Photo Illustration: Camila Kukulski

2017-18 Preview: Rams look to compete for OUA supremacy despite key losses

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By Kintaro Skinner and Peter White

After getting knocked out by the McMaster Marauders in last year’s playoffs, Ryerson’s women’s volleyball team will look for revenge to start their 2017-18 season.

When the Rams and Marauders meet on Oct. 27, Ryerson will be trying to build off last year’s success and prove that they do in fact belong at the U Sports national championship. It’ll be a tough task, especially given the experienced veteran leadership they lost this year. But with a young group, the Rams could surprise the rest of Ontario University Athletics (OUA) this season.

What happened last year:

The 2016-17 campaign ended with the Rams finishing second in the OUA East with a 15-5 record, propelling them to the playoffs for the fifth straight year. After losing to McMaster in the semifinals, they fell short in the bronze medal match to the University of Toronto, 3-1.

Since they were hosting the 2017 U Sports Championship, they automatically qualified, but only placed seventh out of eight teams. The 2016-17 season also marked the final year for three key players: Becky Zeeman, Kristine Yan and, most notably, Veronica Livingston due to graduation. Livingston shared first-team OUA East honours with Ryerson’s Theanna Vernon and Julie Longman, while promising rookies Laura Veltman and Cailin Wark made the OUA All-Rookie Team.

Rookie to watch out for:

After losing two standout seniors in Livingston and Zeeman last year, the volleyball program decided to recruit seven rookies this season. Amongst those rookies is first-year outside hitter Kelly Schaefer, a towering force from Uxbridge, Ont. Standing at six-feet tall with a seven-foot-nine standing reach, Schaefer brings a lot to the table.

Rams head coach Dustin Reid thinks Schaefer can contribute right away.“(Outside hitter) is not a position that you want to have players that don’t have a lot of experience, but I think in both Kelly and Janelle Albert’s situation, they are players that played at a high level in club volleyball. I think they’re ready to play at the (university) level.”

Schaefer spent six years in the Aurora Storm volleyball program, and she brings a terrific skillset along with tremendous provincial and national experience. She won the volleyball Ontario championship with her high school, Uxbridge S.S., and is a two-time Ontario Volleyball Association champion and a national champion. Schaefer’s presence will help Ryerson replace some of the talent they lost in the offseason, and she could one day even help fill Livingston’s large shoes at outside hitter.

What a successful year would look like:

Optimism is high for the women’s volleyball program. After hosting nationals last year and placing seventh, the Rams are hungry for more this year.  “Our goal is to make it back to nationals,” said Reid. “Our goal is to represent Ontario. Only one team from our conference gets a berth to nationals this year, so the only way to go is to win our conference.” 

Ryerson still has returning OUA East first-team all-stars in Longman and Vernon, who will be relied on even more this season after the loss of Livingston and Zeeman.

A lot of Ryerson’s young core is still intact and should be able to contribute more than last year.

Sophomore stars like Veltman and Wark should take the next step this season as they both finished in the top five on the team in kills as outside hitters. Setters Kate McIlmoyle and Mady Timpany are back this season as well. McIlmoyle was one of the best setters last year as a sophomore as she finished top five in the OUA in assists.

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