Martlets’ Cinderella season falls short in RSEQ finals Martlets’ Cinderella season falls short in R

Simon Poitrimolt / McGill Tribune

 For the third time in school history, the McGill Martlets volleyball team earned a chance to play in the RSEQ Championships. Playing the second game out of a best-of-three series, the Martlets took to the court having already lost the first game against the favoured Montreal Carabins. Unfortunately for McGill, the Carabins were too dominant and won in straight sets (23-25, 17-25, 23-25) to claim the RSEQ Women’s Volleyball Championship. 

The Martlets expected a tough series, winning just once in four meetings with Montreal this season. In that game, McGill played their best of the season, and knew they’d have to play at the same level to defeat Montreal in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Montreal made few errors and controlled both games. 

“We did some good things against Montreal, but Montreal is a tough and physical team and we needed a different tactic with this team because they have a lot of power,” Head Coach Rachele Beliveau said. “We didn’t serve as well today as we do in practice, and I think we can do better in that sense. Montreal served very well today and they passed much better than they normally do so it was hard to capitalize on their weakness.”

Both teams came out a bit sluggish in the first set. McGill’s usually top-notch defence was exposed at first, but luckily, Montreal’s star player Marie-Sophie Nadeau made some critical hitting mistakes. McGill kept their energy high and picked up their game with some amazing three touch attacks. However, the difference in the first set was made by the teams’ serving proficiency. Whereas Montreal only missed one serve, McGill made four serving errors, giving Montreal easy points, which ended up costing the Martlets the set. 

Serving continued to be a problem for McGill and Montreal as they made four and three serving errors respectively throughout the second set. Nadeau started to pick up her game and made her hits count. On one attack, Nadeau jumped so high and hit the ball with such power that it almost landed within the three meter front line, an incredibly difficult task to accomplish. Montreal continued to pick up their offensive pace, while McGill started to flag in energy and focus, leading to a 17-25 second set victory for the Carabins. 

McGill undoubtedly played their best volleyball in the third set, being just one set away from elimination. The game seemed over, when McGill, down by five points, started a great rally, cutting the Montreal’s lead to 23-24. Unfortunately, Montreal pushed and earned that last point, ending McGill’s comeback, and clinching the set and championship. 

McGill’s Kaiva Mateus was a key contributor in keeping her team close in each set. She strategically placed her hits in the open gaps and Montreal struggled to deal with her attacks. She ended up with 10 kills, two aces, and two blocks for the game. 

Victoria Pelletier also played a strong game. In the semi-final series against Laval, she came off the bench to make eight digs, six kills, one ace, two blocks, and earned a perfect 3.0 passing ratio. In this game, she earned the start and supported Coach Beliveau’s decision with some great attacks, making only one hitting error.

“There were a lot of first touch errors, either serving or passing, but I think we tried hard and gave it our all,” Pelletier said.  “We are also very excited about nationals and to see how it is to play against the best and to hopefully do well.”

Despite losing out on the RSEQ championship, the Martlets earned a berth to CIS Championships for the first time in 15 years with their semi-final series win over Laval on Feb. 12. Thanks to their strong performance in the RSEQ, the Martlets are seeded fifth overall for the CIS tournament and are matched up against the AUS champion Saint Mary’s Huskies. The quarterfinal match is on March 2 at McMaster University.  

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