NACIVT 9-man volleyball tournament comes to Toronto

The sport has been a staple in Chinese-North-American culture for many years

NACIVT 9-man volleyball tournament comes to Toronto

As one of the premiere events in volleyball communities, the 75th annual North American Chinese Invitational Volleyball Tournament (NACIVT) was held this Labour Day weekend in Toronto. Altogether, a total of 162 teams convened at the Metro Convention Centre on Front Street to participate in a friendly competition of 9-man, a variation of volleyball that is deeply rooted in Chinese-North-American culture. 

9-man differs from traditional volleyball in multiple aspects, specifically the on-court rules and the restrictions on who is able to play. As the name suggests, nine players are on the court at a time, compared to six in traditional volleyball, which makes 9-man much more action-packed and fast-paced than the traditional game. 

The court size of 20 by 10 metres is both one metre longer and wider than those commonly found in volleyball. No jumping is allowed on serves, and only three players per team are allowed to take a serve. Furthermore, rotation of players is not mandatory, which leads many players to specialize in two or three positions. 

In addition, the rules of 9-man stipulate that two thirds of the players on the court must be of full Chinese descent. The rest are typically comprised of those from other East Asian countries, such as Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines. 

Without much to do in their spare time due to segregation, discrimination, and a language barrier, Chinese workers in the Greater Boston area imported 9-man in the 1930s. The game, which was originally from the Guangdong province of China, made it to North America as a way to build community and camraderie amongst the workers.  

The first tournament took place in 1937, and ever since the sport continued to gain popularity. Soon, residents of many cities from across the United States and Canada formed their own teams and participated annually in the Labour Day tournament. In 1976, female participants were introduced to the game, and the first women’s tournament was hosted in 1977 in Toronto. The first international participants, a team from Shanghai, China, joined the competition in 2009, showing the global popularity and recognition that this sport has garnered. 

“It has brought together a lot of people in the Chinese volleyball community and you start to develop a lot of long-lasting friendships,” U of T student Amy Gao, who has been playing 9-man volleyball for three years, told The Varsity. “9-man is so much more interesting than normal [volleyball]. It’s faster-paced, with fancier plays, while keeping the same physicality as the regular game.”

According to those who have documented the history of 9-man, the NACIVT has “broken down barriers of gender, age, race, wealth, geography and many others” truly bringing people together and unifying them through volleyball.

Having already been held seven times in Toronto, the NACIVT has had a profound impact on the East-Asian community throughout the GTA, bringing together youth from various neighbourhoods and promoting a healthy, active lifestyle.

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 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.

Blues fall to York Lions after four hard-fought sets

Men clinch third place in OUA East

Blues fall to York Lions after four hard-fought sets

Despite impressive teamwork, the Varsity Blues men’s volleyball team suffered a 3–1 loss against the York Lions on February 22.

This loss means that the Blues no longer have the chance to host an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinal. However, they did secure third place in the OUA East Division.

Crowds came in droves at the end of reading week to watch the game and were loud in their support during the first set. Toronto secured a strong lead over York, carrying the set 16–7 at the first technical timeout. The set was an easy win for the Blues despite the Lions’ best efforts, coming to a close at 25–18.

The second set proved to be a tense exchange of points, with the two teams consistently tying the score. Blues rookie Evan Falardeau delivered a particularly admirable block near the beginning, marking the start of an impressive set. Falardeau scored 21 total points throughout the night off of three aces, one block, and 17 kills. However, after fighting hard and tying at 10–10, 11–11, and again at 19–19, the Blues lost the set to York to finish it at 25–23.

Although the third set was a 25–23 loss for Toronto, the lack of energy marked the beginning of the end. York held a fairly consistent two-point lead with an impressive offensive strategy, despite strong efforts by the Blues at the beginning of the set, with a kill from Chris Towe and two impressive assists and kills from third-year setter Jordan Figueira and Falardeau. Figueira notched 42 assists overall, but they were not enough to send the team to victory.

The fourth set began with York sending the first point over the net, and then continuing to keep spectators on the edge of their seats with long rallies and hard-fought points.

