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Varsity Blues athletes represented Canada at Summer Universiade

Blues athletes competed in international competitions, including swimming, gymnastics, basketball

Varsity Blues athletes represented Canada at Summer Universiade

U of T’s Varsity Blues sent 13 athletes and four coaches to represent Team Canada at the Summer Universiade, a biennial international university sports competition, with two U of T athletes bringing home a medal.

This year’s event was held between July 3 and July 14 in Naples, Italy, where athletes competed in various sports including fencing, swimming, water polo, volleyball, and others. U of T also had two non-Varsity athletes in the games, with Elaena Dick competing in diving and Justina Yeung competing in table tennis. 

Michèle Bélanger, who is going into her 40th season as the Varsity Blues women’s basketball head coach, was Team Canada’s head coach during the games. She spoke to The Varsity before heading off to Italy and expressed her excitement for the games: “I think we have some really great athletes on the team that will provide us with speed and agility and I think we can really perform well on the international court,” she said. 

Bélanger was the head coach of Team Canada once before in 1997, and served as an assistant in 2013 and 2015. “We did really well, I was really pleased. I’m looking forward to the same kind of experience in the summer,” she continued.

Canada earned a total of one gold, one silver, and four bronze medals, with U of T swimmers Hannah Genich and Ainsley McMurray helping Canada secure the bronze medal in 4×100 metre medley relay.

Genich swam the butterfly leg, while McMurray swam freestyle. Rachael Jaffe held down the net for Canada’s water polo team, leading them to first in their group, a victory over the Americans in the quarterfinals, and a fourth-place overall finish. Track and field runner Lucia Stafford finished fifth in the women’s 1500 metre run, and just 20 minutes later, helped Canada’s 4×400 metre team finish fifth in their race.

Bélanger’s women’s basketball team lost all three games in the group stage and lost by one point to Slovakia in the quarterfinals for the bottom half in the tournament. However, they had a strong finish for their campaign with back-to-back wins against Argentina and Mexico, ending at the 13th place in the tournament.

The Blues women’s hockey road to the national championships

Veterans Kassie Roache and Meagan O’Brien reflect on their careers and more

The Blues women’s hockey road to the national championships

Though the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team settled for silver against the Guelph Gryphons in the McCaw Cup Final on March 9, that game wasn’t the end of their journey. The team had their eyes set on an even bigger prize: the 2019 U SPORTS national championship. It’s been 18 years since the Blues won the national championship. This year, the underdog Blues had looked to make some noise against the top-seeded Alberta Pandas while fifth-year forwards Kassie Roache and Meagan O’Brien had hoped to end their varsity careers with a national championship. Unfortunately, they fell short.

Roache and O’Brien credit their extensive athletic backgrounds as the key to their success. Roache started playing hockey at the age of four. “I started skating when I was about two, my parents made a rink in the backyard. And then I started officially playing hockey at age four,” Roache says. O’Brien peaked a little later in her career. “I was put in the Timbits hockey school program when I was seven years old. So that was the first time I ever geared up in my equipment,” O’Brien notes.

Coming from a big city, O’Brien’s earlier life in Brampton was substantially focused on academics and sports. “Throughout my high school career, I played basketball, volleyball, and flag football,” O’Brien says. “I was always trying to be keen on my academics, but I was never one to stay inside and read books.” Her family was also involved with sports. “On my mom’s side I think all the boys in the family played hockey, and then my uncle also played soccer, I think that’s where I got the love of being a goalie.”

Roache comes from a much smaller town. “I’m from Corunna, Ontario, which is a small town near Sarnia,” she says. Her distinctively small hometown gave her a reason to focus on playing sports when she was younger: “There’s maybe 5,000 people when I was growing up.” Growing up, baseball, lacrosse, and hockey were her favorite sports to pass the time. Roache isn’t the only athlete in her family, as her three sisters play hockey and lacrosse as well. “My middle sister Carly, she’s still playing lacrosse right now. They just won their provincial title last summer, so that’s pretty cool.”

O’Brien and Roache both are avid Maple Leafs fans and they grew up idolizing several Leafs players. “If you look at my closet, you can see about five different sizes of a Matt Sundin jersey because I just kept outgrowing it. So that was definitely my favourite player growing up,” O’Brien explains. “I really liked Curtis Joseph and Tie Domi,” Roache adds.

