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By Sachin Seth

As this weekend’s exhibition tournament came to a close, the women’s volleyball team cast their gleaming eyes towards the future.

The squad kicked off the pre-season at Ryerson in a series against Nipissing University and Humber College. In their first action of the season, the Rams ended the tournament with two wins and two losses. With the exhibition season just beginning and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) league play starting next month, coach Bob Cholette wants the team to be ready for the 2008-2009 season.

“We want to make the playoffs for sure. We’re still a little bit of a young team,” he said. “But we want to try and win an OUA medal.”

This year’s goal is pretty optimistic — just last year the team finished with only five wins in 19 games, failing to defeat any of the top eight teams in the league or qualify for the playoffs. But the team only lost one player to graduation last year, and no players are set to graduate this year.

With the addition of Leah Saar, a two-time Canadian Youth National team member, the team is looking to become a contender on the OUA stage.

The first-year social work student, decided to come to Ryerson after she went on a tour of the university and met captain Lindsay Franco.

“I didn’t know a lot about the team at first, but Lindsay told me everything and how they were going to improve over the next few years,” she said. “I just want to bring a positive attitude to the team.”

Saar was also played on the Under-18 Ontario provincial team this summer, for the third year in a row. Franco thinks that Saar’s experience will help the team this season.

“I think she’s an excellent addition, Franco said.

“She’s a great player and she has some credentials behind her.”

Cholette also has high hopes for his new player, however he acknowledges that she still has a lot to learn.

“Leah’s probably the best recruit to stay in Ontario this year. She’s a very good player,” he said. “But even first-year players don’t win championships themselves.”

Franco and her fellow co-captain Chelsea Blackall are ready to lead the team to the post-season, and for good reason — last year Franco was nominated for Ryerson’s female athlete of the year.

Cholette hopes the two captains’ work ethic will rub off on some of the new recruits.

“They’ll set the tone for these first year players,” he said. “I think they very much both want to win.”

After missing the playoffs for the third year in a row, winning is something that’s immensely important to Franco this year. Her drive and commitment to the game may be just what the new players need.

“I hate losing. A lot of people on our team hate that,” she said. “If all the veterans are focused in practice and we set the precedent that this is a hard-working team, the [first years] will follow.”

One of the team’s biggest obstacles is that they have no full-time coach; Cholette’s position is just part-time — making it difficult for the coach to put together a winning team with such limited time.

“It’s my hope that eventually we’ll have a full-time position at Ryerson,” he said.

“I think we’ve out-recruited the other schools and if we add that final piece, if I’m there all the time to help them, it’ll certainly help to put us over the top.”

Franco is also supportive of making Cholette a full-time coach.

“He does an excellent job making sure we can all support each other,” she said. “He’s an excellent coach.”

The Rams are back in action this weekend when they play a tournament at Brock University.

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