Aleksa Miladinovic was named top setter at the National Bank Invitational tournament. MARTIN NOMBRADO / The Eyeopener

One-on-one with Aleksa Miladinovic

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Ryerson’s men’s volleyball team held its 16th Annual National Bank Invitational tournament last weekend. The Rams defeated the powerhouse Western Mustangs and defending Ontario University Athletics (OUA) champions Queen’s Gaels (twice), before losing to the York Lions in the tournament finals. Ryerson’s Luka Milošević and Stefan Ristic were named best blocker and best server respectively. Nitish Bissonauth spoke to the tournament’s top setter, Aleksa Miladinovic, about the tournament and upcoming season.

How do you feel about your silver-medal showing at the Invitational?

Overall it was a good performance. We didn’t bring home the gold but we made a statement that we are here to compete. I think we opened the eyes of [people in] the OUA.  It was nice to see the other coaches voted for me [as best setter of the tournament].  And it was nice to see recognition for the hard work I put in [because] I want to prove to the coaches in the OUA that I’m one of the top players in the league.

What was it like to play on the Ontario U20 team that won gold at the National Team Challenge Cup this summer?

It was nice to play with top guys from my age group, and experience winning with them.  The coaches worked us like machines — everything was so structured. There was no funny business.

The team posed for nude calendars last year – what was that like, and would you do it again?

(Laughs) It was alright, we had some fun doing it. It was my first time doing a photo shoot like that. My family had a good laugh and my friends teased me about it but it was a great cause for charity. We raised a lot of money for prostate cancer and sold a lot of calendars. I don’t know how many shirtless pictures of me are on people’s walls but it’s okay. It was for a good cause. On my own, I don’t know [if I’d do it again], depends if I’m getting paid to model for a company. With the team, yeah, I’d do it again.

Will you continue playing volleyball after graduation?

I’d like to play volleyball overseas in Europe. It’s been a dream ever since I was a kid. I know with Ryerson, there are programs where they send players overseas; I would love to play for Red Star Belgrade in Serbia. There are no high-level teams in Canada. There aren’t any leagues. I’m already playing at the highest level [of volleyball in Canada], so there is no future in volleyball for me here.

Is there anyone you look up to in terms of volleyball?

I look up to Nikola Grbic. He’s part of Serbia’s national volleyball team and [was a] gold medalist from the 2000 Summer Olympics. I look up to him because of the way he controls his emotions and uses his high IQ of the game. He plays the same position as me.

Last season the team went 3-15 and finished ninth (out of 10 teams) in the OUA. How does the team plan to rebound?

Last season was a kick in the pants for us – we have something to prove. This year we have a new approach, we are more focused in practice and game oriented because we are out to prove something after last year’s poor results.

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