I think if someone asked me to describe our first half, I would have to say, tough, challenging, enlightening, and definitely forward moving.
We started out at home against the cross-town boys from RMC. I made the decision to play our first and second year boys in this one. They had a scrimmage match in Calgary the previous week and were very good together and I wanted so see how this group would perform in a meaningful competition. In addition we were dealing with a fair bit of wear and tear in some of our veterans, so I took the risk, wanting to rest certain players. Much to my delight, we were able to take the match in straight sets.
After that, it was definitely the toughest regular season start of my career. We hit the road for our longest two trips right off the bat. Our trek to Windsor and Western proved a bit disheartening as despite strong performances, particularly in Calgary, in the preseason, we dropped back to back matches 3-1 and 3-0.
We weren't scoring in key situations, our passing wasn't up to expectation and our efficiency attacking on the outside was not good enough. We tried sticking with a line-up to create stability, but that didn't produce results.
We came back 0 & 2 and put a lot of focus into both passing and attacking on the outside, as well as defense and transition to score. 1 & 2 on the season.
The next weekend, more long distance travel - as we headed back into the west - with Guelph and Waterloo to face. Against Guelph things didn't change much. We still struggled with the same elements and this time, I made changes more readily to see if others would bring more effectiveness. Things were better at times, but we still made too many errors at key times.
After some very good discussion and a plan to take some pressure off ourselves, we seemed to find a better stride. We took Waterloo 3-0 and showed moments of brilliance, but clearly we still had a lot of things to sort out and the personnel on the outside continued to be variable.
The bus ride home felt a little better. 2 & 3 on the season.
November 18th and finally a 2-game home weekend! We were pumped. Toronto was the victim of our home stance. After winning decisively in the second set and going ahead two sets to zero, I gave several younger players a shot. It was good to see the promise of the future perform in a meaningful match again and despite dropping the set by 4 points, I felt lots of positives came from that set. With our vets back on the court in the fourth, we ended the match 25-18 and moved to 3 & 3. Still far below early expectations.
McMaster was our next opponent. I felt we came out prepared. We were relaxed and focused and again looked like I felt we should - taking the first two sets 25-21, 25-15. In the third, I felt our intensity changed. Perhaps we were too comfortable. Perhaps we became too predictable. In any case we dropped the third 22-25. In the fourth, we had a couple swings for match point and we didn't finish. We went down 24-26. Pretty discouraging to go to a fifth when we were up and so strong after two. Clearly though, something had changed. Volleyball is a game of momentum. The pendulum had swung and we played poorly when it mattered most. Our 4th loss.
We then had a weekend off. I headed to OFSAA to look as future prospects and the boys had some down time before ending with another home 2-match weekend.
To close out the fall, we hosted Ryerson and York. We took both matches in straight sets despite a good push from both opponents.
So, the first half wraps up at 5 & 4. Clearly not what we hoped for. The good news is with other teams also knocking each other off, we are only 1 win out of third and 2 wins out of second, so we are still optimistic about challenging for the OUA title. Hosting the Final Four does seem out of reach however, unless something major happens at the top of the standings.
Now we move to a modified schedule of practice every other day. Maintenance on where we are at is the goal for the next 2 to 3 weeks. Guys will have to miss a session here and there but everyone is committed to ensuring there is no regression. We are also back hard in the weight room for the next 3-4 weeks.
For those of you who haven't gotten them yet, you can purchase your tickets to the big show on line at: http://events.queensu.ca/cismensvb
Have a wonderful holiday everyone and to those who have exams ahead of you, I wish you the best of luck!