Rams fall to Lakers for first time ever
TORONTO - The 2016-17 home opener for the Ryerson Rams men’s volleyball team definitely didn’t go as planned. After starting the season 3-1 and riding a two game winning streak, the Rams fell 3-0 (21-25, 20-25, 22-25) to the Nipissing Lakers on Coca-Cola Court Friday night.
The win was the Lakers’ first ever against the Rams in program history and bumps their record to 3-0 to begin the campaign. Nipissing now sits atop the OUA East division while Ryerson slips to third.
The Lakers received a big boost coming into the contest. After sitting out their team’s sweeps of the York Lions and Trent Excalibur last weekend, fourth-year outside hitter Cameron Branch and four-year middle Warren Taylor made their season debuts. As a result, Nipissing’s head coach Eric Yung was able to go with a starting lineup that almost exclusively consisted of senior players that have played together for a long time.
“I think both of them played very well,” said Ryerson’s head coach Dustin Reid about Branch and Taylor after the game. “They’re very good players. We prepared as though we expected them to play, but there’s not a lot of footage this year of them on the court obviously."
“But, I think the way they played as a unit, as a seven player unit, that was the reason they won. It wasn’t a personnel change or an insertion in the lineup. They played great as a team and deserved to win.”
The Lakers’ chemistry and experience shone through in the opening set. Their block defence was clicking early and did a great job of reading the Rams. Ryerson’s setter Adam Anagnostopoulos (Waterloo, Ont.) moved the ball well to his attacking options, but regularly had to make plays out of system. That slowed down the Rams’ offence and allowed Nipissing to exploit their size advantage at the net.
In the end, a kill by Nipissing’s Lyndon Sonego sealed the first set 25-21 and gave the Lakers a ton of confidence going into the second. In that set, Nipissing quickly jumped out to a 10-2 lead and were up 16-8 at the technical timeout.
From there, the Rams seemed to wake up in front of their home crowd. A couple of big kills by fifth-year middle Uchenna Ofoha (Markham, Ont.) sparked Ryerson midway through. They got to within four points on a few occasions, but the deficit proved to be too much to overcome as the Lakers took it 25-20.
Looking to stay alive in the third, the Rams capitalized on a number of serving errors by Nipissing to stay within striking distance. Down 16-15 at the technical timeout, Ryerson looked to make a push but couldn’t stop the Lakers' outside hitter Steve Wood.
The third-year picked up seven kills in the set, a number of which came down the stretch, to put his side ahead. He wrapped things up with a huge back row attack to seal the 25-22 victory and the sweep.
“They played consistent,” said Reid about Nipissing's performance. “They kept some pressure on us, they blocked very well, they tried to block what they thought we were going to try to hit and we didn’t make the adjustments necessary in our hitting and in our coverage… The bottom line is they were the better team today. They were better than us in most areas and that showed in the result.”
Wood finished with a team-high 14 kills while Branch and Taylor each collected seven. In total, the Lakers had 11 blocks compared to Ryerson’s five.
It was a busy night for Rams’ fourth-year outside hitter Lucas Coleman (Brooklin, Ont.). He had 15 kills on 42 attacks to lead Ryerson in both categories. Another bright spot for the Rams was the play of Ofoha. He put up nine kills and only one error on 11 total attacks for a kill percentage of nearly 73%. Anagnostopoulos had 30 assists.
Ryerson will have the opportunity to rebound at home tomorrow night against the winless York Lions (0-2). If you can’t make it to Coca-Cola Court, he sure to tune in to the game’s live broadcast on OUA.tv and Rogers TV. First serve is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.