York U hosts provincial Final Four Volleyball Championship this weekend

The 2013 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) women’s volleyball champion will be decided this weekend as four teams battle on the court for provincial supremacy at the 2013 OUA Women’s Volleyball Final Four Championships.

The four-team event will be hosted by the York University Lions, with the semifinals scheduled for Friday, Feb 22 and the gold- and bronze-medal games to be played on Saturday (Feb. 23). All four games will be played at the Tait McKenzie Centre and can also be seen live online at SSN Canada.

York Lions Women's Volleyball players in action
York Lions Women’s Volleyball players in action

The provincial championship promises to be exciting as three of the top four teams in the OUA qualified for the two-day event, which will feature a new champion after the Queen’s Gaels did not advance. Joining the host Lions (17-1), the top team in the conference, are the Ottawa Gee-Gees (16-2, second place), Ryerson Rams (14-4, third place) and Toronto Varsity Blues (11-7, fifth place). York and Toronto will face off in the first semifinal at 5pm, while Ottawa and Ryerson will meet in the second at 8pm. The two winners on Friday will play for the OUA banner on Saturday night at 8pm, while the other two teams will battle for bronze at 5pm.

The host Lions were the only team to run the table against the rest of the teams in the tournament. They went 5-0 against Ottawa, Toronto and Ryerson, including three sweeps (two over the Rams and one over the Varsity Blues) and a pair of five setters. The squad’s 3-2 win over the Gee-Gees was the match of the regular season as the two teams traded sets and points before the Lions finally prevailed 19-17 in the fifth at Montpetit Hall in Ottawa.

The Gee-Gees faced each opponent only once this season and went 2-1, with all three matches going to five sets. In addition to the loss to the Lions, the Gee-Gees held off a furious rally from the Rams to win 15-13 in the fifth after blowing an early two-sets-to-none lead and came back from 2-1 down against the Blues to win 15-12 in the fifth.

The Rams and Varsity Blues faced off only once this season, resulting in a 3-1 victory by Ryerson in the season opener for both teams. That win represented the Rams’ only one against the rest of the Final Four teams, while the Varsity Blues were shut out by the top three teams in the OUA this season.

In addition to the OUA title these four teams are competing for a berth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Women’s Volleyball Championship, which will be held Feb. 28 to March 2 at Universite de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Que. With just one spot available for an OUA team, the winner of the championship will also earn the berth at nationals.

York Lions

The Lions were the preeminent team in the OUA this season with just one loss against conference opponents and an unblemished 9-0 mark on home court. They entered the national rankings in Week 3 and spent the rest of the season among the CIS Top 10, peaking at No. 4 where they currently sit. The squad’s only loss came against Guelph on the road and otherwise the Lions rolled through the conference. They dropped only 14 sets in 18 matches, the lowest mark in the OUA, recorded 10 straight-sets wins and are currently riding a seven-game winning streak. The Lions advanced to the Final Four Championships with a dominant sweep of the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the quarter-finals last weekend, stretching their home winning streak to 10 matches and posting their 11th sweep.

Last OUA championship: 2009

No. of championships since 1972: 15

OUA first-team all-stars: Melissa Humana-Paredes, Michelle Pierce, Brandie Wilkerson

Toronto Varsity Blues

The Varsity Blues, who won the conference bronze medal last year, had a tremendous pre-season and began the year as the highest OUA team in the CIS Top 10, at No. 5, but they lost three of their first five matches and fell out of the national rankings. The Blues continued to struggle through much of the first half of the year but found their stride in mid January and have put together a seven-game winning streak, including a 3-1 upset victory over the defending OUA champion Queen’s Gaels in the quarter-finals last Saturday.

Last OUA championship: 2010

No. of championships since 1972: 8

OUA second-team all-star: Charlotte Sider

Ottawa Gee Gees

The Gee-Gees, last year’s silver medallists, were neck and neck with the Lions throughout the regular season with just York’s head-to-head win separating the two squads in the standings. They opened the year with an eight-game winning streak and also put together a seven-gamer, and their only other loss was to the Thunderwolves on the final day of the season. The Gee-Gees dropped only 15 sets all season, the second-lowest total in the OUA behind the Lions, and posted nine straight-sets wins. They were nationally-ranked in each of the 14 weeks, reaching a high of No. 4 in Week 5 and ending at No. 7. Ottawa reached the four-team tournament this weekend with a 3-1 victory over the Western Mustangs.

Last OUA championship: 2007

No. of championships since 1972: 4

OUA player of the year: Karina Krueger Schwanke

OUA first-team all-star: Karina Krueger Schwanke

OUA second-team all-stars: Christina Grail, Myriam English, Kelsie English

Ryerson Rams

The Rams are one of the most improved teams in the OUA this season, finishing in third place in the standings one year after a 6-12, 11th-place showing. The squad bookended a tough middle part of the schedule with a five-game winning streak to start the year and a eight-game streak to close out the regular season. That final stretch includes a win in the quarter-finals, where the Rams survived a scare by rallying from a two-sets-to-one deficit to the McMaster Marauders to win 15-9 in the fifth and advance to the Final Four championships for only the second time in program history (also 2002).


Last OUA championship: N/A

No. of championships since 1972: 0

OUA rookie of the year: Veronica Livingston

OUA first-team all-star: Chelsea Briscoe

OUA all-rookie team: Veronica Livingston