Battle between Varsity Blues and Warriors pits perennial contenders against upstart powerhouse

Battle between Varsity Blues and Warriors pits perennial contenders against upstart powerhouse

Toronto – One team has seen their name among the OUA’s elite for several years, while the other is bursting onto the women’s volleyball scene in a big way this season. But when the two nationally-ranked squads come together for a Marquee Matchup clash on Sunday, powered by Planters Canada, both the Toronto Varsity Blues and Waterloo Warriors will be looking to give their push for the playoffs a massive boost.

The Toronto Varsity Blues are quite familiar with being in and around the top of standings, having been one of the true powerhouse volleyball programs. They have been so dominant that, dating back to the 2014-15 season, the team has only lost five matches, which included back-to-back undefeated seasons in conference play. During that stretch, the Varsity Blues also earned a pair of provincial titles, coming in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The team is positioning themselves well for another championship push this year, as they enter the second half of the season with a 7-2 record; good for second place in the East Division.

Waterloo, meanwhile, has been hovering just below the .500 mark for the past few seasons, topping out at nine wins in 2016-17. After a blistering start to the current campaign, however, the team sits just two wins shy of that mark with the winter semester still to be played, which has them atop the West Division at 7-0. This upward trend has made the black and gold a definite threat for the Quigley Cup this year, but along their continued quest toward powerhouse status, the Varsity Blues will be a tough test.

In their lone meeting a season ago, it was that tough Toronto squad that prevailed by a 3-1 margin, with Waterloo struggling to find their groove through much of the match. With a hitting percentage under .100 for three of the four sets – the exception (.283) coming in their lone victorious set, 25-23 – the Varsity Blues were able to earn the edge early and often. Samantha Warner (Ayr, Ont.) and Claire Mackenzie (Vancouver, BC) paced the pack for Waterloo with a combined 28 points, while Alina Dormann (Ottawa, Ont.) led the way for Toronto with 19 points of her own.

Fast forward to this season, and the Varsity Blues standout remains one of the best that the country has to offer. The fourth-year right side, who was recently named part of the Top 8 Academic All-Canadians for 2017-18, leads her team in scoring with 4.3 points per set, while ranking fourth the OUA in both total kills (110) and kills per set (3.67). Right behind her in kills in teammate Brianna Patrick (Winnipeg, Man.), who has amassed 98 on the year (5th in OUA) to help elevate the vaunted Varsity Blues attack that much more. As a unit, the Blues rank first in kills per set (12.26), assists per set (11.56), and points per set (16.9), making it no surprise why they are the eighth-ranked team in all of U SPORTS.

Helping to round out the Varsity Blues talent-laden group, meanwhile, is Jenna Woock (Richmond Hill, Ont.), the sophomore middle who accounts for 2.5 points per set, a sparkling .359 hitting percentage, and a solid 1.00 blocks per set (T2 in OUA).

Waterloo, meanwhile, has used their undefeated start to claim the No. 6 rank in the country; something that they can attribute to strong hitting, impeccable serving, and an overall clean style of play. By limiting their service, reception, and ball handling errors, the Warriors have been able to take control of the majority of points this season. Combine that with a second-ranked hitting percentage (.246) and a sizzling 2.76 service aces per set, and the Warriors have proven that they can bring the pressure in several different ways.

Mackenzie remains one of the team’s most consistent and dangerous threats. She is earning a team-high 4.6 points per set, thanks in large part to a .283 hitting percentage and 3.88 kills per set to go along with a conference-leading mark of 0.71 service aces per set. Left side Sarah Glynn (Fredericton, NB) checks in with an average of 3.7 points – also ranking in the OUA’s top five in hitting percentage (.308) – while middle Elia Stewart (Ottawa, Ont.) leads the way with 0.79 blocks per set. Claire Gagne (Cambridge, Ont.) rounds out some of the most potent players in the black and gold’s attack, as the third-year setter sits in the conference’s top five in both assists per set (8.95) and service aces per set (0.64).

The talent level is there for both teams to come out on top in Sunday’s tilt, but there is plenty of volleyball left to take place before the final point is played. The consistent contenders will aim to rise onward and upward toward another spot in the Quigley Cup Final Four, while the climbing combatants will look to put a stamp on their undefeated start to the season with a marquee victory of their own. Either way, the Toronto Varsity Blues and Waterloo Warriors will provide a must-see match to close out the weekend.

Fans can see all the action from the Goldring Centre on Sunday, January 13 at 1:00pm LIVE on oua.tv or via the oua.tv app on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku.