Sunday February 6th, 2011
Tait McKenzie Gym, Toronto
Queen's Gael's vs. York Lions
On Sunday February 6th, the Queen’s Gaels and York Lions met to decide the top of the Women’s OUA. Going in, York had a slight advantage. However, if Queen’s were to win then the two teams would sport the exact same record with only a week left before playoffs. This was a clash of OUA powerhouses, and will likely be a preview to these teams meeting later in the playoff season.
Before the game, the York Lions honoured their graduating players. Their captain, 10 Sarah Sutton, and also 14 Sarah Holloway were both presented flowers and a framed recognition of their accomplishments. The incredible thing is that Holloway began her university career on the York basketball team before deciding to entirely change her athletic path. After the kind ceremony, the games got underway.
Queen’s 13 Katie Matthews started the game off with a bang, coming through the middle for a quick kill right off the bat. The spark got both teams’ attention, and the game immediately got going at a fast pace. York found most of their success on defence. Every time the Lions were blocked, they’d be able to pick the garbage up before it hit the floor. The game stayed tight, moving to 4-4, then 7-7 early. That’s when the Lions’ managed their first real lead. After getting blocked, they again managed to pick the ball up before it hit the floor. Their team managed to transition to attack immediately, putting the ball down and gaining momentum in the process. They put together a small three-point streak, but it was enough for a lead.
Queen’s managed to win some energy back by forcing York into an overpass after solid Gael’s defence. After killing the overpass, the Queen’s team stayed in it down 14-11. Unfortunately, they followed it up with a missed serve. Nothing is as deflating as missing a serve for a volleyball player. The set turned into wild scrambles, as defence dictated the pace. There were few dominant kills, but instead perseverance won points. Eventually Queen’s began to falter, giving the Lions’ an easy overpass for their offence to finish off. After an ace from Lions’ Sarah Sutton, York was looking good up 23-17. Queen’s 4 Lorna Button did what she could to fight back, putting an emphatic right-side kill away. But it was too little, too late. York’s 6 Thinesa Sriskandarajah put up a strong block to put the game away, as the Lions won 25-18.
The beginning of the second set was a bit bizarre for the York Lions. First, Sriskandarajah was blocked, but the ball bounced perfectly off her back and up. Unfortunately, they still lost the play on the resourceful dig. Soon after, 12 Sheraine Henry missed her serve. As Queen’s started to get some momentum going, their server pounded the ball and it looked like it was going out. Somehow, Lions’ Sriskandarajah got hit by the ball as she attempted to dodge its path. The Gael’s moved ahead 7-4.
That’s when something changed. Queen’s 12 Natalie Gray missed her serve, and the momentum quickly switched hands. York’s defence woke up once again, highlighted by digging from 2 Melissa Humana-Parades. They’d keep the ball alive, and eventually Queen’s mistakes would turn into Lions’ points. York 4 Stephanie Green contributed a strong offside attack as York took a slight lead. Sutton added a hard kill down the line from power. Sriskandarajah put in an ace as she went on a long streak of serving. Next, a huge rally that spanned the entire court was won when York strategically rolled an attack off the Gael’s block for a point. Finally, Sriskandarajah ended her own streak by missing her serve. However, the damage was done. York had gone on a 12-1 run, and now led 16-9.
Queen’s did what they could to scrape their way back into the game. However, they missed two serves down the stretch, and also had issues with the serve receive. Without those errors, the game would have pulled tight once again. Instead, the Lions maintained the lead they built early, and won the second set 25-18.
The Queen’s Gael’s were on their heels going into the third set. They’d substituted their starting setter for 3 Anna Pedjase, who went to play the rest of the match. They also began to incorporate 11 Shannon Walsh into their rotation more in the third set. Walsh started off the set by providing an ace, giving some life back to a drained Queen’s squad. York responded again with their defence as 2 Brandie Wilkerson and Sheraine Henry came together to roof Gael’s 1 Natalie Fisher. The Lions did stutter with a poor serve receive, and on the next play the Gael’s managed an ace on the York defence. Queen’s pulled ahead to an early lead at 8-5.
At that point, York had seen enough. Wilkerson came through with another large block as the home team put together a streak of points that gave them the lead. When Queen’s finally did get possession back, Fisher missed her serve. York happily took the ball back, and began a barrage of points. First Sriskandarajah finished with a kill down the line, and then 4 Stephanie Green executed a pretty step attack. Just like the second set, York put together a streak of 8-1 to lead 15-9.
At that point, both teams took their foot off the pedal to an extent. Queen’s would pass poorly and get blocked, then York would miss a serve and give the Gael’s another chance. After the brief spurt of errors, York lead 21-11 and sat only four points from a straight sets victory. Queen’s managed a 7-2 run at that point. But just when they were looking good, Pedjase missed her serve to give York set point at 24-18. Sriskandarajah was happy to put away a huge block to win the set and the match, as York finished up 25-18 in all three sets.
Katie Matthews led Queen’s with 11 points. Becky Billings kept the Gael’s in it with 11 digs.
Stephanie Green led York with 13 points. Thinesa Sriskandarajah put up 12 points, but also led the Lions with 10 digs.