By Daniel Rocchi
Eight months removed from a bitter playoff defeat, Ryerson’s men’s volleyball team refuses to dwell on the disappointing end to last year’s impressive season.
Just as well, since they’ll need complete focus to meet their goals for an intriguing 2015-2016 campaign.
Last year, the Rams claimed second place in the OUA’s (Ontario University Athletics) 11-team league with a 15-5 record, and were ranked in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) Top 10 in four of the last five weeks of the regular season.
Ryerson won seven of their final nine regular-season matches to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, setting the stage for a quarter-final tilt against the eighth-place Windsor Lancers at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Ryerson boasted an impressive 8-2 home record during the regular season, but the Lancers pulled off a 3-1 upset in a heart-breaking Valentine’s Day match to deny the Rams their second consecutive OUA Final Four appearance.
“It was very disappointing,” said third-year outside hitter Lucas Coleman, “But we know we had a great season and although it didn’t end the way we wanted, I don’t think that one result reflected how our season went. It’s wiped clean. We’re a new team this year; we’re not even reflecting on that loss anymore.”
With 12 returning players on the 16-man squad, the Rams are looking to build on last year’s regular-season dominance and advance past the quarter-finals for the second time since 2008.
But they’ll be doing so without the only head coach they’ve ever played for at Ryerson.
For the first time in 20 years, Ryerson’s men’s volleyball team is without Mirek Porosa, a two-time OUA Coach of the Year and the first Ontario coach ever to be named CIS Coach of the Year.
Porosa has taken a leave of absence for personal reasons, and women’s volleyball team head coach Dustin Reid has assumed the head coach and manager’s roles on an interim basis.
It’s unfamiliar territory for players and coach alike, and the learning curve was evident during a pre-season that saw Ryerson go 1-7.
“In any situation it would be ideal to have a period of planning before you hop on board [and] that period was pretty short for us,” said Reid, now in his eighth year as head coach of the women’s team. “But the veteran players have been tremendous, working really hard and being open-minded about trying some new things. I think that played into our performance in exhibition competition; trying to do some things that I feel differently about than they’re used to.”
Reid is working double-duty as head coach of both varsity squads and there is no definite timeline for his stewardship of the men’s team, but he inherits a roster stacked with talent.
Last season, Coleman ranked third the OUA and seventh in Canada with 4.5 kills per set to earn OUA First-Team All-Star and CIS Second-Team All-Canadian status, and he spent the summer playing for Canada’s national junior team. Returning third-year setter Adam Anagnostopoulos ranked fifth in the OUA with 9.03 assists per set, while fifth-year outside hitter Robert Wojcik tied for first in the OUA with 0.44 service aces per set.
On the defensive side, fifth-year middle-blocker Marc Reardon and third-year libero Will Otten return to the Rams after finishing first in the OUA in solo blocks (47) and third in digs per set (2.91), respectively.
The depth of Ryerson’s line-up shone through in the team’s regular-season home opener, a 3-1 victory over the Guelph Gryphons, and the Rams expect the win to be the first of many.
“We know we’re going to make playoffs,” said Coleman. “It’s always nice to finish first or second in the regular season, but that’s not necessarily our focus. “We want to get to the Final Four, [get to] the finals and make nationals.”