Blues go 0-2 in Saturday night doubleheader

The men’s and women’s basketball teams both lost against strong Ryerson squads

Blues go 0-2 in Saturday night doubleheader

The Varsity Blues basketball teams fell in both games of their doubleheader this past Saturday against the Ryerson University Rams.

Women’s team

In the women’s game, the Blues donned eye-catching custom pink threads for their 12th annual Think Pink matchup for breast cancer. The Rams lived up to their U SPORTS fifth ranking early, storming out of the gates on a 12–2 run. A three from Ellen Ougrinov and some timely free throws by first-year players Mikhaela Ekwandja and Jasmine Lambert cut the lead to five, with only a few minutes left before the teams would trade buckets the rest of the quarter. It was 23–14 for Ryerson after 10 minutes.

In the second quarter, the Blues showed some fight, reducing the deficit to a manageable six points with four minutes and 51 seconds left on the clock as Ekwandja finished a tough drive through traffic in the paint, making the score 27–21 for Ryerson. Ekwandja would finish with a team and new career-high of 12 points for the night. The Blues found solace in their rookies, as Ekwandja’s twin Nakiesha Ekwandja connected on a corner three-pointer with the shot clock winding down a few possessions later. Fellow rookie Lambert also drew iron from beyond the arc. The squad showed good moments, but ultimately the lead remained at 39–29 for Ryerson at the half-time.

The Rams extended their lead in the third quarter as the Blues struggled to find a consistent scoring flow. A Sarah Bennett lay-in with less than six minutes left to play — which completed a beautiful Blues press break — followed by an Ougrinov pull-up jumper kept the score to a manageable 49–36 about halfway through the quarter. The Rams continued to push, increasing their lead to 58–38, but not before Nakiesha found Sara Cumby on a nice backdoor cut with about two minutes left in the period.

The Rams continued to hit shots in the fourth period, and the final score was 84–53 for the visitors off the backs of a combined 42 points from Ryerson veterans Hayley Robertson and Marin Scotten. For the Blues, Sarah Bennett hit her fifth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Nada Radonjic was solid as usual with nine points and seven boards. Toronto got 24 points from its bench and 25 points from rookies.


Men’s team

The men’s game was a high-tempo affair and both teams looked hungry from the opening tip.

Each side had already hit double digits in scoring just minutes in, and were tied at  11–11 less than seven  minutes after Chris Barrett and Evan Shadkami each connected from both the field and the charity stripe. The Blues’ run-and-gun game was matched by their aggressive zone press on defense, and the punishing pace saw Toronto use four bench players within the first five minutes alone. It was 20–16 for the visitors after one quarter.

The second frame was much the same, as both teams continued to score in flurries. The Rams slowly and quietly built their lead to as high as 12, fuelled by the efforts of floor general Tevaun Kokko, who put up a team-high of 31. Meanwhile for the Blues, Shadkami took his second charge — one of three on the evening — as he stepped up and disrupted a two-on-one transition play with a little over eight minutes  to go.


Later on in the frame, Jeremy Aibi hit a putback lay-in with two minutes to play before a Marshall Reed three-pointer and a few more Shadkami foul shots made the score 45–38. This should have been the half-time score if not for the heroics of Kokko to end the frame, as he would hit a Hail Mary, and beat the buzzer from about 75 feet down the court. The score was 48–38 at half-time.

Both teams would trade buckets in the opening minutes of the third period before a three from Shadkami cut the deficit down to just six. Each squad continued to push and the Blues would also get three-point baskets in the frame from Barrett, Elie Mouyal, and Daniel Johansson. Ryerson maintained an 11-point lead at 76–65 heading into the final period.

In the fourth quarter, Jeremy Aibi opened the scoring for the Blues with a putback layup with a little over eight minutes remaining on the clock. Aibi was an absolute warrior for the home side, grabbing a game-high 13 boards — including an incredible eight offensive rebounds — in 30 minutes off the bench. Ryerson began to push and the Blues’ heartfelt earlier efforts fell in vain as the visitors outscored the Blues 18–8 in the fourth, taking the game with a final score of 94–73.

Shadkami posted a game-high of 35 points in 36 minutes, exploiting his unique ability to draw contact as he went 13–15 from the foul line. Barrett was the other Blue in double figures, with 12 points as Toronto shot 35 of their 70 field goal attempts from beyond the arc.

Varsity Blues men’s hockey team defeats Windsor Lancers in a 5–2 decision

The Blues dominate the rink to earn the hefty three-point lead

Varsity Blues men’s hockey team defeats Windsor Lancers in a 5–2 decision

The Blues defeated the University of Windsor Lancers this past Friday with a score of 5–2, notching the team’s 18th win and clinching their first-place spot in the Ontario University Athletics West division.

