From pretender to contender

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By Chris Johnston

The men’s soccer team find respectability after stunning upset over Western.

Two weeks ago, the Ryerson men’s soccer team was battling for a single win. Now, improbably, with three weeks left in the season it’s fighting for a playoff spot.

“Given the 0-10 record that we had last year, I think we’re sending a massage,” said head coach Tony la Ferrara. “We’re opening up a few eyes and people are now aware that Ryerson is not going to lay down and die.”

Moments after the final whistle of the emotional victory, the Rams players formed a circle at midfield and began jumping up and down. Their singing, yelling and cheering could still be heard from the dressing room five minutes later.

“Winning really creates good spirit, good team unity,” added la Ferrara.

After returning from the locker room tried 0-0, the Rams took charge early in the second half, directing several shots at the Mustang keeper in the first 15 minutes. They were rewarded for their hard work about 20 minutes into the half when Mirza Hodzic scored after taking a nifty pass from forward Nick De Tranquilli.

The bench and coaching staff mobbed Hodzic on the sidelines.

“The boys were happy,” said la Ferrara. “It was a big goal.”

With the victory, the Rams avenged last season’s 7-1 defeat to the Mustangs.

The Rams nearly went undefeated on the weekend, but in Sunday’s game a flukey goal gave the division-rival Brock University Badgers a 1-0 win over Ryerson.

The Rams dominated play in the first half with four or five excellent scoring chances – the best of which came when Dante Cassanta missed a penalty kick – bu entered half time tied 0-0.

The lone goal came when the balls was deflected in off of the Badgers player who was turning away. Ryerson had a flurry of opportunities in the dying minutes, but was unable to tie the match.

La Ferrara thought that his team had trouble carrying their high energy level from Saturday to Sunday.

“The effort was there today, but not the same intensity,” he said. “They may have been mentally drained after playing such a good game, and beating such a good team.”

The Rams, who at 2-4-0 have six points, now find themselves in a fight to claim one of the two playoff spots in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) central/south division. They are in third place behind the University of Guelph Gryphons (3-2-0), who lead the division with nine points and University of McMaster Marauders (2-3-1), who have seven points. Brock (1-3-1) is in last place with four points.

“Now we’ve just got to get that winning mentality where we can go out and kick ass every time,” said La Ferrara, noting that Thursday’s game against division-rival McMaster is a must-win for the Rams. “I think that we will find out Thursday if the boys have the cajones to go out and do it.”

Things have been anything but positive for the lady Rams.

The team has been all but eliminated from the OUA south/central division playoff race, but it has improved as the season has progressed.

In the Rams’ 3-1 loss to the Badgers on Sunday, they found themselves tied at halftime in a game for the second weekend in a row.

“Today, I was fairly happy, we came out and battled for the whole 90 minutes,” coach Jon Sanderson said following the loss to Brock. “We just didn’t capitalize on some of the scoring opportunities that we had.”

The Badgers opened the scoring late in the first half, but first year forward Michelle Anderson replied quickly for the Rams when she scored on an individual rush. Anderson owns both of Ryerson’s goals this season.

The second half was a rough one – two Badger players were forced to leave the game due to injury – and the teams exchanged insults back and forth. The Rams spent much of the half in their own end.

The goal that broke the lady Rams’ backs came early in the second half when a Brock player headed in a corner kick. A bad bounce late in the game produced the third Badger goal.

Saturday was another story altogether. The lady Rams dropped a 6-0 decision to an unbeaten Western squad that has given up only one goal all year. The Mustangs were simply too strong for Ryerson.

The rams were hurt this weekend by the absence of Nicole Suto, who missed both games after suffering a mild concussion last week against University of Guelph. Her status for Thursday’s game against McMaster is unknown.

This week the team may also be without defender Natalie Dabit, who went for x-rays following Sunday’s game with a possible broken toe.

The Rams are now winless in 78 games. Just past the midway point of the season. Sanderson says his players will need to work on their athleticism to win this year. “Unfortunately there have been some inconsistencies this season,” he said. “We have to work harder during the week on our fitness level.”

Both Rams teams have the Thanksgiving weekend off, after games against McMaster on Thursday.

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