KINGSTON, Ont. (ISN) – The tournament host Queen’s University Gaels earned their first-ever berth into the national semifinals thanks to a 3-1 upset victory over the fourth-seeded Alberta Golden Bears in the third quarter-final of the CIS men’s volleyball championship, Friday evening.
Championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mvball/index
The game, which ended 25-23, 25-18, 25-27 and 25-23 in favour of the hometown favourites, was played in front of a record crowd of 1,802 fans in the Main Gym of the ARC, surpassing the previous venue mark of 1,581.
With the win, the fifth-seeded and OUA champion Gaels advance to Saturday’s late semifinal at 8 p.m., where they will face either top-ranked and defending CIS champion Trinity Western or No. 8 Dalhousie. Queen’s previous best result at the CIS tournament was a pair of fifth-place finishes in 2006 and 2010.
The Gaels are only the second OUA team to qualify for the national semis since 1998, the other being McMaster, which finished fourth in 2009.
Canada West bronze medallist Alberta will resume play on the consolation side of the draw Saturday at 3 p.m. against the losers of the TWU-Dalhousie match-up. The Bears’ loss, combined to Calgary’s defeat at the hands of Laval earlier on Friday, means that for only the second time since 1995 (2009), there will be less than three Canada West squads in the CIS semis.
Michael Amoroso, a second-team OUA all-star from Toronto, was named player of the match for the winners. He put in one of Queen’s most well-rounded performances as he contributed nine kills, eight blocks and a service ace.
For Alberta, game MVP Jarron Mueller, a setter from Calgary, orchestrated the offence with a 41 assist performance, while putting up four kills on six attacks and contributing five digs on defence.
“It was a great atmosphere and we had a chance to put them away in the third but couldn’t quite do that, then we managed to regroup and bounced back,” said first-team all-Canadian Joren Zeeman, referring to the Gaels blowing a 24-21 lead en route to a 27-25 loss in the third frame. “So much energy from the crowd it was awesome out there, it felt like there was a seventh man on the court with us thanks to that.”
Alberta head coach Terry Danyluk attributed his team’s struggles to unforced errors.
“I thought we had to be a little more consistent especially playing Queen’s at home but we just didn’t do that. It was a close game but I think if you look at the unforced errors that spells the difference in this game,” said Danyluk, whose team was without the services of injured first-team all-Canadian right side Mitch Irvine.
The Gaels got out in front of their counterparts quickly taking an early 6-3 lead, OUA Libero of the year Niko Rukavina of Missisauga, Ont. who has now moved to his original left side hitter position got things rolling with an early cross-court kill for Queen’s. The Golden Bears made their way back into the set however getting out front 8-7.
The teams continued their back and forth play leading into the technical timeout with Alberta taking a slight edge over Queen’s 16-14. The Gaels rallied once more drawing even at 21-21 to force Alberta to take a timeout. Zeeman of Cambridge, Ont. gave the Gaels the lead 23-21 with back-to-back service aces.
Michael Amoroso came down with a kill from the middle spot to make it 24-22 but Robert Wojick of Whitby, Ont. responded with a kill that fooled the Gaels defenders.
With Alberta controlling the serve Taylor Hunt of Brooklin, Ont. had his attempt go into the net giving the Gaels the first set 25-23.
The first set had Alberta edge Queen’s in kills by an 11-10 margin and a 12-11 margin in digs.
The second set saw the Gaels out in front early 4-2. Alberta’s Jay Olmstead of Edmonton helped lead the Panda’s in front 11-10 after nabbing a service ace and a left side kill that was too strong for Queen’s to handle.
The Gaels led by their left-side Zeeman took a 16-14 lead into the technical timeout. He continued to build the lead shortly after with yet another kill to put Queen’s up 18-14 and force Alberta to take a timeout.
Queen’s built upon that momentum led by an Amoroso block in the middle that forced a second timeout from Alberta with the Gaels out in front 21-16. Alberta couldn’t find their offensive flow after that and Queen’s took the set the same way as the first with an Alberta service error 25-18.
Alberta came out strong in set three building up early leads of 5-2 and 8-5 thanks to some strong defensive play. The Gaels were able to rally once again thanks in part to Jackson Dakin of Courtenay, B.C. in the front who surprised Alberta on multiple occasions with misdirected tips. Alberta still pushed forward with a slight 16-14 lead heading into the technical timeout.
Queen’s took their first lead of the match at 19-18 and after adding one more the Golden Bears were forced into a timeout.
Alberta kept pace and forced the Gaels into difficult defensive receptions with their attacking game. After drawing even at 24-24 Alberta pushed forward and secured a 27-25 set win.
The Golden Bears opened up a quick 4-2 lead in set four mainly thanks to their blocking that shut down the Gaels attacks from the right side. With Alberta getting out in front 9-5 Queen’s went on a five point swing to take the set lead once more at 10-9. Queen’s continued to build their lead and went up 16-13 at the technical timeout.
The Gaels opened up a bigger gap after the technical time out as they increased their lead to 20-15 over the Golden Bears. Alberta fought back to an even score at 23-23, but that’s as close as they got to taking the set as the Gaels won the next two points and captured the game with a 25-23 scoreline.
GAME NOTES: The two teams had battled in non-conference action back on Oct. 21 in Calgary with Alberta coming away with a narrow 3-2 victory.