BY ANTHONY LOPOPOLO
The men’s soccer team was eliminated from the playoffs last Wednesday, losing 2-1 after a shootout against the Laurentian Voyageurs.
At 5-4-5, the Rams racked up their first winning campaign since joining Ontario University Athletics in 1986.
Head coach Ivan Joseph is satisfied with what his group of players have achieved, but believes there’s much more stored in their bank.
“We set some goals and one of those was to fight for the playoffs, the other was to have a winning season,” he said.
“They met my expectations from that point of view. It’s great to have the record, but I think this team has a lot more to give.”
Joseph finds nothing disappointing in the team’s lacklustre start to the year — a run that saw the Rams go winless in their opening four games.
But in the second half of the season, he saw his Rams charge in the opposite direction, losing only one game in October.
“I was teaching a lot of new things. Whenever you learn something new — whether you change your golf grip, you learn a new song — your performance always goes down before it goes up,” he said. “I think it’s the mark of a good team that it continues to improve.”
Veteran goalkeeper and captain Anthony Volpe attributes much of the team’s success to the new philosophy imposed by Joseph.
He said he’s seen steady progression during his four years in the program and the current coaching staff is likely to propel the team next season.
“Joseph’s worked well with coaches to create a good environment for us,” said Volpe.
“He’s given us the space to develop our skills and a lot of players have found their form under him.”
To build on this season, Joseph is aiming to establish a more rigorous offseason for his players.
The team came together in August without having any prior knowledge of each other, something Joseph wants to avoid the next time around.
“We’ve only been together for two months,” he said. “That definitely didn’t allow us to achieve what we could have.
“A team has to be together in the offseason, not just for physical and technical growth, but also for camaraderie and cohesion to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
Joseph intends to bring six to nine new recruits for next season and filter out the rest of the roster over months of community service and other extracurricular commitments.
“It won’t be for everybody, so we’ll have to see if this is something they want to be a part of,” he said.