By Josh Beneteau
The Ryerson Rams and Humber Hawks were tied at two sets apiece with the Rams at match point. Over two hours of play later, Alex Dawson sent the ball deep into the Humber court. The Hawks set it up for a big smash, but rookie sensation Jeff Ardron jumped up and made the block, giving the Rams a 3-2 win.
This was Ardron’s first game with the Rams but head coach Mirek Porosa saw potential in Ardron more than a year ago.
“I wanted him badly because I knew Luca [Milosevic] graduated[and] I saw him as a replacement,” Porosa said.
But getting him to don the blue and gold was not easy. And for a while there was a chance he wouldn’t go to Ryerson at all.
More than 10 universities from across Canada wanted him. At 18, Ardron was the second youngest member of the under-21 Team Ontario program that placed fourth at the recent Canada games in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He also holds two Achievement of Excellence awards from his former club team, the Durham Attack, the same club team that Rams veterans Dawson and Robert Wojcik grew up with.
Porosa and Ardron first met at the High Performance camp held annually at Humber College. The camp lets students entering their final year of high school work with university coaches on skills and techniques. While it’s not supposed to be used for recruiting, Porosa couldn’t help but notice Ardron’s skill level.
“For middle [blockers] you have to have size, with good volleyball IQ and vision,” Porosa said.
“There aren’t many athletes his size at 6’8 that are playing volleyball.” Porosa was the first coach to bring Ardron in for a tour. In early December – joined by Dawson, team captain Robbie Earl and then-setter Aleksa Miladinovic – Ardron visited the MAC.
Porosa gave him two weeks to decide, but Ardron continued to explore other schools. While staying in touch with Ardron, Porosa worked to fill out his roster with other recruits such as Brett Whitley, Will Otten and Anthony Cicchi. He also secured setter Adam Anagnostopoulos, who had played with Ardron at both the Humber camp and with Team Ontario.
And then Porosa got the call he had been dreading; Ardron had chosen Western.
“You are fighting for a player, but at some point, you have to take a step back and if somebody makes a decision to go somewhere else, I have to respect it,” Porosa said.
Porosa was disappointed in losing out on Ardron, but he still had two middle blockers – Marc Reardon and Uchenna Ofoha.
Then in June, long after the application window had closed, Porosa got a call from Ardron.
“He talked to me and told me if I could get him into his program, he was fully committed to Ryerson,” Porosa said. “When I got the call I was ecstatic, it was like Christmas.” With help from Porosa, Ardron was able to get into the criminal justice program and sign his letter of intent, despite the delay.
So what was the biggest reason for Ardron switching to Ryerson? Having his friend Anagnostopoulos there to set him the ball.
“Adam and I had played together before so I was familiar with him,” Ardron said. “So when I heard he was coming to Ryerson, I knew I wanted to be there too.” Getting players late is not ideal for a coach, but when it is a player of his calibre, Porosa was ready to make an exception.
“There is no script for how the recruiting process is going to go,” Porosa said. “You have to be ready to adjust and come up with a strategy that will get the athletes in [the game].”