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 win big on first-ever Pride Night

Blues women’s hockey team defeats the UOIT Ridgebacks 4–1

Varsity Blues win big on first-ever Pride Night

A Pride fag sticker is illuminated on the back of second-year forward Louie Bieman’s helmet. THEO ARBEZ/THE VARSITY

 

Fifth-year defenceman Julia Szulewska stands ready during a break from action. THEO ARBEZ/THE VARSITY

 

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team huddles around starting goaltender Erica Fryer. THEO ARBEZ/THE VARSITY

 

Blues captain Becki Bowering battles for possession of the puck. THEO ARBEZ/THE VARSITY

Varsity Blues men’s hockey team edged by Brock Badgers

Joey Manchurek scored Toronto’s lone goal of the game

Varsity Blues men’s hockey team edged by Brock Badgers

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team fell short 21 in yet another aggressive matchup against the Brock Badgers on Friday night at Varsity Arena.

With just under a month left in the regular season, Toronto sits last in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West men’s hockey standings.

The Blues were aggressive early in the first period, as Joey Manchurek shot one in the top corner of the net past Badgers goaltender Logan Thompson for what would be Toronto’s only goal of the night.

Following the goal, both teams were involved in a physical altercation which resulted in both teams earning minor penalties. Toronto’s Ryan Kirkup was sent to the box for roughing, alongside Brock’s Tyler Rollo for cross-checking. Brock’s Ryan Burton answered with a game-tying unassisted goal to close the first period.

The second period went scoreless despite a Toronto powerplay that ended the period. The rough interactions between teams continued as Brock’s Ethan Price was given a 10-minute misconduct for foul head contact. Both goalies stood strong in the second as Toronto’s Alex Bishop and Brock’s Thompson each stopped eight shots on goal.

With the score levelled at one goal a piece, intensity only increased in the third when Willy Paul drew a penalty for kneeing. Later in the period, Brock’s Ayden Macdonald’s shot took an unexpected bounce off the glove and then helmet of Bishop, for Brock’s go-ahead goal in the third period.

Thompson was briefly attended to late in the third period after an awkward save but remained in the game.

The Blues outshot the Badgers 28–24 in their loss. Toronto pulled Bishop to rally back late into the third period, but it wasn’t enough as the blue and white fell just short of the Badgers, 21.

Varsity Blues dominate competition at OUA Fairweather Division Championships

Blues women claim victory in 19 out of 19 events

Varsity Blues dominate competition at OUA Fairweather Division Championships

Sounds of water and hands slapping bodies echoed throughout the Varsity Pool as swimmers warmed up for their events in the Ontario Universty Athletics Fairweather Division Championships. While the 25-metre competition pool was empty, the warm-up pool was brimming with swimmers from the Western Mustangs, the McMaster Marauders, the Waterloo Warriors, and host Toronto Varsity Blues. Over the next two days, both the Blues men’s and women’s teams would place first, with the women winning 19 races out of 19 and the men claiming victory in 11 out of 19 events.

The team element elevated the atmosphere for the first event on Day 1, the women’s 200-metre freestyle relay. Rachel Rode, Kylie Masse, Ainsley McMurray, and Rebecca Smith took the U of T B team to first place with a time of 1:40.39. The men’s A team followed similarly, taking first place in a much closer 200-metre freestyle relay with a time of 1:31.89.

The intimidating 400-metre individual medley followed, but rookie swimmer Kate Rendall was unfazed as she touched the wall first at 4:52.07. This, according to Varsity Blues swimming head coach Byron MacDonald, was a standout swim for Rendall, who swam in Calgary prior to joining the Varsity Blues.

After the race, MacDonald explained, “She was able to get down to the fastest time she’s done in, I think… four years, and winning the individual medley when it’s a tough event… It takes a lot of hard work to do that and a lot of perseverance.”

Another rookie, Everett Smith, won the 400-metre individual medley for the Blues men’s team with a time of 4:30.55, with MacDonald commenting after the race that this was “a breakthrough swim for him, and we’re looking for good things from Everett as he progresses through his career for us here.”

On Day 2, Smith also won the 200-metre individual medley with a time of 2:05.04.

