By Luke Galati
After being eliminated in a heartbreaking four-set match to the Western Mustangs in last year’s Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinals, Ryerson’s men’s volleyball team is entering the 2013-14 season with a chip on its shoulder.
Last season the Rams were seeded seventh out of 10 teams in the OUA, which was enough to make the playoffs.
However, with the OUA implementing a new system this season that will now see only the top six teams make it into the playoffs, the Rams know they will have to step their game up to another level.
“Making the playoffs is a goal, but making the Final Four is our ultimate goal,” said Rams head coach Mirek Porosa.
Ryerson has a largely revamped roster this season, with a huge recruiting class that included middle blocker Jeff Ardron. As the prize of the recruiting class Ardron has represented team Ontario as an 18-year-old at the under-21 Canada Summer Games this past summer.
“Sometimes it’s tough to mesh newer guys with veterans, but the guys have been great, they’re really eager to learn,” said fourth-year setter Stefan Ristic. “As one of the captains on the team, I hope to help mentor some of the younger guys into the whole rhythm of the varsity athletics scene.”
However, this season doesn’t come without loss, as the Rams lost former OUA rookie-team setter Aleksa Miladinovic, who left Ryerson after being accepted to the University of Toronto’s prestigious pharmaceutical program this off-season. Miladinovic was second in the OUA in assists last year.
“Losing Miladinovic to Toronto is a difficult hit for the team, but our new setter, Adam Anagnostopoulos, is an exceptional player,” Porosa said.
In addition to Miladinovic, the Rams lost Luka Milosevic to graduation. Milosevic was named to the OUA second-team all-star in his fifth and final season with the Rams when he finished fifth in the nation in solo blocks, with 28.
“When you’re losing all-star players, it creates holes in certain positions, but Jeff Ardron has the size (at six-foot-eight), the experience and has been showing that he can step up and fill this hole,” said Porosa.
Anagnostopoulos is coming to Ryerson with an impressive resume, having captained the Ontario Volleyball Association’s KW Predators the past five seasons. He was also named to team Ontario’s under-18 team in 2012.
“[He will] most likely get the starting job, but [the OUA] it’s a whole new level that’s faster and more intense,” said Porosa.
Offensively, the Rams will be led by third-year outside hitter Robert Wojcik, who led the team with 220 kills, which was good enough for third in the OUA and eighth in the nation.
“I see a lot of potential in this team. They are showing signs of brilliance,” said Porosa. “My goal is to create whatever is necessary for them to grow.”