By Josh Beneteau
The Ryerson men’s volleyball team (4-3) has struck it rich with their newest star, second-year outside hitter Robert Wojcik. In only five games this season, the 6’6″ Wojcik has done it all. He currently ranks second in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference in total kills (78) and points per set (4.66).
Wojcik has played with the Ontario provincial team since 2009, including this past summer when the team, which also featured Rams’ setter Aleksa Miladinovic, won the National Team Challenge Cup in Gatineau, Que.
“Based on his physical abilities, there aren’t many athletes his age who can jump that high and are that physically strong,” says head coach Mirek Porosa. “For me, [getting Robert] is like winning 6/49, trust me.”
And it’s not just Porosa that’s excited.
Teammates believe that Wojcik’s addition has transformed the Rams from a team that was questionable to make the playoffs to one of the top four in the OUA. Fourth-year player Milad Chitan says that having a teammate of Wojcik’s calibre on the right side of the court – where most of the set plays go – makes it easier for them to recover from mistakes.
“We can go to him when we have a broken play or a bad pass. This gives us the comfort of knowing we have a teammate that can bail us out 80 per cent of the time regardless of the trajectory of the set,” says Chitan.
But Wojcik’s journey to Ryerson had a few detours. Last season, he chose to play for the University of Alberta, a perennial volleyball power in the CIS. While he enjoyed his time in Alberta, he decided to move back to Ontario to be closer to his family.
“I didn’t really expect it to be as tough as it was,” Wojcik says.
And just as Wojcik was a hot commodity when he was first choosing a university after high school, when he decided to return to Ontario, many teams were pushing for his services.
In the end, he chose Ryerson, both for the new history program and the chance to play for Porosa.
“I’ve known Mirek for a really long time, and he’s really helped me out throughout my volleyball career,” Wojcik says. “Plus (Ryerson) is in Toronto, which is a great place and close to my home in Whitby.”
But even after his arrival, there were still issues that needed to be ironed out. Generally, the CIS does not allow student athletes to play varsity sports in their first year after transferring. Wojcik and Ryerson appealed, but it was not before missing pre-season and two season games that he was permitted to play.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to be allowed to play this year,” Wojcik says. “That was a really stressful time.”
With Wojcik in the fold, the Rams believe they have the necessary pieces to be competitive for years to come.
“It’s a huge advantage that we get to keep the core group of guys around for more than just this year,” says Aleksa Miladinovic. “But we have set our sights on achieving our goals this season.”
Those goals include hosting a playoff game this season, and a possible berth in the OUA finals. But it all begins with Wojcik.
“Being able to play is such a relief,” he says. “I [just] want to do the best I can for everyone.”