Following a shocking loss to the Université du Québec à Montréal Citadins on Jan. 25, the McGill Martlet volleyball team (12-3) faced off against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees (3-12) on Jan. 27. The Martlets seemed discouraged by their previous defeat, beginning the game slowly and giving up two close sets to the Gee-Gees—despite Ottawa’s weak record and McGill’s clean sweep of the teams’ two prior matchups this season. The Martlets ultimately pulled through, however, winning three straight sets to take the game 3-2 (20-25, 23-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-12).
The Gee-Gees maintained a steady lead throughout the first set, winning 25-20. The Martlets showed more promise in the second set, pulling into their first lead of the game at 14-13. This point marked a shift in momentum, and McGill went on to widen the lead to 21-15. In response, Ottawa called a time out to break the Martlets’ rhythm. The Gee-Gees capitalized on McGill’s loss of focus after the stoppage, scoring eight consecutive points. This time, the Martlets called a timeout to stop the bleeding, but never regained the lead, ultimately losing the set 25-23.
The Martlets came out guns blazing in the third set, scoring the opening point for the first time and setting the tone for the rest of the stanza. Fourth-year middle Myriam Robitaille dazed the Ottawa defence with a powerful kill; the Gee-Gees didn’t bother to try to stop her attack, and the Martlets pulled ahead to an 18-10 lead. With the score at a lopsided 20-11, the Gee-Gees called a time out. This time, the Martlets kept their focus through the break. They continued strong, winning their first set of the game by a comfortable 25-16 margin.
“The third set [win] was really out of nothing,” Robitaille said. “We had a pretty bad game on Thursday [against the Carabins], so it’s just about fighting at this point. It’s not even mental, it’s just stop thinking. Just fight, have your arms ready and hit.”
The Martlets looked sluggish in the start of the fourth set, too: The Gee-Gees won the first point and maintained their lead through the first half of the game. Excited by the prospect of winning only their fourth game of the season, the Gee-Gees were unable to control themselves both on and off the bench—shouting, banging, and chanting with excessive volume.
“Ottawa is very aggressive,” fifth-year middle Érika Cournoyer said. “They were very loud, they were screaming so much, but [we knew that] if we [kept] focused on our side, and [forgot] about them screaming [so] much, then we [could] win.”
Down 5-12, the Martlets called a time out to regain their focus, and then began to steadily chip away at the deficit. After tying the game at 15, McGill picked up steam, with second-year power hitter Claire Vercheval adding three consecutive kills to bring her team to an 18-15 lead. The Gee-Gees kept the set close, but the Martlets persevered and took the winning point.
In the fifth and decisive set, Ottawa got off to another early lead, and it wasn’t until Cournoyer served an ace that McGill tied the set at 11-11. The Martlets maintained their lead for the rest of the game, winning 15-12 and securing Coach Rachèle Béliveau’s 600th career win. Her players were happy to celebrate the achievement after the game.
“[On] our team, we always say that everyone is important, every player on the court,” Cournoyer said. “[Béliveau] brings this energy, she uses everybody, so being part of a team like this is a great experience.”
The Martlets will now turn their attention to a Feb. 2 matchup with the third-place Université Laval Rouge et Or.
Moment of the Game
Three consecutive kills from second-year power hitter Claire Vercheval helped McGill to break the deadlock in the fourth set, putting the Martlets up 18-15.
“If you didn’t tell me [this was my 600th win] I wouldn’t remember. I knew I was at the point, but I was so focused on the game and the game itself, that I even forgot after the game. So if I didn’t see [the announcement at the end], to me it was just another game.” – Martlet Head Coach Rachèle Béliveau
Second-year power hitter Claire Vercheval scored a team-high 17 kills.