TORONTO - A career-high 20 kill performance by Brendan Kewin (Milton, Ont.) and 16 team blocks helped the Ryerson Rams men’s volleyball team erase a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Queen’s Gaels 3-2 (21-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-12) at the Mattamy Athletic Centre Friday night.
Without Lucas Coleman (the OUA leader in kills per set) and Uchenna Ofoha (one of the top blockers in the province) in the lineup, it looked like the Gaels would take the game with ease after grabbing the first two sets. Attack errors by the Rams and strong back row defence by Queen’s resulted in Ryerson on the wrong side of a number of long rallies. They never gave up hope though.
“I think in the middle of the second set we had an opportunity to either stop playing and give up that set, but we still continued to battle through,” said the Rams’ interim head coach Matthew Harris following the game. “Even though we lost, near the end of that set we had some momentum going and we just continued in that third set where we left off in the second.”
Knotted at 15 in the middle of the third, a huge swing by Kewin gave the Rams the edge going into the technical timeout. A service ace by Brett Whitley (Brighton, Ont.) and a couple of errors by the Gaels extended that advantage to four after the break. Up 23-20, kills by Mattias Peters (Surrey, B.C.) and Whitley kept Ryerson alive and forced a fourth set.
With both offences clicking at the same time, the two sides traded points throughout the fourth and neither squad was able to build a lead larger than two points. Kills by the Gaels’ Will Hoey and Zac Hutcheson tied things up at 22 before a key smash by the Rams’ Taylor Jordan (London, Ont.). From there, two blocks by the combination of Adam Anagnostopoulos (Waterloo, Ont.) and Whitley ended it.
Pushing the clash the distance, Ryerson continued to play confident volleyball in the final set. Up 8-3 at the technical, the Rams used that lead to slowly edge closer and closer to their 15th point. A back row attack by Kewin completed the comeback and caused Ryerson’s bench to flood onto the floor in excitement.
Jordan finished with 13 kills while Will Otten (Delaware, Ont.) added six and Peters five. Anagnostopoulos tallied 43 assists and Whitley put up eight block assists.
“All week those guys have been training hard,” said Harris about the individuals that got extra court time in the absence of Coleman and Ofoha. “It’s that time of the year where teams are banged up and the only way you overcome that is by having guys that step up. Mattias Peters and Taylor Jordan stepped up… It’s a collective out there.”
Markus Trence led Queen’s with 19 kills and 16 digs. Hoey added 11 kills and Jamie Wright finished with 39 assists in the losing effort.
The Rams’ strong performance boosts their record to 8-4 and gives them sole possession of second place in the OUA East division. The Gaels fall to 7-5 and into fourth.
After being away from the Mattamy Athletic Centre for over two months, Ryerson plays two games on Coca-Cola Court in two days. They host the RMC Paladins (2-10) tomorrow evening.
“First and foremost, their leader Steve Leknois is a coach that we all respect a lot,” said Harris about the upcoming contest. “He’s going to have his boys ready to play… So, we’re going to come out hungry, we’re going to come out desperate and we’re going to come out like we’re the underdog in that match.”
Game time is 6:00 p.m. If you can’t catch the action live, be sure to tune into the live broadcast at OUA.tv.NOTES: The win completes the Rams’ season sweep of Queen’s. They beat them 3-1 in Kingston way back in November… The game was a battle of the OUA’s top two setters statistically. Wright now sits atop the province with 9.85 assists per set while Anagnostopoulos is close behind at 9.66.