TORONTO - Despite a slow start in their return to the Mattamy Athletic Centre after being away for over two months, the Ryerson Rams women’s volleyball team was able improve to 3-0 in 2017 and 9-3 overall with a 3-1 victory (21-25, 25-20, 25-14, 25-19) against the Queen’s Gaels Friday night.

BOXSCORE

Ryerson’s first year outside hitter Cailin Wark (Georgetown, Ont.) led all attackers with 14 kills while Veronica Livingston (Kelowna, B.C.) added 13. Theanna Vernon (Scarborough, Ont.) finished with seven kills, six-and-a-half blocks and eight service aces (a new Ryerson single game record).

The contest was the final OUA regular season matchup between Livingston and her younger sister Caroline. The Gaels’ third year outside hitter finished with ten kills and a team-high 12 digs. In five career regular season and playoff meetings where they’ve hit the floor against each other, Veronica now owns a 4-1 record.

“I think they totally understand the significance of this game,” said Rams’ assistant coach Glenn Imperial afterwards. “That’s the kind of rivalry it’s always been between the two sisters. It was really nice to be a part of that and to see that… I think they’ve really enjoyed playing against each other.”

Coming off a 3-0 thrashing of the RMC Paladins last weekend where they combined for 38 kills and only two errors, the Gaels looked sharp in the opening set. While Caroline Livingston and Isabelle Korchinski were in their groove early for Queen’s, Ryerson’s offence struggled to hit its stride. Down 16-10 at the technical timeout, the Rams got back within two on a few occasions, but a couple of attack errors down the stretch handed the Gaels the first set 25-21.

“Queen’s is a good team,” said Imperial about the tough start. “Sometimes it takes some time for us to find our momentum, find our positioning, especially defensively. We have a game plan and sometimes it takes half a set or so to make sure that we’re on the same page…”

Ryerson got things sorted out quickly in the second set. Livingston, Vernon, Wark and Becky Zeeman (Ottawa, Ont.) all began to find their stride and the Gaels struggled to contain the offence that setter Kate McIlmoyle (London, Ont.) was running. Up 22-14, the Rams struggled to put a resilient Queen’s team away. With Anna Prust serving, the Gaels racked up six straight points to make it a 22-20 game. A crucial block by Ryerson’s Lauren Veltman (Brampton, Ont.) got the Rams back on track though and a couple of service aces by Zeeman wrapped things up.

“It’s part of our identity,” said Imperial about his squad’s wealth of offensive weapons. “I think that’s what makes us a tough team to defend against. When we have good distribution and everyone contributing, it makes a lot of things easier. Not just for the setter, but it gives a lot of confidence to our team that we have a lot of different ways to side out and get a point.”

Knotted at one going into the third set, Ryerson continued to put the pedal to the metal against a young Gaels roster. Twelve kills and only four errors by the Rams compared to the four kills and seven errors that Queen’s registered was the obvious difference as Ryerson ran away with it 25-14.

Looking to finish things off, three kills by Veronica Livingston were part of a five point run in the middle of the fourth set that gave the Rams a 15-10 lead. Up 24-19, a gorgeous kill by Veltman ended it.

Ryerson remains in second place in the OUA East Division behind the No. 2 Toronto Varsity Blues (10-0). Queen’s, meanwhile, falls to 5-7.

The Rams will attempt to collect their tenth win of the season when the host the RMC Paladins (0-12) Saturday afternoon. First serve on Coca-Cola Court is scheduled for 4:00 p.m and all the action will be broadcasted live at OUA.tv.

NOTES: Veltman consistently came up with clutch kills and blocks late in sets for Ryerson. She finished with nine kills and two errors on 15 total attacks… With her strong performance, Vernon’s name is now all over the OUA Individual Leaderboard. She’s currently second in service aces per set (0.67), second in hitting percentage (.358) and third in blocks per set (1.24)... Ryerson’s Julie Longman (Newmarket, Ont.) had yet another consistent game in the Rams’ back row. The fourth year libero finished with a game-high 14 digs and added four assists.