TORONTO - The Ryerson Rams women's volleyball team opened their season in style, taking a 3-1 victory over the No. 5 nationally ranked Toronto Varsity Blues on Sunday evening.
Ryerson used strong serving and great net presence to propel them to their first win of the season.
In the first set the Rams used a quick start and won the first extended rally of the match to take an early 5-1 lead. Toronto didn't like what they saw and called an early timeout to try and right the ship. Ryerson went on to extend their lead and took a 16-7 lead into the technical timeout.
Toronto showed their experience and composure though, chipping away at the Ryerson lead. The Blues turned to their outside hitters, particularly Denise Wooding (North Vancouver, B.C.), to help get them back into the match. Toronto completed the comeback on two Shannon Rossall (Calgary, Alta.) blocks to take the first set 26-24.
Head coach Dustin Reid helped calm the squad between sets, and the Rams came out hungry in the second.
"We played so great in the first set early and I think we thought we had to live up to playing that well and we put more pressure on ourselves than we needed to. I was happy to see them come out in the second set relaxed and do the things we've been working on doing."
In the second, Rams setter Lauren Ebenhardt (Aurora, Ont.) worked the offence effectively to get her hitters some one-on-one coverage instead of double blocks and Ryerson took advantage.
Veronica Livingston (Kelowna, B.C.) took over in the second for Ryerson, asserting her presence in the middle with several blocks to help the Rams cruise to a 25-14 set win.
The Varsity Blues found themselves down early again in the third and were forced to call a timeout as Ryerson pulled ahead with an 8-4 lead. A deep Chelsea Briscoe (Georgetown, Ont.) tip found the hardwood to give the Rams a 16-12 lead heading into the technical timeout.
Ryerson led at the technical in each of the first three sets which helped keep the Rams in control and also kept Toronto off-balance. When asked about the strong starts, Reid credited the strong serving of his squad.
"I think, particularly in the first two sets, we caught U of T a little bit off guard. We served very well today; we're a team that needs to serve well to have a chance to block and dig and we did that tonight."
Back-to-back kills from Emily Nicholishen (Whitby, Ont.) and another Briscoe tip closed the scoring to give the Rams a 25-18 set win and a two sets to one lead in the match.
While Toronto held a slim lead in the fourth, Briscoe was briefly subbed out of the set. After a quick chat from Reid, she returned and scored the next three points for the Rams to help keep the game within reach.
A block from Livingston put the Rams back on top holding an 18-17 advantage - a lead they would never surrender. Toronto kept things close, but Ryerson triumphed for a 25-23 set win to take the match 3-1.
While the Rams celebrated the important victory, coach Reid echoed his players' excitement.
"We had a really good preseason with good preparation in our training and competitions up until now and to see that turn into a win in the league is great for us and gives us some more confidence. Toronto is an incredible program and a great team and to have played good volleyball against them is something we need to be happy with and we're really excited with the result."
Chelsea Briscoe led the Rams with 14 kills and 17 total points while Emily Nicholishen added 12 kills and 14 total points. Veronica Livingston registered six blocks and seven kills for 13 points in her OUA debut. Also reaching double digits was Chelsea Jensen (Georgetown, Ont.) with 12 points and Alex Whyte (Whitby, Ont.) with ten.
Charlotte Sider (Ottawa, Ont.) collected 14 kills and 16 points to lead Toronto while Wooding finished with 13 kills. Rossall finished the night with a game-high seven blocks en route to ten points.
With the victory, the Rams extend their home opener winning streak to five.
Ryerson next hits the court on Friday, October 26 as they host the Waterloo Warriors. Game time is set for 6:00 p.m.