By Daniel Fernandes
It’s not often in sports that you see a coach call a timeout to ask his winning team to start playing more like the opposing losers.
But that’s exactly what University of Toronto men’s volleyball skipper Orest Stanko did in the middle of the OUA East Division semifinal game at the University of Toronto on Saturday, as his powerhouse Varsity Blues were underachieving to a gritty Rams squad, which hadn’t won a game all year.
“Ryerson played with tremendous enthusiasm and I think our guys underestimated them a little bit,” Stanko said after the game. “I was telling my players to play with the same enthusiasm and intensity that Ryerson displayed. Our players were too cocky and played as if this game was a chore.”
Although the Rams’ 3-0 loss to the nationally fifth-ranked Blues was expected, no one would have guessed they’d put up such a good fight.
Although Ryerson didn’t start the first game on the right foot — they trailed 9-4 — the overpowering spikes of second-year power player Sasha Simic and the sharp setting of second-year Karl Venemore helped the Rams make it close, before they lost it 25-19.
The Blues looked like the OUA East’s top team only in the second set, when they won 25-11. Part of the third game was dominated by the Rams, as they opened up a 17-15 lead before the Blues came alive to clinch a 25-21 win.
“We played with our hearts and to the best of our ability,” Rams head coach Mirek Porosa said after the game. “With a little more experience we will only get better.”
With a team consisting of mostly first- and second-year players, the Rams should have been a clear mismatch for the Blues, who went 11-1 this year and had five players named to either the OUA East’s first or second all-star team.
But the play of Ryerson’s lone OUA all-star, Simic, helped keep the scores respectable. Simic, a second-team member, had 12 kills, 17 continues, two digs, one shot blocked and one ace serve.
The second-year business student had a breakthrough season this year, finishing second in Ontario in kills and kills per game, even though he played fewer games than the men who placed first and third in that category.
After the game he said he’s looking forward to another year with the Rams.
“I think the Rams have a great future and I will be a part of it,” he said. “Our team will continue to get better through experience and maybe even with the addition of some new recruits. Ryerson seems committed to the men’s volleyball program.”