Despite strong teamwork, both the men’s and women’s Varsity Blues volleyball teams suffered defeats against the Ryerson Rams on January 20. The Rams won 3–1 against the men and 3–2 against the women.
For the Blues women, however, fourth-year hitter Alina Dormann became the University of Toronto’s all-time point leader after scoring 18.5 points this game: her total of 1,085 points places her above 2016 Olympian Heather Bansley and two-time all-Canadian Charlotte Sider.
Anna Feore, another standout player, achieved a career best of 20 points through 15 kills, two aces, and three blocks, in addition to her 15 digs in the Sunday game.
The first Blues team in action that afternoon, the men played a close first set that saw the two teams trade points. After the technical timeout, when the Blues had a narrow 16–13 lead, fourth-year outside hitter Austin Valjas enjoyed a seven-point run that led the Blues to victory in the set with a final score of 25–20.
The streak motivated both the players and the fans, who became increasingly rowdy with noisemakers. The Varsity Blues event staff underpinned this atmosphere with a drum and a tambourine: silence only descended when a player tossed the ball for a serve.
Blues setter Jordan Figueira, who led the game with 42 assists, emphasized the importance of teamwork. “It’s a lot of intuition… Communication on the court, off the court. I know all my hitters, they know my sets.”
The second set mirrored the first, but it was the Rams who held a slight lead at 16–13 when the technical timeout was called. Ryerson ended the set with a 25–20 win.
The tension truly picked up in the third set at 12–15 when both teams gained momentum and their rallies increased in length. While the Blues demonstrated strong teamwork and skills, Ryerson’s scrappy play and strong block defense led to a Rams win with a final score of 25–20.
In the fourth set, Ryerson enjoyed a 16–15 lead when the technical timeout was called, after which they had a winning 8–3 run due to strong offensive play and a few serving errors from the Blues. The set ended with a 25–21 Ryerson victory, which concluded a 3–1 win for the Rams. The stats reflected Ryerson’s consistent game; the Blues clocked up 17 errors, while the Rams ended the game with only 11.
On how the Blues could improve moving forward, Figueira said, “We definitely need to improve on our defense and our blocking… the main thing is sticking to the game plan and executing, which we weren’t able to do a lot.”
The Blues women’s team, eighth in the national rankings, also enjoyed a strong start, winning the first set 25–15 against the number four-ranked Ryerson Rams.
The first set win motivated the team during the start of the second set, but Ryerson picked up points to end with a 25–15 victory. Led by Theanna Vernon with nine blocks, Ryerson was especially impressive in their blocking, which frequently won them points throughout the game.
While Ryerson opened the third set, due to solid teamwork and strong hitting by right side Dormann, the Blues managed to take the set 25–22.
Head coach Kristine Drakich explained that serving and defense was key to the team’s performance. “We came out very strong in the first set. We had strong serving and strong block defense. We sort of got away from that a little bit in the second and beginning of the third but we got it back… we have to sustain it a little bit longer.”
The tension throughout the fourth set was palpable and this was especially evident during the long rally at 23–21. Ryerson came away with the point, but both teams’ plays were impressive with organized defense and attacks. Drakich said later, “These were really good moments, but for whatever reason we just had difficulty with our discipline on block defense.”
The deciding fifth set ended with a 15–6 victory for Ryerson, which solidified their 3–2 win of the match.
On what’s next, Coach Drakich identified discipline as an important objective: “Most of what we focus on is on our side of the net; just do what we do a little bit longer a little bit more often. If we continue to do that, good things are going to happen.”