Rams duke it out with No. 3 ranked Varsity Blues

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By Gavin Axelrod

The Rams women’s volleyball team went head-to-head with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues (U of T), winning a set off the nationally ranked powerhouse in a four set loss on Saturday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).  

Ryerson would dig in and take the first set 25-20. By winning the set, it’s the second time all year U of T has dropped the first set and third they’ve dropped in conference play.

“We showed a lot of cohesion and a lot of battle and when [University of] Toronto wasn’t playing at their best we were there to really take control of the match at certain times,” said Rams head coach Dustin Reid. 

The Rams got off to a hot start on Saturday fuelled by a passionate crowd. A kill by Britney Veltman gave the Rams a 9-6 lead. Veltman would end the night with four kills en route to five points. 

It didn’t stop there for the blue and gold though.

As the set rolled on, they forced the Varsity Blues into a timeout with a commanding 16-6 lead. But while the Rams held the momentum, U of T showed why they’re a top-three team in the country and clawed back as the score got to 22-17. 

However, the Rams didn’t seem phased by their opponent’s response and were able to close the door before the Varsity Blues could get back in it. 

Coming out of an uber-successful first set, the Rams found themselves on the heels of an aggressive U of T attack. 

But the Rams wouldn’t go away easily, as first-year outside hitter Jia Lonardi connected on one of her eight kills on the night to put the team up 6-5. After enjoying a less than comfortable lead, Ryerson found themselves at a deficit forcing Reid to call a timeout. 

Coming out of the timeout the Rams looked to regroup, but U of T’s pressure was too strong. The Rams suddenly found themselves down 16-11, which was then pushed to 20-18 and finally ended with the visitors taking the second set. 

The main highlight for the Rams in the match’s second set was first-year libero Mary Ann Rioflorido. She had a game-high 16 digs on the night. 

“She’s a super-talent and has the potential to be one of the better players at that position,” said Reid. “She was just shining…and not letting the ball get past her.”

Saturday’s third set was a return to its opener and the two teams traded leads early and often. 

At one point it looked as though the Rams would put it away and steal another set, but the Varsity Blues tied things at 23 apiece. After strong play at the net and a plethora of powerful rallies, the Rams dropped the third set 25-27. 

In the fourth set, things didn’t get much better for the Rams. While the team battled the whole way through, this one was where U of T really flexed its No. 3 ranking in the country. Ryerson dropped the fourth and final set 15-25, falling to 0-10 on the year. 

Despite the loss, Reid liked what he saw from his team. In addition, the confidence of battling with the Varsity Blues will give the Rams confidence heading into their final three games of the regular season, which are all at the MAC. 

“I think the fact that we found lots of ways to win rallies…I think that was a really great sign for us,” said Reid. 

UP NEXT: The Rams host the Trent Excalibur on March 2. First serve is set for 6 p.m.

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