Toronto started the match off with a slew of aggressive offensive plays, leading the shots on goal throughout the first period. After a close shot from forward Joey Manchurek in the 12th minute and a series of aggressive breakaways by David Thomson, Ontario Hockey League veteran Kyle Potts found the back of the net, assisted by Nathan Hudgin and Hunter Atchison. The goal seemed to wake up the Lancer offense though, with a quick redemption goal scored by Windsor forward Brennan Feasey.

In the final minute of the first period, Windsor forward Connor Logan pulled the Lancers ahead. However, the Blues did not allow their opponents to stay comfortable for too long into the second period, with Thomson feeding the puck to Hudgin to score the tie-making goal. Keeping up the momentum, Chase Olsen scored a crowd-pleasing wrap-around to secure the lead, followed quickly with an assurance goal from Manchurek to start the third period with a 4–2 lead on the scoreboard.

Despite the Blues’ dominating offense, the final period found the Lancers deeper into the Toronto end as they fought for redemption, racking up shots on goal. However, goalkeeper Alex Bishop held his ground and stopped every Lancer shot. In the last few minutes of the match, Manchurek passed the puck to Kyle Clarke, who found the back of the Lancer net for the fifth Toronto goal of the evening. The crowd left the stands satisfied with a high-energy game and another Toronto win in the books.

The Blues will continue their effort to hold the top spot in their division when they face off against the University of Western Ontario Western Mustangs this Wednesday at the Varsity Arena.

Women’s hockey suffers stunning defeat by the Laurier Golden Hawks

Toronto yields physical match in shoot-out

Women’s hockey suffers stunning defeat by the Laurier Golden Hawks

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team faced a shocking defeat at the hands of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks on January 10. The Blues — ranked fourth in the country — lost a 3–2 decision to the Hawks in a shoot-out at Varsity Arena. In spite of this loss, they’re still at first place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Conference.

The Blues knew they were in for a rough match when Laurier started off with a pair of early penalties for tripping and cross-checking. While the Blues were unable to capitalize off their powerplays, Laurier took advantage of a Blues penalty by sliding a tricky shot past Blues goaltender Madeline Albert close to the five-minute mark. More penalties to both teams riddled the intense first period. Despite strong offensive efforts by forwards Laura Ellis and Adrianna Noble, the first period finished with Laurier scoring the only goal.

The second period saw another flurry of penalties, but this time Toronto was successful in punishing their opponents’ mistakes. Gabrielle De Serres had plenty of time and space during the power play and used it to send the puck into the Hawks’ goal crease. Blues’ Breanna Berndsen also shouldered off her defender to knock home Cristine Chao’s rebound.

Using their momentum and physicality to further press the Hawks — and withstand their powerplays — Toronto squeaked in a second goal with barely a second left.

After winning the faceoff of the third period, Chao received the puck and sent it toward the net, where Madelyn Walsh deflected it past the Laurier goalie.

Unfortunately, Toronto was unable to maintain their lead, despite Albert’s impressive goaltending. Overtime — where Albert once again shone, robbing Laurier of any chances to score — solved nothing and the game headed toward a shootout. Both goalies were impressive, with each turning away five shooters before Laurier finally got one past Albert. Ultimately, Noble was unable to score, and Laurier stole the win.

Toronto will spend their next three matches on the road before they return to Varsity Arena on January 23 to play their crosstown rival, Ryerson University.

Blues lose nail-biter to Rams

Win streak was snapped, but Blues remain first in OUA West Conference

Blues lose nail-biter to Rams

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team saw their historic winning streak snapped on January 9 when they lost a 4–3 decision to the Ryerson Rams in overtime. Despite the loss — their first after winning 14 games in a row — the Blues remain on top of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West Conference.

The crosstown matchup saw both teams start the game off strong. It was impossible to tell who would be the victor when watching the first period, as both teams were evenly matched in speed, puck handling, and intensity. Second-year goalie Alex Bishop was rock solid in net, showing no signs of nervousness as he handled close shots and hard pressure with ease.

The defensive line of Captain Willy Paul and veteran Evan MacEachern also played with a fearless mindset —  they showed no hesitation when diving in front of shots to protect their net. Despite their sacrificial defending and crafty offense — Colin Paradis and Kevin Lavoie were particularly dangerous up front — the Rams drew first blood with a beautiful goal at just under a minute of play left in the first period.

Toronto came into the second period with even more vigour and intensity than before. Their discipline was quickly rewarded when Jared Leslie scored off a rebound from teammate Kyle Clarke.

The Blues were eager to continue chipping away at the Rams, and pulled ahead with a 2–1 score when Lavoie notched a stunning goal off a Scott Kirton assist. Ryerson tied it up with a goal of their own shortly after, but Ross Krieger once again pulled ahead after capitalizing on a scramble in front of Ryerson’s net.

