Rams swept by defending national champs
TORONTO - Hitting the floor against a team as talented and experienced as the University of Toronto Varsity Blues is never an easy task. It’s even more difficult after watching them unveil their provincial and national championship banners from the previous season before the game.
Unfortunately for the Ryerson Rams women’s volleyball team, they couldn’t spoil the celebration for the Varsity Blues at the Goldring Centre Friday night. They fell 3-0 (22-25, 21-25, 18-25) in the 2016-17 season opener for both squads.
“I thought we put up a pretty good fight,” said assistant coach and former player Emily Betteridge following the match. “It was important for us to feel like we were really in it. We were so close in some of those sets and (we) put a lot of pressure on them. There was some points where we made them do some things out of their comfort zone.”
Although they had their chances, the Rams struggled to close things out against Toronto. In a very back-and-forth first set, Veronica Livingston (Kelowna, B.C.) picked up a big kill to end a long rally and narrow the Varsity Blues’ advantage to 20-19. That forced a timeout by Toronto’s head coach Kristine Drakich. The move proved to be a fantastic one as the Varsity Blues came out a little more organized and took five of the next eight points for the 25-22 set victory.
In the second, a string of defensive miscues by Toronto put the Rams up 16-13 at the technical timeout. Once again though, the Varsity Blues came out strong following a break in the action. They scored the next three points to tie the set up at 16 and force Ryerson to take a timeout of their own.
From there, Toronto’s Anna Feore went on a lengthy serving streak and her teammate Brianna Patrick wrapped things up with a big smash. The 25-21 score in favour of Toronto set them up for a short night and it was apparent early in the third set that they wanted it.
After a couple of quiet sets by her standards, Varsity Blues’ right side Alina Dormann showed what she is capable of. Last season’s OUA East rookie and player of the year dominated early and was a big reason Toronto jumped out to an 8-3 lead in set three. Following a timeout by Ryerson’s head coach Dustin Reid, starting setter Kate McIlmoyle (London, Ont.) was replaced by rookie Mady Timpany (Woodstock, Ont.) in an attempt to shake up the Rams’ offence a bit.
Although Ryerson was slowly able to claw back into the match, it wasn’t enough to stop Dormann’s dominance. She had 10 kills on 12 attacks in the set to lead her team to the 25-18 victory and complete the sweep.
Livingston led the way offensively for the Rams with nine kills and a .533 hitting percentage. McIlmoyle finished with 21 assists while libero Julie Longman (Newmarket, Ont.) had 16 digs.
“The single biggest positive is we played a great team and at times we showed some great battle against them,” said Reid following the game. “If we can learn a little bit from watching Toronto today and competing against them, then that would be great.”
Eleven different players hit the floor for Ryerson. First-years Cailin Wark (Georgetown, Ont.), Lauren Veltman (Brampton, Ont.) and Timpany all saw considerable time in their OUA debuts and made an immediate impact. Wark and Veltman both finished with five kills and Timpany had three assists in half a set of work.
“Our bench is really deep this year and that’s not something that we’ve typically had in the past,” said Betteridge. “I think it’s fun to work with. It’s the first game of the season so we’re trying out some different lineups and different combinations… It gave everyone a good opportunity to get some court time and gain some experience.”
“We’ve got more depth than maybe we’ve had in a year or two, so ultimately it’s about finding something that’s going to work,” added Reid. “Every game might be different, but I’m confident going to some different people and we sort of have to find out what our best lineup is going to be.”
The tough schedule to start the season continues for the Rams. They travel to London, Ont. Sunday afternoon to clash with the Western Mustangs. In preseason action against the Varsity Blues, the Mustangs took the first two sets before dropping the next three. First serve at Alumni Hall is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. and will be broadcasted live on OUA.tv.
NOTES: Dormann finished with a game-high 15 kills… Ryerson’s starting middle blocker Theanna Vernon (Scarborough, Ont.) picked up two solo blocks and a block assist, but struggled offensively. She had six kills and five hitting errors… The Varsity Blues finished the game with five blocks. They were all of the solo variety and all recorded by third-year middle Veronica Derylo.