Marquee Matchup: Top-five teams in the country come together for crosstown clash on the courts

Marquee Matchup: Top-five teams in the country come together for crosstown clash on the courts

Toronto – When the Toronto Varsity Blues and Ryerson Rams met in the OUA finale a year ago, the former proved victorious to claim Quigley Cup glory. When their rivalry picked up in the opening weekend of the 2019-20 season, the Rams flipped the script to pick up the momentum-building early season win in a gruelling five-set thriller. The powerhouse pair will meet again on Friday night for an OUA Marquee Matchup that promises to be another clash of the titans with pivotal points in play.

Since dropping their lone match of the season to the Rams in just their first outing, the Blues have reeled off six straight wins and will look to carry their streaky stretch into redemption on Friday. The fourth-ranked squad in the country, which dropped the deciding set 15-13 in the teams’ previous meeting, will turn to a talent-laden lineup to carry that momentum on to their home court, with one of the country’s elite spearheading the charge.

Alina Dormann (Ottawa, Ont.) remains one of the most lethal hitters to take the court, continuing her peak production to the tune of 4.0 points per set. Her combined 32 points anchored the Blues two most recent wins, both of which came against fellow U SPORTS top-10 inhabitants. The latest in a string of six straight victories came at the expense of the Brock Badgers, who were dealt their first loss of the season at the hands of the Blues; a feat they will look to repeat when Ryerson comes to the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport on Friday.

While Dormann, the two-time OUA player of the year in the East Division, has gotten off to a sizzling start with her top-five ranks in points per set and kills per set (3.27), she doesn’t do it alone, as was evidenced in that five-set win over Brock. A feature of the talent-laden roster is their productive depth, as evidenced in the trio of additional Blues – middles Jenna Woock (Richmond Hill, Ont.) and Anna Licht (Toronto, Ont.), as well as fifth-year left side Caleigh Cruickshank (Etobicoke, Ont.) – who each pick up more than 2.4 points per set.

Cruikshank, who was part of Toronto’s national championship team in 2015-16, rejoins the Varsity Blues for her fifth season after getting into a master’s program this year. Following a similar script is fellow returnee Asli Ersozoglu (Toronto, Ont.), who also brings a veteran presence and championship pedigree with her to the perennial power from U of T. Helping these players thrive on the court, meanwhile, is first-year setter Lidya Canturk, who has been a true standout  for the Blues in her foray to the university game after joining the team from Istanbul, Turkey.

There is no shortage of all-star play on the other side of the net either, as the No. 2 Ryerson Rams have rolled out to a 7-0 start to their 2019 campaign. Among those who will offer up a counter punch to their crosstown rivals will be Cailin Wark (Georgetown, Ont.), who has been punishing the ball this season. Wark currently leads the conference in kills and ranks third in kills per set (3.85), all while sitting second with a .338 hitting percentage.

While Wark, who recently became just the sixth Ryerson player to eclipse 500 career kills, has been electric all season, she enters the Marquee Matchup on the back of what may have been her most impressive outing. The fourth-year outside hitter put away 20 kills while making zero attack errors last Friday. If that’s not enough, she has also shown she can step up against this Friday’s foes after picking up a team-high 18 points against Toronto in their first meeting of the season.

Setting up Wark and company for success this season has been the OUA’s leader in assists per set, as Lauren Wong (Scarborough, Ont.) will bring her 9.41 mark into this high-octane clash. The reigning rookie of the year has been a key cog in the Ryerson roster, but like any machine, it works best when firing on all cylinders, which is exactly what the Rams will be doing this weekend with the return of Lauren Veltman (Brampton, Ont.). The all-star hitter played her first game of the season last weekend after returning from an ankle injury and will be ready to go in the team’s rematch with the Varsity Blues.

Veltman’s return, along with Wark’s wonderful work, helped Ryerson wreak havoc on RMC in the team’s latest victory, but the win is nothing out of the ordinary for the 2018 champions. Their streak has been impressive to start the season, and while they have faced their fair share of close matches so far – having won only one of their matches in straight sets – they are in for perhaps their toughest test of the year coming up in what should be a must-see OUA Marquee Matchup on Friday night at the Goldring Centre.

While the victor is never a guarantee when these two teams meet, the level of play can consistently be carved in stone, as these top-5 national squads are among the best in the business each time they take the court. For fans looking to take in the action in person, tickets can be purchased HERE, while the game will also be streamed live on oua.tv.

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