Blues basketball earn sweep over Nipissing Lakers

Both men’s and women’s teams earned a victory on Friday night

Blues basketball earn sweep over Nipissing Lakers

Women’s

The Varsity Blues women’s basketball team came up big on Friday night, securing their fourth win at home in a 70–48 victory over the Nipissing Lakers. As a team who have had more than their fair share of injuries, the Blues squad was on full display as they ended their four-game losing streak with a well-earned victory.

Coach Michèle Bélanger said that the injuries the Blues have sustained “changed our team from being a contending team in the fall to scrambling for the playoffs.”

The Blues started the game on the right foot, going up 7–0 and setting the tempo for the rest of the game. A key factor was Mahal De La Durantaye, who fearlessly hustled for rebounds on both ends of the court. She grabbed three steals in the first quarter alone, most of them translating to points on the offensive end.

Ariana Sider opened up the second quarter with a beautiful spin-move, pulling up on a lost defender and beating the shot clock. Later on, Sider stole the ball and fed it to teammate Nada Radonjic for the layup. Radonjic responded by stealing the ball on the following possession and giving it back to Sider for a three-pointer. Toronto’s defense gave up just two points in the first six minutes of the quarter and by halftime they were up 11.

In the third quarter, the Blues’ seamless ball movement resulted in lots of open looks as the whole team got involved. Radonjic caught fire as she proved she could do everything from low post moves to threes. Her many heavily contested jumpers would help make up her 25 points on the night. Radonjic finished with a double-double and shot 11 of 22 from the field.

The Blues only added to their lead in the fourth and won by a comfortable 22 points. Jessica Muha, who came off the bench in her first game back from injury, dropped 15 points in 15 minutes. De La Durantaye led the team in rebounds with 12 and finished with four steals. Sider also picked up four steals, and despite running most of the plays, she finished with zero turnovers.

When asked what this win meant going forward, Bélanger said, “It’s important for us because we need to get some girls back in that were injured and get them back in the flow.”

From how they looked on Friday, the whole team has done an excellent job at that in the absence of their three fourth-year veterans Keyira Parkes, Sarah Bennett, and Charlotte Collyer.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SEYRAN MAMMADOV, THE VARSITY BLUES

Men’s

The Varsity Blues men’s basketball team fought throughout all four quarters to pull off U of T’s second win of the night in Friday’s double header. Nipissing showed little sign of giving up however, as they kept the game within one point until the final minutes of the game. It was Toronto’s ability to stay composed under pressure that made the difference, as they knocked down multiple big shots to defeat the Lakers 81–75.

Nipissing began the first quarter by hitting a three, to which the Blues responded with one of their own. In the first two minutes, Toronto lost veteran Nicholas Morris, who picked up two early fouls and had to be subbed out. However, first-year guard Iñaki Alvarez sliced through to the basket in addition to knocking down a couple three’s off well-placed screens to put the Blues up two into the second quarter.

Daniel Johansson got hot in the middle of the second quarter after the Blues’ motion offense gave him an open three, which he knocked down. He followed with a layup on the next play and then a heavily contested jump shot, giving Johansson seven points in three possessions.

“We like to play off the hot guy,” Blues guard Chris Barrett later explained.

Toronto would extend their lead to nine and force Nipissing to call a timeout as a result of Arash Dusek’s driving layup.

The Blues’ lead peaked at 11 points in the third quarter, with offense led by Alvarez and Johansson. The persistent Lakers still brought the game within one before Nikola Paradina drained one from beyond the arc for 3 of his 16 points on the night.

In the fourth quarter, Alvarez continued to make several difficult layups before suffering an injury to his abdomen. He was forced to sub out and did not return. With just under five minutes left in a one-point game, Barrett stepped up and put the Blues up by three with a spin-move layup. He later hit a ridiculous fading turnaround jumper to increase Toronto’s lead to five. He proceeded to make four out of four free throws in the clutch, as the Blues held the Lakers off by a margin of six.

Despite having to leave the game early, Alvarez led the team in points with 19. Four out of the five starters finished with 15 points or more, and Barrett had a game-high seven assists to complement his 17 points.

When asked whether or not he felt pressure toward the end of the game, Barrett responded, “When I’m shooting free throws, I’m never stressed.” It certainly showed in his eight for eight shooting from the line.

