LONGUEUIL, Que. – It’s never easy playing the first game of any national championship and it’s even tougher when you’re facing the home team.
The RDC Queens knew that heading into their opening game of the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association women’s volleyball championships against the Lynx d’Edouard-Montpetit Thursday.
What they didn’t expect was facing a team that had more size than anyone the RDC squad faced this season.
The Lynx used their strength at the net and the energy from a boisterous crowd to win the opening set 25-13.
“We didn’t expect that at all,” said Queens middle blocker Megan Schmidt.
“They’re an eighth place team but we should know there are no easy teams here and their fans really helped them along.”
But the Queens showed why they’re the No. 1 ranked team in the country as they settled down in the second set and went on to win 25-19, 25-17, 25-17 to advance to today’s semifinal against a familiar foe in the Grande Prairie Wolves.
“They (Lynx) were a super physical team,” said Queens head coach Talbot Walton. “They were much bigger than we would have guessed. From watching video we expected them to be around five-foot-10, but they had six-footers all over the place who were pretty athletic. They were physical and blocked well.
“They also got a lot of emotion from the crowd. That’s one of the things we talked about, but you have to live it. We lived it in that first set, but came out strong in the second.”
Setter Bronwyn Hawkes started on the service line in the second set and the Queens jumped into a 6-0 lead, which they never relinquished.
“That helped us as we knew we could contend,” said Schmidt, who was named the RDC player of the match. “We were a bit surprised we didn’t come back in that first set, but we also knew we were better than we were in that set.
“We had some nerves for sure, but once we got comfortable we settled down.”
“When Bronwyn served and we got out to the lead in the second set, that helped us settle down,” added Walton, whose squad also picked up their pace on defence, led by outstanding libero Maddi Quinn.
“Maddi made a lot of big plays,” agreed Walton. “Our team boils down to the ability of Maddi touching the ball and Bronwyn setting. When those two have good games and are making contact we have the opportunity to swing and score.”
With Quinn picking up everything and Hawkes able to run the offence the Queens outside hitters of Miranda Dawe, Leah Koot and Kelsey Tymkow were able to find a number of seams. As well the middles of Schmidt and Alex Donaghy did their share.
“Once we started putting the ball in play and we knew we could trust our defence we were able to rely on our hitters, who were able to find those seams,” said Schmidt. “As well Bronwyn was able to use us in the middle which opened things up as well.”
Dawe led the Queens with 14 kills and four digs while Schmidt had nine kills, a block and an ace and Koot eight kills.
Donaghy had six kills, three blocks and three digs while Tymkow had seven kills and nine digs and Quinn 14 digs. Hawkes had 26 assists.
Six-foot middle Adryanna Dorismond-Rodrique had 11 kills for the Lynx.
One area the Queens definitely won was the ability to keep their serves in play. The Queens missed four serves while the Lynx missed 12.
“Our game is built on the ability to keep it in play,” said Walton. “Not that we want to lollypop it over, but we know that every time we serve the ball in we have a 50-50 chance to win the point on defence. When we miss serves we have to work twice as hard to adapt.”
Grande Prairie advanced with a 25-22, 25-18, 24-26, 25-23 win over Camosun Chargers of Victoria.
It will be the fourth time the Queens and Wolves have met in championship games over the last two seasons.
The Queens defeated the Wolves in the ACAC finals last year and this year and also in the national final last year.
“It’s always in the back of your mind that they will be that much better this time, but we also know we can beat them … then again we’ll have to play better than we did today,” said Walton.
“We do know them and should be comfortable, but we have to play our game and our best volleyball,” said Schmidt.
On the other side, second-seeded Vancouver Island University of Nanaimo downed the Mount St. Vincent Mystics of Halifax 25-20, 25-19, 25-23 and the FX Garneau Elans got past the Humber Hawks of Toronto 25-23, 23-25, 253-25, 25-21, 15-8.
The Queens play tonight at 6 p.m.