On Jan. 12, the McGill Martlets (9-2) came back from winter break to face the Université de Montréal (UdeM) Carabins (9-2) at the sixth annual Dig for the Cure match, a fundraiser for the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. Despite losing each of the season’s four previous matchups to Montreal, McGill led for most of the game, which culminated in a decisive 3-0 victory. Against a strong team like the Carabins, the Martlets were understandably happy with their first performance of the new year.
“[The win] feels very good, especially starting 2018 with this game,” fourth-year middle Myriam Robitaille said. “And it’s the second time, also, that we won Dig for the Cure in [its] history, so that feels good.”
The holiday break was no time for rest and relaxation for either team, as both McGill and UdeM travelled cross-country to British Columbia to train with potential postseason rivals from the West.
“The goal of the training camp was to play against really big [blockers],” Martlet Head Coach Rachele Beliveau said. “We were able to really work hard and be able to hit against those [teams], and as we’re coming back, we’re playing Montreal right from the beginning. For us it was good because we were just coming from training in this situation that we were facing [against UdeM] tonight.”
The trip out West wasn’t the first for McGill to build familiarity with Montreal’s playstyle: Many of the athletes on both teams attended CEGEP together. This shared history enabled each team to effectively read the other, resulting in a game of perpetually changing strategies on both sides. The Carabins couldn’t stay on the ball, however, as the Martlets constantly shifted between long and short spikes. UdeM never managed to keep up, and McGill eventually took off with the third set 25-10.
“We knew we had to be fast against [UdeM], so we just wanted to focus on our passing to capitalize on our play and our speed to destabilize them,” second-year power Claire Vercheval said.
As the game went on and strategies adjusted accordingly, the Martlets continued to drive the tempo. Montreal is a tall team relative to McGill, so the Martlets knew that they had to play quick sets in order to gain an edge.
“That’s our strength,” fifth-year middle Érika Cournoyer added. “We’re a fast team. We try to do fast sets to try to outplay [opponents….] Montreal’s really tall, but they’re not as fast.”
The McGill victory leaves the two teams tied for first place in the RSEQ conference. As the Martlets focus on the upcoming away game against the Université de Sherbrooke Vert et Or on Jan. 19, McGill could be in line to dethrone Montreal.
“We’re gonna work toward [first place], and we just want to keep the intensity very high in-game,” Robitaille said. “Once we get to playoffs, anyone can exceed to the first ranks, so for sure that’s the goal.”
Moment of the Game
Fifth-year middle Érika Cournoyer slammed the ball through the Montreal block in the second set to reach a 7-7 tie, closing the last Carabin lead of the game.
“At the beginning it was tough for us, but we got better and better and felt confident that we can hit the ball, even though we have big blocks in front.” – Head Coach Rachele Beliveau on the importance of the training trip out West
Second-year power Claire Vercheval dominated the scoresheet with 25 total points, followed by second-year middle Elisabeth Perreault with 18.