Photo by Lisa Cumming.

After a slow start, the Ryerson Rams women’s volleyball team bounced back Friday to defeat the Western Mustangs three sets to one and win the OUA semifinal.

The win sets up today’s provincial final, which will see the Rams play the McMaster Mauraders for the Quigley Cup. McMaster beat the Toronto Varsity Blues 3-2 in Friday’s other semifinal game.

Saturday’s final goes at 6 p.m. at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

Friday’s game saw the team’s biggest crowd yet, packed with blue and gold-toting spectators.

The undefeated women’s team struggled early in the first set, trailing Western 21-14. While a spike from middle blocker Lindsay Kleuskens sparked a push back, the Rams still finished the set with a 25-21 loss.

That first-set resurgence, though, spilled over to the second as Ryerson set the pace. Western held the line defensively, recovering from every blistering spike Ryerson delivered, patiently waiting to pounce when the Rams eventually flubbed. But the Rams powerful offence proved to be too strong for the Mustangs to counter. They finished the second set 25-16.

Outside hitter Lauren Veltman had a standout performance offensively and defensively, with 18 kills and 11 digs. Veltman’s booming spikes sent the Mustangs scrambling as the Rams won their  22nd victory of the regular and post-seasons. Rookie Janelle Albert also played great, with two aces and 11 kills, despite a rocky start that saw a few errors.

The Rams finished the third and fourth sets 25-18 and 25-16.

Head coach Dustin Reid made no bones about the “poor” performance in the first set, but said he was pleased with how his team rallied, giving special praise to Albert by calling her “one of the best players in the league” despite being a rookie. Reid lamented her all-star team snub, saying he “couldn’t understand” how she didn’t make the team.

Fourth-year star middle blocker Theanna Vernon said she, too, was “extremely proud” of the rookies’ performance during the game and throughout the season, saying “they’ve done a great job meshing with the team.”

Reid commented on the size and energy of the crowd, saying it gave a major boost to the team’s performance. One fan even waved around a cardboard cutout of Reid’s head. When asked if he had seen it, he said he saw his son posing with the cutout. “If it goes missing, you know where it went.”

Photo by Lisa Cumming.

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