Blues women’s volleyball win Quigley Cup

Alina Dormann and Anna Feore lead Toronto to OUA championship

Blues women’s volleyball win Quigley Cup

Alina Dormann and Anna Feore did it again. For the third time in the past five seasons, the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team hoisted the Quigley Cup, winning the 2018–2019 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championship 3–0 in straight sets over the defending U SPORTS national champions, the Ryerson Rams.

Despite the dominant play by Dormann and Feore, the championship win was a true team effort. The Blues entered the match victorious in eight straight contests, a streak dating back to January 27.

Ryerson opened the first set with an 11–6 advantage over Toronto, as the Blues committed four attack errors. Blues second-year setter Hayley Goodwin assisted on five of Toronto’s six straight kills to close the gap to 14–12. Goodwin finished the match with 39 assists, while Dormann led all players with 17 kills, and Feore tallied 10 kills and 3 blocks.

Feore launched a kill that levelled the score at 15–15 and her block on the Rams’ following play saw the Blues take the lead. Ryerson was unable to reclaim the lead, and Toronto pulled away to win the set 25–20.

Toronto jumped out to an early 7–3 lead in the second set before their momentum was stopped by a Rams timeout. Nevertheless, a barrage of kills from Feore and Dormann, and two service aces from Demetra Maragos propelled the Blues to a 12–5 lead before Ryerson called their second timeout of the set.

Ryerson bounced back to level the score 15–15 after Dormann made consecutive attack errors and Rams third-year outside hitter Cailin Wark earned a kill. The Blues regained after Wark committed a service error.

The Rams pulled to within one point at 21–20 following back-to-back kills by Theanna Vernon and Sara Piana, but the Blues earned three consecutive points and Dormann finished off the set with a kill for a 25–21 set victory.

The third and final set was a back-and-forth affair as the Rams played tight, uninterested in being swept in straight sets. But Toronto broke away from Ryerson midway through the set, earning three consecutive points with a service ace from Maragos bookended by two kills from Anna Feore, forcing Ryerson to take a timeout.

The Blues’ lead ballooned to 20–15, but the Rams fought back, pulling to within a single point at 21–20.

Ultimately, Toronto proved to be too much for Ryerson as Brett Hagarty was unable to return Dormann’s serve, earning the Blues the OUA Championship and bragging rights over rival Rams.

Next up, the Blues will contend for the U SPORTS national championship this weekend in Edmonton, Alberta. The Blues last won the national championship in 2016, capping an undefeated season and closing out Feore’s rookie one.

Blues women’s volleyball earn trip to OUA semis

Dormann leads Blues in victory over Brock

Blues women’s volleyball earn trip to OUA semis

The Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team surged past the Brock Badgers in a 3–1 quarterfinal victory to earn a spot in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) final four. The Blues have extended their winning streak to seven and will be appearing in their eighth straight OUA final four.

The Blues jumped into the game with an 8–0 run, with fourth-year middle hitter Anna Licht serving three straight aces to stun the Badgers.

Dominant in their serving and defense in the first set, the Blues held the Badgers to a -0.43 hitting percentage while posting their own massive 0.406 hitting percentage, forcing the Badgers to blow their two timeouts. At the technical break, the Blues held a 16–6 lead, and continued to dominate and close out the lopsided set at 25–12.

The second set featured a neck-and-neck battle as both teams struggled to maintain a lead. Second-year middle Jenna Woock led front-row defense for the disciplined Blues with three blocks, while tenacious hustle and digs from third-year libero Sophia Currier and second-year setter Hayley Goodwin kept rallies alive.

Brock’s libero Laura Condotta matched the defensive effort from Toronto, leading the game with a game-high 17 digs. Heading into the technical timeout, the Blues managed to create a five-point separation thanks to fifth-year outside hitter Anna Feore’s off-speed tip, which threw off unsuspecting Brock defenders. The Badgers came back with a 6–1 run of their own, but varied attacks from Feore, along with back-to-back kills from fourth-year and all-Canadian Alina Dormann, put a stop to the Badgers’ run to help the Blues win the second set at 25–23.

On the edge of elimination, the Badgers stormed back in the third set, pulling into an 11–4 advantage. Brock’s enormous blocking game, led by Grace Pyatt and Darby Taylor, spelled trouble for Toronto’s hitting and reduced the Blues to a 0.026 hitting percentage in the third.

Tough serving from the Badgers resulted in poor first contacts from the Blues, which is critical for setting up plays. Having forced the Blues to play out-of-system, the Badgers were able to stay alive and close out the third set at 25–15.

