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.


Women’s volleyball bring home CIS banner to finish perfect season in style


For the first time in program history, the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team are national champions. The Blues completed a perfect 25–0 season and breezed through the championship match against last year’s champions Trinity Western Spartans 25–1, 25–18, 25–12.

The Blues clinched the conference banner two weeks ago at the Goldring Centre, where they defeated cross-town rivals Ryerson Rams in three sets. The second banner for the Blues in as many seasons, the win would secure the squad’s trip to the CIS championships in Brandon, Manitoba, where they would be the lone competitors to represent the OUA conference.

The Blues started their championship sweep by defeating the McGill Martlets in the quarterfinals. In a game that went to five sets, the Blues came from behind to win the match and reserve their spot in the semifinal against one of the tallest teams in the league, UBC Okanagan Heat.

In the semifinal, it looked like the Blues had met their match with the Heat, who took the first set from the Blues 21–25. A dominant match high of 20 kills from the Heat’s all-star Katie Wuttunee would frustrate the Blues, as they struggled to return devastating hits from the 6’3” middle. Despite dropping the first set, fifth-year veteran Caleigh Cruickshank saved the Blues and notched 18 kills and 22 points during the four set thriller. The Blues would advance to their first ever CIS final on a service error by the Heat.

In a relatively anti-climatic match, the Blues overcame the Spartans to win the final.

A kill by Cruickshank clinched the first set for the Blues, after which the women kept rolling with kill after kill from Cruickshank and rookie right-side hitter Alina Dormann. After the first set, the Blues took hold of the competition, not dropping the lead once throughout the final two sets, and won their first national title on a service ace by Dormann.

Dormann lead the squad in the final with a dominant 10 kills to cap off her first university season with the Blues, while Cruickshank was named tournament MVP, notching 47 points and 40 kills throughout her last CIS tournament.

All we do is win, win, win, no matter what

Big week for Varsity Blues athletes

All we do is win, win, win, no matter what

While U of T students gear up for classes after reading week, many varsity athletes didn’t get much of a break. Multiple teams competed in a throng of meets throughout reading week.

The Varsity Blues men’s and women’s swim teams came home with Ontario University Athletics (OUA) banners; the track and field squad took on international competition in Washington and Ohio; and the men’s volleyball team shut-out number one team McMaster, while the women capped off a perfect regular season.


The Varsity Blues swim teams didn’t disappoint during the OUA championships in London. Hosted by the Western Mustangs, the Blues dominated the competition with both teams’ closest challengers, the Mustangs, over 280 points away from the Blues women’s 1,049 point total and the men’s 1,019.

Over the course of the competition the Blues broke multiple OUA and national records, amounting to 18 in total. Second-year Kylie Masse led the women’s team, taking home four individual gold medals — one of which came in her national record breaking 100m backstroke race. Masse was named the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) athlete of the week for her successes.

On the men’s side, third-year Hochan Ryu drowned the competition and was named the male OUA swimmer of the year, earning four individual gold medals, including a meet record; he was also a member of two of the Blues gold medal winning relay teams. The OUA banners signal the thirteenth straight banner win for the men and the third for the women. The wins place the squads comfortably at the top of the CIS leaderboards.

Track and field

Athletes from the Varsity Blues track and field team headed to the states for some division one competition when they attended the Husky Classic at the University of Washington and the Spire Invitational in Geneva, Ohio.

Sending teams comprised mainly of runners, the men’s team was lead by fourth-year veteran Sacha Smart who won the 600 m and 800 m competitions in Seattle. Smart, who competed on the Blues cross-country team in the fall, placed fifth in the 600 m at last year’s CIS championship. Sprinters Rayshaun Franklin and Isiah Weathers also enjoyed podium finishes in Seattle, placing first and third, respectively, in the men’s 300 m race.

Third-year distance athlete Gabriela Stafford not only placed second in the women’s 3000 m race, but also did it in a world championship qualifying time of 8:54.87 — a clocking which would have won the competition in 2014. Representing U of T’s field athletes was fifth-year horizontal jumper Julia Stille who, in keeping with her podium finishes throughout the season, placed second in the long and triple jump competitions.

The women’s track and field team sits at the top of the CIS leader board with a comfortable lead, while the men’s squad is just shy of 30 points behind powerhouse Windsor.


In an incredible demonstration of grit, the number four Varsity Blues men’s volleyball team defeated the top ranked Marauders in five sets to ruin McMaster’s perfect regular season.

The win, aided by a game high 23 kill performance from William Colucci, seemed to give the Blues a confidence boost, which carried them through wins against the Guelph Gryphons a day later, and an electrifying five set win over the Western Mustangs on Friday.

The win over the Mustangs awarded the Blues an OUA homecoming 12 years in the making, as the squad will play host to an OUA playoff game for the first time since 2004. Following a win over the Windsor Lancers on Saturday, the squad improved their winning streak to five.

Not to be outdone, the Blues women’s volleyball team completed a 19-0 regular season on Saturday with a win over the Lancers. Dropping only two sets all season, the women’s team sits five points behind UBC’s Okanagan campus who lead the CIS with 60 points. Last years OUA champions, the Blues will attempt to defend their banner this Saturday at the Goldring Centre in OUA quarterfinal action.

Blues volleyball pummel Paladins

Women win in straight sets, men finish 3-1

Blues volleyball pummel Paladins

Coming off a win against the Queen’s Gaels the night before, the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team showed no sign of fatigue on Saturday evening when they took on the Royal Military College (RMC) Paladins. The top ranked team in the province, the Blues thrashed the number seven Paladins in straight sets, going 25-13, 25-9, 25-15.

