By Lara Kuipers
After back-to-back visits to the U SPORTS national championship game, the Ryerson Rams women’s volleyball team is ready to do it all over again for the third season in a row.
A heartbreaking loss to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a five-set match at the U SPORTS Championship game back in March has the Rams fired up and ready for redemption.
“It’s our goal to make it back to that final match and this time get the outcome we want,” said Kelly Schaefer, a third-year outside hitter.
“In order to get there, we are training hard on and off the court to reach that outcome.”
The year before, the team won Ryerson’s first-ever national championship. And if they’re looking to replicate the success of their past two seasons, they’ll have to do it without the most dominating player in program history, Theanna Vernon.
Graduating after completing her five years of eligibility, Vernon leaves Ryerson holding the record for most service aces, blocks, and the highest hitting percentage. Vernon was also the first Ram to be named to a U SPORTS First-Team.
Her accolades don’t stop there, in just her final season she was named an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) First-Team All-Star for the fourth consecutive season as well as the OUA East Most Valuable Player, while being first in U SPORTS in blocks per set and hitting percentage.
Vernon is undoubtedly a big loss for the team, but the impact she has left on the players is everlasting.
“We have a great roster of middle blockers who were able to play under [Vernon] and learn what it takes to be great, so from a positional point of view we are prepared,” said Schaefer.
One of those middle blockers is Katelyn Grasman, who along with Lauren Wong was named to the OUA East All-Rookie team last year.
Wong was also named to the U SPORTS All-Rookie team and named the OUA East Rookie of the Year. In just one season, Wong is climbing through Ryerson’s all-time assist record book (with 679) while also ranking first in the country in assists and third in assists per set last season.
The young group of players have the talent to maintain the program as one of the best in the nation. Adding onto that young group includes two sets of younger siblings.
Molly Peters is joined by her sister Kohl Peters, a middle blocker, while Lauren Veltman is joined by her sister, Britney Veltman, who’s also a middle blocker. The two are among seven recruits added to the Rams roster for the 2019-2020 season.
The Rams have also added middle blocker Ashley Ditchfield, setter Alli Pauls, libero Jyoti Ruparell, and outside hitters Jasmine Rivest and Mikayla Sherriffs.
The recruits are joining a team of award-winning players as Veltman was named an OUA East First Team All-Star alongside Vernon last season.
Veltman enters her fourth year after leading the Rams with 192 kills through 17 games last season.
Schaefer believes that Veltman will continue to be huge for the team this season both on the court as a tactical player and off the court as a leader.
“Lauren provides a great sense of leadership not only through her play but through her encouraging and wise words,” said Schaefer.
The team will have to depend on her leadership off the court for the beginning of the season, as Veltman is currently sidelined due to an injury.
While Brett Hagarty and Cailin Wark were named OUA East Second Team All-Stars.
Still running the bench is head coach Dustin Reid, who was named OUA East Coach of the Year after another stellar season, leading the team to a 27-5 record.
It’s a team with all the components to take another run at the championship, and winning at the highest level has become second nature for the women’s volleyball team.
“Due to our experience these last two years we know what it takes to make it to the national finals,” said Schaefer.
The team will kick off their regular season on Oct. 25 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre against the Lakehead Thunderwolves.