Ryerson Ultimate makes historic appearance at national finals

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By Kayla Zhu

Ryerson’s Open Ultimate team made history finishing second at the Canadian University Ultimate Championships (CUUC) on Oct. 20 in Brampton, Ont.

It was the first time the team qualified for Division One in the university circuit, which comprises of the top eight teams across the country.

Gold was the ultimate goal for the Rams, but they broke records along the way in their silver medal finish in the 2019 season.

In the national finals, Ryerson fell 13-10 against the University of Manitoba.  But the loss barely covers the journey the team went through this year.

If you ask team captain John Huang, a fifth-year business technology management student, the road to the finals wasn’t easy.

“We had a rough start to the tournament. Pool play wise, we had a decently strong pool with a lot of teams we hadn’t played before,” said Huang. “I think everyone was happy just to podium at nationals.”

But that wasn’t the team’s only feat this season.

Ryerson toppled the Queen’s Gaels—a longstanding Canadian university ultimate powerhouse—during their semi-finals matchup in a 12-10 win. It secured them a spot in the championship game.

Queen’s has appeared in the CUUC finals in the last four seasons, winning three titles in that span.

In their previous matchups, Ryerson came up short against Queen’s, including an 11-7 loss during their finals game at Steeltown—the first tournament of the season—and a 12-9 loss at the Canadian Eastern University Championships in early October. 

For Huang, bringing down Queen’s was a special moment.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had such a big win in Ryerson history, especially considering it was against Queen’s who was the favourite to win [it all],” said Huang.

Huang attributes the team’s success to good timing, a deep roster and some key transfer students.

Bretton Tan, one of the transfer students from the computer science program at the University of Toronto, was a huge addition to the roster this year. He led the team on defence with nine blocks at nationals. 

Tan, along with rookie Kieran Charnock, was on Team Canada’s U-20 Open roster in 2018.

Charnock was a standout offensively at the CUUC, with 19 goals and seven assists. 

Some other strong additions to this year’s roster were Travis Puckrin, who played with club team Houndd this past summer and David Petsinis, a first-year rookie fresh from the Toronto Elites youth program. 

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect with the two committing to play for Ryerson during Jason Huynh’s last year with the team.

Huynh is a fourth-year mechanical engineering student and has been the centrepiece of Ryerson’s program for the past few seasons. 

With multiple appearances on Team Canada’s U20 and U24 roster, the wealth of competitive experience he brought to the relatively young team was massive. He’s also played for Toronto Rush, a major league ultimate team competing in the American Ultimate Disc League.

Veteran and defensive line Ravin Ramnarain is grateful for how Ryerson’s team culture has shaped the way they’ve performed.

“I feel like it’s always been family first at Ryerson,” said Ramnarain. “It’s an amazing atmosphere and I think that translates to how we play on the field.”

Adrian Garcea, an RTA graduate, played his last year with the Rams in 2018 but rejoined the team as an assistant coach and general manager after hearing about what the roster would look like.

“The fear of missing out really got to me,” said Garcea. “I saw that the roster this year was really, really good and ready to compete.”

One of Garcea’s favourite moments this season was during one of their first games against the McMaster Marauders B team.

“We were up 6-0 and McMaster just scored their first point,” recalls Garcea. “Their whole team rushed the field and celebrated and I looked at John and Ravin was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that used to be us.’”

“It just felt like we had come full circle, from celebrating getting a point so late in the game to being one of the top teams,” added Garcea. 

From finishing fourth in Division Two to donning silver at the end of the season, it’s clear that Ryerson’s ultimate program has evolved exponentially from its humble beginnings. 

Huang hopes that Ryerson will stay true to its roots as a fun, underdog team.

“Ryerson has always been a more partying, ‘We’re here to have fun kind of team,’” said Huang. “I hope that Ryerson carries on [that] tradition.”

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