From the first set, it was clear that the relatively short RMC team was no match for the defending OUA champions, who have five players bridging 6’0” and haven’t dropped a set in the past 10 games. Despite some strong serves, the Paladins were no match for unreturnable spikes by left and right sides Caleigh Cruickshank and Alina Dormann. The duo led the Blues in kills, racking up 12 and five respectively. 

The second and third sets saw some young players make their mark on the court, including setter Erin Jacobs and outside hitter Olivia van Baaren, the latter of whom contributed four kills and five digs to the group. Although the Paladins opened the scoring in the second, the Blues were quick to recover, taking back the lead with a sharp serve from third year middle Tessa Davis. Cruickshank served for the second, and after a short rally, the Blues came out with 16points on the Paladins. The third set saw some hard hits from van Baaren and memorable blocks by the trio of Bojana Radan, Jacobs, and Cruickshank — the latter of whom was named player of the game. 

The women have now completed a 14 game winning streak and have posed themselves as the third in the CIS in kills per set with an average of 12.86.

On the men’s side, the Blues came into Saturday night’s game with the previous evenings loss against the Gaels in mind, which showed through tough opening sets against the RMC. The Paladins opened the scoring on a Blues serve, which was quickly matched by a kill from Blues right side William Colucci. The teams went neck and neck throughout the set, never more than a kill or two behind the other, before left side Alex Ferris served for the win, putting the Blues at a close 25-22 to take the first set.

In the second, the Paladins were quick to take the lead and didn’t give it up until, an ace by setter Aleska Miladinovic and a kill from middle Nathaniel Virgo put the Blues ahead by two. Despite the surge, the Blues continued to be thwarted by strong serves and spikes from RMC’s outside hitter Adam Lupton, who contributed eight kills and two aces to the squad. The Blues wouldn’t lead for long, eventually dropping the second 24-26 to the Paladins.

Both squads looked evenly matched going into the third, but an early tip by Colucci seemed to reinvigorate the Blues who soon led the Paladins by four kills — the biggest margin of the game thus far. After several kills by Colucci and blocks by Virgo and middle Zia Karim, the Blues were ahead by 10 kills, eventually taking the set 25-10.

The Blues had found a new gear, and not long into the fourth, broke an early lead by the Paladins with a kill from standout Colucci. Keeping with the momentum, Colucci served five in a row before the Paladins could break him, but the deficit was too high to make up; the Blues took the fourth, and the game going 25-22, 24-26, 25-10, 25-18. Colucci, who won player of the match, contributed 25 kills and nine digs to the victory. The men currently sit in the fourth spot on the OUA leaderboard. 

The next home game for the women will be on February 7, when they take on Lakehead at 3:00 PM at Goldring. The men return home on February 14 to battle the Guelph Gryphons at 1:00 PM Goldring. 

Sports in brief

A round-up of the top sports stories from around the university

Sports in brief

Track and field athletes clean up at home opener

Last weekend, the Varsity Blues men’s and women’s track and field team hosted the 2016 Fred Foot Memorial Meet at the Athletic Centre field house. The competition saw multiple athletes make OUA and CIS standards, as well as win a host of gold-medals. James Turner, a fifth-year kinesiology student, lead the way for the men’s team, winning the men’s heptathlon competition by racking up 5,430 points. Turner, the defending OUA and CIS champion in the multi-events competition, has surpassed his 2015 CIS gold-medal winning decathlon performance by 1,353 points. Fourth-year student Ekua Cudjoe made CIS standard in the weight throw competition with a throw of 17.09m. In addition to making the national standard, Cudjoe won the shot put competition with a throw of 12.45m, 82cm longer than her OUA throw last year. Leading the way for the Blues men’s jumps squad was second-year computer engineering student James Elson who won gold and silver in the high jump and triple jump competitions, respectively. Despite missing some of the track and field program’s most accomplished athletes, the team managed to win seven gold medals. Next up for the team will be the OUA championships on February 29 at York.

Blues men’s volleyball annihilate Nipissing

The Varsity Blues men’s volleyball team had a stellar night defeating the Nipissing Lakers on Saturday in North Bay, putting the Blues in fourth place in the OUA — just two points behind Queen’s. The win helped the Blues improve their record to 7-4, and was characterised by spectacular individual feats from several players including third-year right hitter William Colucci and captain Aidan Haslett. Colucci and Haslett both managed career-high kills during the game with 23 and 16, respectively. Colucci, who is studying environmental science and ethics, has now moved up to sixth spot on the OUA kill per set count, right behind teammate Stefan Ristic who sits in second position. Improving immensely from last season, the men have already beaten last years 4-16 record and moved up six places on the OUA leader board with eight games left until the OUA quarter finals. The men’s next game on Monday January 17 will see the Blues looking to redeem themselves against the York Lions who beat them 3-1 in their last game. You can watch the game at the Goldring Centre; the first serve is set for three o’clock.

Women’s hockey lose 3-2 to Gryphons men on two game winning streak

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team dropped a close 3-2 decision to the Guelph Gryphons on Saturday, bringing the Blues to sixth position on the OUA leader board. Top seed in the OUA, the Gryphons scored their winning goal on a power play with 7.7 seconds remaining in the game, bringing their season average to 10-2. Both teams stayed on the ice post-game to pay tribute to Denna Laing, the NWHL player who sustained a serious spine injury competing at the inaugural outdoor women’s classic on December 31.

In men’s hockey action, the Blues won their second straight game on Saturday 4-1, defeating the visiting Brock Badgers. The men were aided by superb goaltending from Andrew Hunt, making 24 saves in the match. The Blues have several players within the top 10 on the OUA leader board, including goalie Brett Willows in sixth spot with 164 post-season saves. The men will try to make a three game streak when they take on the Mustangs on January 21 in London.