By Earl Zukerman
SHERBROOKE – A funny thing happened on the way to the forum -- the one used for volleyball matches at the Pavillon Univestrie in Sherbrooke.
The visiting McGill Redmen came away with a stunning 3-1 upset over Sherbrooke, ending the longest losing streak in Quebec volleyball history. It snapped a string of 85 consecutive losses to Quebec league opponents, dating back to a 3-2 win, also at Sherbrooke, on Jan. 18, 2002.
For the sake of accuracy, the Redmen had also won 10 regular season matches over that time but always in interlocking play against Atlantic conference teams.
“It was a great team victory for us,” said Simon Berleur, a former national team player who is in his fourth season as head coach. “It has taken a long time but we have progressed a lot, especially this year where you could see the improvement game by game. I dedicate this victory to all the staff at McGill who have been very supportive. We have worked hard to get to this point but the intercollegiate and admissions offices have been there for us and we are very thankful for that.”
McGill almost swept the Vert & Or in straight sets but happily settled for a 25-14, 25-20, 23-25 and 25-20 result that took an hour and 47 minutes.
Key performances came from power-hitters Matthew Mosseler, a 6-foot-3 science junior from Fredericton, N.B., and newcomer Serhiy Kisyuk, a 6-foot-4 native of the Ukraine, who was admitted to the Desautels faculty of management over the Christmas break.
Mosseler racked up a team record 18 kills, with nine digs and one stuff block, while Kisyuk registered 16 kills and 12 digs.
The team also got a solid contribution from an old newcomer – Vijay Gopalakrishnan, a 6-foot-5, 206-pound middle blocker from Mississauga, Ont., who was also admitted over the holidays and returned for his third season with the team after a one-year sabbatical.
“Vijay was an immediate steadying influence,’ said Berleur. “He made a number of key blocks and brings much-needed depth and leadership.”
Ryan Brant, in his final year of eligibility but third season with the team, also posted some big numbers to keep the Vert & Or at bay. The 6-foot setter from Vancouver, B.C., registered 30 assists and a game-high 16 digs.
Daniel Legge (13 digs, 4 kills), Edward O’Dwyer (12 digs) and Steve Phillips (5 kills, 3 digs, 1 block), the three other starters, also played key roles.
“It was a total team effort, from the starters to the guys on the bench,” added Berleur. “We all came together to achieve a huge moment for this program, one that we can build on.”
The Redmen, who sit last in the tough four-team Quebec conference with a 3-7 record, now have their sights set on a playoff berth. They are four points in arrears of Montreal (5-5) and Sherbrooke (5-5). McGill returns to the friendly confines of Love Competition Hall on Saturday, when they host the No.2-ranked Laval (10-0) at 8 p.m.
But the key factor is that they have a legitimate shot at the third and final playoff spot, with one more game against Sherbrooke, two against the Carabins and three interlocking games against AUS competition.
Short Box Score (Match)
MCGILL 3, at SHERBROOKE 1
(25-14, 25-20, 23-25, 25-20)
MCGI (Kills-aces-blocks) -
Matthew Mosseler 18-0-2; Serhiy Kisyuk 16-0-1; Vijay Gopalakrishnan 6-0-4; Steven Phillips 5-0-2; Daniel Legge 4-0-0; Ryan Brant 0-0-1; Matthew De LosSantos 0-0-1;
(Assists) - Ryan Brant 30; Matthew De LosSantos 11.
(Dig leaders) - Ryan Brant 16; Daniel Legge 13; Edward O'Dwyer 12; Serhiy Kisyuk 12;
Vijay Gopalakrishnan 9; Matthew Mosseler 9
SHER (Kills-aces-blocks) -
Samuel Girard 15-0-2; Maxime-R.C-Rivest 8-0-1; Michel Baillargeon 7-0-2; P-M. Lussier 4-0-1; Samuel Emond 2-0-1; Pierre-Luc Lessard 1-0-0; Olivier St-Onge 1-0-0;
(Assists) - Olivier St-Onge 34. (Dig leaders) - Jasmin St-Pierre-H. 7; Maxime-R. C-Rivest 7