Stiff competition across the board set to determine first recipient of the Quigley Cup

Stiff competition across the board set to determine first recipient of the Quigley Cup

BURLINGTON, Ont. – Newly named, but same meaning, as the remaining four women’s volleyball squads will converge at the Mattamy Athletic Centre to vie for the opportunity to hoist the Quigley Cup and call themselves OUA champions for the 2017-18 season.

Details surrounding the upcoming Quigley Cup Final Four can be found in the 2018 Women’s Volleyball Championship Fan Guide.

Unlike the men’s side, there has been a great deal of variety when it comes to crowning champions, as six different women’s volleyball programs have claimed victory over the past decade. The most recent winners – the McMaster Marauders – will be looking to start a trend toward supremacy; however, as they look to parlay their 2016-17 victory into repeat success.

The Marauders, much like their male counterparts, will enter play as the top seed in the West Division; a spot they earned thanks to a dynamic 17-2 record. Dropping only 12 sets throughout the entire season, the Marauders proved to be one of the toughest in the conference to beat this season, and they can thank West Division Player of the Year Maicee Sorensen (Hamilton, Ont.) in large part for that.

To be one of the best hitting teams in the conference, players need to step up, and Sorensen’s net play showcased that in spades, as she ranked second in the OUA in hitting percentage with an eye-popping mark of .432, to help her register 2.64 kills per set. These were substantial contributions for the hard-hitting Hamilton squad, as the Marauders finished third in kills per set as a unit and second in overall hitting percentage.

In addition to these top marks, the Marauders were also the best when it came to serving, connecting on 2.35 aces per set, while also setting up the play at an elite rate, thanks to their 10.48 assists per set. Helping with the former was Sorensen (0.54 aces per set), as well as fellow First-Team All-Star Aleks Arsovic (Burlington, Ont.), while the latter can be largely attributed to Second-Team All-Star Caitlin Genovy (Stoney Creek, Ont.), who managed a fourth-ranked 8.39 assists per set on the season.

It certainly is a talent-laden roster for the maroon and white, but there is plenty of talent lining up against them in their first Final Four bout on Friday. Going toe-to-toe with the Marauders in a marquee semifinal matchup is the East Division’s Player of the Year, Alina Dormann (Ottawa, Ont.) and her Varsity Blues teammates. The two top squads met only once this season, and while neither team was at their best, there were definitely glimpses of brilliance in what served as a tantalizing preview for what should be one of the matches of the championship.

Mac was ultimately able to prevail in four sets, despite missing several key players, as they rode a team-high 14.5 points from Rachel Woock (Richmond Hill, Ont.) to victory, but it was a dominant third set from the Blues that showcased exactly what the perennial powerhouse could do. As a whole, Toronto poured in a .476 hitting percentage to derail the Marauders hopes for a sweep, pummeling their hosts with 11 kills in the set. Led in the match by Dormann’s 20.5 points, meanwhile, the East Division’s second seed will be looking to extend their potent play to more than just a single set this time around.

To manage such a feat, the Varsity Blues will look to highlight their 11.39 kills per set, 10.68 assists per set, and definitely, their 16.26 digs per set. They are among the conference’s best in all of these categories, but their ability to keep points alive makes them one of the toughest to face in all of the OUA. First-Team All-Star Anna Feore (Stratford, Ont.) is one of the most common culprits when it comes to keeping points alive and will surely put her passing prowess on display this weekend.

When talking about the Blues, however – a team that also features one of the OUA’s top rookies in Jenna Woock (Richmond Hill, Ont.) – it is hard to look past the three-time Player of the Year. Her hitting ability is one of the best in the province, helping her to a second-ranked output in points per set (4.6) and top scores in kills per set (3.66). She falls in the top-ten in hitting percentage and is a threat to put up points any time she takes a swing, suggesting that a lot of eyes will focus on the third-year star come Friday.

While there is plenty of talent on that side of the bracket, the tough schedule doesn’t stop there, as the winner will have to duke it out with the likes of either the Ryerson Rams or Western Mustangs. The former, who are serving as hosts for the Quigley Cup Championship, put forth one of the best all-around seasons the OUA has ever seen, playing their way to an undefeated regular season.

To see how the Rams got to this unblemished record, the top ranks tell the story. The East Division’s top seed secured premier positions in kills, hitting percentage, assists, and service aces on the season; making it as tough on the opposition early in the point as it is once it develops. And helping the Rams to achieve these other-worldly efforts were several standouts on the court, including four all-stars and three all-rookies.

Among the many best and brightest for Ryerson was Theanna Vernon (Scarborough, Ont.), who paced the team with 4.2 points per set. Vernon wasn’t the only one racking up points; however, as teammates Lauren Veltman (Brampton, Ont.) and Janelle Albert (Brampton, Ont.) joined the outside hitter in finishing fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively in points per set across the OUA. Their scoring comes in bunches and it comes in many different ways, as this impressive trio doesn’t even include the team’s other two First-Team All-Stars – Julie Longman (Newmarket, Ont.) and Cailin Wark (Georgetown, Ont.) – showing that no matter where you look on the court, the Rams are dripping with talent.

The regular season meeting between the Rams and Mustangs ended in Ryerson sweeping away the purple ponies, but such a result wasn’t uncommon against Ryerson. The Rams surrendered just 11 sets all season long, but none of them came at the hands of their semifinal combatants. In fact, the Rams kept the Mustangs largely at bay in their three-set win, holding them under a .050 hitting percentage for two of the three sets, while scorching their way to an overall mark of well over .450 for the match. And while it was Lauren Veltman who paced Ryerson with 17.0 points, two-time Player of the Year Kelsey Veltman (Brampton, Ont.) topped the Western totals with 10.0 points of her own.

For the Mustangs to turn the tables on this regular season rendezvous, they’ll need Veltman to step up once again; something she has done all season long for the purple and white. The outside hitter sat atop the conference with 4.9 points per set to go along with 1.20 blocks per set (2nd in OUA) as well. Not to be outdone, she was also second in kills per set (3.55), third in hitting percentage (.356), and seventh in service aces per set (0.54), truly representing one of the province’s elite.

Veltman doesn’t do it alone for Western; however, as another key piece of the Mustangs offence is setter Kat Tsiofas (Toronto, Ont.) keeps the wheels turning with 8.4 assists per set, while the trio of Carly Kimmett (Calgary, Alta.), Melissa Langegger (Oakville, Ont.), and Aja Gyimah (Scarborough, Ont.) each chip in with at least 2.5 points per set. Each of these individuals has contributed to the purple and white’s leading point totals on the season (1,102), and have also helped the Mustangs rank atop the OUA in blocks and among the best from the service line. The team’s 10.92 kills per set and .197 hitting percentage will also play a role in their match’s final result.

Semifinal action takes to the court at 6:00pm on Friday, with the second match taking place at 8:00pm. The bronze medal match opens up play on Saturday at 3:00pm, before the Quigley Cup final wraps up championship weekend at 6:00pm.