Toronto Metropolitan University's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1967

TMU Bold women's volleyball player Mary Rioflorido motions to a "to sleep" sign with her hands
All Recaps Sports

Bold women’s volleyball trounce U of T in post-season matchup

By Mitchell Fox

With a four-set win over the University of Toronto (U of T) Varsity Blues on Saturday at Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold women’s volleyball team advanced to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semi-finals. 

The win was the Bold’s first playoff appearance on home court since a loss to the Guelph Gryphons in the 2019-20 season and their first playoff victory since the 2018-19 season. 

Bold head coach Dustin Reid said it was great for his team to play such a big game on their home court “against an amazing team.”

“For all but one player on the roster today, no one had ever won a game in the OUA playoffs. So every single one of the players in this team has now done that,” he said. “They should feel like if we’re in that position again a week from now, we can find a way to get it done.”

Fifth-year outside hitter Mikayla Sheriffs said the win means everything to her.

“In all five years of me being here, I’ve never made it past a quarterfinal game. So I was really needing this one,” she said.

Both teams entered the game red hot, with the Bold carrying a seven-game winning streak and the Varsity Blues on a six-game winning streak.

“We won a number of matches in a row coming into this. None of them are like this one. None of them had the pressure and the crowd and the preparation of our opponent like this one,” he said.

“U of T is the gold standard of volleyball on the women’s side in the OUA and we knew that we’d have to play our best game to beat them.”

“We knew we were going to come back and win”

The Bold came out firing from the first serve, looking to use their strong hitting to their advantage. However, the Varsity Blues were more organized and managed to make it difficult for TMU to set up those plays in the first set. A double block by first-year setter Robin Melnick and third-year middle Anna Gadomski on TMU fifth-year outside hitter Lauren Veltman turned the momentum in the Varsity Blues’ favour, which they used en route to a 25-19 win. 

“Credit to Toronto, they played almost a perfect set in the first set. They were just super aggressive without making any mistakes,” Reid said.

The Bold went down 8-4 in the second set but battled their way back, never falling behind by more than a point after going down 9-8. 

“Those are things you want to see your team go through and feel confident about, so next time we’re in that spot, we have that belief,” said Reid.

Third-year setter Sarah Zonneveld said nerves of a playoff environment might have been a factor on the team in the first set. 

“We came out strong, but just were kind of hesitant,” she said.

Still, Sheriffs said the team’s experience with erasing deficits helped their mindset.

“We always joke: we love a comeback. We have done this so many times this season that we get ourselves down, and we can bring it back,” she said. “I think no one lost confidence being down or looking at the score. We knew we were going to come back and win.”

Ultimately, the Bold bounced back and prevailed thanks to a balance of powerful hitting and relentless defending. 

  • The TMU Bold women's volleyball team jumps together in a huddle after winning
  • TMU Bold women's volleyball player Julie Gordon screams in excitement
  • TMU Bold women's volleyball player Sarah Zonneveld jumps to serve the ball
  • Members of the TMU Bold women's volleybal team put their hands in a circle to celebrate their win

After the first set, Veltman put her power on display as she whisked kills past Varsity Blues blocks. 

“What can you say about Lauren…she is as good as any athlete has ever been at the school. And her pedigree in the playoffs is second to none,” said Reid. 

Reid said Veltman’s play and mental strength rubbed off on her teammates as well.

“One of Lauren’s special gifts is that she doesn’t spend any time worrying about the last rally. That’s really hard to do in our sport,” he said.

Another standout for the Bold was Sheriffs, who finished the match with a team-leading 16 kills, as well as 18 digs that was second only to Zonneveld. 

“That’s a tremendous performance on a day where we needed her to block and defend against their best attackers,” Reid said about Sheriffs.

The game featured several mesmerizing rallies, with both teams putting everything they had on the line to get to every ball. The Bold prevailed in some key rallies, which Reid credited to playing more aggressively and taking more chances than they might typically. 

“When there’s a long rally, obviously, there’s very little between the teams,” he said. “If you don’t control the ball, and if you don’t hit it over the net aggressively, [Toronto] are just too good defensively.”

“There’s an advantage to playing at home…you want your players to have the chance to experience that

The Bold’s depth and defence proved to be an important factor. Five players had more than 10 digs and they kept several rallies alive with miraculous plays.

Reid said defence was a huge factor in wearing down the Varsity Blues mentally.

“We just kept balls from touching the ground,” Reid said. “We have enough players who can score that if you do that…then you have a chance.”

Sheriffs said playing defence is her favourite part of the game.

“I’m just back there hoping it’s gonna come to me like, ‘I really want to dig this ball. I really want to get it up and then we’re gonna get a big kill off of it,’” she said.

Reid told the team after the first set that nothing should hit the floor on their side unless it was a good kill from the Varsity Blues.

““In playoff games, it’s do-or-die so you have nothing to lose,” said Zonneveld. “So might as well run into the wall and run into the stands.”

Another element in the game was the electric crowd at the MAC. Along with families and friends, Reid said there were a variety of TMU athletes and members of the wider volleyball community attending the game.  

“Our student section was a factor in the game, which is a really amazing thing to be able to say,” Reid said. “There’s an advantage to playing at home, but more than anything, you want your players to have the chance to experience that.”

The Bold will not have that advantage when they play the Brock Badgers on their home court in the semi-finals next week. Reid said facing the two-time defending champions in that environment will be the toughest challenge the team faces all season. 

“It’s one match,” he said. “If we play with the type of resiliency and teamwork that we did today then I think we can give anybody a run for their money.” 

UP NEXT: The Bold will take on the top-seeded Brock Badgers at Bob Davis Gymnasium on March 1 in the OUA semi-finals. A time for first serve has not yet been set.

Leave a Reply