Photo by Sports Information

Top Ten Moments of 2017

By Andrea Elliott

TORONTO – The year 2017 was a memorable one for the Ryerson Rams and, as per tradition at this time of year, we are counting down our Top Ten Moments from the calendar year. This year the countdown begins with the Honourable Mentions before releasing moments 10-6 on December 18 and then the top five moments on December 20.

Without further ado, we kick things off with our Honourable Mentions

1. CLUB TEAMS RISING

The year 2017 was a milestone year for several Ryerson Rams club teams.

In February the women's curling team won the program's first OUA medal when they claimed silver and qualified for their first U SPORTS national championship.

March saw the wrestling team qualify its first student-athlete, Sunny Narwal, for the U SPORTS national championship after he claimed the OUA bronze medal in the 120kg weight class. Also in March, Ryerson's cricket team won the American College Cricket national championship, competing against schools in the United States.

Fast forward to October and we saw the Rams fastpitch team earn their first playoff berth in just their second season of competition. Ryerson picked up their first playoff win over Queen's and finished fifth in the OIWFA league.

2. NINE NEW RAMS TURN PRO

As the Ryerson Department of Athletics continues to experience success both on and off the field of play, more and more student-athletes have opportunities to continue their playing careers after life at Ryerson. In 2017, nine new Rams turned professional.

From men's hockey, former captain Michael Fine is now playing in Denmark with the Esbjerg Energy while Rams teammate Daniel Clairmont is in Germany playing for EHC Timmendorfer Strand.

Women's hockey alumna Michelle Evagelou recently signed to play in the EWHL, a European league, and plays with Aisulu Almaty out of Kazakhstan.

Three basketball players turned pro in 2017 including Adika Peter-McNeilly who now plays in the German Bundesliga with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. On the women's side, Kellie Ring is in England playing with Oaklands in the WBBL while Faatimah A played in El Salvador with Santiago de Maria.

From the volleyball programs, Uchenna Ofoha signed with the Kokkola Tiikerit out of Finland while Emily Betteridge recently signed to play with Brondby out of Denmark.

Finally, men's soccer alumnus Adam Hemati is playing in the Persian Gulf Professional League in Iran with Persepolis FC.

Also to note this year, men's basketball alumnus Aaron Best made the move from playing in Europe to being drafted to the NBA G-League, the development league for the NBA. Best is now playing back in Toronto with the Raptors 905 club and is the only player on the roster to have played in all 12 regular season games thus far. Best is averaging 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.




3. BROADCAST AWARDS

In May the Ryerson Rams webcast team comprised of mostly RTA: Sport Media students won the OUA CHAMP Award for Best Webcast Production for the second time in three years. New features on the broadcast including panel discussions as well as split screens and increased visual graphics pushed the Rams production over all others. 

Ryerson became the first Canadian school to win a Sports Video Group (SVG) College Sports Media Award in June when Film Studies student Elwin van Alst's documentary series following the women's volleyball team and their road to the national championship won the SVG Outstanding Program Series, Collegiate Student category.

Finally, RTA: Sport Media student and Ryerson women's basketball colour commentator Jaime Hills deserves honourable mention as she made her national broadcasting debut in March as a member of Sportsnet's coverage team at the U SPORTS Final 8 national championship. Hills served alongside Arash Madani.



With our Honourable Mentions in the books, it's time to take a look at the first half of our Top Ten moments of the year!

10. RAMS PARTICIPATE AT FISU GAMES

The 2017 FISU World University Games featured eight current or former Rams student-athletes and staff competing for Canada in Taipei.

Volleyball player Lucas Coleman made his second appearance at the FISU Games while soccer star Raheem Rose suited up in the red and white for the first time. Basketball alumnae Kellie Ring, Mariah Nunes, and Ceejay Nofuente were all part of the Canadian contingent which finished in seventh place.

Ryerson student AJ Assadian competed in the taekwondo event while fencing coach Alice Lu guided the Canadian team in Taipei. Communications staffer Andrea Elliott also earned her first international experience at the event.

9. ATHLETICS RECEIVES FIRST $1 MILLION DONATION

June 7, 2017 became an historic day in Ryerson Athletics history as the largest single donation to the Rams in the history of the university was announced. Al and Brigitte Kavanagh's gift of $1 million is set to transform the men's and women's hockey program at Ryerson.

