Sunday February 12, 2011
Queen’s Gaels vs. Guelph Gryphons
Queen’s and Guelph came into their last regular season game tied in second on the Men’s OUA Standings. Whoever won Sunday’s match-up would claim the higher spot going into the playoffs. With everything on the line, these two teams came to play.
Guelph played some incredible defence early on, but the play still resulted in an emphatic, untouched quick from Queen’s 13 Michael Amoroso. Queen’s 12 Anthony Pitfield gave his own effort at defence, as he went sliding into the advertisements that surround the court. His efforts went for naught in the end, as he couldn’t manage the dig.
While the score remained tight throughout the set, Queen’s seemed like they controlled the momentum swings. 5 Joren Zeeman gave a strong kill at power, but then the Gaels would miss a serve. Gael’s setter, 4 Daniel Rosenbaum, managed three consecutive digs on one rally, but they ended up losing the point. 9 Bryan Fautley put down a huge kill for Queen’s, but then Zeeman missed his serve. Queen’s was playing well, but their connection was ever so slightly off. Guelph was happy to take what the Gaels offered.
After a Queen’s error long, Gryphons’ 18 Winston Rosser started to heat up. He put down a strong kill from the right side, and followed it with an even harder kill from the same position on the next play. Guelph managed a third consecutive right side point for a slim lead at 16-14.
Zeeman had seen enough. A hard attack of his was dug by Guelph, but the ball sailed back over to the Queen’s side and Zeeman happily killed it again. Another good rally ended in Zeeman getting a kill from the right side, as Queen’s retook the lead. The Gaels broke 20 first, but Zeeman gave back momentum by missing his serve. On the next play, Guelph 7 Andrew McWilliam put in an ace while the crowd chanted “shave your face”. Zeeman continued strong play by overpowering the block on the next point, but the Guelph setter followed it with a cheeky dump tip to keep the Gryphons in the set. A rare shank from Queen’s libero, 6 Alex Oneid, tied the game at 23-23.
Just in time, the Gaels woke up. 15 Niko Rukavina powered an attack through the Guelph block for a lead, and the Gryphons’ 13 James Stamler powered his next attack into the net. It may have had something to do with his set coming from their middle player after a scramble, but the Gaels won the first set 26-24. Zeeman already racked up 7 points in the first set.
Though the points were tight, Queen’s had started to look like a superior team to the end of the first set. They came out ready to prove that in the second. Gaels’ Fautley set the tone with a large kill from power. Then, Amoroso put up a huge solo block in the middle for a point. Queen’s then ran a tandem attack, as they set Rukavina in back court right behind Amoroso running a fake quick ahead of the attack line. It was executed perfectly. Amoroso got the next set and powered it off the Guelph block. Amoroso then picked up two separate digs off of his own block, and eventually roofed the Gryphons’ offence with another block. The Gaels stormed out to a 9-1 lead.
With their lead developed, Queen’s reverted to their regular strategy of setting Zeeman consistently. The plan found mixed success. He had two backcourt attacks blocked early on, but put away three kills over a span of five points to keep the Gaels ahead 16-10. The passes just weren’t accurate enough for Amoroso to get sets at middle, so the lead stayed around six points for a long duration. The momentum swung further in Queen’s way late in the set, as Zeeman put away a kill from right side, and Rukavina won the set with an attack off of the Guelph block and out. Queen’s lead the entire way and won the second set 25-17.
Rukavina continued the third set on fire. He managed to block a Guelph attack for a 3-2 lead, then killed an overpass, provided a cross-court kill, and even killed a ball once he rotated into the backcourt. His strong play had Queen’s up 11-4 early. Guelph scrambled and began substituting players in defensively. Both 14 Andrew Whitaker and 11 Kevin Carey entered the game for the Gryphons. Early on, their lack of communication leads to a ball falling to the floor with nobody moving for it.
With the set and match seemingly in hand, the Gaels momentarily took their foot off of the pedal. Guelph took advantage of the complacency, and stormed back for five consecutive points. The Gaels had seen enough, and Rukavina was out of the game for 1 Will Sidgwick. He immediately makes an impact with a great serve receive, and the Gaels transition it to an attack for Zeeman. Amoroso gave them some breathing room with a beautiful quick on the next play.
At this time, Guelph substituted back in their starting rotation since the set was competitive again. They stayed within two due to strong attacking from Rosser, but Zeeman pushed the lead back to three with a hard attack from power. A double contact from the Guelph setter gave Queen’s some breathing room, but the Gaels gave it back with a missed serve from the substitute Sidgwick.
Queen’s maintained their solid play late, but the bounces were going against them. They had two balls blocked, but each fell barely outside of the lines for Guelph points. However, Guelph missed two key serves at 21-20 and 22-21 to give Queen’s a chance to win the set without having to even serve receive. The Gaels’ setter Rosenbaum came up with a huge block after a great rally to give the home team a set point at 24-21. On the next serve, the ball catches the net and barely trickles over for an ace. Queen’s won the third set 25-21 to win the match.
Joren Zeeman led all players with 16 points, but Michael Amoroso gave a huge advantage to Queen’s with his 11 points on significantly less sets. Guelph was led by 14 points from Winston Rosser.
With the win, Queen’s moves into a tie with McMaster for second place overall. The ranking will be decided by who won the season series. McMaster gave themselves an advantage by beating Queen’s the day before. Guelph falls to fourth place, and will only have home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.