First Team All-Canadian Marie-Alex Bélanger recorded a game-high 20 points, and the Montreal Carabins booked the final spot in the national semifinals with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-13, 25-15) victory over the Dalhousie Tigers on Friday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Bélanger worked at a .356 efficiency while totalling a heavy 45 attacks for Montreal, while Sarah Gosselin picked up six kills and three aces in the victory. Adryanna Dorismond-Rodrigue tallied eight kills for Montreal, who advance to face the top-seeded Alberta Pandas in the semifinals on Saturday night.
“It was a good game for us, it is always a nervous moment when you start the quarter-finals because it’s so important to move on,” said Carabins assistant coach Sebastien Hurtubise. “We are also a slow-starting team, and we picked up the pace really well today.”
“First game is always a stressful game, but our team is always confident,” said Bélanger. “I thought we started out slow, then after the second set it was much better. When we realized how (Dalhousie) played and focused more on that, it made it more easy for us (to be successful).”
The Tigers were led by Anna Dunn-Suen, who recorded 10 kills and two aces in a losing cause. Courtney Baker (Bridgewater, N.S.) and Victoria Haworth each added 5.5 points in the loss for Dalhouise, who will take on the host Rams in the consolation semifinals.
After going down by four at the technical timeout of the opening set, Montreal picked up five of the next six points to bring themselves within a point of the lead. After an ace by Karianne Aubin evened the set at 19-19, the Carabins would take over the lead with three straight points before Bélanger clinched the first with a cutter, her seventh kill of the set.
The Carabins carried their late first set momentum into the second, and stormed out to an 8-0 lead over the AUS champions. Aubin (Saint-Charles-Borromee, Que.) tallied an ace, and Bélanger (Joliette, Que.) picked up a pair of kills to maintain the Montreal tide, while Dalhousie struggled to find their rhythm on offence in the early part of the second. Bélanger continued to dominate the floor, picking up nine more kills in the second set.
“When Bélanger is on she is really hard to stop,” said Hurtubise. “She can hit the ball from anywhere, and she has all the angles so she can put pressure on teams quite easily. She had a really good game. I think the load we gave her the ball a bit too much. In the third set we wanted to let her a little bit less.”
Montreal continued to carry the play following the technical timeout, building the lead into double digits before a cross-court kill from Dorismond-Rodrigue (Edouard-Montpetit, Que.) put the RSEQ champions up 24-12. A thundering strike from fifth-year veteran Gosselin (Granby, Que.) gave Montreal a commanding 2-0 match lead.
Dunn-Suen (Halifax, N.S.) zipped a kill down the left line to give the Tigers an early 4-3 set led in the fourth. Montreal responded with two consecutive kills from Dorismond-Rodrigue and a pair of aces by Gosselin to cap off a 6-2 run by the Carabins. Bélanger’s kill following the technical put the Carbins up 17-9
Haworth (Waverly, N.S.) responded for the Tigers with a kill of her own, but that did little to stem the Carabins’ offence, which continued to run smoothly throughout the set. Alexane L. Joly ended the match with her seventh kill of the game.
Montreal will face off against the Pandas in Saturday night’s second semifinal, with a spot in the championship final on the line.
“Alberta is the favourite and the team to beat, so we’ll have to bring our best game if we want to have a shot,” said Hurtubise. “We know them well and they know us well so I think hopefully it’s going to be a really good game.”
The Tigers will look for their first win of the weekend against the Rams in the second consolation semi on Saturday afternoon.