Rams outlast Warriors, clinch semifinal berth
TORONTO - “It’s going to be dirty, it’s going to be gross, it’s going to be gritty, it’s going to be grimey, but it’s the playoffs and we’re going to fight.”
With a resilient effort, the Ryerson Rams extended their season into the OUA Final Four as they defeated the Waterloo Warriors 3-2 in their quarter-final Saturday evening at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
No stranger to five-set matchups, the Rams brought down the house after forcing a fifth set and dominating to close out the game. The team has been pushing through five-set matches all season, but in the OUA quarter-finals it is a completely different game altogether.
“I’m going to be looking for Just For Men as a sponsor, I think, after all of the greys that I just acquired,” Rams head coach Adam Simac joked, post-game. “Gutsy effort. Full-hearted effort. It was great.”
It was a game of give-and-take throughout, as the teams were going toe to toe, point for point, for the first few sets. According to Simac, allowing the Warriors to get a jump on the game in the first set was the error that forced them back into their stride.
“They played exactly how we knew they were going to play in the first set, we just didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” he said. As the Rams fought back to take the second and tie the game, all of the wind appeared to be taken out of their sails in the third. Trailing heavily, they managed to bring the final score to 25-18. A gutsy fourth set would force a dominant finish. “In that fifth set, we just kept it going. They might score a couple points, but they’re not going to win the game with one serve, or with one block, or with one kill. If they make a great play, tip our cap and move on because that’s what this game is.”
Lucas Coleman (Brooklin, Ont.) was in pristine form in the victory, coming up just one shy of his career best single-game points total with 29. The elder statesman of the team shared considerable playtime with freshman Jackson Dunning (Ottawa, Ont.), who showed great form taking charge at libero in his first playoff experience. While young players like Dunning got a chance to shine, the real grit came from senior players like Adam Anagnostopoulos (Waterloo, Ont.) whose 49 assists helped keep his time in the blue and gold rolling.
“It means a lot,” Anagnostopoulos said of the continuation for seniors. “No one wants their season to end on home court in a loss. So it’s good to know that, and whatever happens in the Final Four, whatever happens, happens. We gave ourselves a chance at Nationals, and that’s what matters to us.”
“You saw guys who didn’t want their careers to end tonight,” Simac added.
Anagnostopoulos was also central to attracting the large crowd to the event, promoting the team through his social media to send off the team appropriately. Not only did the team end up continuing their push through the playoffs, but were feeding off of the energy in a way that was palpable from the court to the stands.
“It’s definitely a lot easier to play when you have a crowd,” he said. “Sometimes when you have those little lapses in a game, and volleyball is a game of mountains and valleys, it makes it easier to get out of those valleys. Then we can ride those highs a little bit longer, and I think that’s exactly what happened in the fifth set.”
Now as the Rams turn their attention to the semifinal, the Rams squad that opened the season by upsetting defending OUA champions McMaster Marauders push forward proving that they can never be counted out. After a season rife with triumph and adversity, the Rams move onto the March 9th weekend knowing that they’ve proven themselves regardless of the final result. This quarter-final on its own may go down as the shining moment of the 2017-2018 season.
“They fought the best I’ve seen our guys fight all year,” Simac said. “They showed heart, and I’m just proud to be able to work with these kids.”
Ryerson will head to Hamilton for a semifinal match on Friday, March 9 against Queen's.