Masse placed first in both the 50-metre backstroke with a time of 26.81 and the 50-metre freestyle with a time of 25.11. Christopher Ruus, another standout swimmer, won his 50-metre backstroke with a time of 25.76, which qualifies him for the national championships in February.

MacDonald highlighted this achievement, saying, “Last year was a learning curve in his first year and he wasn’t able to qualify for the National championships, but now he’s trained, I would argue, twice as hard this year compared to last year, and he’s seen the results now — he’s qualified for nationals.”

The first day closed with the gruelling women’s 800-metre freestyle and men’s 1,500-metre freestyle. The swimmers stood on the blocks, pulling faces as they adjusted their goggles one last time before diving into the water.

While the noise lagged at the beginning of these events, the last 100 metres brought with it some of the loudest cheering of the day from both the audience and the swimmers around the pool, with large hand gestures accompanying the cheers as though the swimmers were attempting to physically push their teammates further and faster. Sophia Saroukian won with a time of 8:58.05, adding the 400-metre freestyle to her wins on day two.

The second day opened with the Blues winning in both the women’s and men’s 200-metre medley relay. The audience was vocal in its support, but it was the swimmers poolside who truly created and sustained the rowdy atmosphere as they supported their teammates in each event, with the Marauders and the Warriors especially contributing to the excitement. In between events, teammates helped each other with the infamous tech suits.

First-year U of T swimmer and standout swimmer of the meet, Ainsley McMurray won the 100-metre freestyle with an impressive time of 54.52; she also won the 200-metre freestyle after 1:59.90 and the 50-metre butterfly in 27.14. The women’s 200-metre butterfly was dominated by Hannah Genich, while Osvald Nitskki came in first for the men’s team.

The butterfly and breaststroke swimmers were encouraged by their teammates with unintelligible shouts that were timed in sync with the swimmers’ heads as they systematically emerged from and re-entered the water.

“It’s important that you like your teammates and that you’re pulling for them… the swimmers are helping each other get excited for competitions,” MacDonald explained.

It looked effortless, but in truth, months of training went into cutting times by seconds and milliseconds.

The Blues dominated the meet, with the women accumulating a victorious 1,214 points and the men emerging first with 1,179 points. On what’s next, MacDonald said, “This was a good step, but now we’ve got to step it up with even more hard work if we’re going to be able to take on the teams from the west that are a little bit stronger.”

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.

What Varsity Blues athletes eat: Sandakie Ekanayake

Rugby athlete Sandakie Ekanayake reveals what fuels her busy schedule

What Varsity Blues athletes eat: Sandakie Ekanayake

Food equates to energy in an athlete’s world. Sandakie Ekanayake crafts her diet so that she can balance her athletic endeavours as a lock for the Varsity Blues women’s rugby team and a member of the Pom Team.

As most rugby games take place in the afternoon, Ekanayake’s main focus before a game is breakfast. Tea is a must in the morning for Ekanayake, game day or not, and is the beginning of her daily routine. Ekanayake says that her morning nutritional focus is on carbs, protein, and fats. She likes to begin the day with breakfast foods like eggs and bacon or sausages.

As a commuter, Ekanayake’s quick on the go snack is peanut butter and jelly. The blend of protein and carbs is important to her diet.

Following her mantra of balance, dinner the night before the game is just as important. Consuming carbs is key, so Ekanayake sticks to rice or pasta. Her biggest stress though is to stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated is crucial for an athlete’s body, and so is getting protein before a game. Prior to the start of a game, she tries to consume simple carbs like a protein bar.

Her eating habits aren’t too regimented, but she does her best to stay constant in season and off season by eating healthy year round.

Like many of us, Ekanayake has a sweet tooth and her cheats are sweets. She believes it’s important to have a healthy relationship with food.

Because of her increased training and field time, “the biggest thing [in season] is just eating more frequently and eating more food,” Ekanayake says.

According to Ekanayake, she is “not too strict in season” as the main importance for her “is simply eating more food so that [she’s] eating enough to replenish what’s being used up.”

“It’s easy to lose energy when you’re doing that much work,” she adds.

From lifts, to practice, and always being on the go, “Staying hydrated and staying fueled is not as easy as you would think… given the schedule of being a student athlete and you having other commitments on the side as well,” Ekanayake admits.

One thing that can severely alter a diet is recovering from an injury. Ekanayake speaks to this as she recovers from a recent back injury.

