Pandas and Rams to face off in U SPORTS semifinal
EDMONTON — After earning a dominant victory over the Calgary Dinos last night, the Ryerson Rams have turned their attention to their newest opponent in the Alberta Pandas; the two teams will face off in the national semifinal on Saturday evening in Edmonton.
The Rams and the Pandas are getting set to meet in the national tournament for the third consecutive year. The two teams faced off just one short year ago in the U SPORTS gold medal final where Ryerson earned a 3-1 (25-22, 29-31, 25-19, 25-21) victory to claim the school’s first-ever national championship.
This year, the opponents will face off on Alberta’s home court in front of hundreds of fans packed into the stands of the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton.
“It's going to be a different atmosphere,” says Rams outside hitter Cailin Wark (Georgetown, Ont.), “but it’s one we can thrive in and build off of the crowd's energy in a positive way.”
Home-court advantage aside, the Pandas are shaping up to be quite a difficult matchup.
An 18-6 record in the regular season saw Alberta finish third in Canada West; the Pandas went on to take a first-round series win over the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack but suffered a sweep at the hands of the Trinity Western Spartans in the next round of the postseason.
Fast-forward to their 2019 national championship campaign, the Pandas would overcome a first-set loss to the Toronto Varsity Blues yesterday evening to earn a 3-1 win in their quarter-final matchup.
Pandas third-year outside hitter Kory White (Edmonton, Abta.) recorded a jaw-dropping 30 kills through four sets against Toronto in yesterday’s match; expect White to continue her dominant play against the Rams in today’s matchup. Ryerson, on the other hand, will need to shut down Alberta’s attackers and maintain their efficient hitting if they want to take home a win against the tournament hosts.
Rams head coach Dustin Reid says he’s excited to match up with Alberta for the second consecutive year.
“It’s going to be a special opportunity for us to play such an amazing program,” remarks Reid. “The [Pandas are] one of the most storied programs in Canada, and we have the chance to face them on their home court in the national semifinal. It’ll be one of the largest opposition crowds we’ve ever seen. We’ll try to put our best foot forward against a team that will know us very well.”