After upsetting the top-ranked Calgary Dinos in last year’s semifinal in four sets en route to their first-ever national championship, the No. 6 Ryerson Rams took care of the No. 3 Dinos one round earlier this season, earning a straight-sets victory (25-21, 25-15, 25-21) in the fourth quarterfinal of the U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship, Friday night at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Third-year outside hitter Cailin Wark and senior middle Theanna Vernon led the defending champions with a dozen kills apiece while U SPORTS All-Rookie Team member Lauren Wong recorded match highs with 34 assists and four aces.
“We have tremendous respect for Calgary, with or without the players who are injured. We expected them to play inspired, and I was really happy with how we handled their strong blocking,” said Rams head coach Dustin Reid. “This is our last run with Theanna, and I’m not surprised to see her step up and play so well tonight.”
U SPORTS Second Team All-Canadian Beth Vinnell and sophomore outside hitter Kenzie Vaandering tallied 10 kills each for the Dinos, and third-year setter Lexi Peart notched 24 assists in the loss.
The two squads started out neck and neck on the scoreboard, but a Lauren Veltman kill began an 8-3 run for Ryerson and the Rams never looked back. The third-year outside hitter added three more kills in the set, but it was fourth-year outside hitter Brett Hagarty who sent her attack down the line to earn the OUA finalists the 1-0 set lead.
The Rams continued the momentum to open the second set, jumping out to a 4-0 lead but the feisty Dinos fought back and eventually tied the score at 8-8. Unfortunately for Calgary, Wark then fueled a 14-3 run for Ryerson, netting five kills over that span, the Rams threatening to take a 2-0 set lead.
Vinnell did her part by scoring three straight points for the Dinos at the end of the set, but Veltman made the threat all too real when she got her attack through the Calgary block before it ricocheted off fourth-year outside hitter Rachel Solecki and into the crowd.
The confident Rams built a 6-2 lead to start the final set, the two teams then battling back and forth on the scoreboard but Ryerson never let go of their lead, only letting the Dinos get the deficit to as little as three but no further.
Two late Vinnell kills gave Calgary one last chance to survive by pulling the score to 24-21, but Wark put the final nail into the coffin for the Alberta-based team with a cross-court kill going through a Dino defender and out the far corner.
The defending champion Rams advance to the second semifinal on Saturday at 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT, while the Dinos move to the second consolation semifinal at 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT.
Players of the Game
- Calgary: Beth Vinnell
- Ryerson: Theanna Vernon
As the Exclusive Volleyball Supplier of U SPORTS, Mikasa has reaffirmed its commitment to university sports in Canada and will provide match balls, as well as other prizing to the U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball Championship and the U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship in 2019 and 2020.