By Chris Johnston
First-year head coach Tony La Ferrara is trying to end his team’s year-long losing streak by working the men’s soccer team into the turf.“We’ve been training really hard,” said rookie head coach Tony La Ferrara, after the Rams’ 2-1 exhibition win over the George Brown College Huskies, on Sunday at Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough. “We’ve been practicing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. It’s a lot for these guys.” This shouldn’t sound surprising. The Rams will do anything to improve on their OUA-worst 0-10-0 record from last year. The team has not won a regular-season game since Oct. 23, 1999 – a 5-0 shellacking of the lowly Nipissing University Lakers.
But after consecutive pre-season victories this year, over George Brown and York University, the team’s new training schedule seems to be paying off. “We’ve practiced very well for the last three weeks, this is a hard-working team,” said second-year forward Danta Cassanta. La Ferrara takes the reigns of a team that scored only seven goals in ten games under departed head coach Stuart Miller last season. The coaching was necessary for the team’s success according to Cassanta. “We’ve got all new guys in here now,” said Cassanta, who scored both of Ryerson’s first goals against the Huskies. “It’s much better now.”
There are 16 rookies in Rams’ jerseys this year. “Things look good,” said the affable coach, who noted that Ryerson’s goal is to make the playoffs. The top two teams in the Ryerson’s four-team OUA central/south division make the post-season. “I am very confident with these kids.” But La Ferrara said the team did not play well against the Huskies, and that the new training regime affected the Rams’ play. “They were tired and a little bit slow,” he said.
Against George Brown, the Rams virtually pinning the Huskies into their own end for about 30 minutes, but moments after Cassanta gave Ryerson a 1-0 lead on a penalty shot, a series of defensive blunders allowed the Huskies to tie the game. Ryerson’s defence looked error prone and sluggish throughout much of the first half. The fatigue showed less in the second half, however, as the Rams controlled play and directed several quality shots at the George Brown keeper. The winning goal came with fewer than 11 minutes to play, when Cassanta scored on rebound inside the 18-yard box.
Cassanta was quick to direct the spotlight elsewhere after scoring both goals, and narrowly missing two others – on a shot that grazed the right post and another that hit the crossbar – in the second half. “It’s not only me,” said the second-year architect student. “If the team plays well, then I’ll have more chances to score.” La Ferrara had nothing to but praise for Cassanta. “Everyone fights and works like hell to get the ball to him because they know he’ll do something useful with it,” he said. “The players respect to him, and work hard for him.”
La Ferrara was impressed by other players, including first-year midfielder Mark McCuish. There were several substitutions in the game, as most of the players on the 24-man roster saw action. The mystery of whether or not this will translate to success in the regular season will unveil itself this weekend. The Rams open their 10-game regular season schedule this Saturday against the University of Waterloo Warriors a 3 p.m. at Birchmount Stadium.
Ryerson has finally filled its head athletic position that was vacated two winters ago. Former City of Toronto administrator David Dubois has been hired under the new job title of program director for sports and recreation. He replaces former athletic director Bob Fullerton who retired in February 2000. Dubois was most recently the supervisor of recreation and facilities for the St. Jamestown and Regent Park area, which includes three multipurpose recreation facilities, 30 summer playgrounds and five outdoor ice rinks.
“David has a Masters in recreation research and planning from the University of Saskatchewan, a strong background in athletics and a history of taking on challenging administrative roles,” student services director Marion Creery wrote in a new release. – Steven Petreick