PHOTO COURTESY OF HENRY ZHAO/THE VARSITY BLUES

The Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team surged past the Brock Badgers in a 3–1 quarterfinal victory to earn a spot in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) final four. The Blues have extended their winning streak to seven and will be appearing in their eighth straight OUA final four.

The Blues jumped into the game with an 8–0 run, with fourth-year middle hitter Anna Licht serving three straight aces to stun the Badgers.

Dominant in their serving and defense in the first set, the Blues held the Badgers to a -0.43 hitting percentage while posting their own massive 0.406 hitting percentage, forcing the Badgers to blow their two timeouts. At the technical break, the Blues held a 16–6 lead, and continued to dominate and close out the lopsided set at 25–12.

The second set featured a neck-and-neck battle as both teams struggled to maintain a lead. Second-year middle Jenna Woock led front-row defense for the disciplined Blues with three blocks, while tenacious hustle and digs from third-year libero Sophia Currier and second-year setter Hayley Goodwin kept rallies alive.

Brock’s libero Laura Condotta matched the defensive effort from Toronto, leading the game with a game-high 17 digs. Heading into the technical timeout, the Blues managed to create a five-point separation thanks to fifth-year outside hitter Anna Feore’s off-speed tip, which threw off unsuspecting Brock defenders. The Badgers came back with a 6–1 run of their own, but varied attacks from Feore, along with back-to-back kills from fourth-year and all-Canadian Alina Dormann, put a stop to the Badgers’ run to help the Blues win the second set at 25–23.

On the edge of elimination, the Badgers stormed back in the third set, pulling into an 11–4 advantage. Brock’s enormous blocking game, led by Grace Pyatt and Darby Taylor, spelled trouble for Toronto’s hitting and reduced the Blues to a 0.026 hitting percentage in the third.

Tough serving from the Badgers resulted in poor first contacts from the Blues, which is critical for setting up plays. Having forced the Blues to play out-of-system, the Badgers were able to stay alive and close out the third set at 25–15.

The Badgers continued with their momentum swing, leading early in the fourth set with a 4–7 lead, and moving to 16–12 by the technical timeout. It seemed like the Badgers would force a fifth set, until Dormann and Feore stormed back with Goodwin to lead the Blues on a 9–3 run to even the score at 23–23 and draw loud cheers from the crowd.

A cross-court strike from third-year outside hitter Brianna Patrick, coupled with a hitting error from the Badgers ended the set at 26–24, sealing their season and sending the Blues into the OUA final four.

Despite trailing behind Brock until the very end of the fourth set, Toronto’s resilient and gritty performance, as well as clutch leadership from Dormann and Feore, proved the Blues to be a serious contender for the OUA title.

Dormann and Feore led the game with 17 kills each, while Goodwin posted an impressive match-high of 40 assists.

A win against the University of Waterloo women’s volleyball team in the OUA semifinal match on on Friday, March 8 would send the Blues to the Quigley Cup finals, the title championship for OUA women’s volleyball.

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