Ashley Norfleet spikes over. (Laurie-Anne Benoit / McGill Tribune)

Volleyball: McGill eliminated at hands of Vert-et-Or

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The goal for the McGill Martlets was straightforward heading into their matchup against the powerhouse no. 3 ranked Montreal Carabins: win the three sets needed to see themselves through to the post-season. Unfortunately, McGill’s Senior Night was not to be the magical send-off for seniors Marie-Christine Lapointe, Daphnée-Maude André-Morin, and Genevieve Plante, as McGill lost in four sets (25-11, 25-19, 22-25 25-19).

The Carabins jumped out to an early lead in the first game, winning by a lopsided score of 25-11. The pressure was on the Martlets to turn the game around in the second set as they needed to return to their gameplan.

“Against Montreal we need to serve very well—hard and precise—to force them to have an average serve receive and not be able to hit as well,” Head Coach Rachèle Beliveau explained. “Our first contacts of the rally serve or serve receive have to be executed very well in order to give us a chance to score a point.”

Throughout the game, the Martlets struggled to pass the ball consistently, with  broken plays in all four sets. However, sophomore power-hitter Ashley Norfleet made numerous hits off of broken plays to keep the Martlets in the game at the end of the second set. In addition to Norfleet, Plante showed veteran poise and leadership by scoring key points in the same set. The squad was aided by a string of unforced errors by the Carabins, which was ultimately not enough to make a difference.

A primary factor in the difficulty the Martlets’ defence had in setting up easy sets was the strength of the Carabins hitters. Any time the home squad began to mount a rally, the thundering strike of the Carabins’ Marie-Sophie Nadeau or Vicky Savard halted McGill in its tracks. The Carabins’ size was an undoubted advantage

“We also have to hit high and off the hands to score [against their height,]” Beliveau said. “We need to pass very well to permit us to use three hitters and create [favourable] one-on-one situations.”

One of the McGill squad’s defining characteristics was its grittiness. Whatever the Carabins threw at them, the Martlets refused to wilt under the pressure. It was a squad that played until the final whistle, giving multiple efforts on a consistent basis. This resilience proved to be the catalyst behind their third set victory. Lapointe and middle Marie-Pier Durivage combined for the clinching point on a monster block that was met with applause.

Norfleet led the squad with 15 points while Lapointe added nine along with a team-high 17 digs. André-Morin also had 17 digs in what was possibly the last home game of her career. The fifth-year senior still has one year of eligibility left, but has already left a legacy that any future libero will be hard-pressed to match. André-Morin was a two-time RSEQ Libero-of-the-Year, and also garnered CIS Libero-of-the-Year honours during the Martlets’ bronze medal winning campaign in the 2011-2012 season.

Following the loss against Montreal, McGill’s need was still one with only one game remaining—a winner-take-all matchup against Sherbrooke for a chance to enter the post-season. With their season on the line, the Martlets won the first set at Sherbrooke’s Pavillon Univestrie before dropping three consecutive sets. With their season forced to a premature end, all the team can do now is begin preparing for next year. All three graduating seniors have a remaining year of eligibility, but it will require a team effort for the program to make it back to the CIS championships.

“Our girls are very good workers.,” Beliveau said. “They train hard and are very much dedicated to the program. I have confidence that everyone will put the effort we need to improve over the off-season and our team will be ready.”