By Daniel Rocchi
After a tough loss in Guelph on Saturday night, the Ryerson men’s volleyball team would have liked nothing better than a quick road victory against their archrivals, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, on Sunday afternoon.
But rallying to win a five-set marathon is just fine with them too.
“It’s absolutely huge,” said outside hitter Robert Wojcik, whose Rams emerged triumphant from the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport with a come-from-behind 3-2 (25-23, 20-25, 24-26, 25-21, 15-9) victory. “We were really down after yesterday and it was a really emotional loss, so coming in today, we persevered really well against [bad] odds.”
Wojcik dominated the scoring with a game-high 20 kills, while libero Will Otten and outside hitters Brandon Jordan and Alex Dawson each had 10 digs for the Rams. Toronto left side Dave Merritt led the Varsity Blues with 15 kills and setter Michael Denton had 12 digs.
With the win, the Rams improve to 4-2 on the season and move into third place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA). Toronto, losers of three straight, fell to 1-4 and sit ninth in the 11-team conference.
It appeared that Ryerson would be down a set early as the Varsity Blues started strong, leading by as much as six points as they opened up a 16-10 lead in the first set. But the Rams held out, calling a time-out after battling to make it 23-21. When play resumed, Ryerson scored points off of four straight Toronto errors to stun the home crowd and claim the first set 25-23.
Playing their second match in 18 hours, the Rams couldn’t sustain their momentum from the first set as Toronto opened up another six-point lead. Though Ryerson replaced their opponent’s six-point lead with one of their own on some authoritative spikes from Wojcik and Jordan, the Rams eventually fell 25-20 in a late flurry that saw both teams perform some of their best blocks of the match.
The third set saw Ryerson finally open the scoring in a set, but the Varsity Blues edged out a 26-24 decision that featured a number of lengthy rallies and acrobatic digs.
As the teams traded single-and double-point leads through the fourth set, the Rams leaned on their depth to claim it 25-21 and force a fifth set. Twelve different Rams played in at least one set against Toronto, 11 of those in two sets or more.
“It was an entire team effort,” said head coach Mirek Porosa. “[There were] a couple substitutions we did and it paid off for us; we were fresher and our main [rotation] started finding their rhythm.”
The game was a highly emotional affair, highlighted by the warning issued by the referee to Rams setter Adam Anagnostopoulos for interacting with a Toronto player after Ryerson scored a point late in the fourth.
“We feed off of each other,” said Wojcik of his team’s spirited play. “We trust each other to get that next ball right away and that’s the kind of emotion we need to feed off of, which we did today.”
The Rams’ emotion combined with the depth of their roster proved to be too much for the Varsity Blues, as Ryerson won the fifth set 15-9 to claim their first win of a four-contest road-trip.
The Rams next face York on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 4 p.m. at the Tait Mckenzie Centre. With a 2-2 record, York sits in sixth place in the OUA.