The pressure of playing for one of the top schools in Canada can add some serious weight to one’s shoulders, especially as a rookie. Roache notes that her experience in her first year was quite different from what she was used to.

“When I came in, I think I was one of two people that didn’t play junior, which is the highest level. So not playing at a pace that the other girls were used to, I felt like I was a step behind,” she says. O’Brien agrees with the difference in the overall atmosphere as well. “Especially coming from a team where you were just a senior and you know, probably the leading goal scorer. You come in and you’re like a little fish in a big pond all over again,” she says.

Although playing for a university was certainly different, O’Brien tried to make the best of it. “As a rookie on the team there was obviously pressure to try to keep a spot on the lineup, but we just always tried to constantly remind ourselves to enjoy every moment, even if it wasn’t exactly what we wanted, or if we weren’t getting the ice time we now get,” she explains.

Now both players are in their final year, and have gotten used to the intense schedule of a student athlete.

“It varies heavily, day to day. Some days I’m up at 6:00 am and we’ll go until 9:00 at night. Other days I won’t have anything until 10:00 am or noon, and then I’ll be going till 10:00 pm,” Roache says. She notes that her daily schedule can be hectic and spontaneous. “It’s very hard to be able to wake up at different times everyday.”

This schedule can be very time-consuming, especially for a full-time university student. “You’re always looking at a practice for sure, but some days we have up to three practices,” O’Brien adds. “Daily, we always have at least one practice, and sometimes a workout. And then weekends are games, always.”

Although daily routines can be stressful and busy, they try to make the best of it. “I’d say friends and family help a lot,” Roache says. “To just have people in your life that are there to support your goals and just to help out in any way possible, like send meals up, or bring groceries when they come… I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own, I don’t think.”

O’Brien stresses the importance of friends and family too. “I have the privilege of living not too far away from all of my family in Brampton, so on our days off I’ll try to go have dinner with my parents or my grandparents, or my baby sister… you know, just remind yourself that hockey and school aren’t everything,” she explains.

O’Brien acknowledges that student athletes aren’t necessarily ‘celebrities’ on campus. “You can tell that there’s part of the student population who have no idea about the sports that exist here,” she says. At times, however, O’Brien does have some experiences with fans. “I was at Mount Sinai, my teammate broke her wrist. Someone saw our hockey backpack and came up to us, shook our hands and congratulated us on our success.”

Both take the time to be regular students though. “If I need a break from studying, I’ll just pick up a guitar and start playing,” O’Brien says. Roache, like a lot of students, enjoys watching Netflix in her spare time.

The two players recognize the importance of having a family-like bond with their teammates. “I feel like without the support from teammates, sometimes you wouldn’t make it through your days,” Roache says.

“We’ve always got each other’s backs. And don’t get me wrong, you go through trials and tribulations together… But you celebrate your successes with them,” O’Brien adds.

Despite their closeness, their playing styles on the ice contrast each other. When asked to describe herself, Roache says, “As a player, I would say annoying. Gritty. I’m very aggressive.” O’Brien, on the other hand, plays a more cautious game. “I try to avoid getting penalties, and I’d say I’m like a grinder.”

Despite their varsity careers coming to an end, their love for the game will never change. “I think it just brings a lot of people together and you kind of have a common goal,” O’Brien says. “You have your fans and family that come out to watch you,” she adds. Roache acknowledges what hockey has done for her. “It helps you grow, [develop] leadership skills.”

Both players will be walking away from the game to see where the future takes them. “I’m currently waiting on results of certain applications, but as for my next plans I don’t really know exactly where I’ll end up. But I know I want to end up in medical school and hopefully become a doctor one day,” O’Brien says.

Roache is in a similar situation. “My plans are pretty undecided right now, but I think that one thing that I will always have as a goal for myself will be to just bring what I’ve learned and what I’ve developed over the last five years into my workplace… whether that be a workplace or another hockey team.”

At the end of the day, being able to put on that jersey and represent U of T carries a deeper meaning for varsity players. “It’s an honour and a privilege, and I think I’m just going to miss that student-athlete life and you know, being surrounded by the best teammates ever,” O’Brien says.

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 hockey take silver in McCaw Cup Final

Guelph Gryphons earn 4–2 victory to win OUA Championship

Blues women’s hockey take silver in McCaw Cup Final

In their first McCaw Cup Final in a decade, the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team fell short of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) title in a 4–2 loss against the Guelph Gryphons. Guelph hosted the final, after posting an OUA-best 16–4–2 record in the regular season.