Unfortunately, the Rams once again equalized with two minutes left in the period, and the game headed into the third period knotted up at 3–3.

Despite an intense, back-and-forth third period, no more goals were scored, leading to a three-on-three sudden death overtime period. Toronto was visibly exhausted at this point, as the match had been incredibly physical and tense, despite only three penalties being called. Bishop made a pair of impossible saves to keep the Blues heading toward a shootout, but the Rams managed to slip one past him just before overtime expired to take the match.

The Blues will next head to Guelph to play the Guelph Gryphons on January 11, before returning home to play against the University of Windsor on January 17.

The ABCs of mental resilience

Sports and clinical psychology research offer insights for mental health

The ABCs of mental resilience

Content warning: discussions of suicide

What is the value of addressing social connectedness as a factor of mental health? To Michael Wager, it may be one of the best tools that students can use especially as the university battles a mental health crisis on campus.

Wager, a performance coach for athletes who works at the U of T-affiliated Toronto Western Hospital, spoke with The Varsity to share his experiences of mental health and discuss promising approaches to addressing the causes of mental health concerns.

The ABC model of mental health

An influential model in psychiatry is the biopsychosocial approach, which posits that biological, psychological, and social factors each influence resiliency — defined as one’s ability to adapt to stress and adversity.

To make the model more accessible to a general audience, Wager reframed it as the ABCs model of resiliency: attitude, biology, and community.

Psychological attitude refers to one’s outlook on the world, which includes whether you see the world through a positive lens and have an optimistic attitude. This represents the psychological factors of resilience. “If you can find a way to have a positive attitude, you can be more resilient,” said Wager.

A shift in psychological outlook could stem from psychotherapy, which comprises treatments for mental health conditions by talking with a mental health provider. It could also come from coaching, especially in the context of competitive sports, which could shift athletes’ mindsets.

“The ‘B,’ biology, is how can you hack your own biology to be more resilient,” said Wager. This corresponds to the biological factors of resilience, which suggests that biological abnormalities may be a cause of mental health conditions.

Prescription medication, such as antidepressants, could be a treatment option, along with medical procedures, including deep brain stimulation for severe cases. However, Wager noted that neurological changes can also take place due to physical exercise, as well as improving one’s nutrition by eating healthier food.

But the ‘C,’ community, could be the most important piece of the puzzle of resilience, noted Wager. Which corresponds to the social factors of the biopsychosocial model.

“There’s research out there that shows the more connected one is to their community, the better off they’re going to be in their own mental health journeys,” noted Wager. Joining a club, a sports team, or volunteering could be ways for students to find a community.

One major criticism of the biopsychosocial approach is that the boundaries of biological, psychological, and social factors are ill-defined: for example, it’s unclear whether a psychological factor can be a biological factor as well. However, this may be less important in the context of treatment.

“If you’re not sure where to start, just pick something, anything, that will help you make gains in one of those three areas,” said Wager.

Applying the model in his own life

Wager himself has grappled with mental health challenges and used the ABCs to address them.

“In university, I had a really tough time; I was depressed,” he said. “I failed my first year, got myself back together, worked in the restaurant industry for a couple of years, became a little more stable, and then finished a bachelor’s degree.”

He has further experienced depression following the loss of a friend due to suicide. “It made me more depressed, but it also made me more motivated to really try and make a contribution to this world and [raise awareness about mental health].”

Wager uses journalling to change his own psychology. “I have a great little journal that my friend made me, it’s tiny so I can carry it wherever I go,” he said. “So I will start my day by writing out 10 things I’m grateful for.”

To address his biology, Wager practices yoga, which has been linked to neurobiological changes that could help patients with depression. He has also spoken with a psychiatrist, who has prescribed him with medication to improve his mental health.

Finally, to broaden his community, he joined a volleyball team. “When I first moved here [to Toronto], I barely knew anyone,” he said. The team sport enabled him to have fun and get to know people he enjoyed spending time with.

“It’s so important if you’re going to perform in sports or in school or in life, you’ve got to have people in your corner,” he said, reflecting on the importance of social factors. “Whether you’re an athlete or not, you’ve got to have people in your corner, and that’s what I want to share.”

If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
  • Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
  • Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.

Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

How to stick to your fitness goals in 2020

A guide to your New Year’s resolution

How to stick to your fitness goals in 2020

With everything feeling fresh and new with the start of the new year, many people around the world will be practicing the long-time tradition of making a New Year’s resolution.

Most of the time, such promises or goals are positive, and common ones often revolve around school — such as finishing a degree or getting better grades — saving money or spending less on superfluous causes, wanting to be more social, getting a better or a first job, or improving upon romantic prospects.

Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions are related to health and fitness, including gaining muscle definition, toning your body, eating healthier, or becoming an athlete.

