Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
Rams win Ryerson’s first national title to cap off perfect season
History was made this weekend at the 2018 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship presented by Hôtel Universel Québec, hosted by the Laval Rouge et Or in Quebec City. That tournament saw the Ryerson Rams win their school’s first-ever national title. The Rams entered the tournament as the fourth seed and were the last team to qualify, only earning their berth last week after winning the first OUA championship in program history.
Once at nationals, Ryerson went on a remarkable run through the tournament, falling behind two sets to none in the quarterfinals against the UBC Okanagan Heat before rallying to win 22-25, 18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 15-8. The Rams then beat the top-seeded Calgary Dinos 25-23, 26-24, 20-25, 25-14 in the semifinals. That put them into the first national finals in program history against the seventh-seeded Alberta Pandas.
In that final, Ryerson got off to a good start with a 25-22 win in the first set. But Alberta bounced back in a marathon second set, taking that one 31-29. The Rams went on to win the third and fourth sets 25-19 and 25-21, though, sealing their national title in the process.
But that fourth set saw Ryerson bounce back from a 20-17 deficit, which head coach Dustin Reid said was remarkable:
“It was a crazy game. Alberta, I thought played better than us through much of the game and we managed to get enough distance from them at times to get the sets we needed for the improbable comeback in the fourth set there.”
Reid also said a lot of the success here came from Ryerson’s previous experience at the national championships, which the Rams hosted last year.
“I think we had a really nice, but direct and harsh lesson about the level of play at the national championships last year. Not just in playing but in watching and observing some amazing teams fighting for the championship at the tournament.”
“We didn’t start the season thinking that we were going to be in this spot, early in the preseason I think we thought we could be a strong team. We kept improving and we have a lot of young players in important roles who are still learning how to perform so I think it says a lot about the chemistry that we have that we played this well.”
Ryerson was led by middle blocker and team captain Theanna Vernon, who recorded a match-high 13 blocks and added 11 kills en route to being selected as the tournament MVP. Lauren Veltman was also crucial to the Rams’ success, posting 20 kills and 10 digs, and Janelle Albert added 10 kills, 28 digs and nine blocks. And Ryerson wound up taking home their first national title in any sport as a result. Meanwhile, the UBC Thunderbirds earned bronze after downing the top-seeded Dinos 27-25, 19-25, 25-19, 25-16.
Golden Bears claim 16th University Cup, first since 2015
While Ryerson was winning their first title, a very different story was playing out in men’s hockey. The Alberta Golden Bears claimed the 2018 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup Sunday in Fredericton, New Brunswick, beating the St. FX X-Men 4-2 in the final. That marked Alberta’s 16th men’s hockey title overall, but their first since 2015.
The Golden Bears were the second seed in this week’s University Cup, and they got to the final thanks to an 8-6 win over the Acadia Axemen in the quarterfinals and a 3-2 overtime win against the Saskatchewan Huskies in the semifinals. That semifinal win was a rematch of the Canada West final, which Alberta claimed earlier this month with 5-2 and 5-1 victories, giving them their 27th conference title. And it set up an interesting final against St. FX, ranked No. 3 in the final Top 10 poll last week but seeded fifth at nationals thanks to their AUS title loss to the (national championship host) University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds. St. FX themselves made it to the title game thanks to a 5-4 overtime semifinal win over UNB:
In that final Sunday, St. FX’s Daniel Robertson opened the scoring just over five minutes in, stealing the puck from Alberta’s Tyson Baillie and driving in alone to beat goalie Zach Sawchenko. Just over three minutes later, Michael Clarke expanded the Golden Bears’ lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal. But Alberta soon struck back, with Stephane Legault scoring at 13:22 to make it 2-1 and Luke Philp tying the game at 14:01.
After that, Wil Tomchuk put the Golden Bears up 3-2 at 4:18 of the second period, a period Alberta survived despite spending almost six minutes on the penalty kill (including two five-on-three situations). Jamie Crooks added an empty-net goal at 18:32 of the third period to seal the deal for the Golden Bears, giving them the newly-renamed David Johnston University Cup.
Alberta head coach Serge Lajoie said afterwards this was a special win for him, and one that legendary former Alberta coach Clare Drake would admire:
“I’ve raised this trophy once as a player and it’s now three times as a coach and my first time as a head coach. I told the guys between the second and third period that Clare Drake would be very proud of us.”
