Varsity Blues rally to deny McGill’s upset bid
Canadian Interuniversity Sport – BRANDON, Man. (CIS) – Pushed harder than they ever were during their OUA conference season, the Toronto Varsity Blues rose to the challenge on Friday to open the CIS Women’s Volleyball Championship.
The second-seeded Varsity Blues rallied from a two-sets-to-one deficit to edge the Martlets 18-25, 25-17, 25-27, 25-23, 15-13 in a marathon opening match.
CHAMPIONSHIP WEBSITE: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wvball/index
Undefeated during conference play and the playoffs, McGill was only two points away from defeat, trailing 23-19 in the fourth set, when they won the next six points to force the decisive fifth set.
“What we really wanted to focus on was fighting for every point and being patient throughout the rally,” said Caleigh Cruickshank, who led Toronto with 14 kills. “McGill is a fantastic team who always brings the ball back, so you just always have to be ready for the second, third, fourth, fifth opportunity in a rally.”
Tessa Davis added 11 kills and nine total blocks for the Varsity Blues, who will play in a semifinal match with the UBC-Okanagan Heat on Saturday. Catherine Amyot had 22 kills for the Martlets, while McGill teammate Myriam Robitaille added 19 kills and five total blocks.
“I think overall we played a very good match,” said Martlets head coach Rachele Beliveau. “We fought really hard. The competition we faced today, we see it a lot in our conference, every week games like this. At one point I thought it would give us an advantage, but at the same time Toronto has more experience. They’ve been to a national (championship), it’s not their first one. The players on the court stayed calm and kept playing.”
Facing an opponent that had only lost four sets during the OUA regular season and playoffs, the Martlets came out of the gate intent on pulling off the upset. They built an early 6-2 and maintained control throughout the first set, finishing it off on a block by Marie-Eve Dorion and Erika Cournoyer.
That woke up the Varsity Blues, who controlled the entire second set, committing only one error and tying the match.
The third set was a dramatic back-and-forth struggle. The Varsity Blues picked up where they left off in the second set, racing out to a 9-3 lead. The Martlets roared back with an 8-2 run that put them up 22-20, lost the next four points to face set point, then battled back to win the set and retake the lead in the match on a kill by Emilie Matte de Grasse.
After the Varsity Blues came from behind to win the fourth set, they held off a late McGill surge in the fifth set to cap the comeback.
Toronto head coach Kristine Drakich believes it was a character-building win that will help her team prepare for the semifinals.
“You know every match is tough here,” said Drakich, whose Varsity Blues lost a five-set match to the Martlets in non-conference play this season. “It’s about managing the moments that are here. Every match is a battle and every opponent is tough for different reasons. It’s about managing our side and being ready for a fight, another battle.”
Only one McGill player, setter Yasmeen Dawoodje, has been to a national championship before, and Beliveau believes the match as also good experience and hopes her team will continue to push hard in the consolation side.
“If we can come fifth that means we’re close to (being at a championship level,” Beliveau said. “I have a team that’s been nicely competing this year and I want us to finish on a good note like we did the whole year.”
Complete Stats: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wvball/2016/championship
Kills: Caleigh Cruickshank (14)
Points: Caleigh Cruickshank (16.5), Tessa Davis (16)
Blocks: Tessa Davis (1,8)
Digs: Denise Wooding (28)
Service aces: Alina Dormann (2)
Player of the match: Bojana Radan
Kills: Catherine Amyot (22), Myriam Robitaille (19)
Points: Catherine Amyot (23), Myriam Robitaille (22.5)
Blocks: Myriam Robitaille (2,3)
Digs: Marie-Eve Dorion (24)
Service aces: Emilie Matte de gras (3)
Player of the match: Myriam Robitaille
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE & RESULTS (CENTRAL TIME)
Friday, March 11
12:30 Quarter-final #1: Toronto 3, McGill 2 (18-25, 25-17, 25-27, 25-23, 15-13)
14:30 Quarter-final #2: Dalhousie vs. UBC Okanagan (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
18:00 Quarter-final #3: Brandon vs. Trinity Western (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
20:00 Quarter-final #4: UBC vs. Montreal (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
Saturday, March 12
12:30 Consolation #1: McGill vs. Loser QF #2 (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
14:30 Consolation #2: Loser QF #3 vs. Loser QF #4 (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
18:00 Semifinal #1: Toronto vs. Winner QF #2 (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
20:00 Semifinal #2: Winner QF #3 vs. Winner QF #4 (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
Sunday, March 13
13:00 5th place (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
15:00 Bronze medal (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
18:00 Championship final (WCGtv / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
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