By Anthony Agostino
There is always next year. The Rams women’s volleyball team knows that better than anyone else.
With the regular season drawing to an end, this year’s playoffs are ever further away than next year’s. The winless Rams are working on regrouping and recruiting with only two games remaining this season.
Rams coach Ariff Nathoo has already set his sights on possible prospects for next year’s team. “So far it’s been tough,” said Nathoo, speaking about the recruiting process. “We’re looking for a power hitter and definitely a setter.”
Nathoo has scoped out three potential additions for next year’s edition of the team. He has players from around the Toronto area and even as far away as Ottawa in mind. Nathoo is also keeping track of the progress of some younger players in the high school ranks.
The team began the season with 12 players but now hits the court with only secen. The good news is that all but one of those will return next season.
The Rams hosted a tournament over the weekend where they learned about the rewards that persistence brings.
It took the Rams 27 tries before they finally won their first match of the season, in the bronze medal game of their own tournament, no less. Trent University, the University of Guelph and Brock University were all invited to the Ryerson Women’s Volleyball Tournament over the weekend.
The Rams had a little trouble ridding themselves of morning stiffness in their first loss of the day when they bowed to Trent in two straight games.
Herbie Kuhn, the announcer for the Toronto Raptors, made a special appearance as the tournament’s announcer and attempted to inspire the Rams to a victory over the Guelph Gryphons, but to no avail.
The Rams were in tough against Guelph, who are in second place in the West division. U of G rocked the Rams in the first game 15-1. The Rams made the second game a little more interesting but still dropped it 15-7.
Nathoo could not overcome his frustration with the way the Rams were performing.
“We weren’t able to implement the things we worked on in practice. Each player has their own personal goals and they have to work harder to reach them,” he said.
Although their play improved, the third match had the exact same outcome for the Rams, as Brock downed them two games in a row.
This led to a rematch with Trent in the bronze medal game.
Hungry for a victory, the Rams would not quit. Rookie Holly Federzenko labored through the day with a heavily taped hip. She played through her nagging injury — a strained abductor and hip flexor — despite the toll that four games in one day took on her.
The Rams blew Trent off the court 15-2 in the first game and edged them in the second to take a two-game lead in the best-of-five match. Trent battled back to sneak one game away from the Rams.
Tired and sore, the Rams fought desperately in the last game to end what seemed like a marathon for all involved. While Kuhn yelling encouragement from the bleachers, first-year player Stephanie Fabiani drilled a kill past the Trent front line to give Ryerson their first victory of the year.
“We deserve to finally win,” said Fabiani. “The scores didn’t reflect how we played. We fought hard but at time our focus just wasn’t there.”
Nathoo was also able to breathe a sigh of relief. “Our goal was no worse than third,” he said. “Considering our setter wasn’t here, in two weeks we accomplished what other teams had all year to work on.”
With a little bit of confidence, almost anything is possible. The Rams are learning that too and hope to bring it to their next lesson, when they host Carleton University and the University of Ottawa this weekend.