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Bold send Paladins to the trenches, take first win of season

By Dexter LeRuez

The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s volleyball team defeated the Royal Military College (RMC) Paladins in straight sets on Nov. 17 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).

After losing their first four games of the season, the win was the first for the Bold’s 2023-24 campaign. 

For the Paladins, their winless streak remains as they fall to 0-3 on the season. However, their losing streak stretches back long before facing off against the Bold. RMC has not won an OUA match since February 2022. 

Despite the less-than-formidable reputation of their opponent, Bold interim head coach Niko Rukavina noted that his squad’s struggles kept them focused during the win. 

“Everytime you play RMC it’s gonna be tough to stay focused,” he said. “But our guys were so hungry to get in the win column that I knew we were gonna stay focused.”   

“Our guys were so hungry to get in the win column”

Despite the focus, the Bold’s hitters came out with a whimper, as the team finished the first set with a mere 0.036 hitting percentage.

“As a team, I think we started slow,” said first-year outside hitter Day Westell. “There were moments where we let them off the hook.”

Instead, it would be the Bold’s service game that pushed them past the Paladins in the first frame—as TMU scored five aces en route to a 25-17 first-set victory.  

The Bold’s second set was still rife with struggle, with the Paladins going on a 6-1 run to take an 8-7 lead in the frame.    

Nevertheless, the Bold fought back and forgot their hitting woes. Led by third-year outside Kai Higuchi—who finished the game with a season-high 10 kills—the Bold’s hitting percentage rose to 0.360 while they took the set 25-18. 

Westell cited good communication as the key to stopping the Paladins’ run and taking back control of the set. 

“Talking and feeling comfortable with the guy next to you on the court is really important,” he said.

By the third set, the Bold were in cruise control. The home side held the Paladins to just 13 points while hitting at a 0.476 rate to confirm the sweep and the team’s first victory of the season. 

“Those guys having the confidence in me makes me feel a lot better about going out [on the court] as a first-year”

Notably, on the Bold’s sideline was former Bold volleyball player Jacob Walker.  

As previously reported by The Eyeopener, Walker, who as a second-year in 2022-23 received OUA-first team all-star and team MVP honours, decided to move on from volleyball prior to the 23-24 season. 

When asked why Walker had left the team following Friday’s victory over the Paladins, Rukavina declined to comment and stated that Walker was simply supporting the team by sitting on the sideline. 

Westell called the experience of having Walker back on the Bold’s sideline comforting.

“Having guys with that level of experience like him and [fourth-year middle] Alex King [is really comforting],” he said. “Those guys having the confidence in me makes me feel a lot better about going out [on the court] as a first-year.”

As the season progresses, the Bold will face opponents with better records than the Paladins. However, Rukavina is living in the present.  

“It’s nice to get a win,” said Rukavina. “[There is] definitely stuff we can work on but right now we need to just keep it simple and be happy with a win.”

UP NEXT: The Bold will host the Paladins one more time over the weekend. RMC will return to the MAC on Nov. 18 with the game set to kick off at 8 p.m.

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