Kassie Roache opened scoring for the Blues, receiving a well-timed pass from Kiyono Cox and wiring a slap shot into the top corner to give the Blues a 1–0 lead. The Gryphons didn’t answer back until there were five minutes left in the opening period; Mallory Young tipped a pass to Claire Merrick, who shot past Blues netminder Erica Fryer to level the score at 1–1.

Fryer was busy early and often in the first period as the Gryphons forced her to make seven saves. The rookie was well poised between the pipes, making 14 saves by the end of the second period and allowing just one goal from the highest-scoring offense in the OUA.

But the Gryphons outmatched the Blues in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals to pull away in a contest that had been otherwise level from the opening face-off.

Katie Mikkelsen’s power-play goal 31 seconds in saw Toronto’s one-goal lead evaporate. Kristen Jay put the Gryphons ahead 3–2, with Merrick scoring a late goal to end any hopes of a Blues comeback.

After a strong 60 minutes, the Gryphons lifted the McCaw Cup for the third time in the past four years.

Despite the loss, the Blues season continues next week as they head to Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island for the chance to capture a national title at the USPORTS National Championships.

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.

Vanessa Wallace wants to be a student of the world

Former Blues women’s basketball player on overcoming playing struggles and working with youth facing barriers

Vanessa Wallace wants to be a student of the world

It’s been four years since Vanessa Wallace last suited up for the Varsity Blues women’s basketball team, for a game she never anticipated would be her last.

Wallace, a role player and sharp shooter for the Blues, scored a single three-pointer during three minutes of action in the final home game of Toronto’s 2014–2015 season, which would result in a loss against the Queen’s Gaels.

Wallace didn’t see any action in the Blues’ opening round playoff victory over the Brock Badgers, nor did she play when the team bowed out of the competition following a 15-point loss to the Windsor Lancers.

The following season, Wallace was cut from the team.

The entire experience has been an invaluable lesson, but one she never expected to have to go through. Wallace admits that she failed to meet the expectations that she’d had for herself in basketball when she first entered U of T.

She started playing in a recreational basketball league when she was nine years old, but basketball was “nothing serious” until she made a club team in Grade Six. As a first-year student unsure of what to major in, the sport was the only thing she knew she wanted to do at university. The Ottawa native admits that she placed more emphasis on where she wanted to play than on where she wanted to live when choosing a university.

Wallace graduated from U of T in August 2017 with a degree in English and a double minor in history and anthropology. She still plays the sport that she loves, but in an arguably more meaningful way. She teaches a blend of basketball and life skills to underprivileged youth at her job with the Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment (MLSE) LaunchPad, an organization seeking to “explore and measure how sport can help improve the lives of youth.”

The Varsity sat down with Wallace to discuss her current role with MLSE, her time with the Blues, and the women who inspired her growing up.

The Varsity: How did you make the transition into the workplace after graduation?

Vanessa Wallace: I only played my first three years of undergrad, and so [during] my last two years, I was in school but I was also not loving school. It was really important to find out what was out there workwise and be able to build up my résumé that way, because English is not necessarily something that lends to one specific industry. I knew I loved basketball, being involved, so it took a lot of creativity, and I really took to volunteering.

TV: Can you describe your experiences volunteering?

VW: I was trying to create an internship for myself and go do all these different placements. You Can Play has been the organization that I’ve been involved with since 2016 and that’s been really awesome. It’s an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport. I get to work with youth, go into high schools, and run workshops about how to identify casual homophobia in sport. I’ve worked with kids for a really long time, so that was great to marry that with sports advocacy.

TV: What’s working with kids like?

VW: It’s really fun, for starters. Kids are so fun and I love getting to share that experience with them. Living in a city like Toronto, being in U of T, you kind of forget that there’s information that you kind of just take for granted, that isn’t something you automatically knew. Somebody taught you that and at some point you have to be the person who teaches it to somebody else. So getting that opportunity has been an honour.


TV: Can you describe your role working for MLSE?

VW: I’m a sport program lead, basketball specifically at MLSE Launchpad. Youth can participate in basketball, soccer, volleyball, ball hockey, there’s a rock climbing wall… The program isn’t sport for performance, it’s really sport for development. There’s a life skills component that we teach. This month, the life skill of focus is social competency and the last program cycle it was self-regulation. The outcome that’s hoped for is sports [being] the hook that brings youth in, but when they leave they have all of these life skills that will take them much further than layups, footwork, and physical fitness.

