TORONTO (U SPORTS) – The Trinity Western Spartans head to Edmonton as the favourites to defend their U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball title, while the Alberta Pandas hope to end a long drought for the women’s national banner in Toronto.
The Alberta Golden Bears host the 2017 U SPORTS FOG Men’s Volleyball Championship for the first time since 2009 this week, and the Ryerson Rams welcome the best in the nation to the 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship Presented By Jason Rinaldi for the first time in school history.
The volleyball tournaments both get underway Friday – from the Saville Community Sports Centre and the Mattamy Athletic Centre – and conclude Sunday, with the women’s final at 4 p.m. ET and the men’s championship at 6 p.m. MT (8 p.m. ET)
All games from both competitions will be webcast on USPORTS.LIVE.
2017 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship
(Mattamy Athletic Centre, Ryerson University)
Rounding out the draw for the Women’s Volleyball Championship, the No.1 Pandas (Canada West champions) will be joined in Toronto by the No. 2 McMaster Marauders (OUA champions), No.3 UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West finalists), No.4 Montreal Carabins (RSEQ Champions), No.5 Dalhousie Tigers (AUS Champions), No.6 Western Mustangs (OUA finalists), No.7 Trinity Western Spartans (Canada West bronze medalists), and No.8 Ryerson Rams (OUA 4th place/hosts).
More than half of the contending teams have previously captured the national banner, including UBC (10), Alberta (7) and Western (3). Dalhousie and Trinity Western round out the list with one championship each.
Canada West representatives
No.1 Alberta Pandas (Canada West champions)
National titles: 1995-2000, 2007
Last appearance: 2015
Kills per set: Meg Casault (3.94)
Blocks per set: Vanessa Jarman (1.00)
Assists per set: Mariah Walsh (10.07)
Digs per set: Eryn Orysiuk (3.56)
No.3 UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West finalists)
National titles: 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978, 2008-2013
2016 result: 4th
Kills per set: Danielle Brisebois (3.86)
Blocks per set: Ciara Hanly (1.22)
Assists per set: Alessandra Gentile (7.30)
Digs per set: Juliana Kaufmanis (2.04)
No.7 Trinity Western Spartans (Canada West bronze medalists)
National titles: 2015
2016 result: Silver
Kills per set: Sophie Carpentier (4.22)
Blocks per set: Ashtyn McKenzie (1.08)
Assists per set: Nikki Cornwall (10.59)
Digs per set: Rachel Flink (2.46)
The Pandas (22-2 regular season) were tabbed as the team to beat after earning the school’s 11th conference gold medal and first since 2012, via a 3-1 victory on home court over UBC on Saturday. The Thunderbirds (20-4) advanced to the final after disposing of Trinity Western (21-3) by a 3-1 score at the Final Four, with the Spartans rebounding with a straight-sets win over UBC Okanagan to earn the bronze.
"We're pleased with the progress we've made as a team this season and very proud to represent Canada West as conference champions,” said Alberta head coach Laurie Eisler. “The field is very strong at nationals this year and we are really staying focused on what is ahead of us, which is a very talented and well-coached Ryerson team. We expect that they will compete hard supported by their fan base and it should be a great environment to start off the U SPORTS Championship."
“Our team had an excellent season especially in the second half,” said UBC head coach Doug Reimer. “Having Juliana Kaufmanis return from her academic term in New Zealand was a key component, along with the development of our group. “We are a fairly balanced team with significant depth and experience that should allow us to compete at a higher level than we have for the past couple of years."
“This group of girls has put in the time and the work and I feel they are really deserving to be at the dance,” said Trinity Western head coach Ryan Hofer. “I have a strong group of girls that have been in the national final each of the last two years and I believe that they know what it takes to get there and they know what’s needed in terms of the discipline, the commitment and the competitiveness. I know they want a chance to be in that final game.
