The Mustangs women’s volleyball team finished sixth in the nation after a 3-0 (22-25; 20-25; 24-26) loss to the Dalhousie Tigers during the consolation final at the U Sports national championship. The match was the first time the Mustangs had been swept in straight sets all season.
“I think that’s the only reason we should be disappointed at all is because we didn’t finish playing our best,” said Mustangs head coach Melissa Bartlett. “I think as a team we’ve really elevated our level of performance not only physically but mentally over the playoffs so we have a lot to be proud of there.”
The Mustangs continued with their streak of strong starts, once again getting the first point in each of the three sets.
However, Dalhousie proved that the Mustangs aren’t the only resilient team that can come from behind, and managed to pull through with the win in each set.
“I’m super proud of our team, we had an amazing year, we couldn’t have made our season go any longer,” said fifth-year middle Candance Scott. “This is the last possible day we could have played on and we got to be here and represent Western, so I’m proud of that.”
The first set saw the Mustangs jumped out to an early 3-0 lead over the Tigers. Dalhousie was not to be outdone and tied things up at seven then stretched the lead to 10-8.
The Mustangs went on a four point run, putting them up 16-11 over the Tigers at the technical. The Tigers erased the impressive deficit, coming back to take the set 25-22 after a couple of impressive rallies.
The second set saw the two teams exchange points, in a tighter set than the first. However, Dalhousie jumped out to a 21-17 lead over the Mustangs. The Mustangs, who have been come to be known for their resiliency and mental grit, attempted to stage a late set comeback. They pulled to within one point of the Tigers before their momentum ran out, allowing Dalhousie to close out the set.
The third set was fairly evenly matched with the two teams going back and forth, taking turns having narrow one or two point leads. But Dalhousie proved victorious, taking the set 26-24 and winning the game.
“I thought we got going with our serve, thought that really changed things, we put them under pressure and put them out of system,” said Tigers head coach Rick Scott. “I think the serve receive game was important and in the end I think that’s why we won, because we were a little better down the stretch.”
Despite a strong performance by Kelsey Veltman, who had 15 kills and 37 total attacks with only eight errors for a hitting percentage of .189, the Mustangs' attack was outclassed by the Tigers.
The Tigers managed 127 total attacks throughout the match and 46 kills, in comparison to the Mustangs' 117 attacks and 35 kills.
Dalhousie will finish fifth in the country, while Western finishes sixth, the highest ranking out of the three OUA teams who came to Toronto to compete. Western came into the tournament ranked sixth in the nation, and managed to maintain their standing. Despite losing two of their three games at the National championships, the team sees this past weekend as a learning opportunity for next year.
“What we’ll take from this tournament as a team is how hard we have to work if we want to be in the top four teams in the country,” said Bartlett. “The girls now have a benchmark of what we need to do, this is the quality we need to put out on the court to be better than we were this year.”
The ending is bittersweet for some of the players, especially the graduating seniors whose athletic careers have come to an end with the loss to Dalhousie.
“It’s super sad to be done, honestly my heart feels broken because I’ve been an athlete my entire life and now it’s just over,” said Scott. “It’s kind of hard to just comprehend but I’m super proud of our team.”
The Mustangs will be looking to return to the National championships next year, and are hopeful to improve on their sixth place finish.