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.

 

 

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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