By Harlan Nemerofsky
For the first time in team history, Ryerson’s men’s soccer team has entered the top five CIS rankings, after jumping five teams and moving into fifth place on Tuesday afternoon.
This comes two days after the Rams (6-0-1) went a perfect 2-0 against Queen’s University and Royal Military College this weekend and a week after they moved into the top 10 rankings for the first time in team history.
“I’m very pleased with our team’s start,” said Rams head coach Ivan Joseph. “I think they’ve worked hard in the off-season and I think a lot of that is a testament of Sam [Walls], our strength and conditioning coach, making sure that they’ve been prepared.”
The Rams lead the OUA East with 19 points in seven games and are tied for second with McMaster (with a game in hand) for the most points in the CIS, comprised of 45 teams.
“Whatever the ranking is now it’s irrelevant,” said associate head coach Filip Prostran. “It doesn’t give us an extra playoff win or any kind of positioning. It doesn’t really give us anything other than the recognition of some of the fourth or fifth-year players, it’s nice for them.”
Fifth-year forward Alex Braletic leads the Rams in goals with eight through seven games and is tied with Guelph’s Robert Murphy (who has a game in hand) for the most in the country.
However, it was fourth-year goalkeeper Christian Maraldo who drew the attention of his head coach.
“Alex is getting a lot of the attention as being our top goal scorer but Christian [Maraldo] has done a nice job back there as a goaltender,” said Joseph. I think he’s probably our unsung hero right now. He’s done an exceptional job in helping us stay in games.”
Maraldo, who’s started in all seven games, has allowed just five goals and posted three clean sheets.
“It’s the first time for the program, the first time for the team and the whole team is obviously excited,” said first-year defender Nick DeGrave. “But ultimately we still have to finish the season off and we don’t want to lose. So even without the ranking, we’re still going to work on getting to the playoffs. Obviously, what you notice are those late goal scorers like Armin [Tankovic] and Alex, and that’s been getting a lot of the talk. But Christian’s been making some really important saves and without him we wouldn’t even be where we are right now.”
The Rams have won their last six games after salvaging an opening-day draw against Carleton and have won 19 consecutive regular season games dating back to last year.
The Rams play their next game on Sunday against the Toronto Varsity Blues at Monarch Park Stadium, as they look to win their seventh straight game and continue to surge in National rankings.
“You continue to work hard and don’t believe that you’ve achieved anything based on an external ranking,” said Joseph. “It’s not about the result in terms of a ranking, that’s never our goal. It’s to be prepared to compete at a National championship level.”