I knew I had basketball knowledge, but I didn’t know how that would translate into a coaching role. Being able to write up the program, convey it to supporting staff, and see it go start to finish was a huge growth point for me. Having confidence in the program I was writing [and] how I wanted it to be delivered, that’s been a really big turning point in the last few months. I felt really solid about that and initially I wasn’t.

TV: Would you say that your experience with the Blues really helped you hone those skills?

VW: I definitely have had some great coaches to look up to on the Blues [team] and not until I started coaching did I realize that — I was doing things similarly to how they would. So you don’t even know how much you’re getting from that person until a while after, how much you’re emulating the things that they do… As an athlete something that I found really difficult is you really have one main focus and that’s your performance. It’s cool now to reflect on how much you’ve learned from everyone — teammates, seniors, and captains. You don’t recognize that until you’ve moved on.

TV: What was your experience like playing for the Blues?

VW: Michelle [Belanger] is a fantastic coach, she eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball. What I learned from her in the short time that I was on the team was just the tip of the iceberg. 

Overall, I’d say my time on the team was some of the most challenging years of my life. I dealt with some mental health issues and then the pressure of being a Varsity athlete on top of that my experience wasn’t going as planned. I had such high expectations for how I would perform and how it would feel. Although I did make really great friends and got to travel and play basketball, which is what I love, I didn’t really have any self-worth because I wasn’t performing well. After my third season, I was cut and that was really tough.

I didn’t have any direction, and that’s when I started applying to all these different jobs and learning what was out there beyond playing, which is kind of how I forged my path. [Eventually], I realized that all of these hard lessons that Michelle and sport taught me… even though the experience didn’t go as planned, I learned so much from [them] and I’m so grateful for it.

TV: Do bonds between Blues teammates really last forever?

VW: Yes, definitely. I was just visiting a teammate who’s since moved to the States and it was awesome. We didn’t even make any plans. The idea was [that] we were just going to hang out and spend time together. The funny thing is, you spend everyday with them, practice, a nutrition session, individual practice, weight session — that could all be in one day. Maybe you have classes with them, maybe they’re also your roommate, and then you spend months apart but when you see them again, it’s like no time has passed.

TV: How important is growth for women’s sports?

VW: It’s definitely really important to me. It wasn’t until I started working with girls and seeing what I experienced growing up, [what] they are continuing to experience as well, [only then] did I realize how great of an impact that they actually had on me.

Not getting the same amount of gym time, women’s basketball shoes aren’t really a thing — you just get men’s shoes, you lace them up as tight as possible, and, you know, different social norms.

I see that there’s still similar hurdles that I and teammates of mine have faced, but there is more awareness and more organizations, like Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport [and] Fast and Female.


TV: Which female athletes inspired you growing up?

VW: I wasn’t big into watching professional sports on TV, but I was really lucky I had so many female role models in the basketball community that I could look up to. At U of T, there were some girls that came in and Michelle was the first female coach that they’d ever played for… To me, that was shocking because Ottawa is a big basketball town. Every weekend, I was either at a Carleton game or a UOttawa game, so a lot of those players at Carleton and Ottawa U, I really looked up to and then my own seniors that I would play with.

There were three seniors when I was in Grade 11 that I really looked up to. They were on a rep team I played for; it was Kellie Ring, Rashida Timbilla, and Kim Pierre-Louis. At U of T, I got to play with Jill Stratton, who is, I think, still the program’s leading scorer and that was amazing, but also playing with Rachel Sider, Liane Bailey, [and] Jasmine Lewin.

TV: Where do you envision yourself in the future?

VW: I’m learning. I still feel like I’m in the position where I’m learning more than I’m giving back. I have that foundation of basketball knowledge and experience playing, but in really understanding how the game can impact more marginalized communities, I feel like I’m a rookie.

It’s hard to see… myself in five years because there’s so much more information that I want [to learn].

I’m finding as many opportunities to be kind of a student of the world, whether that’s [through] a program that benefits girls or whether that is a program that helps with poverty reduction or violence against women, I’m just pursuing all of those opportunities right now.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Blues women’s hockey team earns spot in McCaw Cup Final

Julie Szulewska scores late game-winning goal

Blues women’s hockey team earns spot in McCaw Cup Final

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team is headed to the McCaw Cup Final after defeating the Western Mustangs 2–1 on Saturday at Thompson Arena. The victory came less than 24 hours after the Western Mustangs forced a winner-takes-all match with a win at Varsity Arena in the best-of-three OUA semifinals. This is the Blues’ first trip to the OUA women’s hockey finals in a decade.    