The Blues got their heads in the game as Austin Valjas scored a crowd-pleasing point off a kill after a particularly long rally, and by the time the score was finally tied again at 19–19, the spectators could not silence their cheers.

This was just one of Valjas’ seven kills in the game, alongside three and a half blocks and one ace to score 11.5 points. Nick Trewern also made it to double digits with points, racking up 11 off of two aces and nine kills.

Libero Daniel Tudor also stood out throughout the match, tallying a game-high of 14 digs. The Blues, then, didn’t simply hand York’s 25–23 victory to them in the fourth set, but put up an admirable fight until the end.

Blues volleyball lose hard-fought contests against Ryerson

Rams earn back-to-back victories at Goldring

Blues volleyball lose hard-fought contests against Ryerson

Despite strong teamwork, both the men’s and women’s Varsity Blues volleyball teams suffered defeats against the Ryerson Rams on January 20. The Rams won 3–1 against the men and 3–2 against the women.

For the Blues women, however, fourth-year hitter Alina Dormann became the University of Toronto’s all-time point leader after scoring 18.5 points this game: her total of 1,085 points places her above 2016 Olympian Heather Bansley and two-time all-Canadian Charlotte Sider.

Anna Feore, another standout player, achieved a career best of 20 points through 15 kills, two aces, and three blocks, in addition to her 15 digs in the Sunday game.


The first Blues team in action that afternoon, the men played a close first set that saw the two teams trade points. After the technical timeout, when the Blues had a narrow 16–13 lead, fourth-year outside hitter Austin Valjas enjoyed a seven-point run that led the Blues to victory in the set with a final score of 25–20.

The streak motivated both the players and the fans, who became increasingly rowdy with noisemakers. The Varsity Blues event staff underpinned this atmosphere with a drum and a tambourine: silence only descended when a player tossed the ball for a serve.

Blues setter Jordan Figueira, who led the game with 42 assists, emphasized the importance of teamwork. “It’s a lot of intuition… Communication on the court, off the court. I know all my hitters, they know my sets.”

The second set mirrored the first, but it was the Rams who held a slight lead at 16–13 when the technical timeout was called. Ryerson ended the set with a 25–20 win.

The tension truly picked up in the third set at 12–15 when both teams gained momentum and their rallies increased in length. While the Blues demonstrated strong teamwork and skills, Ryerson’s scrappy play and strong block defense led to a Rams win with a final score of 25–20.

In the fourth set, Ryerson enjoyed a 16–15 lead when the technical timeout was called, after which they had a winning 8–3 run due to strong offensive play and a few serving errors from the Blues. The set ended with a 25–21 Ryerson victory, which concluded a 3–1 win for the Rams. The stats reflected Ryerson’s consistent game; the Blues clocked up 17 errors, while the Rams ended the game with only 11.

On how the Blues could improve moving forward, Figueira said, “We definitely need to improve on our defense and our blocking… the main thing is sticking to the game plan and executing, which we weren’t able to do a lot.”



The Blues women’s team, eighth in the national rankings, also enjoyed a strong start, winning the first set 25–15 against the number four-ranked Ryerson Rams.

The first set win motivated the team during the start of the second set, but Ryerson picked up points to end with a 25–15 victory. Led by Theanna Vernon with nine blocks, Ryerson was especially impressive in their blocking, which frequently won them points throughout the game.

While Ryerson opened the third set, due to solid teamwork and strong hitting by right side Dormann, the Blues managed to take the set 25–22.

Head coach Kristine Drakich explained that serving and defense was key to the team’s performance. “We came out very strong in the first set. We had strong serving and strong block defense. We sort of got away from that a little bit in the second and beginning of the third but we got it back… we have to sustain it a little bit longer.”

The tension throughout the fourth set was palpable and this was especially evident during the long rally at 23–21. Ryerson came away with the point, but both teams’ plays were impressive with organized defense and attacks. Drakich said later, “These were really good moments, but for whatever reason we just had difficulty with our discipline on block defense.”

The deciding fifth set ended with a 15–6 victory for Ryerson, which solidified their 3–2 win of the match.

