Toronto Metropolitan University's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1967

Lauren Veltman jumps with a volleyball, while Britney Veltman sits with a volleyball in her lap
All Sports

Serving up sisterhood: The Veltmans volleyball reunion at TMU

By Mitchell Fox

Lauren Veltman had her university volleyball career cut short. 

Her final game came in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and saw her second ankle sprain of the season. For a player who had entered the top five in all-time kills for the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold—then Ryerson Rams—women’s volleyball team earlier that season, it was not the conclusion she had anticipated.

Four years later, she is getting a proper send-off. And she gets to do it alongside her younger sister, Britney Veltman.

“My last year ended on a pretty disappointing note,” Lauren said. “I wanted to come back and finish it off on a good note.”

The Veltman sisters are both set to graduate from the team at the end of this season, each with five seasons under their belts, though with different stories to tell. 

Lauren won a U Sports national championship, along with an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship, in the 2017-18 season. As a key part of a team with three national tournament appearances across four 15-plus-win seasons, the elder Veltman’s TMU career was illustrious. 

Lauren finished her undergraduate degree in 2020-21 but still had a year of volleyball eligibility, which she is using this season while taking classes in the Chang School.

“We didn’t think we’d be graduating together,” Britney said. “Being able to do that is obviously amazing.”

“They represent the sisterhood that we all aspire to have”

Bold women’s volleyball head coach Dustin Reid said he is glad to have Lauren back after a few years as she embraces being a varsity athlete and “one of the top players in the league.”

 “She wasn’t given the proper send-off that an athlete of her calibre, and the type of career she’s had, deserves,” he said. 

Britney, on the other hand, started her volleyball career at TMU in the 2019-20 season—her sister’s fourth. 

Since then, the team had a year off due to the pandemic, their first losing season since 2011-12 and a playoff appearance last year—a change from the prior heights they reached. 

Despite a knee injury sidelining her since November, Britney has taken on a leadership role as the team’s captain this season. 

Though they have taken different paths, Reid said it has been “special” to see the Veltmans fit alongside each other as leaders.

“Having coached one of them or the other, or both, at some point since 2016, it’s really been a treat to see how they’ve both grown,” he said.

Lauren finds it “mind-blowing” to see her sister’s growth over the years, evolving from a quiet first-year to an outspoken leader and deserving captain.

“Seeing her like that made me feel pretty comfortable coming into the role I’m in now,” she added. “Seeing that she can grow and evolve, I’m like, ‘OK, I can do that coming in.’”

After eight months of playing professional volleyball in Sweden followed by a year off from playing the sport, many were invested in Lauren’s return. Bold assistant coach Brett Hagarty often put the idea in her head when they saw each other while coaching youth teams.

Lauren asked Britney for permission before deciding to return to the Bold because she felt it was her younger sister’s moment to graduate with the friends she had made over the last three years.

 “I didn’t want to overstep on her senior year,” Lauren said. “I’m really glad that she felt the same way I did.”

“We didn’t think we’d be graduating together”

The team found out about Lauren’s return when she was on email lists ahead of the season. However, staff member and former teammate, Lauren Wong, was surprised to learn she was joining the roster, not the staff, at their first meeting.

“She messaged me during the meeting and she was like, ‘What, you’re playing?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, girl,’” the elder Veltman laughed.

The team was full of “high vibes” when they learned of Lauren’s return as a player. 

“People will listen to what she has to say because of all the knowledge that she has,” Britney said. “On the court, people just follow in her footsteps.”

Reid said Lauren joined the team prepared to lead with her words and actions while letting others lead with their strengths. 

“She [saw] that there [was] a really strong leadership group that has been together for the last three years through the pandemic and out of it,” he said. “She didn’t arrive demanding to be a central part of that.” 

While Lauren draws on her experience in engaging teammates in one-on-one feedback, Britney is the social leader who brings the team together.

Ashley Ditchfield, another senior player on the team and Britney’s roommate, credits her as being the team’s glue.

Members of the TMU Bold women's volleyball team celebrate a point at centre court

“Britney is probably the best friend I’ve ever had,” Ditchfield said. “Seeing her become our leader has been super special for me.”

Reid believes the way Britney never casts a dark cloud on the squad while battling an injury is a sign of the sisters being supportive and team-centric people.

“While they are tremendous players and potential future Hall of Famers at TMU, their commitment to the group is really amazing,” he said. 

The Veltmans are a force on the court but also a source of entertainment for their teammates. Along with their humour, they sometimes get caught singing songs at the same time during breaks at practice.

“They’re synced up, I swear,” Ditchfield said. “They just play off each other non-stop and it’s so fun to watch.”

The sisters are far from the only athletes in the Veltman family. Their uncle is a National Lacrosse League Hall of Famer. Their father,  as well as their cousins, also played high-level lacrosse. Meanwhile, their older sister Kelsey Veltman played volleyball, going from an accomplished U Sports tenure with the Western Mustangs to a professional career abroad.

“I didn’t want to overstep on her senior year”

Britney and Lauren are three years apart in age, so they never got to play together in high school or with club teams. Lauren did, however, get to play high school volleyball with Kelsey.

Lauren got ideas about how far she could go in volleyball, such as playing in university or going pro, from seeing Kelsey do it. Britney got that two times over.

“Going into university, it was such a crazy idea that I’d be able to actually be with them and play with them after watching them for all these years,” Britney said. 

The Veltmans are looking forward to celebrating Senior Night, which will take place on Feb. 10 against the Trent Excalibur, as a family. Britney hopes to be back in time from her injury to participate in the game.

“I already have it pictured in my head: me, [Lauren], mom and dad on the court, taking that photo together,” she said. “I’m stoked.”

For now, the Bold will continue to work towards competing for an OUA and national championship, with the Veltmans at the helm—both as sisters and as teammates.

“They bring another level of what friendship can mean,” said Ditchfield. “They represent the sisterhood that we all aspire to have with one another.”

Leave a Reply