Varsity Blues swimming program claim overall victory in OUA quad meet

Kylie Masse wins 50-metre freestyle and 50-metre butterfly

Varsity Blues swimming program claim overall victory in OUA quad meet

The Varsity Blues swim team competed this past Saturday against Wilfrid Laurier, Queen’s University and York University at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quad meet. Held at the Varsity Pool, both the men’s and women’s team took overall first place tournament wins, claiming victory over the three other participating schools.

The meet started with a brief 15-minute delay, but got off to a quick start with both the Varsity Blues men’s and women’s teams claiming victory in the 200-metre medley relay. The teams were well rehearsed, with quick switches and fluid movements through the water. Early on, the Blues seemed to have a clear advantage; starting with the third event the women’s 400-metre freestyle, Blues swimmer Sophia Saroukian showed off her strong strokes and clean movements to claim a first place finish with a time of 4:20.27. 

Continuing the Blues women success, Kylie Masse claimed first place in the 50-metre freestyle and 50-metre butterfly. Teammate Sophie Du Plessis also rose to the occasion, scoring multiple points by winning the women’s 100-metre backstroke with a time of 1:03.58, breaking her seed time, as well as winning her heat in the women’s 100-metre butterfly with a time of 1:03.84.

There was a slight pause after the first women’s 200-metre freestyle after York Lions swimmer Olivia Smail suffered an injury in the middle of her heat. The athlete was helped to the side and taken away to be treated for her injuries. After the break, the meet continued with the second heat of event.

The Blues men continued to excel in their strokes. Second-year backstroke and individual medley swimmer Matthew Mac won the men’s 100-metre backstroke with an impressive 56.04 time. The Varsity Blues men did especially well in the men’s 50-metre butterfly, claiming first, second, third and fourth place. Gaël Chaubet won first with a U SPORTS standard time of 24.75.

Overall, Toronto displayed their dominant skill through intimidating wins across the entire meet. Moving forward, the Varsity Blues will hope to replicate this success for the rest of the season. With another OUA meet in Guelph on November 25, the Blues will continue to improve upon their results and attempt to continue their impressive winning streak.

Blues field hockey team earn bronze at OUA Championships

Anna Costanzo leads Blues to victory over Queen’s Gaels

Blues field hockey team earn bronze at OUA Championships

A valiant team effort throughout the weekend led by midfielder Emily Ziraldo and forward Anna Costanzo wasn’t enough, as the Varsity Blues field hockey team was unable to win their fourth consecutive Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championship, falling in the semi-finals against the rival Guelph Gryphons.

The Blues didn’t go home empty-handed though, defeating the Queen’s Gaels 3–2 in an action-packed contest on Sunday afternoon to earn bronze at the OUA Championships at York University’s Alumni Field.

Costanzo provided the Blues with their first goal of the match with one of the best finishes of the season. She stick handled around her defender one-on-one and tucked a diving effort into the back of the net after being tripped by Gaels goaltender Amanda Thoo. Gaels midfielder Ciara Morrison equalized less than 10 minutes later, but Ziraldo scored on a penalty stroke in the final minutes of the first half to provide Toronto with a 2–1 advantage.

Blues forward Nicole Spring added a third goal for Toronto to start the second half. Spring dove toward the goal to tip defender Nicole Hicks’ shot from the edge of the circle into the back of the net.

After defender Nicole Gaul scored off a penalty stroke with 11 minutes remaining, the Gaels rallied to close out the match. Midfielders Rebecca Gray and Mairead Corrigan pressed Toronto’s defenders looking for a late equalizer. The Blues ultimately held on to their one-goal advantage to earn bronze.

Toronto battled through adversity, injuries, and a rough start to the season. The team sat in fifth place midway through the season and utilized a five-match unbeaten run to earn the third seed entering the tournament.

The Blues avenged an early October loss against the McGill Martlets with a commanding 2–0 victory in the quarter-finals to open the tournament on Friday. Ziraldo, who, alongside Rachel Spouge, was named a 2017 OUA all-star a day prior, accounted for both of Toronto’s goals. Ziraldo entered the tournament hot off a first-half hat-trick performance against the Western Mustangs the previous weekend.

