Women’s volleyball stumbles into the break with loss to Toronto

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The women’s volleyball team is not heading into the break the way they hoped to after dropping a close match to the University of Toronto in their final game of 2017.

After a near upset over McMaster last weekend, the Badgers were looking to build on the momentum and put together a win against a strong Varsity Blues team. Brock got off to the kind of start they had hoped for, taking a 9-8 lead in the first set as a result of some excellent team play and strong defence. After the Varsity Blues called a timeout, they quickly rallied to take a 16-12 lead. While the Badgers were able to tie the score at 16-16, the Varsity Blues eventually pulled away to take the set 25-19.

“It was almost like they didn’t play together, it was very choppy,” said coach Dale Ann Melnick. “The communication was terrible today, it was a big source of our issue today.”

The Badgers’ struggles continued in the start of the second set, quickly falling behind 8-3. Things began to turn around when Hannah Davenhill was substituted into the game, as Brock started to cut into the lead with the score at 16-15 at the technical timeout. The Badgers pulled ahead 21-19, but after a University of Toronto timeout, the Varsity Blues stormed back to take a 23-22 lead after a long rally that the Badgers were unable to finish off. A well-timed timeout proved to be enough to help Brock bounce back and take the set 27-25.

Unfortunately for the Badgers, the game began to slip away after that. Brock kept the set close to begin, but the Varsity Blues began to pull ahead and eventually built up an 18-10 lead. The Badgers were able to cut that deficit down to six points, but the performance was not up to the level needed to complete the comeback, and the Badgers eventually lost the third set 25-17. The Badgers were off their game in the third set, and the Varsity Blues made them pay for it.

“They didn’t know who was taking the ball,” explained Melnick. “And sometimes that happens, but when the whole group is off it’s hard to really regroup.”

With the game now on the line, the Badgers were looking to answer with a strong fourth set. Like the second set, the teams were scoring point-for-point with each other, with the score remaining close until the midway point of the set. Toronto had built a five point lead coming out of the technical timeout, but the Badgers clawed back to make it just a two point difference at 18-16. Despite their effort, that was as close as the set would be, as the Varsity Blues came away with a 25-22 win in the set, and a 3-1 win in the match.

“We missed a ton of opportunities. Today was not good volleyball, it was very choppy. They had a great practice all week so I’m surprised that it would be this choppy at the end,” said Melnick about the biggest weakness of her team on the day. “I’m really surprised by the outcome.”

The Badgers were led by Renee Helmer and Laura Condotta with 16 and 10 kills respectively, while Julia Balatbat had 18 digs and Emily Armstrong had 21 assists.

For the Varsity Blues, Alina Dormann had 16 kills and Anna Feore had 15 kills and lead the team with 14 digs. Angelia Hovanessian had a strong game as setter with 47 assists.

The Badgers are now off until after the holidays, with their next game coming on January 12 at McMaster. Despite the long stretch between games, the Badgers will get right back to work to regroup before facing off against the top team in their division.

“We’ll take the next couple of days off, but come next week we’ll go hard at it again, then we’ll practice over Christmas break and we’re right back at it come January.”

The Badgers will look to get back on track in the new semester when they visit McMaster on January 12, before returning home to host the Western Mustangs on January 13.

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