Photo by Don Voaklander

Rams advance to national final after sweep over Alberta

By Jessica Pincente

EDMONTON — The Ryerson Rams have advanced to the 2019 U SPORTS gold medal final after a 3-0 (25-21, 28-26, 25-23) win over the host Alberta Pandas in the semifinals on Saturday night in Edmonton.

The Rams will look to defend their national title against the UBC Thunderbirds on Sunday night at 6:00 PM MDT/8:00 EST.

The Rams got off to yet another strong start tonight against Alberta, but the Pandas kept the score close for the majority of the first set. Ryerson’s smart and patient attacking eventually paid off as the team pulled ahead with a four-point lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Sara Piana (Ottawa, Ont.) and Theanna Vernon (Scarborough, Ont.) threw up an impenetrable block at the end of the first set to earn the Rams a 25-21 lead in the first.

Rams head coach Dustin Reid says the hot start helped his team find their footing early on in the match.

“It gave us some confidence early on, knowing that we could block and defend a great team like Alberta,” says Reid. “That allowed us to settle in and relax, which was a huge advantage for us tonight.”

The second set saw an extremely tough battle on both sides of the floor; the Rams and the Pandas exchanged leads right until the final rally. 25 points wasn’t enough to decide this one, and it was the Rams who eventually pulled out a 28-26 win in the second to take a 2-0 lead in the match.

The third was yet another tight set, but Ryerson’s experience and patience seemed to give the Rams an advantage when it mattered the most. The defending national champions took a 25-23 win in the third, tallying their second consecutive sweep of the tournament and securing them a spot in the 2019 gold medal final.

Third-year outside hitter Lauren Veltman (Scarborough, Ont.) was named Ryerson’s Player of the Game after tallying 16 kills, two service aces and eight digs against Alberta.

Veltman credits her individual success to the total efficiency of the Rams as a whole, adding she enjoyed playing in front of a packed gym at the University of Alberta.

“Every time we got a point, it was a huge momentum builder for us,” says Veltman. “It was extremely exciting to play in front of a crowd like that tonight.”

Ryerson’s Vernon had 10 kills and two total blocks, while outside hitter Brett Hagarty (Aurora, Ont.) recorded 18 digs and eight kills through three sets. Setter Lauren Wong (Scarborough, Ont.) had 43 assists.

The Rams will return to the national final for the second straight year. The game will be broadcasted on USPORTS.live.

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