Ryerson’s men’s soccer team beat the Royal Military College Paladins by a score of 3-2 on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Downsview Park.
With the win, the team improved to 6-0-1, a convincing way to start the season but nothing new for the boys in blue and gold. In 2014, the Rams started their season 8-0-0. The year before that featured a regular season without a loss, which included a streak of 11-straight wins.
But as the sun broke through the clouds after their back-and-forth win against RMC, senior members of the club acknowledged their unfinished business.
“The goal is always to win a national tournament,” fifth-year midfielder Martin Dabrowski said. “Last year was a bit of a heart break just not to even make it there.”
After cruising to a 2-0 victory against UOIT in the OUA quarter-finals in October of 2014, the Rams were taken down in the final four by a then-seventh nationally ranked McMaster Marauders squad. The teams were scoreless after 120 grueling minutes, but it was McMaster who punched their ticket to the OUA final with a win in penalty kicks.
Devastation ruled once more when the Rams lost the bronze medal game to cross-town rival University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Defeat by penalty kicks. Again.
The year before, Ryerson visited Fredericton, N.B. for a chance at the CIS national championship. A regulation loss to Laval diverted the Rams to, you guessed it, another penalty kicks loss to Saskatchewan in the consolation semi-final.
Nick Lambis remembers the trip to New Brunswick. It was his first season with the Rams and the Rams’ first visit to the CIS national championships. He said the experience brought great growth to the team.
“Ever since then we’ve been the team to look out for in the division,” he said.
The third-year midfielder said this year’s squad is special.
“Now in my third year, I think we have the best team that we’ve had so far,” he said. “The fact that we can put on almost an entirely different lineup and still win games shows the depth that we have, and that’s what you need to win a national title.”
Associate coach Filip Prostran agrees with his midfielder on the topic of depth but not necessarily on drawing from past experience.
“The number one thing is having a short memory … forgetting about a loss and moving onto the next performance. Forgetting about a win, as great as it might be, and moving onto the next moment,” he said.
Even when the team is so highly regarded, Prostran said there’s still room for improvement.
“People always say ‘hey, you’re number two in the country’ … last time I checked, we haven’t won anything. We haven’t won a title, we haven’t won a championship. There’s so much unfinished business,” he said. “We still have a mountain to climb as a program, not only this season, but seasons moving forward.”
But when it comes to winning it all, Prostran said memory is what matters most.
“The beauty of it is that it’s not for me. I had unique opportunity to win a national title as a player and what that does is … I can’t remember the scores of the game, I don’t even know where my [championship] ring is. What I remember is the relationships that are built from that. That team that won gets to live forever. We always go back to it, we always talk about it … and that’s what I want for them. When they’re going to their weddings, when they’re going to each other’s baby showers … That’s the biggest gift a national championship can give.”
The Rams (now 6-1-1) finished the weekend with a 4-1 upset loss to the Queen’s Gaels on Sunday. It was their first loss of the season.