Photo: Thomas Skrlj

Rams upset top-seeded Calgary Dinos to advance to U Sports gold medal game

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By Luke Bellus

After picking up the first-ever win at nationals in the program’s history, the Rams continued their historic season Saturday night.

Ryerson beat the Calgary Dinos—the number one ranked team in the country—3-1. Not only did the Rams knock off the top team in the country, but they also guaranteed at least a silver medal heading into the final Sunday.

It was a new day at nationals, but the game was the same, with tight back and forth action early in the first set which saw the Rams lead the Dinos 16-13 at the technical timeout.

The Rams received a giant spark on their 16th point of the set when fifth-year libero Julie Longman laid out to keep the ball in play. An ensuing block and kill from the Rams gave Ryerson the point and the momentum.

“I think it’s just grit and believing in myself and knowing that I can make those touches, and knowing how they’re going to impact the game is what drives me to make those kinds of plays,” Longman said.

With the score tied at 23, the Rams took the next point and now had the game’s first set point. A timeout from the Dinos wasn’t going to stop the Rams, and Ryerson took the next point and the set, 25-23.

This made it the first time in three games that the Rams had won the opening set and found themselves in the driver’s seat.

“We knew we had to play great from the beginning,” Rams head coach Dustin Reid said. “And what can I say, we won the first set, it’s been a while since we’ve done that.”

The second set saw the Rams take an early five-point lead forcing a timeout from the Dinos, and that lead was cut to 16 for Ryerson at the technical timeout.

In this set, Calgary libero Kennedy Snape was the one to give her team a spark, with a big dig that led to a Dinos point to give her team a 20-19 lead.

But Ryerson wasn’t going to let this set get away from them, bouncing right back and taking a 22-21 lead of their own.

It was 24 apiece with the Dinos looking to serve out the set, but the Rams had different plans. A tip from Theanna Vernon gave Ryerson a one-point lead and the Rams held on in the next point to take the set 26-24.

The Rams proved in their quarter-final match that coming back from 2-0 is possible, and they were now looking to not be on the wrong side of that Saturday night.

The Dinos showed just why they were the number-one ranked team in the nation early on in the third set, getting out to a quick 5-0 lead.

But Ryerson didn’t roll over, winning nine of the next 14 points to tie the set at 9-9. But it was the Dinos with a lead of one going into the technical timeout. The Dinos took four of the next six points and the Rams called timeout down 20-17.

“I think when we saw that the finish line was partially there we lost our focus a little bit,” Reid said. “We just knew that we had to stick to our game, and doing what we do no matter what the other team is doing. That just gives us confidence,” Longman added.

As the fourth set carried on, Ryerson put the pressure on Calgary early in the set. The Rams held a 6-3 lead and some unforced errors from Calgary extended Ryerson’s lead.

The Rams kept pressing in the set and had a 16-9 lead going into the technical timeout, just nine points away from a spot in the U Sports gold medal game.

At the end of the night, Ryerson was just too good for the Dinos to handle.

“We came to this tournament to compete for the championship, and we’ve given ourselves a chance to do that, tomorrow will be a difficult situation,” Reid said. “Alberta is a team that scouts their opponents better than any other team in the country.”

UP NEXT: The Rams will play the Alberta Pandas for the 2018 U Sports Championship tomorrow. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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