“Statistically, this is probably the most efficient team I’ve coached. But I know the bar has been raised all around the country, so I know that we’re going to be in the mix to win with a bunch of good teams this year.”
No.3 McMaster Marauders (OUA champions)
Last appearance: 2014
Kills per set: Joanna Jedrzejewska (3.02)
Blocks per set: Maicee Sorensen (0.64)
Assists per set: Caitlin Genovy (8.82)
Digs per set: Carly Heath (4.80)
No.6 Western Mustangs (OUA finalists)
National titles: 1972, 1975, 1976
Last appearance: 2011
Kills per set: Kelsey Veltman (3.81)
Blocks per set: Kelsey Veltman (1.35)
Assists per set: Kat Tsiofas (8.60)
Digs per set: Courtney Sestric (2.94)
No. 8 Ryerson Rams (OUA 4th place, hosts)
Last appearance: 2002
Kills per set: Veronica Livingston (2.98)
Blocks per set: Theanna Vernon (1.28)
Assists per set: Kate McIlmoyle (8.97)
Digs per set: Julie Longman (3.49)
McMaster (16-3) clinched their berth at the national championship after beating Ryerson 3-1 in the OUA semifinal, before barely edging Western 3-2 for the team’s third title and second in four seasons. Ryerson later fell to defending national champion and No.1-ranked Toronto in the bronze medal game, just missing the conference podium.
“It has been one of our goals from the beginning of the season to become part of the discussion at the national level, and we have earned that spot,” McMaster head coach Tim Louks. “We believe that we have the skill and the mentality to compete with any team at the tournament, and we relish the opportunity to do so this weekend.”
“As a team we are thrilled to be at the U SPORTS Women's Volleyball Championship, and are confident we will represent Western and the OUA well,” said Mustangs head coach Melissa Bartlett. “To earn a spot at a national championship tournament in a team sport is a rare opportunity for any athlete and we are so excited to have the opportunity this week. I expect every match to be a battle - for the rest of our season we will be matched up against Top 10 teams and it’s going to be fun to see how we rise to the occasion and compete with the best.”
"As soon as we weren't able to meet our goals at the OUA Championship, we've had to refocus for this week,” Ryerson head coach Dustin Reid. “We didn't go to OUAs to tune up for nationals. We were there to win. The reality now is that it comes down to one match on Friday. We have to prepare for that and be able to play the best version of volleyball that we can for that period of time and find a way to beat our competitor."
No.4 Montréal Carabins (RSEQ champions)
2016 result: 5th
Kills per set: Marie-Alex Bélanger (4.31)
Blocks per set: Alexane L. Joly (0.94)
Assists per set: Katia Forcier (8.73)
Digs per set: Stéphanie Lojen (3.14)
The Carabins (15-5) secured a third consecutive RSEQ banner and eighth in the last 10 years after back-to-back two-game sweeps of Sherbrooke and Laval, advancing with a convincing 3-0 win over the Rouge et Or.
“We have had an excellent season and some very good playoffs, despite a difficult and challenging schedule,” said Montreal head coach Olivier Trudel. “I think the U SPORTS Women's Volleyball Championship will be more open than ever this year. The balance of power between the different teams is quite different and there is a great parity between the participants. I think it will be a very exciting championship.”
No.5 Dalhousie Tigers (AUS champions)
National titles: 1982
2016 result: 6th
Kills per set: Courtney Baker (2.64)
Blocks per set: Victoria Haworth (0.82)
Assists per set: Abby Czenze (9.35)
Digs per set: Marisa Mota (5.22)
Dalhousie’s (19-1) reign will continue for another year in the AUS, after the Tigers achieved their fifth straight conference championship with a pair of straight-set victories over Moncton in the best-of-three final.
“Winning our fifth consecutive AUS championship is a special accomplishment,” said Dalhousie head coach Rick Scott. “It is a credit to the girls’ commitment, work ethic and toughness. We aren’t satisfied with just attending the national championship; we are motivated to play well and win matches.”