With only a handful of opponents to play before the end of the 2023–2024 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) season, the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team took a smooth win on January 26 against the Royal Military College (RMC) Paladins at the Goldring Centre, beating them in all three sets and finishing the game 3–0. The next day, the team walked away from their second match with the Paladins having won 3–0 once more. 

These wins mark the Blues’ eighth and ninth victories this season. With their games against the Paladins finished for the season, the Blues have maintained their 21-game win streak against the RMC team and now look ahead to the rest of the season and the playoffs, which begin on February 24.

“We’ve been playing really well,” shared Blues outside hitter Olivia Zhu in a postgame interview. “It’s been a constant improvement, which is really nice to see.”

What happened: Game one, January 26

Zhu took two points right off the bat and began the first set 2–0 alongside first-year setter Anna Arellano. The Paladins brought the score up to 3–2 until the Blues found their rhythm, gaining two points for each Paladins point until the first set ended 25–12 in favour of the Blues.

The second set had Arellano substituted out for fourth-year setter Robin Melnick, where the Blues played to a 9–3 lead before the Paladins called a timeout. RMC called another timeout at 21–6, but Blues middle hitter Anna Gadomski swiftly finished the set 25–7 with a strong kill. 

Finally, the third set had Blues setter Jenna Peters substituted in for Melnick, where the Blues once again took an early lead, playing the set to a 10–2 lead until RMC called yet another timeout. The set ended 25–8 by an attack error from Paladins middle hitter Elisa Markentin, awarding the final winning point to the Blues.

Notable moments include Zhu’s 12 total kills this game and the rotation of three setters — Arellano, Melnick, and Peters — in each of the game’s three sets, who finished with 14, eight, and seven respective assists.

“What’s really awesome is that all the setters have their own strengths,” said Melnick postgame, and when prompted about Arellano, she only had good things to say.

“She is fantastic,” gushed Melnick in a heartwarming show of camaraderie that goes far beyond her single year on the team. “She just has a way with the game that she takes ownership of the court in such a calm energy that she really leads by example.”

“Everybody really displayed their best [today],” said Melnick. “[It was] a great opportunity for all of us to get on the court.”

What happened: Game two, January 27

In a start similar to the game on the day before, the Blues began with a 2–0 advantage under Arellano’s steady hands. The Paladins took a timeout after a service ace by Zhu brought the score to 19–9 for the Blues. This didn’t deter Zhu, who stole another point via another ace directly afterward. Arellano made an excellent feint at 23–11 to the Blues, with the first set ending at 25–11.

The second set involved a substitution, with Peters taking Arellano’s place. Peter helped the Blues open the set with seven swift consecutive points. Zhu made yet another service ace in the middle of the set, bringing the score to 12–3, and the set ended swiftly at 25–8.

Melnick came on for Peters in the final set, in which the Paladins put up a great fight; the third set was the Paladins’ best showing against the Blues since 2021. Zhu made her final service ace making the score 16–14, and also scored the final winning point to end the last set at 25–18 in favour of the Blues.

“We’ve been playing really well,” Zhu said. “Especially since we’re a really young team, over half of us are first- and second-years.”

In fact, Zhu is currently the OUA’s top offensive player, with 243 total kills as of January 27. In this game, she led the team with 14 kills, 12 digs, and four service aces.

“It’s just been really fun,” she said earnestly. “Everyone really stepped up and got their job done. Credit to the entire team.”

What’s next

“This the second half of the season,” Melnick said about the Blues’ future games. “We’re really starting to show who we are. And we have a lot of opportunity to get some wins, and hopefully, come playoff times we’re really ready to compete at the highest of levels that we can.”

With their OUA record now at nine wins to seven losses, the Blues look ahead to their next away game against the Trent University Excalibur on February 2, one of two more universities they have to play before playoffs. Zhu was quick to show her support for the team and the season going forward.

“I think we’re confident,” she said as a final note. “We always go in with the mentality that we focus on our side. We do our job, and whatever happens, happens.”