By James Bisson
It was supposed to be a serious moment.
Ryerson’s women’s volleyball team were facing the Lakehead Thunderwolves in a match they needed to win to secure a playoff berth.
Having captured the first set, the Rams were down 16-6 in the second head coach Arif Nathoo called a timeout. The Thunderwolves huddled with stern looks on each of the players’ faces.
But sound of laughter emerged from the Rams huddle. It was coming from the mouth of Ryerson’s star blocker, Marijana Curic. She and teammate Carly Price were smiling and giggling as if they had just won the national championships; hardly the reaction expected from a team in a must-win situation.
Now, two weeks later, Curic and her teammates are laughing all the way to the playoffs. One year after stumbling to a 1-11 league record, the Rams have rebounded, finishing third in the OUA East division with a 5-5 records.
Ryerson will be in the OUA playoffs, which started Feb. 25 at the University of Toronto.
Should the Ram triumph, they will attend the CIAU finals at the University of Manitoba beginning March 2.
Curic, who was ranked seventh in blocks per game, in Canada, after the Lakehead game, credits team closeness as the catalyst for the turnaround.
“For us, team bonding was such an important thing,” she says. “We’re a small team, which helps a lot. We go out together and do things off the court together too.”
The second-year food sciences major admits times were tough last season, but explains the love of the game kept things lighthearted.
“People will see the negativity in other teams,” Curic said. “But they won’t see it in us. We just love to have fun, and play volleyball.”
Curic says she has been accused of having too much fun during a match, but does not apologize for her sunny disposition on the court.
“If I show [other teams] that I’m angry, it might bring them up, or bring my teammates down,” she says. “Some people don’t like it, but it makes me feel better.”
For Curic, a berth in the national championships would make her smile even more. But to do that Ryerson will have to defeat either the University of Toronto, 9-1, or York University, 7-1, or both. But Curic isn’t sweating it.
“We can beat anybody. I believe that,” she says.
Curic praised the coaching of Nathoo and assistant coach Bob Cholette for helping the team stay focused.
“Arif is more than our coach,” she says. He’s our friend.
She could only smile when asked to assess her thoughts on the year.
“It’s been fun,” she says.