“I've been watching Ryerson, and this is a moment of great momentum for the university," said Al Kavanagh. "We are excited to see the promise here in both the students and the teams. There's terrific opportunity to build new connections for the hockey program, and attract new talent and fans.”

The donation has already created new opportunities for player and team development and a series of financial awards for student-athletes.

8. RANA AND CLARKE SHINE WITH NATIONAL TEAMS

Ryerson basketball coaches Roy Rana and Carly Clarke had quite the year both with the Rams and on the national stage. After guiding the Rams to their second consecutive OUA Wilson Cup championship and the team's first national silver medal, Roy Rana also elevated the success for the Canadian men's national team.

In July, Rana led the national junior squad to Canada's first championship in an international FIBA-regulated event when they struck gold at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Cairo, Egypt. Fast forward to August and Canada Basketball announced Rana would assume the head coaching duties for the senior national team for the duration of the FIBA Americup and the qualifying tournaments for the FIBA World Cup to be held in 2019.

Carly Clarke found her own international success this year, leading the Canadian women's junior national team to its best ever finish and first medal at the FIBA U19 World Cup. Clarke and the Canadians won the bronze medal in Italy, losing just one game throughout the tournament. On November 1st, Canada Basketball announced Clarke's promotion as an assistant coach to the senior women's team.

7. RAMS CONTRIBUTE TO GREATER COMMUNITY

The year 2017 was another record setting year in terms of student-athletes donating their time back to the Ryerson community and beyond.

With the help of the Ryerson Rams Care program, our student-athletes generously donated 3,255 hours back to various initiatives. Highlighting the experiences include a humanitarian trip, this time to Cambodia, organized by a group of eight students, as well as members of the men's basketball team traveling to Senegal to participate in the SEED Project.

The Ryerson Rams Care program launched in 2017 and brought with it new partnerships and opportunities. Rams student-athletes now have regular opportunities to participate in the Home Run Scholars program in partnership with Jays Care and Toronto Community Housing, as well as the Nike Basketball Academy, giving youth opportunities to participate in sport and leadership activities.

6. WOMEN'S SOCCER SNAPS PLAYOFF DROUGHT

It was a long seven years without a postseason appearance for the Rams women's soccer program but 2017 put an end to the drought.

This season the Rams set several new program records including wins in a season (seven), total points in a season (24), and goals scored in a season (24). The result was a fifth place finish in the OUA East division, setting up a first round playoff matchup with Laurentian.

First year forward Victoria Watson scored the Rams first postseason goal but the team is still looking for its first playoff win after dropping a 2-1 decision in overtime.

Watson was recognized for her incredible season as the OUA East Rookie of the Year and then named to the U SPORTS All-Rookie Team. She's the first Ram to win a major award in ten years and became the first women's soccer player to earn national All-Rookie team status. The future looks bright for the program as fellow first year Savahnna Robinson also picked up second-team OUA All-Star honours.

5. MEN'S SOCCER WINS OUA BRONZE MEDAL

In a season riddled with adversity, the Rams men's soccer team triumphed for their second OUA conference medal in program history in 2017.

The squad put together a 12-7-1 regular season record which didn't entirely reflect their success on the pitch. Had it not been for a seven-game forfeiture of wins, the Rams would have posted an undefeated regular season. Enter, adversity.

The Rams, the OUA East division leader for each of the past four seasons, were suddenly forced to battle for a playoff spot and get through the first round. Mission accomplished. The Rams finished third in the division and hosted Queen's in a first round matchup won easily, 2-0. Their reward? A quarter-final matchup with their rivals from the University of Toronto on their home turf with the Varsity Blues having eliminated the Rams from the playoffs in the last three seasons.

In an extra-time thriller, the Rams emerged with a penalty kicks victory over the Blues to advance to their fifth straight Final Four championship. Their reward? A semifinal matchup with the host and top-ranked York Lions. There, the Rams scored the opening goal and looked poised to advance to the championship game and national tournament. That pesky adversity finally caught up with them, however, as a game-tying goal on essentially the last play of stoppage time forced extra time and then penalty kicks. The Rams couldn't muster a second PK victory in as many weeks and their season turned to the bronze medal match.

The next day the Rams came out focused and motivated to win their last game for their seniors and they did just that, topping McMaster 3-0 to win Ryerson's second soccer medal in program history.

4. RAMS CONTINUE TO IMPRESS IN THE CLASSROOM

A year removed from a record-setting number of Academic All-Canadians and Academic Achivement Award winners, the Rams continued to excel off the court, pitch, and rink and were rewarded for their academic successes.