“It’s very hard to change your diet after injury,” Ekanayake says. “I was still eating like a high performance athlete even though I didn’t need anywhere near the same amount of energy.”

While she admits that it’s “easy to fall off the wagon here,” she says that she tries to avoid inflammatory foods as she recovers.

Being adequately fueled, maintaining a healthy routine, and knowing which foods provide essential vitamins and protein is crucial to Ekanayake’s success not only on the field, but also in the classroom.

Varsity Blues men’s hockey falls short against Mustangs

Blues lose eighth straight contest

Varsity Blues men’s hockey falls short against Mustangs

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team dropped their eighth straight game 64 in an aggressive matchup against the Western Mustangs on Friday night at Varsity Arena.

The Mustangs outshot the Blues 32–23, giving the Blues their eighth straight loss, placing them second last in the Ontario University Athletics men’s hockey standings.

The Blues started aggressively as Nicholas Turenko of Mississauga drew a slashing penalty 46 seconds into the first period. The Blues continued their approach as Victoria native Hunter Atchison shot one past Mustangs goalie Luke Peresinni to score.

Western responded in kind with three consecutive goals from Kenny Huether, Anthony Stefano, and Ray Huether to end the first period.

The Mustangs started the second period with a goal 35 seconds in, courtesy of Theo Lewis. The Blues responded with an early goalie change as Alex Bishop came in for starting goaltender Frederic Foulem, who had allowed four goals in under 21 minutes.

Blues defenseman Matt Heffernan drew the first of what would be six penalties in the period. Mustangs Jonathan Laser drew a slashing penalty, which resulted in a Toronto power play goal courtesy of David Thomson. With Toronto’s offense shrinking the gap, Kenny Huether answered and closed the second period with his second goal of the evening.

The high intensity eased up in the third period, as Matt Watson scored to extend the Mustangs lead. With less than 30 seconds left in the game, Blues forward Max Lindsay scored his second goal of the evening, but it wasn’t enough as the Blues fell short to the Western Mustangs 64.

Varsity Blues suffer tough loss against Brock Badgers

Blues men’s basketball lose 103–54

Varsity Blues suffer tough loss against Brock Badgers

The Blues men’s basketball team had a tough go in St. Catharines on Friday night, falling 103–54 to the Brock Badgers at their Bob Davis Gymnasium.

The Badgers imposed their will right out of the gate, opening the game on a 12–0 run on the merits of their high energy and upbeat pace on both ends of the floor.

Fourth-year Blues point guard Christopher Barrett would stop the bleeding midway through the quarter, sinking a three-pointer from the top of the arc and another quick lay-in off a sideline out-of-bounds play to cut the deficit to seven, with five minutes remaining in the first.

Barrett’s two buckets, Toronto’s first five points of the game, would unfortunately be the last for the Blues in the opening period, as Brock upped their lead to 23–5 heading into the second.

The Badgers had seven assists in the first quarter alone, and complemented their smooth, unselfish ball movement on offense with an imposing, physical full-court press that produced 17 Toronto turnovers for the game.

A much improved second quarter for the Blues saw the Badgers outscore Toronto by just five points, 25–20. However, the damage was done, and Toronto found themselves down 48–25 at halftime.

The second half was much the same, as Brock’s efficient shooting gave them a 20-point third quarter advantage. Toronto’s struggles continued throughout the half and the game came to a close with a lopsided 103–54.

The Blues struggled to find their team game throughout, producing six assists to the Badgers’ 27. Brock were lights out, going 55 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from beyond the arc to sink 15 triples on the night. Toronto had a comparatively harder time drawing iron, shooting 27 per cent overall and just 16 per cent from three.

The Blues, however, did manage to win part of the rebounding battle, procuring 14 offensive boards to the Badgers’ seven. Toronto’s bench also maintained a slight advantage, outscoring Brock’s reserves 29–25. Fourth-year forward Daniel Johansson led all Toronto scorers with 16 points and six boards, while rookie guard Iñaki Alvarez chipped in with 14.

The Badgers improved to 5–1 with the win, perched at the top of the Ontario University Athletics West Division rankings. Toronto holds strong despite the loss, with a 3–4 record in league, good for sixth in the East Division.