On Feb. 5, McGill women’s volleyball (10–5) hosted the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes (2–13) in front of a lively crowd for their Black History Month game. The Martlets found themselves down by a set twice during the match but battled back for an ultimate 3–2 victory over a sneaky Patriotes team.
Despite sitting at the bottom of the league, UQTR started the first set on the front foot, racing out to a 5-1 lead due, in part, to a pair of McGill misplays. The Martlets quickly recovered, however, and tied the game thanks to superb blocking and attacking from fifth-year middle-blocker Charlene Robitaille and fourth-year right-side hitter Clara Poiré. Robitaille and Poiré continued to command the Martlets’ defence throughout the set, but UQTR capitalized on offensive errors to take the first set 25-21.
The second set played out similarly to the first, as UQTR held a narrow lead over the Martlets early on. Poiré and Robitaille continued their stellar play and received some much-needed offensive help from fourth-year power hitter Victoria Iannotti, who hammered multiple spikes past the Patriotes’ defence. The Martlets finally pulled away from UQTR late in the set when second-year setter Charlotte Chouinard-Laliberté followed up a deadly spike with an ace, helping McGill claim the set 25-20.
The Martlets failed to build on their momentum during the third set, as both teams followed up highlight-worthy plays with unforced errors. McGill’s defensive play improved significantly from the first two sets thanks to third-year forward Olivia Krishnan, but were ultimately overpowered by the Patriotes’ offence, who took the set 25-20 to restore their lead.
Faced with the prospect of a must-win set, the Martlets entered the fourth with a newfound energy and looked like a completely different team. Chouinard-Laliberté and Krishnan made a number of crucial digs and Poiré hit back-to-back aces as McGill jumped into a 6-0 lead. UQTR laboured to close the gap, but McGill continued to pile on the pressure on both sides of the net.
Fourth-year power-hitter Melanie Dormann came into the game halfway through the set and led the Martlets on a 9-1 run, putting them up 19-11. UQTR fought back hard and closed the gap to three points, but a massive spike from Poiré killed their momentum, and McGill took the set 25-21—tying the match at two sets a piece.
“We are a team that can adapt [.…] We made the adjustments,” head coach Rachèle Béliveau said about the team’s fourth set performance in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “It took us a while to find the solution, but we eventually got it.”
The Martlets proved they did indeed have the solution during the decisive fifth set, as they outplayed UQTR offensively and defensively. UQTR kept it close early on, but an ace from Robitaille and a kill from Iannotti helped the Martlets pull away. Poiré then scored on three consecutive possessions as the Martlets took the set 15-9 and claimed a 3–2 victory in a true team effort.
“Our team’s depth has been really important,” third-year middle blocker Erin Keating said. “We’ve had injuries at a lot of positions, so I think it’s a testament to how important our depth is that we can go out […] and have absolutely great days.”
Béliveau emphasized the need to stay focused heading into the final stretch of the season.
“I think sometimes we focus too much on the result instead of just being in the moment and playing the game point by point [.…] We need one more win to make sure we are in the playoffs.”
The Martlets continue their season against Laval (8–7) on Feb. 10 and will look to keep their momentum heading into the postseason.
Moment of the Game:
Clara Poiré scored off two spikes and a block on consecutive possessions late in the fifth set to all but end the match.
Seven Martlets players recorded multiple kills, with three players notching at least 10.
“We practice serving a lot in our practices. It’s really important because the offence on the other side is struggling after that.” –Second-year setter Charlotte Chouinard-Laliberté on the importance of serving