Photo by Alex D'Addese

As playoffs approach, it's crunch time for Rams

By Stan Temming

TORONTO - Oh, how things can change in a week. Just ask the Ryerson Rams women’s volleyball team. The squad came into last week’s action riding a six game winning streak and playing some of their best volleyball of the season before a meeting with the No. 8 McMaster Marauders on Wednesday, February 8th at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

With the Rams down 1-0 after the first set and tied at 16 in the middle of the second set, a reckless play by a Marauders’ outside hitter changed everything. The McMaster player swung at a tight set, crashed into the net and took out Ryerson’s captain Becky Zeeman (Ottawa, Ont.). She stayed down for a while before it was determined that she wouldn’t be able to continue. It was later revealed that the fifth year outside hitter had broken her left leg in two places.

Shaken up, Ryerson went on to lose the set 25-21 and the match 3-1 (14-25, 21-25, 25-22, 18-25). That couldn’t have prepared them for their game against the Trent Excalibur last Saturday though. Playing the newest team in the OUA, the Rams struggled for the second straight game and needed five sets to slay the Excalibur.

The good news is Ryerson still has time to get things figured out before it truly matters. Three regular season games remain on their schedule, including two at home this weekend. Also, regardless of what happens down the stretch, the Rams (12-4) have second place in the OUA East division locked up and will host a quarterfinal matchup.

Ryerson gets things underway Friday night against an unpredictable Guelph Gryphons side. The Gryphons (11-5) come into the game third in the OUA West and the only team in the province that has defeated both the No. 8 Marauders (12-3) and No. 9 Western Mustangs (13-2) this season. They actually just picked up that victory over the Mustangs in five sets last Sunday to extend their current winning streak to four.

On the flip side though, they’ve been beaten by both the Queen’s Gaels and Nipissing Lakers this season, teams that Ryerson has already defeated twice.

Offensively, Guelph is led by fourth year left side Maddie Dedecker. She’s averaging just over three kills a set and has been relied upon to score points alongside Victoria Golebiowski. Dedecker comes into Friday’s clash fifth in the province with 178 kills while Golebiowski sits tenth with 155.

Looking at the defensive side of things, the Gryphons depend on the size that they have in their front row. Guelph leads the OUA with an average of 2.47 blocks per set. The play of Jessica Gormley and Libby Donevan has been a big part of that equation. The middle blockers are both in the top five in the OUA when it comes to blocks per set.

Following Friday’s fun, the Rams will have to reset for their final regular season contest at home against the Waterloo Warriors on Saturday. The Warriors (8-7) sit fourth in the West division, but come in losers of their last two.

Like Guelph, Waterloo is also a strong team at the net. Their 2.22 blocks per set is third in the province. Third year outside hitter Claire Mackenzie leads the squad with 3.00 kills per set and a grand total of 165 so far this season. A strong performance by her will be vital if the Warriors hope to come out on top.

Saturday’s game will be a big one for a few reasons. First of all, graduating seniors Veronica Livingston (Kelowna, B.C), Kristine Yan (Markham, Ont.) and Zeeman will be honoured before the first serve for their time at Ryerson. Secondly, the contest will be the official return of Erica Naccarato to the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Now an assistant coach with the Warriors, Naccarato played four seasons with the Rams and was on last year’s squad that claimed silver at the OUA Championships.

First serve on Friday is scheduled for 6:00 p.m while Saturday’s match is a 4:00 p.m start. If you can’t make it to Coca-Cola Court to watch the action live, be sure to tune in at OUA.tv.

NOTES: In their only meeting last season, Ryerson stole the first set from the Gryphons in Guelph before dropping the next three. The Rams are 4-2 against the Gryphons in the last five seasons, including 3-0 at home… Rams Live (the team of student broadcasters that put on all of Ryerson’s home games) will be having their second annual Takeover during Saturday’s game. Their entire broadcast crew, from the producer to the play-by-play commentator, will be female that night… The Rams will wrap up the 2016-17 regular season on Saturday, February 25th when they fly to Thunder Bay, Ont. to take on the Lakehead Thunderwolves (4-14).

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