In November the Rams honoured 72 student-athletes as U SPORTS Academic All-Canadians and OUA Academic Achievement Award winners, just shy of the 76 student-athletes honoured in 2016. Of those honoured, 46 were honoured at the U SPORTS level while 26 were OUA winners.

As one of the main goals in the Athletics mission statement, enriching the academic experience and developing the whole student is extremely important to the Rams. The success of our student-athletes in the classroom will always be our main goal and be a proud moment to celebrate with our peers.

3. WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL HOSTS U SPORTS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

For the first time at Ryerson, a women's national championship was played on campus in 2017. The U SPORTS women's volleyball national championship was without a doubt a success and cracks the top three on our top moments list this year.

In March the Mattamy Athletic Centre arena was transformed into a state of the art volleyball court and provided an atmosphere unmatched by other U SPORTS venues.

The Rams had their most successful regular season with a 15-4 record leading up to the championship, proving they were well deserving of a spot in the national tournament. When it came time to play for their first national title, the Rams were ranked No. 8 and had to take on the top-seeded Alberta Pandas in their first match. The eventual silver medalists handed the Rams a 3-0 loss but it was one of the most influential matches in the program's history. 

After finishing the championship in seventh place, the Rams earned valuable experience at the highest level in Canada and have started their 2017-18 campaign with an 8-0 record. The legacy of the national championship will still need time to play out, but for now, it has helped elevate the Rams to a new level.

2. MEN'S BASKETBALL REPEAT AS WILSON CUP CHAMPS; WIN FIRST NATIONAL SILVER MEDAL

Winning your first OUA championship is one thing - trying to defend it is another. In 2017, the men's basketball team was able to do just that and more, as the back-to-back Wilson Cup championship and national silver medal team takes the second spot on this year's top moments list.

In 2016 the men's basketball team had home court advantage for their first Wilson Cup championship. In 2017, the Rams had to venture into enemy territory and take on both Ottawa programs, two of the strongest in the country. At Carleton's Ravens' Nest, the visiting Rams squeaked past Ottawa in the OUA semifinal to set up a rematch of the 2016 Ryerson-Carleton Wilson Cup title game.

On Carleton's home court the Rams played a fourth quarter for the ages, erasing a five point deficit and outscoring the previously unbeaten Ravens 25-13 in the last 6:20 to celebrate the program's second consecutive conference title. The win also earned the Rams the No. 1 seed at the U SPORTS national championship for the second straight season.

In Halifax at the Final 8 championship, the Rams defeated both hometown teams in Saint Mary's and Dalhousie to reach their first national championship game in program history. There, it was another showdown with the Carleton Ravens. Despite another strong finish against the powerhouse Ravens, the Rams fell short of the title and claimed the silver medal. That silver medal is the best ever result for the men's basketball program.

1. RECORD NUMBER OF ALL-CANADIANS AND NATIONAL AWARD WINNERS

The year 2017 was a record setting year for the number of Rams student-athletes honoured by U SPORTS as All-Canadians and national award winners. The success of our student-athletes on the national stage is a source of pride and helps continue to solidify Ryerson as a place to be to achieve goals and make an impact.

In the 2016-17 season the Rams earned five All-Canadian honours which is the most in any one season for Ryerson. All five winners came from different Rams teams and included:

1. Adika Peter-McNeilly - Men's Basketball - First-Team All-Canadian
2. Lucas Coleman - Men's Volleyball - First-Team All-Canadian
3. Raheem Rose - Men's Soccer - First-Team All-Canadian
4. Sofia Paska - Women's Basketball - Second-Team All-Canadian
5. Aaron Armstrong - Men's Hockey - Second-Team All-Canadian

Among the national major awards, the Rams also picked three of these honours, another record:

1. Robert Boskovic - Men's Soccer - U SPORTS Rookie of the Year
2. Aaron Armstrong - Men's Hockey - U SPORTS Dr. Randy Gregg Award
3. Victoria Watson - Women's Soccer - U SPORTS All-Rookie Team

When it was all said and done, six of the Rams' eight U SPORTS level teams had at least one national award winner of some type which goes to show the strength of Ryerson's level of competition across its platforms and takes home the top moment of 2017!

Thanks to all our fans for cheering us on during these top ten moments and so much more in 2017! Here's to another successful year in 2018! Happy holidays.

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