Size and experience proved to be the difference as the Montreal Carabins shut out the McGill Martlets three sets to none in the Martlets’ home opener on Sunday afternoon at Love Competition Hall.
The Martlets (3-3) kept it close in the first half of the first set, but Montreal (4-2) went on a scoring run from which McGill could not recover. The Carabins effectively used their towering front row to limit McGill’s ability to penetrate the block, holding the Martlets to just 15 points in the set.
The rest of the game played out in the same way, with the Carabins’ front row outmatching the Martlets, and forcing McGill to commit errors that led to easy Montreal points. The match concluded with Carabins defeating the Martlets 25-15, 25–17, 25–19.
In order to overcome the size difference, McGill planned to use their excellent defence to prevent the Carabins’ from receiving easy balls on serves. Martlet captain Geneviève Plante still believes the team can overcome Montreal’s front row, as long as the team is disciplined on defence.
“In volleyball, size is [obviously] important. But if you play smart, no matter who is the bigger team, you can put them in trouble. For example, Montreal can be bigger at the net but are they better in the back row? Not necessarily,” Plante said.
“We are a good defensive team, but we didn’t show up as we usually do in practice and other games,” she said.
Head Coach Rachele Believeau noted that neither part of the Martlets’ strategy came to fruition during the match.
“We were going to try to serve really tough today, but unfortunately we did miss a lot,” Believeau said. “We have to put pressure [on their passers], and this is what we didn’t do well.”
Despite the Carabins’ dominance, the Martlets did show small flashes of brilliance on the court. On a few occasions, McGill setter Marcela Mansure put over short volleys, fooling the Montreal backcourt. Rookie power hitter Ashley Norfleet led the McGill attack, interchanging cross-court and line attacks. Most importantly, the Martlets’ morale never seemed to fade. The ‘Sea of Red’ in the stands was part of the reason, as they supported their Martlets loudly and passionately throughout the game.
After last year’s squad finished the season with a bronze medal at the CIS national championships, the current edition of the Martlets has large shoes to fill. The team features six new faces, who must quickly overcome the steep learning curve that comes with the first year of varsity play.
“We have a lot of new players,” Believau explained. “Technically and tactically, the game for them is at a whole new level.”
Inexperience may plague the Martlets, especially because they play in one of the country’s toughest divisions. With two of McGill’s divisional opponents, Laval and Montreal, ranking in the CIS Top 10, this season will be no easy ride for the Martlets.
However, with McGill’s winningest coach at the helm, the team is in good hands. Beliveau, a former Olympian, has a simple answer to the team’s challenges.
“We have good potential … we are dealing with a lot of injuries. We’ve lost three key players at the beginning of the season and have players playing positions they never have before,” she said. “This forces us to re-stabilize. We are going to have to be patient.”
The Martlets will look to rebound when they take the court to play Laval on Nov. 9.