By Keiran Gorsky
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold women’s volleyball team opened their season with an all-out heartbreaker, dropping the match in five sets to the Western Mustangs at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) on Oct. 27.
A Mustangs comeback in the fourth set resulted in a deciding frame that Western used to secure the victory on opening night.
“I liked how we hung around,” said head coach Dustin Reid. “But, we can’t give a quality team like that head starts and expect to pull out wins.”
Both teams worked to shed a little rust in the first set, coming off long breaks from competitive play. The Mustangs’ offence looked ready to threaten but conceded early ground to the Bold under the weight of individual mistakes.
A series of service errors early on prompted Western to call a timeout after a mere 13 points, the Bold leading 8-5.
Upon clearing the net a little more consistently, the Mustangs still found themselves frustrated by a forest of Bold arms that refused to let the ball go very far.
This frustration was perhaps accentuated in one wild play, in which a Mustang spike fell off the stray foot of fifth-year Bold outside hitter Lauren Veltman—who would continue to be a nuisance for Western all match.
The Bold never let go of their early lead, winning the opening set 25-19.
The second set told a very different story. Western’s first-year middle Kendra McEwen turned the Mustangs’ serving woes right around, pounding the first seven points home–including the first true ace of the match. This time, it was the Bold who took the early timeout.
Western did not enjoy the same consistent stream of play that eased the Bold to victory in the first set, struggling against the likes of Veltman and fourth-year middle Ashley Ditchfield, who helped TMU storm back and even take the lead in the set.
Still, the Mustangs were itching to prove that they were still one of the top teams in the province. In tiebreakers, they rallied back with a consistency they had previously neglected. Western’s fourth-year outside hitter Devin Gerth ended the set with a spike that sent the ball flying to the back of the gymnasium.
The third set proved stunningly similar, with Western stealing six of the first seven points. The flailing heroics of third-year libero Mary Rioflorido and the strength of an unrelenting Ditchfield sparked a mid-set Bold surge.
Veltman returning to the floor rubbed more salt in the wound for Western. What seemed like a Mustang return to form turned into an even sturdier scoreline than TMU achieved in the first set, giving the Bold a 2-1 lead.
The fourth set featured the most back-and-forth, streakless string of play. A chorus of powerful serves finally settled the match into a sort of monotony, the Mustangs gripping the edge until the bitter end.
A blistering ace from third-year TMU right side Jia Lonardi threw a wrench into Western’s plans to pull away, prompting a promising match point. It was the Mustangs, though, who fought their way back and prevailed for the second time in tiebreakers, winning the set 28-26 to force a deciding frame.
It was the fifth and final set that brought the match back to its tumultuous roots, with the Mustangs gobbling up five of the first six points.
Later in the set, a miscommunication between third-year outside hitter Scarlett Gingera and freshman Marta Cerovic brought the Bold to the brink, only for them to storm back just as they’d done so many times before and force a tiebreaker.
For the Bold, tiebreakers once again proved decisive. In a match that packed in so many theatrics, it was a simple block that spun the ball onto the floor on TMU’s side of the net that gave Western set and match point.
“Our key was to focus on their big hitters, [but] they definitely adjusted,” said Veltman. “The fourth and fifth set is when people sometimes start to panic a little bit.”
UP NEXT: The Bold get another shot at the Mustangs on Saturday afternoon at the MAC. The first serve is set for 4 p.m.