The reigning OUA champs have two more home games before they defend their title in the playoffs. COURTESY OF SEYRAN MAMMADOV/VARSITY BLUES

Women’s team

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team took down the York University Lions at the Tait McKenzie Centre on February 7. The match ended with a score of 3–1 in favour of the nationally fourth-ranked Blues.

This was a part of the “subway series” matches, which are games between York and either U of T or Ryerson University.

The Blues’ Jenna Woock got the match started with a big kill off a Hayley Goodwin assist. The two teams traded points, with Toronto eventually taking the lead with York always tightly behind. A handful of service errors from York, combined with big kills from veteran standouts Alina Dormann and Anna Licht, was enough for Toronto to take the set 25–21. The close score was indicative of York’s scrappiness and reluctance to let Toronto win easily.

The second set, however, was all about the Blues. Woock once again started things off with a booming kill, and Toronto quickly climbed ahead to a 6–1 lead early on. Hope Kotun notched four of her game leading 12 kills in this set alone. Kotun’s attacking was bolstered by Caleigh Cruickshank and Dormann, who added another seven kills between the two of them. Goodwin notched a kill of her own, and with a final kill from Cruickshank, the Blues took the set by a dominant 25–11 score.

York then came out of the gates roaring, unwilling to be swept by the Blues. After some back and forth, York eventually climbed to a 14–7 lead, in spite of some early attacking errors. Service aces from Dormann and Kotun, along with a pair of big blocks from Licht, weren’t enough for the Blues to overtake the Lions, and they dropped the third set 25–21.

The set loss shook Toronto out of their slump, and they jumped ahead to a quick 3–0 lead thanks to kills from Dormann and Kotun and an ace from Woock. York managed to lead briefly after a flurry of activity, but a pair of massive blocks — a solo block from Licht, and a double block from Cruickshank and Kotun — brought Toronto ahead once more. From there, Toronto extended their lead to 16–6. York clawed back some points, but Goodwin emphatically ended the match 25–16 on a beautiful ace.

Toronto will spend one of their final three matches of the season at home, playing at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport on February 23. They will be hoping to overtake the Ryerson Rams for first place in the Ontario University Athletics East Conference within these games.

Men’s team

The University of Toronto men’s volleyball team beat the York University Lions 3–1 on February 7 in the inaugural subway series match at the Tait McKenzie Centre. With this win, the nationally sixth-ranked team retained first place in the Ontario University Athletic East Conference as they head into the final stretch before playoffs.

The first set offered spectators a taste of how the entirety of the game would play out: bullet-like kills, back-and-forth points, and breathtaking rallies were sprinkled throughout. Toronto took the first point of the set, but the lead switched between them and the Lions for the entirety of the set.

Veteran Nicholas Trewern notched the first of his 10 kills of the match early on in the set, while setter Jordan Figueira dished out assists and libero Daniel Tudor put his body on the line repeatedly in attempts to keep rallies going. Despite the Blues’ efforts, York barely nudged out the Blues 26–24.

The second set started off tight as well, with both teams deadlocked at 3–3 early on. In order to defend against York’s big hits, Toronto relied heavily on their blocking skills to steal points from the Lions. Trewern, along with rookies Benedikt Licht and Jasper Neale, notched crucial blocks to stifle York’s attack. Veteran Martin Kosic added a pair of kills, and along with an Evan Falardeau ace, the Blues withstood the Lions to even the match up with a set victory of 25–22.

Service errors saw both the Lions and Blues struggle to get an attacking rhythm going in the third set. The teams traded leads, but relentless playing from Christopher Towe — who would end the night with a game-high 17 kills — and Falardeau carried Toronto to a 25–20 third set victory, their largest win margin of the night.

York fought honourably to keep the game within reach, but it was evident the match was Toronto’s when they started the set with a pair of massive kills from Towe and  stellar defending from Figueira. Tudor even notched a kill of his own after a York player erroneously thought the ricochet off his body would land out of the court. Both teams were eager to regain control, but the Blues always held off the surging Lions. Falardeau capped off his stellar 14-point night with the game-winning kill to give the Blues victory.

Toronto will spend two games on the road before playing their final home match of the season against York on February 23.

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