By Noah Love
Coach Mirek Porosa looks to Sasha Simic to lead rookie-filled roster after an 0-12 season.
Questions may surround this year’s men’s volleyball team, but as you walk into their practice one thing is clear: Sasha Simic owns the court. In the 2000-01 season, Simic a third-year power, had a breakout year. He was fourth in Canada in kills per game with 3.76 and was named Ryerson’s most valuable athlete.
Now Simic is ready to dominate. In practice he plays every point as though it was a regular season game. The 6-foot-4 Yugoslavia native wants to set an example for his teammates. “I know I have to lead this team,” Simic says before the practice in the Kerr Gym. “I think that more is expected of me now because I had a good year and they expect me now to have a better year. I’m fine with the expectations, I’m fine with the leadership role.”
Last year, the Rams went 0-12. They won a Canadian-worst three games in their 12 matches. Simic is trying to be realistic about his team’s chances. “I would like to see the team play roughly half wins, half losses,” he says. “Hopefully we make the playoffs and maybe pull off an upset.”
Coach Mirek Porosa, now in his seventh year with the Rams, is ecstatic to have his MVP back on the court. “Sasha’s a coach’s dream,” Porosa says after Monday night’s practice. “He can make shots on the court and he’s a leader with our rookies and for our program outside of the team.”
In past years, Porosa lost talented rookies to academic failure. Simic watched some of these players fail, no he’s determined to prevent others from suffering the same fate. “We’re using new programs and time-management schedules with the rookies,” says Simic. “That way they can get their class work done so they can get their degrees. The players before were never this serious about wanting to play.”
Simic says that part of the problem lies in the lack of emphasis Ryerson puts on academic success for athletes. “At the beginning of the year they do things like offer free tutoring, but the athletes don’t get enough personal attention. We ask how they’re doing in class, they would say ‘fine’ and then they would flunk.”
Porosa spends most of the Monday night practice delegating who will perform which drills and with whom.
Simic does the rest, keeping the rookie-filled roster on its toes.
One of the keys to this year’s team will be the success of first-year talent. On of this year’s rookies is no stranger to Ryerson volleyball. Lukas Porosa, the coach’s son and a junior beach volleyball champion, will suit up for the Rams this season.
“It’s a new experience for me,” says the first-year applied biology and chemistry student. “I’ve been coming to this gym for years, since I was a kid watching the teams play. I know what it takes to play at this level.”
It’s a different experience for the elder Porosa as well. “So far there hasn’t been any problems,” he says. “It’s harder for me to coach my son than it is for him to play for me. I’ve told him I expect him to be a star for us and he’s ready for that.”
Playing for his dad was an easy choice for Lukas, who will likely start for the Rams when the season begins.
“He’s been coaching me since I was a little kid,” Lukas says. “I think he’s the best. He’s very educated, he knows the game so well. Plus I get a free ride to school.”
For Simic, suiting up for a third-year Ryerson team was a more difficult choice. In the end, coach Porosa convinced the OUA East division second-team all-star that he would enjoy success before receiving his diploma.
With the effort players showed in the first practices of the year, Simic is confident he made the right choice. “Practices were never better and in my three years at Ryerson we never had a more competitive team,” he says. “We’re building something here. That’s why I decided to stay at Ryerson. I’ll play out my eligibility here.”
For now, Mitrek Porosa is taking his team out of obscurity cautiously. The team might look great, but he won’t know for sure until it faces real competition. “I have to be realistic,” he says when forecasting the Ram’s season. “We’ll see where we are after tournaments at Laurier and in Quebec. It’s going to be touch. Only three teams for our division make the playoffs, and we have U of T, York and Queen’s [in ours]. We’re a little bit weak in the middle, but we’re going to grow this year.”