The McGill Martlets’ (2–4) volleyball game against the Université de Sherbrooke Vert et Or (2–3) on Nov. 1 did not go as planned. The Martlets, ranked eighth in U SPORTS’s national ranking for the week of Oct. 22, fell in five sets, 2–3.
The beginning of the first set was not as clean as McGill would have liked. Sherbrooke scored the first five points of the set, and McGill’s repeated miscommunication made it difficult to close the early deficit, resulting in a score of 13–25 for the visitors. Before the second set, the team regrouped to discuss how to avoid further struggles.
“The only thing [Head Coach Rachèle Béliveau] said was ‘Game plan,’ because we weren’t playing [our] game plan,” second-year libero Catherine Vercheval said. “We were just doing whatever.”
The Martlets took their coach’s words to heart for the second set, using strong blocking to force Sherbrooke to commit attack errors while showcasing their own powerful kills. They began to build momentum, winning the set 25–15. Cohesion and teamwork pushed McGill past Sherbrooke in the third set as well, building their lead. The Martlets played a physical game, diving for digs, and refusing to back down on blocks. The set ended 25–18, putting McGill up 2–1.
“In the last games, we’ve been playing individually,” Vercheval said. “We just wanted to stay together, fight, and I think we did that.”
Unfortunately, despite their solid play in the previous two sets, McGill began to deflate in the fourth set, committing five attack errors and two bad sets. Sherbrooke also momentarily appeared to be losing momentum though, allowing clearly-aimed kills and putting up weak blocks. The play was close, but ultimately the Vert et Or took the set 21–25.
Fourth-year power hitter Claire Vercheval felt that after the Martlets lost the fourth set, their energy began to wane.
“When we lose, it’s hard to keep the energy up,” Claire Vercheval said. “We try to look at each other’s eyes and stay focused.”
The last set was hard-fought on both sides. The teams dove to every corner of the court, executing desperate moves to keep the ball in play. Finally, amid chants of “Let’s go Martlets!” Sherbrooke scored four points to take the set 15–10 and end the game 3–2 in their favour.
McGill’s technical skill was evident: The players were determined and precise for most of the game. However, errors and miscommunication cost them crucial points. Béliveau hopes that as the season goes on, they will be able to work together better.
“[We need to] decrease the number of mistakes we’re [making], unforced mistakes, mistakes between two players,” Béliveau said. “Once this is more stable and everybody knows their role, I think we’ll be coming up better.”
The Martlets proved that they are still Top 10 form on Nov. 3 when they beat the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. They will face Ottawa again on Nov. 8.
Moment of the game
Fourth-year right-side hitter Rowan Fletcher’s kill to win the second set was made possible by a full team effort: Fourth-year libero Léa-Marie Duguay threw herself on the ground to keep the play alive and, after some back-and-forth with Sherbrooke, several players executed perfect passes to set up the winning play.
“I feel like if we’re all on the same page, that’s when everything works together, so everybody needs to have the same fire, the same energy, the same competitiveness.” – Fourth-year power hitter Claire Vercheval on how the team plans to improve for the next game.
Even in the loss, McGill’s defence managed to outshine their opponents’: 12 blocks to Sherbrooke’s four and 56 digs to Sherbrooke’s 44.