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by John Mather 

A tiring and emotional weekend for the Ryerson women’s volleyball teamresulted in a dispiriting gold-medal loss — one marked by mistakes and miscommunication.

After losing starter Lily Markovic for the season and captain Erin Gallagher for the weekend, the team crumbled in the final game 3-1 (25-8, 22-25, 25-8, 25-9) against the University of Western Ontario’s Mustangs during last Sunday’s final at the Women’s Volleyball Invitational Tournament.

The game was a far cry from the scores boasted by the Rams in their Saturday round-robin win over the Mustangs — last year’s provincial champions.

Ryerson was without Gallagher, who boasted 23 kills on Friday’s two games. As a member of Canada’s Gaelic football team, Gallagher spent the weekend in Ireland.

“I don’t even think (we lost) because we didn’t have Erin. Erin is a great asset to our team, but she isn’t our team,” said libero Anjela Wilson. Wilson averaged 12 digs a game throughout the tournament, presenting one of the few consistent performances of the weekend.

Markovic, however, will be gone for more than a weekend. After dominating in Ryerson’s first game of the tournament, the registrar’s office informed Markovic she did not meet the necessary Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) academic requirements, said Interuniversity Manager Terry Haggerty.

The Ram’s three-set sweep of the Golden Gales, as a result, was forfeited to Queen’s University.

In the 2004-2005 academic year, Haggerty said, Markovic failed to enrol in six courses, or complete 18 class hours a week.

“In her head, she was thinking she was okay, and she wasn’t,” he said, adding the team and Markovic were not aware it was a problem until Friday afternoon. Markovic declined comment.

Since Ryerson’s match with Queen’s was Markovic’s only appearance of the season — her exemplary jump serve earned four aces — she will not lose a year of playing eligibility and can return in the fall.

“This will be a year for her to regroup and that’s it,” Haggerty said.

Teammate Brianne Koning said the loss would be difficult for the team. “It’s her attitude and it’s the whole thing she brings to the team.”

“It’s now her year to get herself organized,” added head coach Bob Cholette. Markovic will stay on as an assistant coach.

“She’s still going to be there, but it’s not the same,” Koning added.

Slobodanka Skoric replaced Markovic for the rest of the tournament, in what Cholette called an easy decision. Her teammates applauded her versatility and ability to step in and play right away.

“I feel like I could put anyone on at anytime,” said the coach. And he did regularly, but Western’s starters kept drilling away.

Cholette attributes Sunday’s lackluster performance to fatigue and inexperience.

“The difference was (Western) was older and have developed habits,” said Cholette.

Filling in for Gallagher was Jen Williams, a lauded rookie who, Cholette feels, will be an impact player for the Rams down the road.

Williams earned seven kills and 12 digs in the two Western games.

“It sucks that we lost, but I thought we played amazing,” said Williams, whom Cholette has recruited for two years.

Cholette was thrilled his team beat the defending champions even once in their first weekend.

“The girls showed that yes, they do have (Western’s) skill level … and five months from now they’ll have it down,” he continued. “I think what the girls did was establish themselves as an upper-echelon team.”

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