead with an ace, and her teammate 4 Lorna Button contributed a point off the Marauders block on the very next point. The Gaels had pushed their lead to 16-9. The Marauders would never pull closer than five points down the stretch. As they began to struggle, Dumas was substituted off for first-year offside player 18 Patricia Raso. In the end, the Gaels won the third set 25-19.

Raso began the fourth set for the Marauders, but Dumas and her would substitute back and fourth throughout the set. Larissa Puhach also continually substituted with 3 Lauren Skelly. This could only have been a move to provide more experience for the second-year Skelly. Queen’s pulled out to an early 10-2 lead as Katie Matthews began to warm up and find success. Her celebrations were warm already, but continued. As McMaster began to pull closer, Dumas gave back the momentum by missing a serve. A Fisher kill down the line gave Queen’s a dominating 14-7 lead.

By the end of the fourth set, it was obvious that things were not going as planned for the visiting team. A serve would go through their libero’s hands, which would have been baffling had it happened in the first set. On the next point, Queen’s got an ace as the ball rolled over after clipping the net. The Marauders were down 19-9 with their backs to the wall and missing their starting offside. At that point, the rest became clockwork. Queen’s won the fourth set 25-16 to win the match 3-1 in sets.

Queen’s Natalie Gray led the team with 16 points, with Natalie Fisher trailing her with 11.

The Marauders were led by Kailee Stock and Larissa Puhach with 6 points each.

With the loss, McMaster loses their guarantee of being ranked first in the OUA West. Queen’s keeps up their chances of leapfrogging Ottawa in the standings with the win.