Lions women’s volleyball team beats the Queen’s Gaels in quarter-final play

The York Lions women’s volleyball team defeated the Queen’s University Gaels 3-2 in an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarter-final match last Saturday afternoon at the Tait McKenzie Centre to advance to the OUA Final Four tournament this coming weekend at York.

Coming into Saturday’s contest, the Lions were seeded No. 1 in the OUA East Division after posting an 18-1 regular season record, while the Gaels were the fourth seeds with a 10-9 record. Queen’s did not back down against their formidable foes, however, and hung on until the last point as the Lions managed to squeak out a 21-25, 26-24, 25-18, 20-25, 17-15 victory in a two-and-a-half hour marathon.

Right: Veteran Candice Paulsen smashes the ball in OUA quarter-final action at the Tait McKenzie Centre on Saturday. Photo by Ivan Marcano

York drew first blood in the match by winning the first point, but Queen’s charged ahead a few minutes later and maintained its pressure on the Lions throughout the first set with a number of big plays, while the Lions appeared nervous. Up 22-11, it looked as though the Gaels were going to run away with the set but the Lions managed to claw their way back in, only to lose 25-21.

The second set started out better for the Lions as they jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but it wasn’t long before Queen’s erased the deficit and moved back into the lead. The Gaels built a sizeable advantage and led 23-17. Just when it looked as though the Lions were going to end up in a 2-0 hole, they found a new gear and recorded seven straight points to get back into the lead at 24-23. An error by York on set point made for a few tense moments, but the Lions were able to regroup and even the match at one set apiece.

Once again, the Lions began the third set with a flurry of points but soon coughed up the lead to Queen’s. However, this time they were able to maintain their composure and close out the set with relative ease to lead 2-1.

In the fourth, York was never able to build the leads it had enjoyed in earlier sets as Queen’s continued to chase down every ball that was on its side of the court. The Gaels led early and didn’t let the Lions back in, pushing to a fifth and deciding set.

It was do-or-die for both teams in the final set and the Gaels appeared to crack first as York gathered steam and built what seemed to be an insurmountable 14-6 lead. With seven match points, it appeared the Lions were headed for the win but the Gaels dug deep and rallied off eight consecutive points to tie the set at 14. York once more took the lead at 15-14, only to have the Gaels tie it up again. The Queen’s players were getting more and more excited with every point while tension crept across the faces of the Lions women, but a few agonizing points later the ball dropped on the Gaels’ side of the net and the match was over.

Lions rookie Thinesa Sriskandarajah (Scarborough, Ont.) finished with a game-high 24 points, 23 kills, and 12 digs, while veteran Candice Paulsen (Scarborough, Ont.) had 20 points, including 16 kills and three service aces. Also recording game highs were setter Nadia Reider (Buenos Aires, Argentina) with 43 assists and libero Antonia Stathakos (Brampton, Ont.), who ended up with 34 digs in the win. Another bright spot for the Lions was rookie Laura Scull (St. Catharines, Ont.), who produced several timely serves when the Lions needed to stay in the match.

Leading the way for the Gaels was rookie Natalie Gray (Oshawa, Ont.), who had 14 assists and 17 digs in the losing effort. Colleen Ogilvie (Calgary) finished with 14 points as well, while Katie Matthews (Aurora, Ont.) had 13.  

The Lions now prepare to welcome the best teams in the OUA next weekend for the OUA semifinals and finals. Also qualifying for the Final Four tournament were the McMaster Marauders, Toronto Varsity Blues and Western Mustangs, who were all victorious this weekend in their respective quarter-final matches.