Toronto looked dominant against the Martlets, as defenders Julia Costanzo and Taylor Fleck shut down’s McGill’s attack led by offensive threats Tania Iskandar, Constanza Martinez-Ramirez, and Breeshey Roskams-Hieter. The Blues maintained possession and control of the tempo throughout the match. Ziraldo opened the scoring in the first minute, receiving a pass from Anna Costanzo, stick handled around a defender, and fired a shot past the Martlets goalkeeper. Her second goal of the match came early in the second half off a corner. Ziraldo won the ball at the top of the circle, angled her body away from her defender, and fired a backhanded shot into the back of the net.

The Blues’ lone loss of the tournament came in semi-finals at the hands of Guelph in a rain-soaked match on Saturday morning. Guelph, the eventual OUA Championship runner-ups, outmanoeuvred Toronto despite the conditions. The Blues had trouble connecting passes and creating a calculated attack, even maintaining their balance in a few instances during the match.

Guelph forward Olivia Finch opened the scoring in the seventh minute, and 10 minutes later fellow attacker Alexa Corrado added a second goal for the Gryphons. Anna Costanzo provided the Blues with a few quality chances but was unable to beat Guelph goaltender Morgan Kelley, who made five saves in the game.

Varsity Blues baseball win OUA Championship

Blues pitcher Peter Nash describes the impressive feat

Varsity Blues baseball win OUA Championship

An 8–3 victory on October 15 saw the University of Toronto Varsity Blues baseball team win their first OUA title in five years. A match where the Blues never relinquished their lead, the gold medal game was a reflection of the team’s strong season and even stronger lineup and roster, rallied together by first-year head coach Mike Didier.

Peter Nash, a senior in the Masters of Exercise Science program, was unanimously selected as the starting pitcher for the game and pitched six innings with dominance, recording six strikeouts while surrendering only two runs. A current coach in the Leaside Baseball Organization, Nash grew up admiring Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander while playing baseball in Ajax. Reflecting on his team’s 9-7 season, finishing tied for third in the OUA standings, Nash said, “It was obvious that [the Blues] were a top contender. Each game we lost, we knew we either beat ourselves or were right there. I had confidence at each position around the diamond, which I would argue is more than any other team could claim.”

Once October 13 rolled around and the playoffs for the OUA Championship officially started, Nash’s confidence was put to the test. Shutting out the Guelph Gryphons in the first round and defeating the Waterloo Warriors 7–3 in the quarter finals, the Blues moved on to face the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks in the gold medal game.

“I was both excited and nervous for the top of the Laurier order. They run three good lefties to start and follow it with the hitter of the year in the 4-spot,” said Nash, describing the strategy he and catcher Tanner Young-Schultz discussed going into the match.

“You could tell that, over the course of the game, they started to recognize my change-up and lay off when it ran off the plate,” continued Nash. “Nonetheless, the change-up was good enough to get sufficient outs. The bottom half of their order saw a bigger mix of curves and fastballs with a greater amount of righties.”

A critical defensive play came in the bottom of the fourth, when a Warriors runner was caught stealing by Young-Schultz.

“I was confused why they decided to run, as Tanner’s pop time is just fine, and I didn’t have a leg kick going; they really killed their own rally being over aggressive,” commented Nash on the opposition’s questionable decision. He added that despite the encouraging play, there was no room for letting guards down, as “momentum is easier to believe as a fan.”

The offense supported Nash’s terrific start; outfielder Michael Deluca scored three runners by collecting hits in both the first and second innings. Second baseman Marco Bandiera, outfielder Bradley Bedford, and infielder Roy Suzuki also collected runs batted in (RBIs) throughout the game. This offensive outburst allowed pitcher Graham Tebbit a comfortable cushion to close things down, and in his three-inning appearance, he only allowed one run.

Nash had difficulty choosing his favourite moment of the game since there were so many RBIs to “get you excited,” but he enjoyed striking out Davenport with a 3–2 change up in the first inning. Davenport was the hitter of the year.

“I would put that second only to seeing my rookie, Mikey, hit a long fly out to the oppo gap that really showed his development over the course of the season offensively,” said Nash. “He went from the bottom of the order to hitting line drives and loud outs consistently, which poses good signs for a first year outfielder. Seeing guys improve is what makes me tick.”

As for the future, Nash will continue coaching elite youth baseball and playing for the Pickering Red Sox senior team.

“[The Blues] have talent on the bench and on [the] pitching staff, so I have faith that U of T will be strong next year,” he said.

