OUA medal match in Gryphon volleyball men’s future

OUA medal match in Gryphon volleyball men’s future

GUELPH – The historic OUA men’s volleyball season for the Guelph Gryphons will go on for at least two more weeks after they opened the playoffs with a 3-2 quarter-final victory over the stubborn Windsor Lancers Saturday at the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre.

That win guaranteed the Gryphs will play for an OUA medal. It also leaves them one win away from making their first Canadian U Sports national men’s volleyball championship tournament appearance in 36 years.

“It’s a record-breaking year for us as far as wins go — 15 wins for the first time in the program’s history,” Gryphon coach Cal Wigston said. “To now do this — we missed the playoffs last year and then to do this. This is more like a semifinal game than a quarter-final game because Windsor’s just so good.”

The U Sports championship tournament is to be hosted by the Queen’s Gaels March 14 to 17.

All three OUA medalists get in the national tournament, no matter who they are. If Queen’s is an OUA medalist, OUA gets three berths. If the Gaels finish fourth in the OUA, then the OUA gets four berths.

Canada West gets three berths no matter what Queen’s does in the playoffs.

RESQ (Quebec) gets two berths if Queen’s is an OUA medalist and one berth if Queen’s finishes fourth in the OUA.

“There’s not going to be anymore easy ones from here on,” Wigston said. “That’s a great match and I’m super happy for our team. It was a fight. It was an absolute grind. That’s a good, classy team, too. They fight so hard and they’re just a great group of guys. I have a lot of respect for their team. They’re just good dudes.”

The match against Windsor wasn’t an easy one and The Gryphons didn’t expect it to be easy.

“Windsor, they beat us here 3-2 and we beat them 3-1. We had them 2-0 in that first game and we let go,” Wigston said. “They came in with a great game plan. I changed up our lineup as far as where we start on the floor and I think that messed things up. Man, I was just hoping and praying that we were going to get through.”

The Gryphs got off to a slow start in the opening set as they never led in that set. An 11-2 run by the Lancers gave Windsor a 17-6 lead before the Gryphs made a few changes and came back to make it close.

“The only good thing about it was the subs came in and made it more livable,” Wigston said.

The Gryphs were spurred on by one of their largest home crowds of the season.

“What a great group of fans tonight. The place was packed and just crazy. There’s a lot of people that are away for Reading Week and they are not back yet,” Wigston said.

“I said to the guys in the fifth set, ‘Let the crowd carry you. They are here to lift you up so let them carry you. Leave them to have the emotion for you. Play with a little bit of emotion, but if you play with too much emotion you’re going to wire yourself out. Just play within yourself and get it done.’ And they did.”

The Lancers took the opening set 25-18, Guelph won the second 28-26, Windsor won the third 25-18 and the Gryphs took the fourth 25-22 and the fifth and deciding set 15-11.

Jonathan Pickett had 20 kills, three blocks and nine digs in the match for the Gryphs while Blake Brand had 13 kills and 13 digs and Joshua Glasbergen had nine kills, four blocks, six digs and Guelph’s lone ace. Jacob Bailey had six kills and three blocks, Thomas Pugsley had four blocks and 38 assists and Cameron Chadwick had six kills, two blocks and five digs.

Category leaders for the Lancers were Luca Nastase with 14 kills, Noah Koskie with an ace, Darian Koskie with six blocks and Markus Law-Heese with 38 assists and 10 digs.

The Gryphs totalled 61 kills, an ace, 11 blocks, 51 assists, 53 digs and a .110 kill percentage while Windsor had 50 kills, an ace, 14 blocks, 44 assists, 50 digs and a .128 kill percentage

The win was a costly one for the Gryphs as they lost the services of veteran right side Alex Odle who suffered an injury in the second set and was on crutches on the sidelines with an air cast walker on his right foot later in the match.

“It’s going to get even tougher now that we’ve lost Alex. That’s our two right sides that have gone down. Cam (Chadwick) has been doing a good job all week. We had been preparing Cam just in case. Cam had been starting at left side all year but we said just in case, let’s do it. It just worked. It just worked out real well.”

In the other quarter-finals, Queen’s swept the Toronto Varsity Blues 3-0 Friday, McMaster Marauders won 3-0 over the Nipissing Lakers Saturday and Brock Badgers defeated the Western Mustangs 3-1, also Saturday.

As the fourth-seed of the four remaining OUA teams, the Gryphs are to play their semifinal match with top-seed McMaster at Hamilton Friday. If they win, they’ll play the winner of the other semifinal between second-seed Queen’s and third-seed Brock in the gold-medal Forsyth Cup championship match March 8 and will clinch a berth in the national tournament. If they drop their semifinal, the Gryphs are to play the Queen’s-Brock loser in the bronze-medal match March 8 with the winner advancing to the national tournament.

The last time the Gryphs were in the national university championship tournament was when they hosted an eight-team tournament in 1988 and U Sports was known as CIAU (Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union). The Gryphs finished eighth.

Guelph also hosted a five-team national tournament in 1968, but the Gryphs weren’t a participant. Guelph has never won the national title.

The lone Gryphon OUA championship win came in 1978.

The Gryphs are to play their semifinal match against McMaster Friday at 7 p.m. at McMaster’s Burridge Gymnasium. The Gryphs were swept 3-0 by McMaster both Dec. 1 and 2 at the GGAC in regular-season play.


Guelph Sports Journal