By Dan Rocchi
When the night began, the Ryerson men’s volleyball team was undefeated.
They weren’t when it ended.
The Waterloo Warriors handed the Rams their first loss of the season, a 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 20-25, 19-25) defeat on the Mattamy Athletic Centre’s (MAC) Coca-Cola Court on Friday night.
The loss drops the Rams to 4-1 on the season and into a tie with Queen’s for second place in the OUA (Ontario University Athletics). The Warriors improve to 3-3 and share seventh place with York.
Third-year outside hitter Braden Cok led the Warriors with a game-high 15 kills and fifth-year Waterloo libero Erich Woolley had a team-high 12 digs.
Third-year outside hitter Lucas Coleman and fifth-year outside Robert Wojcik paced the Rams with 14 and 13 kills, respectively, and third-year Ryerson libero Will Otten led all players with 15 digs.
The Rams had the edge in both kills (51 to 46) and digs (42 to 38), but committed 46 errors, including 16 service errors, to Waterloo’s 32.
“Waterloo is a team that’s well-organized and puts a lot of pressure on you,” said Rams interim head coach and manager Dustin Reid. “We just couldn’t stay patient enough and avoid those mistakes and that’s how a team like Waterloo is going to beat a team that has more kills.”
“When you play a good team you can’t afford to give them too many free ones and we did that tonight.”
Ryerson established a lead early, forcing a Warriors time-out with the Rams up 13-8. The Rams stretched their advantage to as much as six points for a 20-14 lead, but a serving error followed by a handling error combined with two of Waterloo’s seven service aces to tighten the set at 21-19. Alex Dawson delivered two of his five kills in the final seven points of the game as the teams fought to 24-23 before one of nine Warriors service errors gave the Rams an anti-climactic win and a one-set advantage.
Then the tables turned.
The Rams surrendered the first three points of the second and continued to trail until fifth-year Ryerson middle blocker Marc Reardon tied it 8-8 with a well-placed kill. Coleman gave Ryerson its first lead with consecutive aces, but they were followed by a flurry of lead changes that culminated in a 23-23 tie. Another Ryerson error put the Warriors within a point of claiming the set before the ball grazed the fingertips of third-year outside hitter Brendan Kewin on its way out of bounds to draw the match at 1-1.
Waterloo carried the momentum into the third, grabbing the set’s first points and never trailing. After Ryerson tied it at 3-3 and 4-4, the Warriors took control, leading by as many as seven points on the way to a 25-20 decision and a 2-1 match lead.
The Rams made the fourth set a much closer contest, trading leads with the Warriors to a 16-16 tie. But after a Ryerson service error and handling error on back-to-back points followed an apparent confusion in defensive coverage gave Waterloo a 19-16 advantage.
Reid called a time-out, but Ryerson couldn’t recover as the Warriors took the set 25-19 and snapped a two-game losing streak against the Rams.
“Having to push back constantly, especially right off the bat, is tough mentally and physically,” said Wojcik. “It’s just going to bring a lot of fire to us – we don’t want to have the same kind of mental game we had today.”
The Rams will look to avoid a second straight loss at the MAC on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. when they take on the McMaster Marauders. The Marauders are the number one ranked team in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) and a team that Ryerson hasn’t beaten since 2011.
“It’s a great opportunity to play that type of team on your home court,” said Reid. “When you get a chance to play a team like that, we should come out excited. I wished that we’d played with a little more freedom tonight, and hopefully we can play with that freedom against a great team on Sunday.”