Coming off a victory over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, the 4-2 Western Mustangs took on the 5–0 Ryerson Rams at Alumni Hall this past Saturday evening in a thrilling match.
The Mustangs were energetic from the start in front of a large crowd that eagerly awaited to watch their Mustangs go up against the undefeated Rams.
The Mustangs took an early lead in the first set, largely as a result of some impressive kills from veteran middle, Kelsey Veltman. Western was able to hold off Ryerson's attacks with several remarkable digs and blocks throughout the set. They dominated the Rams in the first set and finished it off with a service ace by first-year outside hitter, Kate Van Camp. Mustangs 25, Rams 14.
The second set saw the Rams coming hot out of the gates. The Rams took an early lead with some powerful attacks from their veteran middle, Theanna Vernon. But Western made a comeback, putting themselves ahead 10–9. However, the set continued to be neck-and-neck throughout. Van Camp started to heat up, producing multiple crucial kills to put Ryerson up 21–19. The Rams made a late push and took the second set from the Mustangs 26-24.
With the match tied at 1–1, the third set was a crucial set to take the lead. Much like the second set, the Rams and Mustangs were exchanging leads the entire set, leaving Mustangs fans anxious as they watched many exciting long rallies between the two teams. Setter Jessica Lam continued to accurately set up the Mustang attackers — tallying 41 assists on the game — while also showing her blocking ability at the net. Outside hitter Melissa Langegger gave the Mustangs a big spark throughout the latter half of the set. The Mustangs were able to hold off the powerful attacks by the Ryerson front, leading them to a 25–23 capture over the Rams.
The Rams were now fighting to stay alive in the fourth set with Western up 2–1. Many early errors by Ryerson gave the Mustangs an early 10–6 lead. However, Ryerson made a comeback effort with seven unanswered points midway through the set putting them up 19–16. Langegger continued to shine late in the game and helped bring the 'Stangs back into the game at 19–19. Another error by Ryerson put the Mustangs ahead at 23–22. The Mustangs would respond with their own service error, bringing it back to a tied game at 23–23. The rookie, Van Camp, had a clutch kill to put Western on top and lead them to a 3–1 victory over the Rams.
Van Camp had an excellent outing, leading the team in kills with 18 on the match. Head coach Melissa Bartlett was blown away by the Blackstock, Ont. native's performance.
“That is probably the biggest performance we could have asked for out of our first-year player,” said Bartlett.
While the Mustangs had a strong offensive performance Bartlett was more impressed with the Mustangs defence.
“Ryerson is without a doubt the most difficult team to defend against in the league," explained Bartlett. "They have so many players that you have to focus on defending so it really puts pressure on all parts of your defensive system to work effectively.”
However, despite the success they had against the Rams, Bartlett still thought there was room for improvement. “Staying consistent with the pressure we were able to put on them” was coach Bartlett's main concern with her teams performance. Ryerson was able to close in on the 'Stangs at the end of nearly every set, putting pressure on the Mustangs down the stretch.
This was a statement victory for the Mustangs, ending Ryerson’s 30 game win-streak.
Following the win, Western now ranks ninth on the U Sports top 10 national rankings, proving they are a legitimate contender for a national championship this season.
The 5–2 Mustangs are heading off to Windsor this coming Friday to face off against the 2–5 Windsor Lancers.