By Kirsten Whelan
Emilie Matte de Grasse and Catherine Amyot both reached double figures in scoring as ninth-ranked McGill swept No.10 Sherbrooke 25-20, 25-17 and 25-13 to win their RSEQ women’s volleyball semifinal series 2-1 at Love Competition Hall, Sunday.
The Martlets advance to the Quebec conference best-of-three league championship series (Mar. 4-6) against the No.5 ranked Montreal Carabins, but they also qualify – for the third time in school history – to compete at the CIS championship, slated for Brandon, Man., March 11-13. In their previous trips to the CIS tourney, McGill finished third (2-1) at Hamilton, Ont., in 2012 and sixth (1-2) at Edmonton, Alta., in 1997.
“We had a training camp in Brandon my first year,” recalled an excited McGill team captain Yasmeen Dawoodjee, a three-time league all-star who is the only remaining player from the squad that won bronze in 2012. “Now we’re going back, so it’s kind of a nice full circle.
“But we take everything one point at a time, so we’re not even thinking about Nationals yet,” added Dawoodjee, a fifth-year nutritional science senior from Ottawa who graduates this spring. “We’ll celebrate it, but right now we’re focused on the final. That’s the first thing on our mind.”
McGill dominated Game 3 from start to finish, after having lost the opening match 3-0 on Friday but battling back for a hard-fought 3-2 win on Saturday.
“We were very confident today,” said 25-year Martlets bench boss Rachele Beliveau, who was named earlier in the week as the conference coach of the year. “Our goal: give us the ball, we want the ball. On Friday we were scared to play it. Today we transferred to an ‘I want the ball’ mentality, where everybody wants to play the ball. You don’t wait for someone else to do it for you; you do it for yourself and for the team. What I’m very pleased with is that the girls were in control, very focussed and patient.”
McGill held a massive 86-51 margin in digs, a 10-1 advantage in service aces and a 36-20 edge in kills. The Vert & Or only statistical advantage was in stuff blocks, with 11, compared to McGill’s seven.
“We had the mentality of ‘we have nothing to lose, everything to gain,’ and we just decided to start attacking — just be aggressive with everything we were doing,” explained Dawoodjee, a 5-foot-8 setter, who delivered a game-high 38 assists in addition to a pair of kills, an ace, two assisted blocks and a dozen digs.
The team now looks to the upcoming series against the Carabins in the hopes of claiming the Quebec conference title for the first time in school history. It will mark only the fourth appearance ever in the league finals and their first since 2012.
“We don’t have the banner in our gym yet,” said Beliveau, answering why the upcoming league championship was still important when a berth at the CIS championship, the ultimate goal, has already been secured. “We’ve been second many times. We would like to have a banner up there.”
Matte de Grasse, a 5-foot-10 sophomore power-hitter from Montreal, scored a game-high 14.5 points on 10 kills, three aces, and two stuff blocks, in addition to 13 digs and an assist. Amyot, also a native of Montreal, contributed 10 kills and 13 digs.
Marjolaine Ste-Marie of St. Lambert, Que., and Marie-Eve Dorion of St. Hubert, Que., led the Martlets’ defensive effort with 21 digs apiece, and Dorion added five kills, two aces, and three blocks. Erika Cournoyer of Longueuil, Que., recorded a game-high four aces, with two kills, five blocks, two digs and an assist. Myriam Robitaille of Terrebonne, Que., had seven kills and a pair of blocks.
Sarah-Jeanne Meunier-Bedard of St. Jean sur Richelieu, Que., led Sherbrooke with 7.5 points, on five kills and five assisted blocks. Teammate Joanie Whittom of Sept-Îles, Que., collected a game-high 23 digs.
The RSEQ best-of-three final against the Carabins begins Friday, March 4 (6 p.m.) at Centre CEPSUM and will return to Love Competition Hall for Game 2 on Saturday, March 5, at 7 p.m. If a rubber match is needed, it will be back at UdeM on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Carabins, who are defending RSEQ champions and have won six of the last eight titles, won all four regular season match-ups with McGill but the Martlets did sweep UdeM 3-0 at the Martlet Invitational Tournament on Oct. 10.