Photo by: Brenden Cowan
After pulling off a fantastic comeback against the Queen’s Gaels to secure the OUA Quigley Cup Championship, the Badgers’ women’s volleyball team’s remarkable season came to an abrupt and unfortunate end in the U SPORTS playoffs.
The Badgers first faced off on March 17 against the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds, the third-ranked team in the Canada West conference with an 18-6 record. UBC had a strong defensive season, limiting opponents to a .130 hitting percentage, 9.63 kills per set and 9.17 assists per set, each good for second in the Canada West.
The Thunderbirds’ defensive presence did not arrive in time for Friday’s Quarter Final match.
Brock’s offense exploded to start set one, grabbing seven of the first nine points and 12 of the first 16, largely off the strength of kills Grace Pyatt and Lauren Ainsworth, all assisted by Sara Rohr. Though UBC would offer a little resistance towards the end, the Badgers took the first set by a comfortable 25-18.
In the second set, Brock nudged along a modest lead early, leading 10-7, a four-point scoring-streak put ahead 11-10, and in the driver’s seat the rest of the way.
Now holding a modest lead of its own, UBC gradually stretched out their advantage, winning set two 25-19.
Set three, Brock came out with a lead right off the bat again, but this time a much more significant one. This time as well, they also managed to stretch their lead out, leading first by 11-5, then 16-9, and eventually, seeming to have the set in their control, 20-14, prompting a UBC time-out.
UBC’s Head Coach Doug Reimer must have had one Kurt Russel “Miracle” level speech, because from there on out, the set was all UBC.
Out of the timeout, UBC cut Brock’s lead to 21-18, prompting Brock to take a timeout of their own. The Badgers fended off the Thunderbirds’ advance, putting themselves in a winning position, up 24-21.
However, UBC had already squarely secured the momentum and scored six of the final seven points to steal set three, 27-25.
In set four, with a place in the semi finals on the line, the Badgers started out hot going up 8-4. UBC quickly cut that lead down to 8-7 and went back and forth with the Badgers for a while but eventually stormed out to 18-12.
The Thunderbirds stretched their lead out to 20-13 before the Badgers mounted a small comeback of their own, bringing the set to a 20-17 margin. Unfortunately, the Badgers’ effort was just too little, too late as UBC held on to win 25-20.
Despite the loss, Ainsworth had a strong game across the stat sheet, leading the game with 22 kills, while adding two aces, four blocks and five digs. Sara Rohr’s setting also shone, with a game-leading 50 assists.
The following evening, the Badgers had a chance to pick up a final win in a consolation match against the Mount Royal University Cougars. The second-place team in the Canada West during the regular season, Mount Royal were also upset in the quarter final round, losing to sixth-place Manitoba.
Brock, regrettably, was unable to close their season on a positive note as they would have liked.
Though close, the Cougars took the first two sets, 25-21 and 27-25. Turning the course in sets three and four, the Badgers were able to even the score and force playoff sets with much more convincing 25-16 and 25-19 scores.
Set four was, however, as far as the Badgers’ comeback effort would go. Going up by a quick 4-2 score, Mount Royal nursed their lead to go up 10-8, before scoring five of the last six points, winning the consolation match 15-9.
Sadie Dick, Sara Rohr and Aleiah Torres each led the game with 19 kills, 57 assists and 14 digs, respectively.
Some small consolation, in light of their season ending, is that the majority of the team will have another shot at the national title; all of the squad will be returning next season, with the exceptions of middles Christina Jovetic and Grace Pyatt.
While both are key players whose absences will undoubtedly be felt, local product Pyatt’s could be the most impactful, who just came off a phenomenal season, being named an OUA first team all-star and a U SPORTS second team all Canadian.