Thursday, February 19, 2009

Upcoming live blog of Queen's-McMaster volleyball

I’ll be live-blogging Game II of the OUA men’s volleyball finals tonight between Queen’s and McMaster. The game starts at 7. It’s also going to be webcast on SSN Canada. McMaster won Round I pretty handily [myself, Queen’s Journal] on Tuesday, so it will be interesting to see if the Gaels can bounce back and force a third match on Saturday. McMaster’s only lost one match at home (regular-season and playoffs) in the past two seasons, though, so it’s not going to be easy. The key players and aspects to watch are detailed below.

For Queen’s:
Joren Zeeman: When Zeeman’s hot, he’s almost unstoppable. He was the CIS rookie of the year last year and earned Queen’s lone OUA first-team all-star nod this season. He led the team with 209 kills this year. He also had 16 kills in their win over Waterloo Saturday and another 19 kills on 36 attempts against McMaster Tuesday. Queen’s is likely to go to him early and often.

Jeff DeMeza: DeMeza brings five years of experience to the table and can be a great hitter. He finished the regular season with 195 kills, second only to Zeeman on the Gaels. McMaster shut him down pretty effectively Tuesday, so you can bet he’ll be looking for a bounce-back game. It’s the fifth year in a row that he’ll be going up against McMaster in the playoffs, so he’s used to this rivalry.

Dan Rosenbaum: Rosenbaum is one of the largest changes to the team this year, as he’s stepped into the shoes of graduated All-Canadian setter Devon Miller. He’s handled the pressure very effectively so far, but this will be the highest-pressure match he’ll have started in. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

Michael Amoroso: Amoroso’s done a very good job in the middle in his two years with Queen’s so far. He only started part of the time last year thanks to the presence of fifth-year middle hitters Chris Vandyk and Nick Gralewicz, but was very effective when he hit the court. This year, he’s taken it to another level and has become quite the offensive threat. He’s dealing with a banged-up ankle, though, so he won’t be at full strength.

Stu Hamilton: One of the keys to success against McMaster is keeping the ball in play; they’re very strong defensively, so they’re likely to get two to three attack opportunities per point. For Queen’s to stay with them, their defensive game will have to be impeccable, and Hamilton is a big part of that. He was selected as the OUA Libero of the Year last season, and has played well this year despite some injuries. His defence may be crucial.

The serving game: The Gaels have focused on a high-risk, high-reward aggressive serving strategy all year. When it works, it works very well; they pick up a few aces and get the other team off-balance on several other opportunities. When it doesn’t work, though, they commit a lot of errors and wind up in big trouble. Tuesday’s game was a case in point; they served well for the first set and only committed one error, but then committed nine errors over the next three sets.

Effective blocking: Another area that was lacking on Tuesday was the Gaels’ blocking game. McMaster ran several effective deception plays to isolate their hitters one-on-one against Queen’s blockers, and they generally worked. Queen’s will have to watch for unexpected hitters coming out of the back row and deceptive setting strategies.

For McMaster:

Jeremy Groenveld: Groenveld was a one-man wrecking crew for the Marauders on Tuesday, recording 22 kills on 36 attempts and adding 11 digs and three blocks. He was one of the Marauders’ three players selected to the OUA first all-star team and has been a crucial presence for them all year, leading the team with 164 kills. He’ll need to have a big game for them to have success.

Nathan Groenveld: Last year’s OUA MVP also had another strong season for the Marauders, racking up 132 kills and 35 blocks from the middle hitter spot, and was also selected to the first all-star team. He was pretty quiet on Tuesday, though, so it will be interesting to see if they go to him more tonight.
Peter Hrkal: Left-side hitter Hrkal was McMaster’s third player named to the first all-star team. He’s had a good season and has played a more prominent role for the team this year thanks to the graduation of Parish Offer, putting up 151 kills and 18 blocks. He’ll be another one to watch.

Ryan Hudson: McMaster’s fourth-year setter proved to be a master of illusion on Tuesday, executing some great deceptive plays to isolate his hitters against solo blocks. His success or failure at that may prove crucial tonight.

Tyler Santoni: The 6’8’’ Santoni doesn’t get a ton of attention for his play in the middle thanks to sharing a court with Nathan Groenveld, but he’s proven very effective over his three years with the Marauders. He had a solid game Tuesday and provides another strong attacking option.

Josh Lichty: The younger brother of Queen’s captain Luke Lichty cracked McMaster’s starting lineup last year in his rookie season, never an easy feat. He’s improved his play even more this year, putting up 112 kills on the season, and has become another dangerous attacking option.

The crowd: McMaster is famed for having tough crowds, especially when it gets to this point of the year. If the crowd’s anything like the one they had last season for the finals, it’s going to be an intimidating environment for the Gaels. This is still a pretty young Queen’s team, so we’ll have to see how they respond to that pressure.

1 comment:

  1. Great preview to the match. I really like your writing style. All the best.