Going forward, Barrett and the rest of the team aim to “keep the momentum going towards playoffs.”

Varsity Blues men’s basketball defeated by Windsor

Blues lose 95–84 at home

Varsity Blues men’s basketball defeated by Windsor

The Varsity Blues men’s basketball team dropped a tough 95–84 decision to the visiting Windsor Lancers on the night of Saturday, November 24 at the Athletic Centre, representing the second loss for the Blues this weekend, following their six-point defeat to the Western Mustangs the night before.

The Blues opened the game on a 13–2 run as Iñaki Alvarez took a charge on the opening possession and Nikola Paradina drilled three straight three-pointers, representing nine of his team-high 20 points on the night.

While a couple of Blues turnovers would allow the Lancers to cut the lead to just four points midway through, the Blues surged ahead and returned their lead to 12 with three minutes remaining, off of a steal and fast break layup from Alvarez and another two and three from Daniel Johansson and Eli Mouyal for good measure. Toronto ended the first quarter up 21–15.

The second quarter, however, would see momentum shift into the Lancers’ hands. The Lancers’ Telloy Simon converted a fast break layup off a Blues turnover to tie it at 23 with seven minutes left, while Anthony Zrvnar gave the visitors their first lead of the game on a fast break dunk a minute later.

Windsor pushed their lead to 13 on an 11–2 run capped by quick transition baskets and high-percentage points in the paint. The home squad, however, would stay composed throughout, and buckets by Blues veterans Christopher Barrett, Dillon Rejman, and Paradina would shrink the lead to a manageable seven points heading into halftime, 43–36.

Windsor again would push out of the halftime break, upping their lead to 15 on an 8–0 run just two minutes into the quarter. At this point, Toronto’s Evan Shadkami took matters into his own hands, single-handedly shifting the momentum into his Blues’ favour.

He hit a much-needed three-pointer and then took an open-floor charge defending Windsor’s guard Damian Persaud in the back court the next possession. On the ensuing Blues offensive possession, Shadkami drew a foul on a shot attempt beyond the arc and drained all three foul shots, part of a 16-point effort overall.

The Blues rode the wave and continued to convert, as Johansson — who posted team highs of 12 boards and five assists — drained a sweet baby hook in the paint and Paradina dropped a bunny on the left block off a nice find from Johansson, to cut the lead to just five points with six minutes left in the period.

The teams went back and forth and fans were treated to some spectacular offensive displays from both sides. Several Windsor players hit highly-contested threes, while Alvarez willed his way to the basket on four straight occasions, including a buzzer beater. He scored nine straight points for the Blues as the third quarter winded down and the lead was cut down to seven heading into the last quarter.

The Blues opened the final period on a 7–0 run to tie it at 70 a piece just over a minute and a half in. The teams traded buckets yet again and Toronto tied it for a second time at 77–77, off a Shadkami-and-one bucket.

Shadkami’s free throw opportunity gave the Blues the chance to go ahead, but he missed, and it would not be. Windsor hit a second gear as the Blues appeared to run out of gas, and the Lancers pulled away on a game-closing 18–7 run to make the final score 95–84 in the visitors’ favour. Windsor scored 38 points in the paint on the night.

Blues’ assistant coach Mike De Giorgio was pleased with the way the team “responded to adversity” and “showed some good fight” but was disappointed in his squad’s defensive efforts, saying it would be a focus in this week’s practices leading up to the team’s road game at Lakehead University this coming Saturday.

The Blues have now lost four straight after a solid opening start to the regular season where they were 3–2 in their first five contests. This Saturday’s game in Thunder Bay against the Lakehead Thunderwolves is Toronto’s final one before the semester break.

Blues beat RMC Paladins 1–0

Klasios leads Blues to victory

Blues beat RMC Paladins 1–0

On a windy Saturday afternoon, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s soccer team took to the field to play the Royal Military College (RMC) Paladins. The game began quickly with fourth-year striker Natasha Klasios scoring in the seventh minute of the game from an indirect free kick, marking her fourth goal of the season.

Klasios’ goal set the tone for the rest of the game, with the Blues keeping control of the play for the majority of the game. In the first half, the Blues had a very strong defensive line that kept RMC to only one shot in the first 45 minutes. The Blues kept most of the play in RMC’s area and tried to get another goal, taking seven shots in the first half without success.