Blues fourth-year forward Jessica Robichaud scored the opening goal of the contest midway through the second period. Fourth-year forward Stephanie Ayres’ pass deflected off a Mustangs defenseman and Robichaud corralled the loose puck, launching a quick shot to beat Mustangs goaltender Carmen Lasis.

The Blues found themselves in multiple shorthanded situations throughout the second period due to their undisciplined play. Toronto committed three penalties in the period and a total of five in the game, while Western only registered two. Mustangs third-year forward Sydnee Baker capitalized on Megan O’Brien’s body checking penalty late in the second period with a powerplay goal to even the score at 1–1, with less than four minutes remaining in the period.

Blues fifth-year defenceman Julia Szulewska tallied the game-winning goal for the Blues with six minutes left in the third period. Louie Bieman played a sharp-angled pass across the crease, and Szluewska fired the puck five-hole and past Lasis.

Western scrambled to level the score in the final minutes of the game. Mustangs head coach Candice Moxley pulled Lasis, with 90 seconds remaining for the extra attacker. While the Mustangs’ overwhelming puck presence forced Blues first-year goalie Erica Fryer to make a few sprawling saves in the final moments, Western was unable to find the back of the net.

Fryer continued her strong play this season, recording 22 saves.

With their victory over the Mustangs, the Blues will face the Guelph Gryphons on March 9 in the McCaw Cup Final and have earned a bid to the U SPORTS Championship.

Blues women sweep rival York Lions in straight sets

Alina Dormann posts a game-high 13 kills and eight digs

Blues women sweep rival York Lions in straight sets

On Friday, the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team, ranked eighth nationally, swept the York Lions 30 to extend their winning streak to five. Having not dropped a set since February 1, the Blues continued their dominance in a swift three-set sweep at Kimel Family Field House in the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport.

Both the Blues and Lions came out strong offensively throughout the first set. Featuring short rallies from both sides, neither team was able to establish a lead beyond three points in the back-and-forth affair early on.

However, strong serving from the Blues allowed the team to distance themselves and establish a quick lead at 1610. Service aces from All-Canadian right-side hitter Alina Dormann and third-year left-side hitter Brianna Patrick, coupled with kills from second-year middle Jenna Woock, closed out the first set 2519.

York came out swinging in the second set, with kills from Lions’ outside hitters Sarah Williams and Olivia Kim pushing York ahead early with an eight-point lead.

Trailing at 157, the Blues made a key substitution that saw second-year setter Rayn Perry step onto court. Immediately, Perry threw York’s defense off guard with a deceptive dump, and her chemistry with middle hitter Woock quickly shifted the momentum.

The Blues came alive with an explosive 141 run, with impressive kills coming from Dormann and fifth-year veteran Anna Feore. Fourth-year middle hitter Anna Licht led with a game-high five blocks, as the Blues’ outstanding defense in the second set held the Lions to a poor .059 hitting percentage.

Pouring in tough serves after tough serves, the Blues capitalized on the stumbling Lions, who were unable to set up plays with their faulty first touches. Riding on momentum, the Blues managed to make a comeback, with another dump from Perry capping off the second set at 2520.

The third and decisive set saw the return of second-year setter Hayley Goodwin and featured multiple intense rallies. The Blues continued to execute well-practiced plays and displayed their tireless defensive work ethic, carving out an 1812 lead. Deadly swings by Dormann and back-to-back blocks posted by Woock and Licht proved too strong for the Lions, forcing two timeouts by York in the third.

Despite York’s efforts to regroup, the Blues easily took a 71 run to win the set at 2516 and close out the match.

Anna Feore led the game with an outstanding 0.526 hitting percentage in her 10-kill performance.

Alina Dormann continues to dominate the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference in her fourth season, as she posted a game-high with 13 kills, which put her atop the leaderboard for most kills in the OUA at 251 and the highest hitting percentage of the OUA at 3.92 kills per set. Dormann is making a strong case for herself to be the frontrunner of the OUA Most Valuable Player award and is poised to win the award for the second year in a row.

With the win against York, the Blues sit in second place of the OUA’s East Division. Having already clinched a playoff spot, the Blues can look forward to their hunt for the OUA title.