By William Brown
It was the final five minutes of Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship, and the Ryerson men’s soccer team was trailing one goal to nothing against the York Lions. With the seconds ticking down on the clock and the Ryerson fans’ anxious faces looking down from the stands, the coaches riled everybody up for the final plays of the game.
The 1-0 score carried into stoppage time, and the Rams, desperate to tie the game and take it to overtime, were awarded a corner kick. It was their last chance to score.
With one minute remaining in the game, Rams goalkeeper Christian Maraldo came up to join the rest of the team in the Lions box.
Midfielder Alex Braletic’s corner kick swerved into the box and Maraldo got a head on it. The ball, however, went right to the Lions’ keeper, and York was able to clear the ball out of their zone, ending the game.
Although the Rams finshed their playoff run with a loss this season, they clinched a national birth for the first time in program history.
“Anyone who knows anything about soccer will tell you that last year’s team was more talented than this year’s,” said associate coach Filip Prostran. “But this is as tough as it gets. They’re grittier, they’ve got better leaders.”
The Rams have suffered heartbreaking failure over the past couple years, having been knocked out of the OUA quarter finals in the past two seasons and not having ever seized a berth at nationals, But with steady improvement and growth, the program’s success took another giant leap this year.
The Rams were a dominant 12-0 2 during the regular season, taking top spot in OUA east and being Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) only undefeated team.
“Because a team is so veteran rich and savvy, the tough losses in the quarter-finals still resonate with the team,” said Prostran. “It was the feeling that we let one get away. That was the hardest part.” Braletic, one of the graduating players, preached the unity and character that the team evoked.
“We believe in each and every guy on this team,” said Braletic. “I’m not playing this game for me, I’m playing for the guys next to me. And everybody feels that way.”
Other members of the team weren’t as confident that their team would be as successful as previous teams have been.
“Before the season started, I didn’t expect our team to be undefeated and do as well as we are,” said defender Josh Kohn. “It’s kind of a new part of the team. I can’t remember a team this cohesive, so together,” said Maraldo.
Prostran said that the difference this year is that the leaders have stepped up and been vocal on and off-field.
“A few of these guys, the Alexes the Michael Jans – they’re extremely influential on the team,” said Prostran. “I think there’s been a change in attitude over the offseason so that they’ve become a very good influence off the field.”
Ryerson will now travel to Fredericton, N.B. to participate in the 44th CIS Men’s Soccer Championship.
“It’ll be hard work. It’s the bestteams in Canada. But it’s good. It’s what we’ve wanted” said Prostran.