 

 

And the band did not play on

Musical presence at varsity games promotes school spirit

And the band did not play on

In NCAA sports, a school’s marching band plays a vital role in the overall game day atmosphere. The noise elicits excitement in the stands, and the band’s performances entice more fans to attend games. Marching bands at division one schools like Ohio State and USC put on intricate half time shows to entertain attendees; these bands bring a sense of pride and spirit to the student body.

Last September, I was hired as a promoter for U of T’s varsity sports program. I was very excited and surprised to learn that U of T actually paid students to attend games and promote the program to fans. As I thought about it more though, I realized that this suggests that U of T needs to pay students by the hour to help draw fans, since the football, hockey, and basketball teams aren’t able to draw crowds on their own.              

At the first Blues football game against the Queen’s Gaels, I was pleasantly surprised to see cheerleaders, halftime entertainment, and concessions stands: it felt like a real college football experience. The Queen’s team entered the stadium with a full marching band, which was able to perform on the field throughout the game. The band created a spirited energy in their fan section — unfortunately U of T didn’t have anything to match the musical Gaels.              

Darnell Girard, an ex-Blues football player explained, “It’s pretty evident by the attendance at our games that spirit is lacking here… by being a player you definitely see the lack of it.”

At a school of over 60,000 students spread across three campuses, it is hard to foster school spirit. But as the top university in Canada, U of T may want to look into adding an official marching band to the varsity roster.

U of T students show glimpses of school spirit during frosh week, when students cheer and represent their colleges in a huge parade down St. George Street.

It appears that school spirit is created in “smaller units as something to build off of,” explained Will Merrik, Joonyur Bnad Leedur of U of T’s the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad.  “So for us, we have the band, we have our own skule, s-k-u-l-e, spirit. We need to cultivate that and kindle it through the year and not just here, it has to continue.”

The bnad is an open and accepting student group that allows anyone to join and play an instrument, but it is technically not a ‘marching band’. Skulepedia accurately refers to it as a “meandering band.”

When asked if a marching band would add energy during game day, Girard explained, “[The crowd would] be aroused… it might actually let them know when to cheer.”

Girard went on to mention that the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad ended up having a huge impact on the atmosphere whenever they attended games. “The crowd support seemed to double, triple maybe… it’s something we could really benefit from,” he explained.

Merrik added that it “would certainly serve to bring together people from different faculties and different schools under that flag of school spirit once again.”

As U of T has invested a lot of money and resources into their varsity teams, it would be great to see the student body show more appreciation and excitement over their sports teams. A marching band will undoubtedly draw more fans to games and increase school spirit among U of T’s vast student body.

Blues finish flawless season

Women’s volleyball finish 21-0

Blues finish flawless season

The Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team completed a perfect season on Saturday evening defeating crosstown rivals Ryerson Rams and successfully defending their OUA banner for the second year running.

The squad won 3-0 in the final match-up against the Rams at the Goldring Centre, marking their first perfect season in nearly 20 years.

The tournament started off slowly for the Blues, who were repeatedly rebuffed by the McMaster Marauders in game one of the OUA final four on Friday evening.

The Marauders, who have several players on the OUA’s individual leader board, came out hot from the start and took the first three points of the set in quick succession.

Despite hard hits from 6’1” left-side hitter Caleigh Cruickshank, the Blues couldn’t get a hand under strong serves from the Marauders’ outside hitter Joanna Jedrzejewska and hits from Maicee Sorensen. Plagued by what appeared to be championship nerves, the Blues dropped the first set 19-25.

A kill from rookie right-side hitter and OUA East Player of the Year Alina Dormann opened up the scoring in the second set, and the Blues finally began to look comfortable on the court. In a set characterized by the complete dominance of Cruickshank and Dormann, the Blues would maintain the lead throughout and finish the second set 25-16.

Despite opening the score in the third off a serve from Sorensen and a bit of back-and-forth play, the Marauders couldn’t pick up where they left off in the first and dropped the third set by six points to the Blues.

The match came alive in the fourth set; when both teams refused to give in. The Blues and Marauders battled back and forth over the lead for the duration of the thrilling set, which climbed to 30 points.

A huge kill from left-side Anna Feore would save the Blues, tying the set 26-26.

