We are all living in a new ‘normal’: as U of T students, we have watched our lectures and tutorials move online with varying degrees of success. We have witnessed our graduations and end-of-year showcases get put in potential jeopardy. We stood by as our beloved clubs, intramurals, and extracurricular activities slowly dwindled away. Most jarringly, we are living in a time of deep uncertainty surrounding what the future holds, and how we will navigate it.
For some Varsity teams, however, part of their future is grimly set in stone: players watched their championships vanish before their eyes, robbing them of the chance for a moment of glory at the national level. Their most ambitious goal of the year, one they fought tooth and nail and beat the masses for, disappeared.
For men’s volleyball, it was their first chance at a national title. For women’s hockey, it was a chance at an equally elusive U SPORTS title. Similarly, the women’s volleyball team had to watch their national championship disappear. The Varsity reached out to some graduating players from these teams to discuss how they are responding to a tumultuous and disappointing cap to their careers.
“The team has had an amazing year, finishing first in the league and winning the McCaw Cup. We definitely had a chance… to be National Champions,” wrote hockey veteran Cristine Chao. Chao is title-holder of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Defender of the Year, Most Sportsmanlike Player, and First Team All-Star awards.
“To have it end abruptly just like that… just shocked me. I didn’t know that the game on Thursday was going to be my last hockey game ever as a part of the University of Toronto Women’s Hockey program.”
Andrew Kos of the men’s volleyball team, a veteran who has competed on the national and international stages for beach volleyball, shared Chao’s sentiment: “It is obviously quite disappointing. Having it be my last year, it was an unorthodox way to end my varsity career, but nevertheless quite memorable.”
Decorated volleyball veteran Alina Dormann is similarly disheartened. She had to anticlimactically cap off a Varsity Blues career that boasted national and provincial team experiences as well as multiple titles of OUA East First Team All-Star and U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian.
“It was definitely a challenging end to the season, to have it end so suddenly and not have the opportunity to compete for the national championship, which is what we had been working towards all year,” Dormann admitted. The team had even travelled to Calgary, where the nationals would have been hosted. After training for two days, they were “feeling very confident and ready for the weekend.” Then, before the games could begin, they were on a flight home and the season was over.
Despite these dashed dreams, there is a common understanding that these cancellations are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some graduating athletes chose to cherish the memories of being a Blue that they do have, rather than focus on the ones that could have been. “At least we were able to win OUAs this year,” Chao reminisced. “The feeling that I had at Varsity Area that night is a memory that I will never forget.”
Dormann has chosen to adopt a similarly positive outlook: “As a team, we have been focusing on enjoying the journey that led up to that point, as nationals doesn’t define our team or take away from all the other amazing things we have accomplished this year.”
She added that as she leaves her years as a Blue behind, she will “keep the focus on all the incredible experiences and times I have had as a Varsity Blue throughout the last five years, rather than the disappointment of not being able to compete with my teammates one last time.”