By Luke Bellus
QUEBEC CITY—Mark this date down, folks.
The Ryerson Rams women’s volleyball team have won the U Sports Final 8 national championship, defeating the Alberta Golden Pandas, 3-1.
With the win, the team has secured Ryerson’s first national championship since 1963, when the school was considered a polytechnical institute.
The Rams women’s volleyball team capped off their perfect season Sunday night with a national championship, making them the first Ryerson team in modern school history to win a national championship.
Although Alberta was seeded seventh, the Rams knew that that had to take them seriously and they did just that.
The MVP of the game was the same player who was the MVP when Ryerson won the OUA gold earlier this month: Theanna Vernon.
“I’m so proud of each and every player. This is just the best feeling ever,” Vernon said.
“[Theanna] showed in this tournament that she is one of the best players in the country,” Ryerson head coach Dustin Reid said. “And that’s what national championship weekends are about: great players cementing their legacies.”
In the first set, both teams constantly traded points, going back and forth early on. Eventually, the Rams would end up earning a set point after a service error from the Pandas. Ryerson would take the set on the next point, giving them an eventual 25-22 win.
The Rams were rolling early in the second set forcing an early timeout from the Pandas with Ryerson up 5-1. But that wasn’t going to stop the Rams and they held a 16-9 lead at the technical timeout.
Through one and a half sets the Rams blockers—lead by Vernon—were simply too much for the Pandas offence to handle.
With Ryerson up 23-20, a controversial call went against the Rams and cut their lead to two instead of giving them four chances at set point.
The Pandas weren’t going to let this set get away from them and they fought off back to back Ryerson set points before getting one of their own up 26-25.
Ryerson would respond by fighting off two set points of their own and now we’re serving with the set tied at 27-27, a block by the Rams gave them a third set point.
The Pandas eventually prevailed and capitalized on a set point opportunity of their own, giving them the set and tying the game up at 1-1.
“It was a big moment, I think we let some opportunities get away from us and Alberta changed some stuff up tactically and we didn’t have a timeout left to regroup,” Reid said. “But one of the best things about our team all season has been our ability to bounce back after dropping a set. Going back to our first game of the season we were down 0-2 and were able to win it.”
It was now a best two-out-of-three match and Ryerson got off to a flying start, and after two service aces from Lauren Veltman the Rams lead 9-4 prompting a Pandas timeout and the Rams took a 16-10 lead into the technical timeout.
The Rams found themselves five points away from taking a 2-1 lead, but Alberta found a way to cut the Rams lead to five. However, Ryerson was able to regroup and take the next four points, leaving them one set away from U Sports gold.
Alberta had an lead early in the set, but a scary moment for the Rams when Vernon went down with an apparent leg injury. She was on the floor for a couple minutes before walking off the court on her own.
After the Pandas took advantage with a three point lead, Vernon returned to the court out of the timeout to chants of “MVP” from the loud group of Ryerson students in attendance.
With the sudden rush of cheers from the crowd, Ryerson made sure to never look bad.
An Alberta service error, followed by two Cailin Wark service aces and a Lauren Veltman kill tied the set at 20-20 and now the Rams were just five points away from winning it all.
Ryerson wouldn’t waste any time getting the job done, scoring on five of the next six points to put Alberta away and claim the national title.
“it’s been a really great weekend,” Reid said. “The support we got from the students at our school, some of our admin staff, all the family and friends who have made the trip out and having my family here to share with me is really special for me. I think in the next few days it will really sink in.”
No Ryerson team has ever done what this one did, and these players won’t ever forget that: they’ll have a banner up in their gym to ensure they’re never forgotten either.