On what’s next, Coach Drakich identified discipline as an important objective: “Most of what we focus on is on our side of the net; just do what we do a little bit longer a little bit more often. If we continue to do that, good things are going to happen.”

Blues women’s volleyball beat Guelph Gryphons

Team to advance to OUA final four

Blues women’s volleyball beat Guelph Gryphons

The Toronto Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team finished off second in the OUA East division with a 15-4 record. Entering the match, the Blues women’s overall regular season record spanned an impressive seven consecutive victories. They had last been defeated on January 27.

On Saturday, the Varsity Blues defeated the Guelph Gryphons 3–2 (22–25, 25–19, 25–21, 24–26, 15–4) to continue their winning streak in a quarter-final match at the Goldring Centre, a back and forth affair that went to a tiebreaker fifth set.

Third-year right side hitter Alina Dormann continued to be an enormous catalyst for the Blues and set the tone by opening the first set with a kill. Both teams got off to a strong start, and the score soared an early 7–5 for the Gryphons. Despite the great offensive play from the Blues, Gryphon middle hitter Libby Donevan’s abilities in hitting deep lines allowed the Gryphons to take the first set with a score of 25–22.

The Blues took the first point of the second set with a kill from first-year middle hitter Jenna Woock. She received a substantial amount of playing time in the game, executing a strong performance by consistently hitting quick sets. The Blues continued to pull ahead through the set, driving the score to 18–10. The second set concluded with the Blues defeating the Gryphons 25–19.

In the third set, Blues right side hitter Dormann dominated the court, putting her fierce kills on display. Her hits continued to account for Toronto on the scoreboard, and the Blues reached a 13–9 lead. Toronto first-year setter Rayn Perry accumulated multiple assists and did not disappoint in putting up accurate sets. After the timeout from Guelph at 19–12, the Blues extended their lead and won the set 25–21.

The fourth set featured multiple dynamic rallies, and Gryphons left side Michaela Hellinga exhibited strong blocks and multiple kills. The performance of the Gryphons showed no lingering effects from their defeat in the last two sets. Despite the early 6–1 lead for the Blues, the Gryphons battled back with tenacity, inducing the Blues to call for a timeout at 23–21. Following the timeout, the Gryphons played with great fluidity and finished the set with a score of 26–24 in their favour.

The Blues did not allow their defeat in the previous set to affect their performance in the tiebreaking fifth set. As the Gryphons started to lose momentum, the Blues continued to display their well-practiced hits and cohesive teamwork, taking an early lead of 8–3. Toronto’s Anna Licht used her height to her advantage and scored three points with her well placed dumps over the Gryphon blockers. An ace from Blues Veronica Derylo sealed the fifth set with a 15–4 victory for Toronto.

The Blues will continue their hunt for an OUA title next Friday in the semi-finals against McMaster University.

Blues volleyball fall to Rams

Women lose first regular season match since 2015, men beaten in straight sets

Blues volleyball fall to Rams

The Varsity Blues volleyball program suffered successive defeats against the Ryerson Rams on Friday evening. While the Blues women and men may have salivated at the prospect of triumph against their local rivals, the efficient Rams stomped out their ambitions.

Women’s momentum horned by powerful Rams

As outside temperatures dropped and darkness crept over the city, the Goldring Centre’s 6:00 pm matchup brought together two of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) women’s volleyball’s brightest teams. The Rams strode onto the court flaunting a perfect five-match regular season winning streak, including four consecutive sweeps. Not ones to be easily outshone, the Blues came out with their own perfect three-match regular season streak, having previously dispatched the Lakehead Thunderwolves, Trent Excalibur, and the Nipissing Lakers. Going into the tough matchup, the Blues women’s overall regular season record actually spanned an astounding 41 consecutive victories, having last tasted defeat on February 7, 2015.

Both teams started the first set strongly, and the score soared early on to 6–5 for Ryerson. Blues fourth-year Anna Feore served what would start an incredible 47-hit rally between the two teams. The Blues displayed strong coordination and awareness throughout the rally, with third-year star Alina Dormann, second-year Emma Armstrong, and first-year Jenna Woock all attempting spikes. Ryerson’s libero Julie Longman also displayed good awareness to keep the Rams in the rally, but Dormann eventually smashed the ball over the net to tie the set.

