By Ilyas Hussein
Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s volleyball team opened their season with a 3-2 loss against the University of Windsor Lancers on Nov. 4 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
The heavyweight tilt resulted in a back-and-forth affair. After the Bold led 2-1, the Lancers stormed back in the fourth set and took a commanding win in the deciding frame to secure the match victory.
“They are a completely different team like we are, but they are a good program. So, to push them and have them on the ropes there is nice to see. But I think we got to work on a lot of things,” said Bold interim head coach Niko Rukavina.
Both teams traded blows early in the opening set before the Lancers jumped ahead 10-4 and forced the Bold to call a timeout. After the whistle, TMU battled back to put them within arms reach of the Lancers. Third-year libero Tony Tanouchev made a diving save to keep the ball in the play, leading to a kill from fourth-year middle Alex King and putting them within two of the Forsyth Cup finalists.
Yet, in the heart of the set, Windsor reined back control following multiple errors by the Bold and never looked back. A few kills from the Lancers later in the frame put the set away at 25-17 to give them the 1-0 lead.
“It’s the first game of the season. We knew [we were] going to be a little bit nervous at the start and have some anxiety,” said Rukavina.
Despite the nerves, the Bold came out firing in the second set. Third-year TMU outside hitter Ben Davey energized the blue and gold with four kills and a block to open the set in the Bold’s favour.
“We lost a lot of guys, so a lot of the weight of the team has fallen onto my shoulders,” said Davey. “I feel like I have to be that guy to finish a point.”
Despite the regrouping, the Lancers couldn’t find their footing in the frame, trailing by a set-high of 10 on multiple occasions.
King continued his hot start with five kills in the second frame to give TMU the 25-16 win to tie it up at one apiece.
“[King and Davey] were really great. They both played really well. They need to execute in the fifth set a little bit better, but I think they both had a good first game of the season for sure,” said Rukavina
The third set was much more of a back-and-forth affair. A couple of kills from Lancers fourth-year outside hitter Luca Nastase gave the visitors the lead momentarily. However, a series of errors from Windsor shortly after put the Bold ahead.
The Lancers fought back following a timeout as a kill from third-year right side Colin Hutchinson knotted the game up at 13. A heated exchange followed later in the set as third-year Lancers outside hitter Gustavo Siqueira and King traded kills. A minor misconduct from King resulted in a yellow card shown to him by the officials.
Third-year Lancers middle Anthony Ivanovksi’s seventh kill of the afternoon brought the score within two at 21-19. But, the Bold’s offence stayed hot to take the set 25-21–putting them on the precipice of a match victory.
Despite it being a home game for TMU, the visiting crowd was very vocal in their support for the Lancers. Chants were yelled at the home side to throw them off their game in the pivotal moments of the match.
“I heard the Windsor fans a little more than the TMU fans, so I think we need to work on that a little bit there. They were doing more chirping than our fans,” said Rukavina.
However, the visiting fans’ attempts to rattle the Bold players weren’t as successful as they thought they were, according to Davey.
“The Windsor fans making their comments doesn’t bother anybody. They can talk all they want. It’s not going to change anything,” said Davey. “All the energy in the gym really helps us.”
A short run from the Bold made it a two-point game late in the set, but a service ace and a kill from Siqueira ensured Windsor would force a deciding fifth set.
Both sides stayed close in the race to 15 points early in the final frame. Davey led the way for TMU at the beginning of the set with two kills. Yet, costly mistakes from the Bold gave Windsor the 7-4 lead, forcing Rukavina to call a timeout to halt the visitors’ momentum.
After the huddle, the Lancers’ push for the victory continued. A kill from Ivanovski and a service ace from second-year outside hitter Noah Koskie extended the Windsor lead to five at 9-4.
Rukavina attempted adjustments down the stretch with substitutions and timeouts. Yet, the Forsyth Cup finalists were too strong on both sides to topple. The Lancers took the deciding set 15-7 to secure the match victory.
“We have a lot of potential. Last year our first couple [of] games were pretty rough. We were getting swept in three sets by teams that I think are worse than Windsor is right now,” said Davey. “It shows that we have [had] a lot of growth.”
UP NEXT: The Bold prepare to face off against the Lancers on Nov. 5 for the second time in as many days at 3 p.m. at the MAC.