By Luke Bellus
With a birth at nationals on the line, the Ryerson Rams women’s volleyball team beat the defending OUA Champion McMaster Marauders 3-1, giving Ryerson its first-ever OUA Gold in the sport of volleyball.
The win gave the Rams a perfect season in the OUA, and thanks to that, they punched their ticket to the U Sports national championships in Laval, Que.
“I’m extremely excited and proud of everyone on my team, I feel like I want to cry,” said Ryerson’s Theanna Vernon. “I’m just so excited to win a gold medal for Ryerson.”
The atmosphere at the Coca-Cola Court was electric right from the first point of the game and only seemed to pick up intensity as the game went on.
The first set showed why both teams were playing in this championship game, with Ryerson and McMaster trading big kills and blocks as the set went on. The Marauders took the first set 29-27 in nail-biting fashion.
The set was up for grabs at the technical timeout, with the Rams having a slight advantage of 16-15 and it was just as close when the Marauders took a timeout with the Rams up 20-19.
A quick 2-0 run from the Marauders saw the Rams call a timeout of their own and once again two points later the Rams called another timeout with them trailing 20-23.
The Rams responded out of their second timeout grabbing three quick points tying things up at 23.
Although the Rams were able to fight off four set points their efforts fell short and they dropped the first set.
“McMaster did a lot [in the first set] that we expected them to do and we just weren’t able to execute, especially after the game got to 20 points,” said Rams head coach Dustin Reid. “We were just trying to stay positive and stay patient.”
The Rams were quick to respond in the second set, getting out to a 5-1 lead, forcing an early timeout from the Marauders. By the time the technical timeout had come around, the Rams’ lead was up to eight.
From then on, the Rams lead never trailed by more than five points in the set and the Rams tied the match 1-1, taking the set 25-18.
In the third, it was the Marauders turn to grab an early set lead. However, the Rams would storm back, taking control of the set going into the technical timeout up 16-13.
A 22-18 lead for Ryerson would force another Marauders timeout and with the third set just three points away, the Rams looked to lock up a much needed one set lead.
The Rams wouldn’t look back and managed to take 25-19 third set, meaning they were now one set away from winning the championship and securing their place at nationals.
With a perfect season and a trip to nationals just one set away, the Rams took a six-point lead into the fourth set technical timeout.
The Rams showed why they have been unbeaten all year late in this game, making the Marauders look like any other team and not the defending OUA champions.
One point away from an OUA championship with the crowd on their feet and countless people on their phones ready to capture the championship moment, Rams outside hitter Lauren Veltman jumped up and smashed a ball that was no match for the Marauders defence.
And just like that, the Ryerson Rams had completed the perfect season and earned their first volleyball championship banner.
It was obvious by watching the game who the player of the game was going to be for the Rams.
Vernon dominated right from the jump, and left her mark on the game time after time.
“She’s one of the best volleyball players I’ve ever coached,” said Reid. “These are the types of days she lives for. I’m very proud of her.”
After the game, Reid made a point of mentioning the alumni that have come before the players he has and how they got the program to where it’s at today.
One of those alumni is Emily Nicholishen, who was with the Rams from 2011-2016. As the players continued to celebrate, Nicholishen stood with tears in her eyes.
“It feels like a victory for all of us, all of the generations of volleyball players in the room,” she said. “It’s just a good day, I’m very happy.”
UP NEXT: The Rams will look to ride their momentum into Laval for nationals from March 16-18.