Keeping a New Year’s resolutions is a great thing to strive for in theory but, the sad truth is that many people often fail to stick to them. This happens for a number of reasons, such as self-doubt, a lack of motivation, or because they had set the proverbial bar unreasonably high.

A failed New Year’s resolution is especially likely in the case of health-related goals.

The question then becomes: how does one stick to a New Year’s resolution? Here’s a guide on how to stay motivated to accomplish your New Year’s fitness goals.

Keep it fun

No one wants to do something that isn’t fun. Therefore, if you think of your health-related resolution along the lines of “I have to do this,” rather than “I want to do this,” odds are you will give up and throw down the towel.

However, a practical way to stick to your resolution is simple: keep it fun! This can be done in many easy ways. For example, try to focus on exercises that you enjoy doing during your workout session, and don’t be afraid to change up your routine. You can also try to cook healthy — but delicious — new recipes if your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier.

Make sure that there is no going back

The human mind can be very clever at times. It’s great at finding loopholes or ‘back doors’ in order to get out of agreements, promises, or even New Year’s resolutions.

Familiar excuses related to fitness-oriented New Year’s resolutions include — but are in no way limited to — “I’m too tired,” “I’m too busy,” and “I don’t have the money.” Luckily, there are simple solutions that can help you successfully lock up this back door and throw away the key.

One thing you can do is invest in a gym membership, which will force you to stick to your regularly timed gym sessions so that you don’t waste your hard-earned paycheck.

Additionally, a workout buddy who shares the same goals could also be a great way to stick to a fitness goal. Having a partner allows one athlete to encourage the other one by making sure that each person in the relationship attends the regularly-planned workout schedule and doesn’t let the other one down.

The highs and lows of the Varsity Blues’ year

How the major teams fared in 2019, and what they can work on going forward

The highs and lows of the Varsity Blues’ year

The Varsity Blues have had many successes so far in the 2019–2020 season. Various teams exceeded our expectations, and have much to build on, while others still have much work to do, but can feel confident going forward.

Men’s hockey

After a disappointing season in 2018–2019, the men’s hockey team has turned their fortunes around substantially. They currently have a 17–3 record in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) play, and went on a 14-game winning streak before the winter break. Leading scorer David Thompson has already surpassed his season total in points from last season, with eight games still to come.

Joey Manchurek is also scoring at over a point-per-game pace, and Nathan Hudgin has emerged as a top offensive threat on the team. Last season, Manchurek was the only player to score at a point-per-game clip for the entirety of the season.This year, they have five such players.

The Blues are in first place in the OUA West conference and tied for first in the whole OUA. The Varsity Blues hope that their streak was not an anomaly and that they can continue this level of play going forward. Their ability to keep the puck out of the net should be a sign that their play is sustainable going forward, although they may not go on another winning streak as impressive as their last.

Women’s hockey

Not to be outdone, the women’s hockey team has also continued their strong run of play from last season. They currently have a 11–5 record, and are 7–1 in front of their home fans. They sit in first place in the OUA standings. Their defense and goaltending has led the way — only having allowed 23 goals in 16 games — first in goals against other teams in the OUA by a wide margin.

The women may want to work on their goal scoring going forward as their rate is rather low compared to other teams in the OUA. None of their players currently sit at a point-per-game pace, but the scoring has been spread rather evenly throughout the roster. However, if their defense and goaltending holds up, they are still likely to be contenders for the OUA championship.


After the 2018–2019 season which saw the football team go 0–8, this year’s group had a rather promising start to this season. They won games against Windsor University and Wilfrid Laurier University to give them a 2–1 record.

However, this was followed by five losses, putting them at a record of 2–6. The one main positive that came out of this season was the play of quarterback Clay Sequeria. He lead the OUA in both touchdowns and passing yards per game. The Varsity Blues are looking to take advantage of his final year of eligibility next year and make a run for it at the OUA playoffs.

Men’s basketball

The men’s basketball team has had a rather rocky start to the season. They currently sit at 4–8 and are fifth in the OUA central conference. They haven’t been able to hit shots consistently, attaining only a 0.365 field goal percentage so far this season. They have allowed their opponents to hit 44.4 per cent of their shots in front of their defense.

Although they’ve had some thrilling wins against York University and Brock University in front of their home fans, they haven’t been able to consistently beat some of the top teams in the OUA to assert themselves as real contenders for the Wilson Cup.

Women’s basketball

Much like the men, the women’s team is getting rather disappointing results so far. They are at a 2–10 standing this season and haven’t been able to get any sort of momentum going. Their offense has been rather stagnant, scoring only 57.3 points per game, while allowing almost 71 points per game.

They have lost a great deal of opportunities at the charity stripe, shooting only 67.9 per cent from the free throw line. They’ve also only been able to win one game in front of their home fans, resulting in a record of 1–4 at the Goldring Centre.


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