The Varsity Blues men’s volleyball team can certainly be proud of their achievements this season. They finished third in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standings and finished sixth nationally. Last season, the team finished second in the OUA but failed to win a game at nationals — this year they did. In comparison, for the past three years, the women’s volleyball team has reached the Quigley Cup Final, winning in the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 seasons. Yet, this season the Blues finished with a 9–11 record and missed the playoffs.
Let’s take a more specific look at each team’s season to uncover what the Blues did well and what they need to work on leading up to next year’s season.
The men’s volleyball team has been a machine defensively. They led the OUA with 821 total digs, averaging 10.01 digs per set. To emphasize how impressive this is, the Windsor Lancers ranked second, with 712 digs and 9.62 digs per set — that’s a pretty sizeable gap.
A big contributor to this defense was their libero, Daniel Tudor, who led the OUA with 194 total digs and 2.37 digs per set. However, the fifth-year computer engineering major has played his last game with the Blues, as he has maxed out his five-year eligibility to play and will be graduating this spring. Second-years Rylan Armstrong or Kenneth Mann are expected to replace him.
Furthermore, outside hitter Mitchell Neuert and left-side hitter Evan Falardeau were essential offensively, with their kills and serves, and defensively, with their blocking prowess. Falardeau had a spectacular season — he earned the OUA most valuable player honours and a U SPORTS first team all-Canadian selection. He will be graduating this spring but still has one year of eligibility left with the Blues. Neuert, a master’s of science student, will graduate this year, and he has maxed out his eligibility. For the second consecutive season, Neuert has been named a second team all-star, ranked only behind Falardeau with 296 kills, 2.99 kills per set, 345.5 points, and 3.49 points per set this season.
Replacing someone who contributes greatly to the team’s offensive and defensive output will be difficult. Outside hitter Hunter Arulpragasam and left-side hitter Jayden Talsma were very impressive and are players to keep an eye on next season. Next season will certainly be interesting for the Blues, as they aspire toward another deep playoff run.
This season, the Blues had 462 total attack errors — the most in the OUA this season. While the team had a league-leading 2911 attack attempts, they only had a 0.157 hitting percentage.
Nevertheless, outside hitter Olivia Zhu earned a spot on the OUA all-rookie team, with 1.60 kills per set in 20 matches — the third highest in the team. Team captain and fourth-year outside hitter Hope Kotun will be graduating. In the 20 games played this season, Kotun averaged 3.54 points per set and 3.16 kills per set. As the two-time OUA champion and silver medalist, Kotun’s skills will be missed.
Second-year outside hitter Julia Murmann is the player to keep an eye on, leading the team with 3.18 kills per set in the 18 matches played this season. Having won the OUA and the U SPORTS Rookie of the Year honours in 2021, she continued to impress in 2022, earning her second consecutive OUA first team all-star selection. If the team makes a jump next season, don’t be shocked to see Murmann at the centre of it.