After regaining, and tying the lead twice more, Dormann brought the crowd to their feet by completing her nineteenth kill of the game — winning it all for the Blues in a spectacular 30-28 showdown. 

In a relatively anticlimactic match, the Blues didn’t disappoint in the OUA final against the Rams, taking all three sets (25–20, 25–20, 25–13).

The two teams went back-and-forth for the first two sets. Sneaky tips from fourth year setter Madelyn Mandryk and precise on-the-line kills from middle Tessa Davis helped the Blues break Rams all-star Theanna Vernon, who lead the OUA in kills per-set. 

Two consecutive aces from Dormann and a game ending kill from Feore in the third capped off the win for the Blues, who are currently ranked second in the nation. Third year middle Tessa Davis took a match high 12 points and nine kills and won OUA player of the game honours as well as championship MVP.

The Blues travel to Brandon University in Manitoba next weekend where they will be the only team to represent the OUA in the CIS national championships.

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All we do is win, win, win, no matter what

Big week for Varsity Blues athletes

All we do is win, win, win, no matter what

While U of T students gear up for classes after reading week, many varsity athletes didn’t get much of a break. Multiple teams competed in a throng of meets throughout reading week.

The Varsity Blues men’s and women’s swim teams came home with Ontario University Athletics (OUA) banners; the track and field squad took on international competition in Washington and Ohio; and the men’s volleyball team shut-out number one team McMaster, while the women capped off a perfect regular season.

Swimming

The Varsity Blues swim teams didn’t disappoint during the OUA championships in London. Hosted by the Western Mustangs, the Blues dominated the competition with both teams’ closest challengers, the Mustangs, over 280 points away from the Blues women’s 1,049 point total and the men’s 1,019.

Over the course of the competition the Blues broke multiple OUA and national records, amounting to 18 in total. Second-year Kylie Masse led the women’s team, taking home four individual gold medals — one of which came in her national record breaking 100m backstroke race. Masse was named the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) athlete of the week for her successes.

On the men’s side, third-year Hochan Ryu drowned the competition and was named the male OUA swimmer of the year, earning four individual gold medals, including a meet record; he was also a member of two of the Blues gold medal winning relay teams. The OUA banners signal the thirteenth straight banner win for the men and the third for the women. The wins place the squads comfortably at the top of the CIS leaderboards.

Track and field

Athletes from the Varsity Blues track and field team headed to the states for some division one competition when they attended the Husky Classic at the University of Washington and the Spire Invitational in Geneva, Ohio.

Sending teams comprised mainly of runners, the men’s team was lead by fourth-year veteran Sacha Smart who won the 600 m and 800 m competitions in Seattle. Smart, who competed on the Blues cross-country team in the fall, placed fifth in the 600 m at last year’s CIS championship. Sprinters Rayshaun Franklin and Isiah Weathers also enjoyed podium finishes in Seattle, placing first and third, respectively, in the men’s 300 m race.

Third-year distance athlete Gabriela Stafford not only placed second in the women’s 3000 m race, but also did it in a world championship qualifying time of 8:54.87 — a clocking which would have won the competition in 2014. Representing U of T’s field athletes was fifth-year horizontal jumper Julia Stille who, in keeping with her podium finishes throughout the season, placed second in the long and triple jump competitions.

The women’s track and field team sits at the top of the CIS leader board with a comfortable lead, while the men’s squad is just shy of 30 points behind powerhouse Windsor.

Volleyball

In an incredible demonstration of grit, the number four Varsity Blues men’s volleyball team defeated the top ranked Marauders in five sets to ruin McMaster’s perfect regular season.

The win, aided by a game high 23 kill performance from William Colucci, seemed to give the Blues a confidence boost, which carried them through wins against the Guelph Gryphons a day later, and an electrifying five set win over the Western Mustangs on Friday.

The win over the Mustangs awarded the Blues an OUA homecoming 12 years in the making, as the squad will play host to an OUA playoff game for the first time since 2004. Following a win over the Windsor Lancers on Saturday, the squad improved their winning streak to five.

Not to be outdone, the Blues women’s volleyball team completed a 19-0 regular season on Saturday with a win over the Lancers. Dropping only two sets all season, the women’s team sits five points behind UBC’s Okanagan campus who lead the CIS with 60 points. Last years OUA champions, the Blues will attempt to defend their banner this Saturday at the Goldring Centre in OUA quarterfinal action.