Both teams continued in an extremely strong vein, keeping the set tight until the Blues wrapped up the score at 25–21 with an 8–1 closing run. Woock delivered a number of strong serves, Dorman contributed to four kills, Armstrong two, and third-year Anna Licht one. Dorman and Licht each earned a block assist.

The Blues didn’t carry the same ruthlessness into the start of the second set. The Rams won the set ended 26–24, with three straight points from Ryerson. The third set followed much of the same pattern, but with Toronto trailing 11-9, Dormann was substituted. She would not return for the rest of the match, possibly due to an injury.

Despite the squad’s talent, they fell apart without Dormann’s élan, losing the third set 25–20 and the fourth set 25–16. Although she missed half of the third set and the entire fourth set, Dormann still led the Blues with 14 kills. The women will undoubtedly be disappointed with their defeat but can still take positives from the match.

Service errors aplenty for Blues men

The men took to the court a half-hour after the slated 8:00 pm start time and were similarly slow to get into their groove. The opening moments of the set were characterized mostly by service errors from both sides, a recurring problem throughout the match. By the end of the three sets, service errors had resulted in the Rams dropping eight points and the Blues dropping 14, their most in a match all regular season.

Peppered into the slow first set were a few bright moments from the Blues’ second-year contingent: a powerful smash from Nicholas Trewern to equal the score at 2–2, a highly impressive block assist by Alex Barnes and Ian Burns to level the set at 5–5, and a smooth dig by Jordan Figueira to recover the ball. Unfortunately for the Blues, Rams outside hitter Simon Davis-Powers produced a strong showing, and the set ended 25–20 for the Rams.

Although the Blues again showed moments of good play in the second set, the Rams’ Brendan Kewin soon took control of the set, producing moments of defensive and offensive brilliance, including three straight points. Such was Kewin’s magisterial effect that the Blues called a time-out to slow the Rams’ momentum. With renewed focus, they restarted with a point but were soon brushed to the wayside again by Kewin and the Rams, who won the second set 25–22.

The Blues produced their strongest performance in the third set, having grown into the competition’s rhythm. However, service errors remained an issue, wreaking havoc on their progress. As the Blues faced a 23–22 deficit, Burns again displayed his impressiveness on the block, combining first with third-year Ken Dobson, and then, seconds later, with Barnes to equal the score. This proved to be the Blues’ last point, an the Rams claimed the set 25–23. The loss dropped the men to a 1–2 record and second consecutive sweep.

Blues women’s volleyball dominate in home opener

Alina Dormann’s strong performance leads Toronto to victory over Lakehead

Blues women’s volleyball dominate in home opener

On Friday, October 27, the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team opened their 2017–2018 season against the Lakehead Thunderwolves. Coming out of an extremely successful 2016 season in which they became the first Ontario team to claim the national championship title since 1976­­, the Varsity women have very high stakes set for this season.

Blues left side hitter Emma Armstrong set the tone by opening the first set of the game with consistent and well-placed serves. The Blues called a timeout, ahead by a commanding 7–3 lead. The Thunderwolves started to gain after a serve from Toronto was lost, but the Blues kept their lead and closed the set with a 25–20 win.

Blues right side hitter Alina Dormann dominated the court in the second set, putting her strong and fierce kills on display. Her hits continued to account for Toronto’s on the scoreboard, as the Blues went on a quick 9–5 lead early in the set. The set ended with another kill from Dormann, pushing the Blues to a set win of 25–15.

The third set was fast-paced right off that bat. While libero Sophia Currier showed her refined skills through her amazing digs the entire game, she excelled in the final set as she saved multiple plays with her graceful dives. The constant communication from the Blues women put them up with a 16–12 lead. The final set ended in a 25–16 advantage for Toronto.

The game ended with a 3–0 set victory for Toronto to start the season with a solid win. After the success of last season, the Blues are looking forward with hope toward the possibility of ending with a postseason run.

Toronto will continue their hunt for a consecutive national title on November 3 at 8:00 pm against Trent University at the Addring Centre Kimel Field House.