The Blues’ volleyball teams left it all out on the court to each notch a win. HENRY ZHAO/VARSITY BLUES

Women’s team

The University of Toronto women’s volleyball team came back from 2–0 down to beat the University of Western Ontario Western Mustangs in a 3–2 decision on February 1. The thriller, which pitted the nationally fourth-ranked Blues against Western, saw Toronto maintain possession of their second-place standing in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East Conference.

The first set showcased just how close and intense of a game it would be, as Western quickly took the first three points of the set against the seemingly beleaguered Blues. Service errors and poor defense against tip kills, combined with relentless defense from the Mustangs, saw Toronto struggle to break into the set. A pair of Alina Dormann’s aces, two nifty kills from setter Lidya Canturk, and big blocks from Hayley Goodwin and Mia Workman all pushed the Blues closer to Western, but they were unable to make up the deficit, and dropped the first set 20–25.

Western used their confidence from the first set win and ran away with the second set, dropping Toronto 12–25. Hope Kotun stood out with her kills, but the Blues were overwhelmed by the Mustangs and generated scarce offense.

Despite the game looking well out of reach by the third period, the Blues came out of the gates roaring. Kotun and veteran Caleigh Cruickshank shone offensively, helping build a 16–6 cushion for the Blues by the technical timeout. Western steadily chipped away at Toronto’s lead, but a laser of a service ace by Anna Licht sealed the third set win at 25–18.

Western was reluctant to relinquish their victory, leading to a back-and-forth affair for the fourth set. Jenna Woock used both her offensive and defensive talents to keep the Blues evenly paced with the Mustangs, combining with Dormann for some big blocks and monster kills. Dormann, who had been stifled by Western’s defense for most of the game, came alive to help the Blues pull ahead and edge the Mustangs 25–22.

The final set was all Toronto. Canturk started the Blues off with a service ace, and the team never looked back, pulling ahead from a 6–6 tie midway through the set to beat Western 15–9 and complete the improbable comeback.

Toronto’s next home game will be February 9 against Trent University, and their final home match will be February 23 against the York University Lions. The Blues are looking strong heading into playoffs, and hope to use the momentum to qualify for a spot at the 2020 U SPORTS National Tournament, which will take place in March in Calgary, Alberta.

HENRY ZHAO/VARSITY BLUES

Men’s team

The University of Toronto men’s volleyball team overcame a late comeback from the Western Mustangs to win 3–2 on February 1. The Blues led for the first two sets before Western claimed the next two, leading to a close fifth set where Toronto came out on top.

Toronto seemed poised to run away with the game after a brilliant first set. Chris Towe notched the first of his game-high 18 kills early on, setting the mood for what would be a hard-hitting and tightly contested match. Benedikt Licht and Alex Barnes also stood out with their precise hitting and unbeatable blocks, respectively. The Blues easily took set one by a score of 25–18.

The second set continued with more dominant playing from Towe and veteran setter Jordan Figueira, the latter of whom notched an ace on the first serve of the set. Despite the bright start, service errors from the Blues saw the Mustangs begin to creep back into the match. Strong attacks from Jasper Neale and Evan Falardeau were enough to keep Western at bay, and Toronto escaped the set with a 25–23 victory.

However, Western was undeterred by the margin and came out blazing in the third set, leading by a score of 16–12 by the technical timeout. Brilliant defensive plays from libero Daniel Tudor, tricky assists from Figueira, and a tireless work ethic from substitute Andrew Kos brought the Blues within three, but they ultimately dropped set three 22–25.

The Blues’ serving woes continued into the fourth set, where they struggled to gain their rhythm against the Mustangs. Toronto went on an offensive run towards the end of the set, but were unable to overtake Western, losing the set 22–25 once again.

Despite their struggles, the Blues were able to get it together for the last set. Evgeny Osokin set the tone with a beautiful ace, and Barnes stifled Western’s kill attempts. Neale, Falardeau, and Towe all notched kills as the Blues pulled away from Western to win the final set 15–9.

The Blues will spend one game on the road against York before returning to U of T on February 9 for a match against Trent University.

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