The Badgers continued with their momentum swing, leading early in the fourth set with a 4–7 lead, and moving to 16–12 by the technical timeout. It seemed like the Badgers would force a fifth set, until Dormann and Feore stormed back with Goodwin to lead the Blues on a 9–3 run to even the score at 23–23 and draw loud cheers from the crowd.

A cross-court strike from third-year outside hitter Brianna Patrick, coupled with a hitting error from the Badgers ended the set at 26–24, sealing their season and sending the Blues into the OUA final four.

Despite trailing behind Brock until the very end of the fourth set, Toronto’s resilient and gritty performance, as well as clutch leadership from Dormann and Feore, proved the Blues to be a serious contender for the OUA title.

Dormann and Feore led the game with 17 kills each, while Goodwin posted an impressive match-high of 40 assists.

A win against the University of Waterloo women’s volleyball team in the OUA semifinal match on on Friday, March 8 would send the Blues to the Quigley Cup finals, the title championship for OUA women’s volleyball.

Blues men’s baseball finish second, women’s lacrosse fourth

Results from the Blues at the OUA Championships

Blues men’s baseball finish second, women’s lacrosse fourth

The Varsity Blues men’s baseball and women’s lacrosse teams competed in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championship action this weekend. The Blues baseball team earned silver in Ajax, while the women’s lacrosse team competed for bronze in Peterborough.

Capturing silver

The Blues baseball team entered the baseball playoffs at second place in the standings, behind the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, last year’s championship runners-up.

Toronto opened the tournament on Saturday with a tightly contested 4–3 victory over the Western Mustangs. Gabriel Nakonechny sealed the victory with a walk-off single. The Blues also routed the Brock Badgers with a 9–1 victory. In the evening, Nakonechny followed up the stellar performance with another walk-off single to defeat the McMaster Marauders 3–2.

Toronto entered the final day of the tournament on Sunday with a 3–0 record. In the semifinals, the Blues defeated the Guelph Gryphons 5–2. Following a nail biting extra-innings showdown final with the Golden Hawks, the Blues earned silver. Toronto levelled the score in the top of the ninth inning but were unable to take the lead. In the bottom of the 11th, the Golden Hawks broke through with a walk-off single to win the game 4–3 and clinch the OUA Championship.

Almost bronze

With head coach Jim Calder at the helm, the women’s lacrosse team finished the regular season fifth in the OUA with an 8-4-1 record.

The Blues opened the OUA Championship Friday evening with a decisive 12–8 victory over the reigning champion Western Mustangs. Laurel McGillis and Brynne Yarranton led the Blues with four goals and a hat-trick respectively.

Unfortunately, Toronto was unable to get past the Queen’s Gaels on Saturday, dropping their semifinal match 10–2.

The Blues were unable to secure bronze for a second straight year, losing a tough 6–5 overtime decision to host Trent Excalibur.

Rams run riot over Blues

10-man Ryerson brush off Toronto 3–1

Rams run riot over Blues

As well as the Varsity Blues played in their opening weekend, it was clear that their fourth game against local rivals Ryerson Rams on September 2 would provide a sterner and more realistic gauge of the team’s chances of playoffs success this season. Based on the evidence offered that hot Sunday afternoon, the Blues must improve at all levels if they are to best last year’s Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinal exit.

Undoubtedly a harbinger for what was to come, Blues striker Jack Wadden was on the receiving end of a professional foul that forced the fourth-year player to be withdrawn in the 12th minute, with the game tied 1–1. Although the extent of Wadden’s injury was unknown, he didn’t return to the field — under OUA rules, players can be substituted back in — and he left the sidelines at halftime with a sling around his arm. Wadden’s pressing and positioning was sorely missed and, in his absence, the Blues largely failed to perform. This mirrored the team’s opening fixture against Trent Excalibur when, 4–1 up at halftime, Wadden was substituted off and the Blues performed noticeably worse. Even with top scorer Jae Jin Lee replacing him, the Blues failed to add to their solitary goal as Ryerson cruised to a fourth consecutive win.

Prior to Wadden’s injury, the Blues had burst to life following kickoff, in another parallel to the Trent game. Third-year striker Michael Matic, who retained his position in the starting lineup, replacing second-year defender Nicola Russo, lifted a shot over the goalkeeper in the 27th second to put the Blues in the lead. Matic, who had been wasteful with his chances in the Blues’ opening week, took his goal well and laid down a marker of his team’s intent.

