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Martlets battle but leave CIS volleyball nationals empty-handed

Of the eight teams at last weekend’s 2016 CIS Women’s Volleyball Championship, hosted by Brandon University in Brandon, Manitoba, the RSEQ runner-up McGill Martlets were the No. 7 seed. The Martlets last appeared at the tournament in 2012 after the best season in the history of the program, finishing with a bronze medal. This season, the Martlets went 15-7 against RSEQ opponents, losing to rivals Montréal Carabins in the playoffs’ championship match. The Martlets were one of only five teams to be ranked nationally in all 15 weekly coaches’ polls this season. Their overall record of 32-16 tied for the second-highest win total in McGill volleyball history, only three wins short of the school record. The Trinity Western Spartans–last year’s national champions–entered the tournament as the top seed, with the Carabins being the second RSEQ team at the competition.

McGill’s first matchup of the weekend came against the number two seed and eventual 2016 CIS champion Toronto Varsity Blues. Up two games to one, the Martlets looked about to win the quarter-final when they took a 23-19 lead in the fourth game. But the Varsity Blues rallied to score six straight points and force a tiebreaker, which they won 15-13. Despite the heartbreaking defeat, Martlet captain Yasmeen Dawoodjee—the only member of the team to have competed at CIS nationals before—set a new McGill record of 60 assists in the game. Senior power hitter Catherine Amyot was the game’s top scorer, racking up 23 points in the loss. The player of the game for McGill was Sophomore Myriam Robitaille, who registered 22.5 points on 19 kills and five stuff blocks.

“I think overall we played a very good match,” Martlet head coach Rachele Beliveau said. “We fought really hard [….] The players on the court stayed calm and kept playing [through adversity].”

Beliveau, a former Canadian volleyball Olympian, was named this season’s RSEQ Coach-of-the-Year and is in her 25th season as head coach at McGill.

After their loss to the Varsity Blues, the Martlets progressed to a consolation-round game against the Dalhousie Tigers and once again took the match to five sets. Unfortunately, the Martlets were unable to finish their season on a high note, committing eight errors in the final set of the game and losing 3-2 once again. The 5-foot-8, graduating senior Dawoodjee had another dominant performance in her final game for McGill, coming up with 51 assists, while Amyot once again led the team in points with 21.

Regardless of the weekend’s results, the Martlets had an excellent year, and will build on their championship experience next season. 

“I’m very proud of what we’ve done this year,” Beliveau said. “We came from being ranked fourth in Quebec for the last three seasons […] so we have to look at the whole, overall picture and not just a weekend, even though I thought we played really well.”

Stat Corner: Both of McGill’s games were marathons, lasting 2:10 and 2:00 against Toronto and Dalhousie, respectively.

Quotable: “Our style may not be as powerful as some teams but we are quick and agile. We compete hard and dig as well as anyone.”—Coach  Beliveau on the  Martlet’s style of play.

Moment of the Tournament: McGill rallied from a seven point deficit to win the third set of Friday’s game against the Toronto Varsity Blues, winning 27-25 in extra points.


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