TORONTO – Today is a new day for the Mustangs women's volleyball team.
Yesterday, they were not on their game. Yesterday, they struggled to gain any rhythm. Yesterday, they didn't think they would lose.
Yet they did, badly, as the Ryerson Rams brought their A-game and took down the Mustangs in straight sets in the Ontario University Athletics semifinal, meaning Western will now have to play for bronze tonight instead of gold.
"This is one that I think we're going to think about for a long time," said Mustangs head coach Melissa Bartlett. "We were really prepared and we had a great game plan and they didn't really deviate from what we thought they were going to do. I think we just came out flat and we didn't find our game."
It was hard to single out one explanation for why the game turned out the way it did. Mustangs' outside hitter Katie McKenna said sometimes that's what sports are like: unpredictable.
"Sometimes it happens in sports – you come into a game and you have these expectations and you think you've had a great week in practice, mentally [you're] ready to go and it just didn't happen," she said following Friday's loss. "It sucks and we're feeling pretty crappy about it but it's sports and it's part of the game sometimes."
Western player of the game Aja Gyimah said it may have been because of underestimating their opponent.
"We went into it, especially in the first set, just expecting them to not play as well as they did," Gyimah said. "They played really well and we just weren't picking it up."
Two weeks ago, Western beat the Rams in straight sets in their final regular season game. Rams head coach Dustin Reid said the difference between the two games was more on his team's side than on the Mustangs'.
"To be frank, we played much better today," he said after his team's win. "Western played well last time but we weren't happy with our performance. We were embarrassed that on our senior night we had a poor performance like that ... so this was a chance for us to get some redemption."
Ryerson's win means they will play the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in tonight's final.
"[I'm] just super super proud of our players because we've had lots of ups and downs this season," Reid said. "This is a first in 15 years for the program and a first for all of these girls, obviously, to get to the final."
Western will play arguably their biggest rival, the McMaster Marauders, in tonight's bronze medal match.
Western middle Kelsey Veltman, who received the award for OUA west player of the year before Friday's semifinal, said the team needs to have a short memory in order to take down Mac.
"[One key is] just forgetting about that last game and going into this game hard and full of heart," Veltman said. "It's our seniors' last game so we're going to play real tough for them."
Gyimah said communication needs to be a focus on Saturday as well.
"It's just communication and effort – things that we can control," she said.
Western will take on McMaster at 6 p.m. at the Goldring Centre in Toronto on Saturday, March 5. Follow @SportsAtGazette for live updates throughout the match. The game can also be viewed on OUA.tv