Sunday February 12, 2011
Queen’s Gaels vs. Guelph Gryphons
Sunday marked the final day in OUA competition for the women. The Queen’s Gaels were riding high after taking down the league’s top team in McMaster the day before. Guelph were salivating over the opportunity to leapfrog McMaster in the standings with a win. It may have been the final day in season competition, but there was still plenty on the line when the two teams met.
Guelph built some energy early through the impressive play of libero 8 Megan Canavan. Her early digs gave the squad extra chances to attack, and the way she went about it seemed to push the team harder. At times, Guelph would stick to defence and free balls, waiting for the eventual Queen’s error. The visitors took the early lead 10-6.
Queen’s managed to stay close on the power of a couple Guelph missed serves, but Canavan continued her ridiculous play. She managed three digs on one single rally, which eventually ended on a Gael’s error. On the next play, she managed a perfect pass on serve reception, and the Gryphons transitioned immediately to a kill down the line from 4 Brooke Lloyd. Guelph eventually extended their lead to six points.
As the set began to wind down, Gryphon’s 15 Kylen Van Osch took over. She ran a fluid quick for a kill, followed by a tough quick with her setter in motion. Her strong play at middle provided a set point at 24-15. Queen’s came through with a heavy attack on the next play. So heavy, in fact, that it packed Guelph’s Lloyd hard in the face. However, it popped off her face, and perfectly over the net and barely inside the line. Lloyd’s face gave Guelph the first set 25-17.
Queen’s came out with a fire lit under them in the second set. They pulled out to an early lead when 1 Natalie Fisher’s attack was too much for the Guelph libero. Her counterpart at power, 12 Natalie Gray, powered an attack of her own through the Guelph block. Fisher followed with a smart tip around the opponent’s block, and Gray responded with an ace on the subsequent serve. Gael’s graduating player, 13 Katie Matthews, got in on the action with a well-run step attack. The step option was Matthews’ best executed attack of the day consistently. After another cross-court kill for Fisher, Queen’s had extended their lead to 16-8.
Guelph did what they could, and made a couple defensive substitutions as the set progressed. The momentum was just too much, as Queen’s was suddenly digging balls off their own block, and Fisher was even connecting from the right side for more points. The Gael’s Matthews put away yet another step to force set point at 24-17. The same intensity in passing wasn’t there in the second set for the Gryphons. An overpass on the next point resulted in Queen’s winning the second set 25-17.
The visiting Guelph team realized they were letting this one slip away, and came out with the intentions of stepping up their defence. Right away the rallies elongated. One had Gael’s Matthews blocked, but the Gaels picked it up. The next attack was dug by the Gryphon’s Canavan, and they transitioned immediately to a kill from 13 Devon Jones. The Gael’s Matthews clawed back into the game for the home squad with a hard kill on a step, followed by a nice quick. But even on those points, Canavan managed at least two digs. Every point was a fight.
Jones gave the Gryphons a cushion with an ace, and Queen’s added to the padding with a missed tip from Fisher. At 8-5 Guelph, Van Osch was called for a lift when she tipped the ball to a deep corner. On the next play, she walked back to serve. With a scowl on her face, she served five consecutive points as the Gryphons pushed their lead to 13-5. It was at this point Queen’s substituted 9 Katie Hagarty in for 5 Katie Neville to try and change the momentum.
Guelph did not relent on their defence as their lead increased. One play showcased a Guelph block, which Queen’s managed to keep alive. Alas, they were block a second time immediately for a Guelph point. Then, Canavan managed to use her shoulder to dig a ball, which she played off calmly. The team eventually transitioned to a Jones kill on the same rally. Even at 21-11, Canavan was hitting the floor going for every dig. Van Osch put away an overpass on set point as the Guelph Gryphons ran away with the third set 25-12.
Queen’s returned to their initial starting lineup to begin the fourth set. This set continued in the vein of the previous one, featuring digging and defence prominently. Fisher and Gray provided most of Queen’s offence as they focused their attack on the left side. Guelph chose to feed 14 Erinn Bickle for a nice quick that got there too early for the Queen’s block. She followed it with an ace, and on the next point her great dig lead to a Queen’s error.
The score remained close throughout the set. From 8-6 until 18-18 Queen’s led, but never by more than two points. Canavan continued her highlight reel of digging, as she sprawled all over the floor continuously. She would make an amazing save on one play, and on the next their setter and middle miscommunicated entirely, yet somehow Canavan was under the middle player to save the rally. A wide attack from Gael’s Fisher gave Guelph their first lead since 3-2 at 19-18. Inspired by their libero, Guelph played incredible defence with Canavan caught off of the court. Their continuous digging ended with a hard kill from Lloyd. However, they gave away their advantage when setter, 7 Melissa McGinn, missed her serve. Queen’s was still in the set, down 21-20.
Guelph imposed their will down the stretch. First, they managed a team block against Gray. Then, their hard attack forces an error as 4 Lorna Button tried to salvage a set. The next play had Queen’s forcing an attack long, giving Guelph a 24-20 advantage. The Gryphons next attack couldn’t get picked up by the Gaels, as Guelph won the final set 25-20.
With the win, Guelph moves into first place overall in the OUA Western Conference, and in the entire OUA. Queen’s falls to third place in their conference, and will likely meet the McMaster Marauders in the first round of play.