Despite winning only three games all of last season, the Ryerson Rams men’s volleyball team believe the playoffs are a realistic goal this year.
Those are lofty expectations for a squad that hasn’t won back-to-back games since the 2008-09 season.
But after rebuilding the last couple of years, the Rams think their contingent of second and third-year players are ready to make that next step.
“Obviously we’re not a favourite; we’re aiming to be fourth, fifth, or sixth. That’s our realistic goal if we stay healthy,” said head coach Mirek Porosa.
Managing expectations is the main message the veteran coach preaches to his players, especially when they face the OUA’s more talented teams like they did on Saturday against the University of Western Ontario, who humbled the Rams in a straight set victory (28-26, 25-14, 25-20).
“Our goal is totally different than Western based off of experience, and lineup, and so on. We’re still rebuilding and our goal is to be .500 after the first part of the season and then make the playoffs,” said Porosa.
Thus, when the Rams (1-1) compete against talented teams like Western, they must be able to “swallow” those losses.
But defeating these teams is not the current goal for the Rams. It’s to stay focused on the end objective, compete, and continually improve on certain areas of their game.
And that’s where Porosa is already seeing the difference for his squad.
“We made 19 errors in four sets [versus Windsor]. And that’s the biggest improvement; where we cut down on forced errors. Last year we were making 11 or 14 per set.”
The former CIS coach of the year believes that the “magic number” for any good team is five or six errors a set.
Ryerson is getting closer to meeting Porosa’s goal despite a less than inspiring performance against the Mustangs.
Even with the loss, the former Polish first division player believes that the Rams are a “pretty good blocking team and very good with side out and transition balls as well.”
This will provide a steady foundation for this young team to lean on.
But along with team performance, there’s one player Porosa thinks will immediately make the Rams a playoff-calibre team.
University of Alberta transfer Robert Wojcik is that guy. Although Ryerson is awaiting confirmation from CIS for his playing eligibility, Porosa couldn’t help but gush over his possible impact player.
“If he gets the green light to play I can tell you we’ll be top four by the end of the season.
“He’s experienced, he reaches 12 feet [when he jumps], and all around he’s very skilled. At the same time he’s got a killer instinct which is necessary in certain positions.”
“He is a physical specimen, and he’s not afraid to take charge.” Although the second-year player may turn the Rams from pretender to contender, Porosa knows he’ll need more from the rest of his players.
However, if they can gel together and keep improving in those critical areas Porosa continually stresses then the Rams’ rebuilding program may be entering its final stage.