By Libaan Osman
From breaking school records to being named an All-Canadian, Ryerson Rams women’s basketball star Sofia Paska has almost done it all.
Now in her fifth year with the team, there’s only one thing left for her to accomplish: bring a national championship to the program.
Coming off her best season yet, Paska set school records in total points (426), field goals made (148) and free throws made (124) in 2017-18. She was also third in the country in scoring and fourth in rebounding.
Paska made the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) first-team for the third consecutive year, and was also selected as a second- team U SPORTS All-Canadian for the second straight season.
During the offseason, Paska decided to return for her fifth and final season to end her career as a Ram with the people she began it with.
“I wanted to come back to play for my fifth season to play with [Katherine Follis] and Cara [Tiemens], as it is all our senior years and we all started together in our first year,” said the six-foot-four centre in an email to The Eye.
What also played a factor in her decision to return was the national championships, having come closest to a title in 2015-16, when the Rams won the school’s first silver medal in Paska’s sophomore season.
Earlier this year, Ryerson won the bid to host the U SPORTS National Championships. It’ll take place in March 2019.
There’s a guaranteed berth for Ryerson as the host, and if they had any shot to win it all, this would be the season to do it.
“Winning another championship, conference-wise or a national championship would certainly cement her as probably the best ever Ryerson Ram”
Ranking second in U SPORTS top 10 national rankings, the Rams have won five straight to begin the season—even though their star player hasn’t even touched the court yet.
Paska has been sidelined with an ankle injury she suffered in Ryerson’s last preseason game against McMaster. Hoping to return to practice this week, Paska has been thoroughly impressed with the Rams’ start to the year.
“Our team’s performance has been amazing,” Paska said. “They are all doing so well and it has been fun to watch them play and contribute at all positions on the floor.”
Looking back at her first four years, Paska acknowledges her individual accomplishments, but what sticks out most is her team winning the school’s first OUA championship.
At this point in her career, Paska believes that team achievements outweigh stats. When it comes to having a strong legacy, national championships are more important than scoring titles—something that the star wanted to put an emphasis on heading into the season.
“I have achieved a lot of personal goals and awards, but I would love to win a team championship,” Paska said. “This year I am really going to focus on the team outcomes and helping each of my teammates reach their goals and our team goals.”
Described in the past as being an introvert, Rams head coach Carly Clarke sees her as a player that leads by example in her work ethic, learning to open up and communicate more with her teammates in practice by pulling them in.
“[Paska] has earned the reputation as one of the best offensive players in our league,” Clarke said. “Winning another championship, conference-wise or a national championship would certainly cement her as probably the best ever Ryerson Ram.”
For Paska, her internal motivation and dedication to improving every single day makes her one of most talented low-post players Ryerson has ever seen.
Knowing that it’s her last chance to win a title with the Rams, the fifth-year forward is looking to leave behind a legacy that reminds players that hard work and self-sacrifice do in fact pay off.