After their win against the Nipissing Lakers Sunday night, the Ryerson women’s volleyball team became the first varsity team to achieve an undefeated regular season since 1959.
Despite the Rams’ rocky start to their last regular season game in North Bay on Sunday, losing the first set 27-19, they weren’t deterred. They came back to win the next three sets of the match, leaving with a season record of 19 wins and 0 losses.
The women fought hard, ending the last set with a lead of 25-15. Outside hitter Cailin Wark led the scoring with 18 points for the Rams, and middle blocker Theanna Vernon ended the game with 13 kills on 22 attempts.
It was a high stakes game for the team, with the Lakers fighting to secure a playoff spot. Head coach Dustin Reid said one of the team’s strengths in the game against the Lakers, and in the season as a whole, is their ability to remain calm under pressure and bounce back while on the court.
“Just saving the composure to keep going, keep competing, not worrying so much about what the result is going to mean. Get ourselves back in the match,” he said. “Ultimately we played our best volleyball at the end of the match.”
Wark agrees that the “team has such good culture and that’s really played into how well we’ve been doing. There’s never a time when we’re on the court where we’re super stressed. Everyone always works together and has each other’s backs.”
This is the first time a Ryerson varsity team has managed a perfect record in the regular season since the men’s hockey team in their 1958-59 season.
“We knew that we were going to be one of the first teams in a long time to have an undefeated regular season, but we didn’t know exactly how long ago that was,” said Wark. “I think that was kind of like a goal for us this season.”
Ultimately though, the team’s focus was less about the record and more about focusing on each match and playing their best game. With the regular season behind them, Reid says their perfect record won’t be worth much going into the playoffs.
“The regular season and the playoffs are very different. The intensity level is different, the level of preparation that the teams go through is different, the winner of the matches in the playoffs comes down more to who handles the stress and who handles the emotions and ups and downs of the match the best, and who executes the best in the most important times,” he said.
Setter Haroula Giovanopoulous said in an email that regardless of the team’s success so far, they’re not taking anything for granted going into the playoffs. “As soon as playoff season starts, every team holds the same 0-0 record, and every team is just as hungry with the ‘win, survive and move onto the next game’ mentality,” she said.
The team is especially excited to be playing its first playoff game at home, Giovanopoulous said.
The women’s volleyball team is not the only varsity team with playoffs ahead. The men’s volleyball team will be playing its OUA quarterfinal game on March 3 against Waterloo at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), despite losing to the Lakers on Sunday. The men’s basketball team will also be advancing to the OUA semifinals after its quarterfinal win in Ottawa. The team will face the Brock Badgers in St. Catharines on Feb. 28.
As for the women, they’ll be facing the Waterloo Warriors at the MAC in their quarterfinal match on March 3.