The Varsity Blues volleyball program suffered successive defeats against the Ryerson Rams on Friday evening. While the Blues women and men may have salivated at the prospect of triumph against their local rivals, the efficient Rams stomped out their ambitions.
Women’s momentum horned by powerful Rams
As outside temperatures dropped and darkness crept over the city, the Goldring Centre’s 6:00 pm matchup brought together two of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) women’s volleyball’s brightest teams. The Rams strode onto the court flaunting a perfect five-match regular season winning streak, including four consecutive sweeps. Not ones to be easily outshone, the Blues came out with their own perfect three-match regular season streak, having previously dispatched the Lakehead Thunderwolves, Trent Excalibur, and the Nipissing Lakers. Going into the tough matchup, the Blues women’s overall regular season record actually spanned an astounding 41 consecutive victories, having last tasted defeat on February 7, 2015.
Both teams started the first set strongly, and the score soared early on to 6–5 for Ryerson. Blues fourth-year Anna Feore served what would start an incredible 47-hit rally between the two teams. The Blues displayed strong coordination and awareness throughout the rally, with third-year star Alina Dormann, second-year Emma Armstrong, and first-year Jenna Woock all attempting spikes. Ryerson’s libero Julie Longman also displayed good awareness to keep the Rams in the rally, but Dormann eventually smashed the ball over the net to tie the set.
Both teams continued in an extremely strong vein, keeping the set tight until the Blues wrapped up the score at 25–21 with an 8–1 closing run. Woock delivered a number of strong serves, Dorman contributed to four kills, Armstrong two, and third-year Anna Licht one. Dorman and Licht each earned a block assist.
The Blues didn’t carry the same ruthlessness into the start of the second set. The Rams won the set ended 26–24, with three straight points from Ryerson. The third set followed much of the same pattern, but with Toronto trailing 11-9, Dormann was substituted. She would not return for the rest of the match, possibly due to an injury.
Despite the squad’s talent, they fell apart without Dormann’s élan, losing the third set 25–20 and the fourth set 25–16. Although she missed half of the third set and the entire fourth set, Dormann still led the Blues with 14 kills. The women will undoubtedly be disappointed with their defeat but can still take positives from the match.
Service errors aplenty for Blues men
The men took to the court a half-hour after the slated 8:00 pm start time and were similarly slow to get into their groove. The opening moments of the set were characterized mostly by service errors from both sides, a recurring problem throughout the match. By the end of the three sets, service errors had resulted in the Rams dropping eight points and the Blues dropping 14, their most in a match all regular season.
Peppered into the slow first set were a few bright moments from the Blues’ second-year contingent: a powerful smash from Nicholas Trewern to equal the score at 2–2, a highly impressive block assist by Alex Barnes and Ian Burns to level the set at 5–5, and a smooth dig by Jordan Figueira to recover the ball. Unfortunately for the Blues, Rams outside hitter Simon Davis-Powers produced a strong showing, and the set ended 25–20 for the Rams.
Although the Blues again showed moments of good play in the second set, the Rams’ Brendan Kewin soon took control of the set, producing moments of defensive and offensive brilliance, including three straight points. Such was Kewin’s magisterial effect that the Blues called a time-out to slow the Rams’ momentum. With renewed focus, they restarted with a point but were soon brushed to the wayside again by Kewin and the Rams, who won the second set 25–22.
The Blues produced their strongest performance in the third set, having grown into the competition’s rhythm. However, service errors remained an issue, wreaking havoc on their progress. As the Blues faced a 23–22 deficit, Burns again displayed his impressiveness on the block, combining first with third-year Ken Dobson, and then, seconds later, with Barnes to equal the score. This proved to be the Blues’ last point, an the Rams claimed the set 25–23. The loss dropped the men to a 1–2 record and second consecutive sweep.