On Feb. 22, the McGill Martlets volleyball team (17-3) defeated the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Citadins (10-10) in three sets. Before the game, several Martlet players and coaches received RSEQ awards: Third-year power-hitter Claire Vercheval, the RSEQ Player of the Year, was named to the first All-Star Team along with fifth-year power hitter Émilie Matte de Grasse; first-year middle blocker Charlène Robitaille received second All-Star Team honours; Head Coach Rachèle Béliveau won Coach of the Year; and third-year right-side hitter Rowan Fletcher took home the Leadership and Citizenship Award.
The Martlets dominated the start, demonstrating the skills that had earned the team so many awards. They took the first five points of the opening set with clean serves, passes, and kills that left the Citadins helpless.
“All week I’ve been thinking about this moment,” Vercheval said. “I was prepared for it, I was confident, I got there ready.”
UQAM began to chip away at the McGill lead, scoring five consecutive points halfways through the first set to cut their deficit to six. However, their efforts were insufficient in erasing the deficit, and the Martlets won the set 25-19.
The second set got off to a rocky start, with the two teams trading leads four times before UQAM took its first time-out. The Citadins then played a tighter game, and the Martlets’ three attack and two service errors nearly cost them the set. Fortunately, the Citadins’ defence faltered, and McGill took a 25-22 second set victory to go up 2-0 in the match. Béliveau was disappointed with McGill’s scattered play in the second set compared to their dominance in the first.
“We played the game plan really well up to a certain point, and then somehow we got away from it,” Béliveau said.
Despite some stellar digs to start the third set, it took time for the Martlets to find their rhythm. After the Citadins tied the game up at 4-4, McGill regrouped and began to pull away.
The Martlets executed skillful plays, including blocks that took UQAM by surprise and jump serves that sent the visitors scrambling to the floor. With the score at 23-15 in McGill’s favour, the Citadins were mistakenly awarded a point, leading to angered shouts from Martlet fans. With the error fixed, and McGill now one point from victory, a kill from Matte De Grasse ended the set 25-15 and the game 3-0.
Fletcher praised the crowd’s enthusiastic support throughout the night.
“The crowd energy really helps us out, and we’ve been having such great support all season,” Fletcher said. “I really thought it set the mood of the playoffs.”
Unfortunately, the Martlets were unable to carry their momentum into Game 2 at UQAM the next day, losing in straight sets. They picked it up again back home on Sunday and won in three sets to advance to the RSEQ finals for the first time in three years, and will play against Université de Montréal.
Moment of the Game
Midway through the third set, a volley showcased each team’s best skills: UQAM delivered a solid block, McGill responded with stellar effort to keep the ball in the air and won the point after an unsuccessful diving attempt from UQAM.
“They had some really good moments, but we didn’t go down. We stayed at the level we were, and then when they went down, we raised it up.” –Head Coach Rachèle Béliveau on the key to overcoming UQAM’s resurgence in the second and third sets.
Although the Citadins had the Martlets beat in digs (45-42), McGill’s defensive game won out, as they recorded six blocks to UQAM’s two.