Redeemer women ride history-high finish into volleyball playoffs

After 16 grueling weeks, the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association has pared down its women’s volleyball field from 20 to 12 in an attempt to determine this year’s champion.

Four teams have already punched their tickets to OCAA provincials. They include six-time defending gold medalist and undefeated West regional champion Humber College (18-0), East champion Seneca College (16-2), Fanshawe College (second best in the West with a 16-2 mark) and OCAA championship host Durham College (9-9).

The other eight teams will square off in an elimination round to determine the other four quarter-finalists. Teams will play an opponent from the opposite division based on seeding for the opportunity to advance to provincials.

The surviving eight will be on display at the OCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship from Feb. 20-22 at Durham College in Oshawa.

Algonquin (9-9, 6th East) at Redeemer (13-5, 3rd West)
Saturday, Feb. 15 – 1 p.m.

(Photo: Redeemer Athletics)

(Photo: Redeemer Athletics)

The Redeemer Royals had a regular season to remember, reaching the 13-win plateau for the first time in school history.

Redeemer is led by third-year right side Curtiss Straatsma (Brampton), who is fourth in the OCAA with a 3.28 kills and 4.4 points per set average.

Algonquin has struggled for consistency this season, with five of its nine victories being followed by a loss. The Thunder are coming off a straight sets win against Loyalist, a positive or negative omen depending on how one looks at it. Second-year middle Alixandra Burkart (Kenora) leads Algonquin averaging 3.1 points per set.

This is a rematch of last year’s qualifier, which the Royals won on home court, 3-1. The Royals advanced all the way to the OCAA semi-finals.

The victor takes on the winner of the Niagara-Trent qualifying match.

St. Clair (9-9, 5th West) at Georgian (14-4, 3rd East)
Saturday, Feb. 15 – 1 p.m.

The St. Clair Saints will make their return to the OCAA post-season, with their last appearance coming in 2009. St. Clair had an impressive turnaround season after a 4-14 record in 2012-13.

St. Clair has won three of its last five matches. The Saints are led by first-year player Rachel Rivers (Cambridge) and her 2.88 kills and 3.3 points per set average.

The Georgian Grizzlies have not lost two consecutive matches all season, with winning streaks of six, four and three games. The Grizzlies are coming off a five-set loss at Canadore. Like Algonquin, this is either a positive or negative omen, depending on how one looks at it.

Georgian is led offensively by fifth-year outside hitter Natalie Buck (Keswick) who is averaging 2.42 kills and 3.4 points per set. The Grizzlies advanced to the OCAA bronze medal match last year.

The winner takes on Fanshawe in the OCAA quarter-finals.

Niagara (8-10, 6th West) at Trent (16-2, 2nd East)
Saturday, Feb. 15 – 1 p.m

The Trent Excalibur defeated every opponent they faced during the regular season with the exception of the Seneca Sting. As a result, it is Seneca earning a direct bye into provincials, while Trent is forced to play its way in.

The Excalibur are battle tested, having played six matches a full five sets. Of those six matches, Trent was victorious in five (the only loss coming against Seneca).

Trent has three players averaging over 3.2 points per set, including Sarah MacLoren (Renfrew), Rebecca Van Staaldvinen (Peterborough), and Jaime Fryer (Pickering).

Niagara lost eight of nine matches at one point, but have closed strong with three straight victories. Both Alexandria Botelho (Hamilton) and Madison Morgan (Whitby) are averaging 2.6 points per set for the Knights.

The victor takes on the winner of the Algonquin-Redeemer qualifying match.

Canadore (13-5, 4th East) at Conestoga (10-8, 4th West)
Saturday, Feb. 15 – 1 p.m.

A pair of teams which failed to make the post-season last year will now compete for a spot in the OCAA’s elite eight.

The Canadore Panthers, coming off a winless 2012-13 campaign, saw plenty of success this season with a win total equal to a baker’s dozen. The Panthers have won five of their last six matches, entering the qualifying round on a high.

Canadore is led by fifth-year outside hitter Liza Grenon (Sudbury) and her 3.61 kills and 4.4 points per game average. She is among the top three in the OCAA in both categories.

Conestoga also had a turnaround season after a 6-12 record in 2012-13. The Condors won eight straight games at one point, and finished with two wins in their last three matches.

First-year player Mallory O’Hara (Kitchener) is averaging 2.9 points per game for Conestoga during the regular season.

The winner advances to the OCAA quarter-finals against Seneca.