The Rams would erase Matic’s early lead with Abdallah El-Chanti scoring from the spot after Blues keeper Stefan Dusciuc conceded a penalty in the eighth minute. The Blues added two shots on target after Wadden’s injury before falling behind in the 25th minute, courtesy of an Andrew Dias goal.

As the Blues searched for an equalizer, Ryerson were content to weather the storm and counter when possible. In the final minutes of the first half, Ryerson defender Nathaniel Tambakis was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession. Despite probing, the Blues were unable to take advantage of their numerical superiority, and the half ended 2–1.

Toronto continued to press in the second half, but an organized and resilient Ryerson restricted their forward movement greatly. In the 54th minute, fourth-year defender Kenny Lioutas swung a deep corner to the far post, but Lee could only strike the bar with his headed effort.

A minute later, a quick Ryerson counterattack forced isolated third-year defender and captain Nikola Stakic to commit a foul that, on another day, might have seen him receive worse than the yellow card the referee brandished. From 20 yards out, midfielder Arya Hemati placed his free kick in the upper left corner of the goal.

The rest of the half followed a similarly worrying pattern as the Blues repeatedly tried and failed to move the ball past Ryerson’s defense. As the half progressed, the Blues pushed further and further up, with Stakic moving into an advanced midfield position. Toronto’s fruitless forays forward only exposed them to numerous counterattacks, leaving Lioutas and midfielder-turned-centreback Gabriel Milo scrambling to react.

To compound the Blues’ misery, a number of wayward passes and cheap giveaways from second-year midfielder Anthony Sousa and Milo — both of whom had performed well in previous games — prevented any semblance of attacking rhythm. Too many times, the team played it wide to the right wing, only to launch blind, directionless crosses into the box.

Blues head coach Anthony Capotosto would have been disappointed with his team’s failure to make the most of their numerical advantage and the lack of composure they demonstrated throughout the match. If Wadden remains injured, they will need to find a way to be more ruthless in front of the goal and more capable of shoring up the midfield.

Varsity Blues women’s soccer open season unbeaten

Klasios, Cheung, and Parkes score in weekend action

Varsity Blues women’s soccer open season unbeaten

Blues striker Chelsea Cheung doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The fifth-year forward opened her final season for Toronto leading the Varsity Blues to an undefeated opening weekend, as Toronto tied the Trent Excalibur 1-1 and scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT).

The Varsity Blues women’s soccer program has undergone an infusion over the offseason, especially on the team’s backline. Toronto started Anna Crone and Alessia Cusimano at centre back in both games, replacing longtime defenders Laura Krkachovski and Christine Mulligan who both graduated last year.

Blues outside back Kelly Johnson also made her first start for Toronto. Johnson was challenged early and often throughout the weekend, as opponents attempted to play the ball wide and utilize speed to get around Toronto’s backline.

The key to Toronto’s success this season will be the play of their attackers, Natasha Klasios, Erin Kelly, and Cheung, all of whom performed well this past weekend.

Klasios showcased why she’s one of the best strikers in Ontario University Athletics, as she scored against Trent, and registered a combined eight shots on goal over the course of the weekend. Against Trent, Klasios earned multiple one-on-one opportunities, routinely using her speed to beat Trent’s backline and challenge Excalibur goalkeeper Mackaylen Bickle.

Klasios found the back of the net on one of those chances, beating her defender and stepping around Bickle to curl a left-footed strike into the open goal.

Aside from her team-high 15 shots, Klasios also played a huge role in Cheung’s 82nd-minute game-winning-goal on Sunday. After Klasios’ initial shot was stopped, Cheung scored on the rebound to earn Toronto’s first victory of the season and its first win over UOIT since 2015.

While Erin Kelly was the only member of Toronto’s front three who failed to score, she provided the Blues with excellent holdup play in both matches. In the 18th minute, Kelly had a great chance to score against Trent, but was unable to outpace the final Trent defender, and her shot was blocked. With her towering height, the six-foot-two Kelly provided the Blues with an excellent aerial threat on set pieces, but was unable to find the back of the net.

The opening weekend also saw Kristin Parkes make a substantial impact in a starting role with the team. Parkes scored her first goal of the season in the 40th minute against UOIT, tipping home fourth-year defender Daniella Cipriano’s corner kick.

The Blues will need to finish more offensive chances and continue to tighten the play of their backline in their coming games. However, head coach Luciano Lombardi should be pleased with his team’s effort to start the season.

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 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.