McGill Martlet volleyball (15-3) took home a win on Feb. 8 in an exciting victory over the Laval Rouge et Or (10-8). The Martlets won in three sets, securing their position as RSEQ pennant winners for the first time in 17 years.
“This is a project of [several] years,” Head Coach Rachèle Béliveau said. “We started this group really young on the court with a lot of potential to grow [….] We have improved a lot, and that’s what I’m pleased with.”
McGill dominated the first two sets, winning 25-16 and 25-15, respectively. Laval led for much of the third set, but the Martlets closed the gap and won the final set 25-23 to claim victory in their final home game of the season.
“Laval is a really good team: A team we have to respect,” Béliveau said. “I thought it would be a difficult game that might go to five sets, so I’m pleased that we won in three.”
McGill was strong on both offence and defence throughout the match. Third-year power hitter Claire Vercheval recorded 13 of McGill’s 37 kills for the game, while fifth-year power hitter Émilie Matte de Grasse delivered six aces. First-year middle blocker Charlène Robitaille added another nine kills to the scoresheet for the Martlets. McGill also displayed solid defence with 60 digs to Laval’s 49 and 11 blocks to Laval’s two.
“We applied the game plan really well and kept the momentum on our side,” Vercheval said. “Even in the third set, we stuck together, and we knew that we needed to keep the energy on our side.”
The Martlets have now clinched home-court advantage for the first round of the RSEQ provincial championship semi-finals—the first step to qualifying for nationals in Edmonton. McGill will host the first round of the semi-finals against the yet-to-be-determined fourth-place team in the RSEQ standings.
“[The home-court advantage] helps a lot,” third-year middle blocker Elisabeth Perrault said. “Big crowds like this are especially good.”
The Martlets have been building toward the playoffs all season and are feeling confident going into the semi-finals.
“The team has never felt so close,” Vercheval said. “This is a great time to feel like this. We’re all feeling competitive, we all want to win, and we’re feeling really driven.”
Béliveau spoke to the Martlets’ improvement over the season.
“I’m pleased to see that we can play more consistently throughout the game,” Beliveau said. “[Even with] a bad moment at the beginning of the third set, we were able to come back and catch up.”
The evening ended with an emotional ceremony, which recognized graduating seniors power hitter Ariane Lavoie-Boutin and Matte de Grasse for their contributions to the McGill women’s volleyball program over the years.
“I have no clue what I’m doing next year,” Matte De Grasse said in an interview with The McGill Tribune in November 2018. “I’m not sure I’m ready to fully commit to being a grown-up.”
The Martlets finish the regular season with games against Sherbrooke (5-11) on Feb. 15 and Université du Québec à Montréal (9-8) on Feb. 17.
Moment of the Game
With the score tied at 22-22 in a tense third set, third-year power hitter Claire Vercheval delivered three kills in the last four plays to help McGill pull ahead and claim the last-minute victory.
“We’ve improved a lot over the season. We’ve built a lot of chemistry, and we had first-years on the court.” – Third-year middle blocker Elisabeth Perrault on the team’s progress from the beginning of the season.
McGill accumulated 37 kills, while Laval managed just 26.