By Shi Davidi
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
The opening of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities makes a good analogy for the Ryerson men’s volleyball team’s up and down season. For that matter, the title of another Dickens classic, Great Expectations, can be used to describe the Rams season, as well.
The Rams completed the regular season with a 3-1 loss to York last Saturday. They finished with a 5-7 record in league play, good for fourth in the competitive OUAA East. They also earned a playoff visit to U of T. Coach Mirek Porosa’s goal at the beginning of the season was a second-place finish and a trip to the OUAA East Finals for his rookie-laden squad.
It was the best of times…
Season highlights include a win against nationally ranked U of T, the first ever for the program, a win against an experienced Queen’s team, the first in five years. The Rams also had three second-place finishes in tournaments.
It was the worst of times…
There were several low lights as well, most notably the defection of last year’s OUAA East all-star Ryan McNeil. The Rams also lost assistant coach Semih Hacioglu, who returned to his native Turkey after graduating in December. The Rams missed several opportunities in league play, including two 3-2 losses to York, which cost them third or possibly second place in the division.
With all the expectations and pressure on them, it’s easy to forget that five of the six Rams starters are rookies. This is still a team trying to find its identity, define its roles and gel on and off the court. When they play as a team, their talent and demeanor can be intimidating, trash-talking opponents after big blocks and smoking spikes.
Asked if he was satisfied with his team’s play this season, Porosa responded this way: “Yes and no. I’m happy we started playing to our potential, but I’m also a little disappointed. I know in a different scenario, we could have come second (in the division). But overall I am happy. We get a lot more respect from around the league.”
So now the Rams’ focus turns to tuning up for their playoff match against U of T. The Blues are coming off their first two losses of the season, against the Rams and York. It’s a good bet the defending OUAA East champs will be prepared for the Rams this time.
“U of T is an experienced team with home advantage,” said Porosa. “They have proven over the years they know how to play, but anything can happen. Each match depends on the day, on the concentration, on the focus, on the will.”
For their part, the players know what they have to do to beat the Blues.
“We have to play a controlled, focused game and not be intimidated,” said setter Jamal Thomas, who has been instrumental in the Rams’ improved play. “They’re the defending champs, the pressure’s on them. They have everything to lose and we have everything to gain.”
Power Andrew White believes in his team. “We can pull together and beat them. It’s a matter of being focused on the same objective. Once we’re focused, I know no one can touch this team.”