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Hundreds of volleyball fans filled Mattamy Athletic Centre to celebrate Ryerson University’s first ever national U Sports championship title on Wednesday night.
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi presented championship rings to the women’s volleyball team before their home opener against the Brock Badgers. The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of commemorative U Sport and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) banners, which now hang over the MAC’s main gym, Coca Cola Court. Alumnae from last year’s team were also in attendance.
“That was so special, especially to be able to bring [the championship] with the girls I’ve played with for so long,” said Theanna Vernon, the team’s star middle and captain. “It was truly a special moment.”
Head coach Dustin Reid said he was most touched by the number of people who came to share in this moment. Reid has coached the women’s volleyball team at Ryerson since 2009.
“There are so many people who have made contributions to this program in the last nine to 10 years that have put us in a position to be successful,” he said. “Last year culminated in a really special result.”
During warm-up before the ceremony though, Reid’s sight was set towards the game and the coming season. ”It’s funny,” he said. “It’s obviously something we’re all very proud of, but that was in March. We’ve been training really hard all summer.” Official training started after Labour Day weekend.
The Rams kept their two-year undefeated streak alive, but they dropped their third set against the Badgers (25-20, 25-19, 23-25, 25-18). “Their defence picked up a lot in the third set, so obviously in the fourth set, we showed them that their defence wasn’t going to destroy our offence,” said junior left hitter Lauren Veltman.
Reid said the night was “tricky” and “emotional,” despite strong performances from players such as Vernon and Veltman, who had 12 kills each. Setter Lauren Wong put up 36 assists in her debut as a rookie.
Veltman, however, said the team was “really calm” when they were down, “which is the key thing in a sport like this.” She thought the team did “pretty well, especially with all the rookies and new transfers.”
The team will be looking to integrate seven new teammates into the rotation in the coming season, which include rookies and transfers. Defensively, they lost a player, who Reid said was “one of the top liberos in the country” last season. “It gets a little bit difficult, not looking back at last season. Obviously, we lost so many amazing veteran girls last year,” Vernon said.
Nevertheless, Vernon said the new banners at the MAC will be motivation for another championship title. Building team chemistry with the “fresh group of girls” will be one of her biggest priorities as captain this year; five of the new teammates are first-year Ryerson students. “There’s only a few [veteran players] back this year with a whole group of younger girls,” Vernon said. “And they look up to us, so we’re trying to be leaders and lead by example.”
The team will have its next home game against Queen’s University on Friday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m.