Blues tame Lions

U of T beats York 6-2

Blues tame Lions

In their final home game of the regular season on Friday night, the fourth ranked Varsity Blues women’s hockey team gave the number 11 York Lions a beating in a 6-2 victory at Varsity Arena.

The night began with the Blues honouring four departing fifth-year players: April Looije, Sonja Weidenfelder, Caitlin Mikawa, and Jacqueline Scheffel, who will all be graduating this year.

The mood in the arena shifted after the first period started, as forward Jacquline Scheffel maximized the Blues first power play, beating York’s defensemen and putting her fourth goal of the year past Lions netminder Eva Hall.

Despite having to kill two penalties, the Blues continued to dominate the Lions. They added one more goal before the end of the period, as fourth-year favourite Taylor Day got a hold of defensemen Rebecca Bourgeois’ rebound and buried it in the back door. 

The Lions’ frustration appeared to hit a boiling point in the second period when they earned their first of four penalties, only 49 seconds into the frame. The Blues notched three penalties of their own in the period but came through unscathed, as their penalty kill shut the Lions down.

On their final power play opportunity of the period, Day showed she still had some left in the tank as she effortlessly broke past York’s defense and scored her second of the game and fourteenth of the season. Meagan O’Brien widened the gap to four before the close of the frame as she threw a rocket over the shoulder of York’s rookie goaltender.

Halfway through the third period, second-year forward Lauren Straatman increased the Blues’ lead to five, with an impressive play that beat York goalie on her blocker side.

Despite being down by five, the Lions appeared eager to break the shut-out by pulling their goalie with just over eight minutes left in the period. The pulled goalie added an extra attacker to the York team who were already on a power play, making it six on three. 

The Blues answered the call as their penalty kill remarkably limited the Lions’ chances, while goaltender Yordanov made some incredible saves. Blues’ team captain Kristi Riseley rounded off the scoring with an empty net goal. With less then two minutes remaining, Lions forwards Lauren Cavarzan and Kristen Barbara spoiled the Blues’ shut-out with two quick goals.

The 6-2 victory secured the Blues’ a second place berth in the OUA standings and awarded the team a home ice advantage in the first round of the OUA playoffs.

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Blues blanked by Badgers

Toronto can't make up six point deficit against visiting Brock

Blues blanked by Badgers

The Varsity Blues (4–8) fell 71–77 to the Brock Badgers (10–3) Friday night at the Goldring Centre’s Kimel Family Field House. Despite leading for the majority of the game, the Blues couldn’t sustain their momentum into the fourth quarter, allowing the Badgers to finish with a slim lead. The Blues were led by forward Devin Johnson’s 20 points and forward Daniel Johansson’s 18 points. For the Badgers, point-guard Johneil Simpson led the squad with 22 points.

The game started strong for the Blues after a 7–0 run ended the first quarter with a 19–14 lead.

The Blues continued strong play in the second by leading 35–32, before Brock’s Zachary Angelini hit a buzzer beating three-pointer to conclude the first half with a tie.

The third quarter saw the Blues and Badgers exchanging multiple blocks and fouls, both teams executing defensive plays. At the five minute mark, Blues’ Johnson landed awkwardly while chasing down Brock’s Tyler Brown on a fast break. Unscathed, he would continue to play out the rest of the game.

The Blues regained the lead at 49–46 after Miroslav Jaksic’s two handed dunk, but the Badgers responded with a quick three-pointer on the next possession and two free throws from Dani Elgadi, which edged the Badgers ahead 51–49.

The strong defensive effort continued for the Blues; they ended the third with two steals and two fast breaks by Manny Sahota and Wilson Torres, entering the fourth with a one point lead over the Badgers.

With the game tied at 63 late in the fourth, the Badgers went on a 6–0 run that would be the downfall of the Blues. Despite two crucial charges from point guard Sage Usher and precise shooting from Johnson, the deficit was too high to make up and the Blues trailed 74–68.

The difference quickly grew to eight points, before Usher managed to draw a foul at the three-point line with only seconds left in the game. He made two of three free throws to end the game 71–77. The loss puts the Blues to the third spot in the OUA East Division.

The Blues’ Johansson was named player of the game. He finished off with 18 points, five rebounds, and one block in 31 minutes of play.

The Blues will return to action on February 6, when they host the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks at the Kimel Family Field House.