In the bronze-medal game, the host UNB Varsity Reds beat the Saskatchewan Huskies 5-4 in overtime thanks to a goal from Alexandre Goulet. That was one of Goulet’s two goals on the night.
Bisons shut out Mustangs for first national title
It wasn’t just the Ryerson Rams making history this week, as the Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team also did that. Manitoba picked up their first national title in program history Sunday with a 2-0 shutout win over the host Western Mustangs at the women’s hockey national championships in London, Ontario.
In that win, the Bisons were led by goals from Lauryn Keen and Venla Hovi, plus a 20-save shutout from Lauren Taraschuk. Keen, who was named the tournament MVP, notched the game’s first goal on the power play at 18:16 of the second period. Hovi added an insurance marker at 5:10 of the third. And that led to the Bisons, who were the Canada West champions and the No. 1 seed heading into this tournament, claiming their first national title.
Manitoba head coach Jon Rempel was overcome afterwards:
“This is a hard one for me, usually I’m not short for words but right now I’m pretty overwhelmed – and it takes a lot to get me overwhelmed. The work and the sacrifice that this group has put in over the last four or five years to build this team is pretty incredible and it showed this weekend, I thought.
“We’ve got great goaltending, and we just play a suffocating style of hockey that’s up-tempo, and it’s hard for people to score on us. We didn’t give up a lot of goals in about the last 26 games of the year. Including playoffs, we didn’t give up much. I felt that if we could play that way this weekend, we’d have a chance.”
They sure did. The Bisons made it to the final thanks to a 4-0 win over the Queen’s Gaels in the quarterfinals, and then a 2-1 shootout win over the Concordia Stingers in the semifinals. And that gave them this chance for their first national title, and they took full advantage of that. Elsewhere, the Stingers came up with a 4-0 shutout win over the Saskatchewan Huskies in the bronze-medal game.
Thunderbirds win first national title in 35 years
The TELUS 2018 Men’s Volleyball Championship at Hamilton’s McMaster University saw the UBC Thunderbirds emerge with their first national title in 35 years. The Thunderbirds entered nationals as the third seed, but the third seed out of Canada West after a bronze medal there, and they got to the final thanks to a three-set win over the UNB Varsity Reds in the quarterfinals and a four-set win over the Alberta Golden Bears in the semifinals. That set up a gold-medal match against the Canada West champion, top seed and defending national champion Trinity Western Spartans, and UBC won that in straight sets, winning 25-22, 25-18, and 27-25.
This marked the Thunderbirds’ fourth men’s volleyball national title, but their previous ones came in 1967, 1976 and 1983, so this was quite the accomplishment for them based on recent history. And they did so thanks to Fynn McCarthy and Keith West, who each posted nine kills, while Jordan Deshane added eight kills on nine attempts and three blocks. Plus, fifth-year captain Irvan Brar added seven kills, two service aces, a stuff block and two assisted blocks.
UBC setter Byron Keturakis earned the tournament MVP award and had 31 assists (plus two solo blocks and three assisted blocks) in the gold-medal game. He said afterwards this was a special win for UBC, especially coming against a rival like TWU:
“It’s awesome to win one for the program. We have so much support from our teammates, our coaching staff, our trainers, parents and alumni, and it’s really cool to be a part of that bigger family.”
“Trinity Western is an awesome team, and part of what makes this so special is that they’re continually in this national final. Their being so good is what makes this so special.”
Elsewhere, the host McMaster Marauders (the OUA champions) claimed their sixth-straight medal at nationals with a 25-14, 25-16, 25-22 win over the second-seeded Alberta Golden Bears in the bronze-medal game. Middle hitter Matt Passalent led the way for McMaster with 16 points, coming from 12 kills, three service aces and two blocks.
Social media post of the week:
Ron MacLean promotes the men’s and women’s hockey title games
Sportsnet host Ron MacLean delivered a very nice shoutout for the men’s and women’s hockey gold-medal games on Hockey Night In Canada Saturday night:
It’s cool to see MacLean also include a shoutout to Victor Findlay, who made some history this week by calling the University Cup matches for Sportsnet, becoming the youngest to do a national play-by-play game for that network:
That’s a great milestone for Findlay, and it’s also great to see university hockey get some promotion from someone as well-known as MacLean.