The second half had the Blues taking control of the game again, with most of the plays once again occurring in RMC’s end. Numerous attempts by Klasios, Erin Kelly, and Kristen Parkes were made to secure a second goal, but nothing was getting by RMC’s defensive line or goalie, Claudia Rusu.

Compared to the single substitution in the first half, there were many substitutions during the second half, with Toronto subbing three times and RMC four, mainly due to injury.

The Blues had a total of 18 shots over RMC’s three during the match. Eight of Toronto’s shots came from Klasios, while Kelly and Parkes each had three. Additionally, midfielder Maddie MacKay and defender Kelly Johnson contributed one shot each. Both teams’ goalies played good games, with Toronto’s Vanna Staggolis making two saves and Rusu making eight.

The game got a little more aggressive in the second half, with Toronto incurring three fouls and RMC incurring four — two in each half. In the last minute of the game, Kelly was issued a yellow card.

This game leaves the Blues at four wins, four losses, and two ties as of Saturday.

Ravens defeat unconvincing Blues 3–0

Defeat exposes men’s soccer team’s ineffective attack

Ravens defeat unconvincing Blues 3–0

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s soccer team and their previous two opponents — the Carleton Ravens and the Ryerson Rams — have consolidated the top three Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East division places in each of the past two seasons. Judging from early results around the league, this three-horse race will likely remain intact for the season ahead, but the 3–0 defeat to the Ravens on September 8, one week after suffering a 3–1 loss to the Rams, means that the Blues may need to settle for third best.

The Blues made four changes to their starting lineup from their previous game, with starting striker Jack Wadden out injured and first-choice goalkeeper Stefan Dusciuc relegated to the bench in favour of first-year Sebastian Sgarbossa, who is making his first OUA start for Toronto.

Unlike their previous four games, the Blues started slowly, unwilling to commit players forward in their trademark pressing style. Instead, they found themselves sweating in the opening 40 seconds, as poor defending from the usually reliable centreback and captain Nikola Stakic forced Sgarbossa to make a key save.

Carleton, who began the game with a perfect record and who had topped the division in 2017 with 13 wins out of 16 matches, continued to dominate proceedings, sending a number of dangerous balls into the attacking third.

Their attacking play would pay off in the seventh minute, as forward Gabriel Bitar won a penalty after dribbling through the Blues’ defensive line. Bitar dispatched his spot kick straight down the middle, marking the first time this season that the Blues did not open the scoring.

Seconds after kickoff, Stakic gave away possession with a poor forward ball that Carleton quickly passed to left winger Emad Houache, who released a defense-splitting peach of a ball to the other flank. Poor positioning from the Blues allowed right winger Ricky Comba to centre to striker Jimi Aribido, who smashed the ball past Sgarbossa.

Already trailing, Toronto were still unable to move the ball forward, owing to Carleton’s incessant pressing and proficient tackling. The Ravens continued to threaten in attack, forcing the Blues to camp inside their own half. Carleton’s attacking organization repeatedly bypassed an inattentive backline, and they could easily have scored one or two more goals in the first half.

Counterattacking opportunities for the Blues were far and few between, and lone striker Jae Jin Lee, positioned at the halfway line, lacked the pace and ball control to trouble Carleton. The Blues’ best chance would come in the 40th minute as second-year midfielder Anthony Sousa found himself in a pocket of space 20 yards away from the goal and unleashed a powerful shot that rattled the crossbar.

Toronto grew into the match in the second half and operated with more attacking freedom, as Carleton stopped pressing intently, happy to sit back and absorb attacks. The Blues’ most exciting moment came in the 57th minute as Sousa displayed smart ball control and managed a neat Cruyff turn to pass the ball beyond three surrounding Ravens players, but, like most of their forays, the attack fizzled out harmlessly.

In the 71st minute, Carleton forward Dario Conte sliced the ball across the field, splitting Toronto’s defense yet again and allowing substitute Stefan Karajovanovic to easily chip the onrushing Sgarbossa and make the score 3–0. Karajovanovic almost scored again in the 77th minute after intercepting a terrible pass from fourth-year defender Kenny Lioutas, but he blazed the shot wide of the net.

This second consecutive defeat for the Blues emphasized their ineffective attack and lack of ideas against teams with strong, organized defenses.

The Blues will hope that Wadden returns from injury sooner rather than later to provide a much-needed pressing and positioning-based dimension in their attacks.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.