By: Premila d’sa
Ryerson’s men’s volleyball team are moving on to the championships after defeating the Queen Gaels (22-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-22) in the OUA semifinal at McMaster University on March 3.
Rob Wojcik, Lucas Coleman and Alex Dawson were the team’s holy trinity of the night with constant hits. Combined with Impressive efforts from Brandon Reardon and Uchenna Ofoha, Ryerson took the game from Queens after a couple of close sets.
The game started strong for Ryerson, who pushed Queens into calling an early technical timeout after scoring 4 consecutive points. But the lead didn’t last – after a time out, Queens pushed back. The Ram’s defense let down and a couple service errors gave Queens the lead. Ryerson lost the first set 22-25.
Eager to make up for it, Ryerson started to strike back harder offensively in the second set. Coleman stayed defensive against Queen’s Mike Tomlinson – who hit scored 26 points for his team by the end of the game. The sheer strength of Tomlinson’s hits made it harder for Ryerson to stay defensive. After reassessing their strategy, the team started to push their offense. Wojcik, in an impressive feat, helped push the score with 4 consecutive straight aces.
But Queen’s hit back harder over the net, keeping the score close. Perhaps because of the raw force of hits from players like Coleman and Tomlinson, both teams were pushing their offence in favour of being less defensive. Most of the points scored against Ryerson came from several misses with the ball and other defensive slips. But gameplay stayed competitive towards the end with a close score. It was a combination of Reardon’s defense up at the net and Ryerson remaining strategic in their gameplay that barely kept the Rams in lead. A mistake on Queen’s side gave Ryerson their final winning point in the set, which ended 26-24.
The pressure was on for the third set, with both teams trying to break the tie. The score stayed closed. A service error almost cost Ryerson a point but it was quickly made up with hits from Ofoha and Wojcik. A major defensive miscalculation on the Ram’s side allowed Tomlinson to successfully tip the ball over, giving Queen’s a two point lead in the middle of the set. But Ryerson put the score back at a tie with a hit from Coleman and a vital block from Ofoha. Reardon’s defense up against the net was instrumental in putting Ryerson back in the lead. Returning from the set’s last technical timeout with a 1 point lead over Queens, a hit from Coleman wins Ryerson the third set at 25 – 23.
More optimistic, the Rams returned to the fourth set with strong play. Wojcik maintained well both offensively and defensively with impressive blocks up at the net. At one point, both teams kept on aggressive back and forth play, with Queen’s Tomlinson almost running into the nervous crowd at the sidelines to keep in the ball in play – but his efforts were destroyed by a hit from Wojcik, evening out the score to 11-11 in the middle of the set. Coleman and Ofoha teamed up at the net for an impressive block against Queens, which puts Ryerson at a three point lead toward the end of the set. As the game reached its final minutes, head coach Dustin Reid stood on the sidelines in anticipation. After a service error by Queens gives Ryerson yet another point, Lucas Coleman ends the games with one final hit.
Barely a second after he’s joined on court by the rest of the team, cheering. Ryerson fans in the audience didn’t hold back their enthusiasm either. For the first time, Ryerson men’s volleyball has qualified for the national championships.
The celebration only gets better for Rob Wojcik, who’s named the Player of the Match and Lucas Coleman, who’s named a second-team all-star by the OUA.
The Rams will be back in the Burridge gym at McMaster University on Friday, March 4 for their first championship game.