After a strong debut last season from both men’s and women’s teams, Ryerson’s curling squads are switching home clubs in the hopes of elevating the program to be among the OUA’s elite.
“Last year wasn’t a big enough challenge to push us where we need to be,” said Nicole Titkai, incumbent vice for Ryerson’s women’s team.
Last year, the two teams played in different leagues, on different nights at the Leaside Curling Club. This year, the teams will play out of the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club (TCSCC), with both squads competing in a mixed-gender competitive league on Tuesday evenings.
At last season’s OUA championships, both teams finished near the middle of their respective pools, losing only to playoff teams. In a narrow 6-5 loss to the Brock Badgers, the men’s team missed out on making it to the playoffs.
“We both want to do better,” Titkai, 20, said. “Making the playoffs for both teams would be a great accomplishment.”
Due to Leaside’s large membership, its leagues are divided into divisions based on performance. Since both Rams teams were new to Leaside last year, they started in the lowest divisions of their respective leagues, playing against weaker competition in order to work their way up.
Meanwhile, as a club catered towards more competitive curlers, TCSCC’s membership is smaller than Leaside’s. The league that both Rams teams are moving into consists of just one division, made up of teams of all ages and gender makeups, all of which, identify as competitive.
“By moving, we move into a… top level competition right out of the get-go,” Perry Marshall, the head coach of both Rams teams, said. “Playing really good teams makes you a better team.”
There’s also more available practice ice time at TCSCC. Stuart Leslie, 21, the vice of last year’s men’s team, recalled the only open practice time available at Leaside being Sunday evenings.
Leslie, said that the lack of practice time had made it difficult to compete against teams that had played together much longer, like Wilfrid Laurier’s team, who have won both the men’s and women’s OUA championships the last two seasons.
In addition to the Tuesday night league, both Rams teams will compete every other Thursday at TCSCC in the brand new Ryerson Rams U25 Development League.
The league, for which Marshall is the convenor, is for competitive teams whose members are under the age of 25. It will bring together teams from around the OUA, as well as independent teams competing on the Ontario Junior Curling Tour, who want to get more practice against strong competition. 11 teams have joined the league so far, including teams from the University of Toronto, Humber College and UOIT.
“All the teams that are involved are going to really enjoy the opportunity to have a league devoted just to that caliber of play,” said Brian Chick, 35, an assistant curling professional at TCSCC.
“There are schools that take their curling programs very seriously, and I think this is a step in the right direction, for Ryerson to be kind of a forerunner,” he said.
Chick, 35, graduated from Ryerson in 2003. Since then, he has helped coach Canadian youth teams at international competitions, including the World University Games.
Chick worked closely with Marshall to arrange the ice time at TCSCC for the Rams development league. Marshall is hoping to continue their relationship this season.
“We haven’t asked him to make a commitment to help us, but at the end of the day he is a Ryerson grad,” Marshall said of Chick. “So we’ll tug on those Ryerson heartstrings a little bit, and hope that he has some time to give to us and help us.”
Having worked hard to get Ryerson’s curling program approved by the athletics department two years ago, Leslie is excited for what the future holds at TCSCC.
“We wanted to establish ourselves, have a solid foundation for the program so that it’ll be around for years to come,” Leslie said.
Ryerson’s curling program is holding an information session on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Blue and Gold Room of the Mattamy Athletic Centre. The teams will hold tryouts on Sept. 26 and 27 at TCSCC at 9 p.m.
The Ryerson Rams U25 Development League begins playing on Sept. 29.