Ryerson’s successful athletic season comes to a close

Members of the Ryerson Rams men's soccer team run past a cheering crowd of fans following Alex Braletic's 90th-minute game-tying goal at Birthmount Stadium in Toronto on October 27 2013. (Ryerson Rams /Winston Chow)

Members of the Ryerson Rams men’s soccer team run past a cheering crowd of fans following Alex Braletic’s 90th-minute game-tying goal at Birthmount Stadium in Toronto on October 27 2013. (Ryerson Rams /Winston Chow)

When the final whistle sounded, Christian Maraldo just sat on the pitch.

“After a few seconds, it settled in that we finally made it to nationals,” said the Ryerson Rams goalkeeper. “It was like an emotional masterpiece watching people hugging, people crying, people high-fiving, people tackling each other and hugs all around.”

With a sense of accomplishment and relief, the fourth-year business management student ran to the centre of the field to celebrate with family and friends.

“It felt like a long time coming. It was four years in the making. I just had to give myself a couple seconds what was happening.”

The men’s soccer team was going to nationals for the first time ever after defeating the Windsor Lancers 1-0 in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinals.

This was only the beginning of what would be a season of many firsts for the Ryerson Rams. Since its start 59 years ago, never once have two Ryerson teams reached the OUA Final Four, let alone have four teams made it past the first round of playoffs. Men’s volleyball, soccer, basketball and hockey all made the second round.

This year, Alex Braletic became the first Ryerson athlete to be honoured as the Most Outstanding Player in men’s soccer from Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).

The men’s hockey team won a franchise record 17 games.

Stephanie White, associate director of Ryerson Athletics, called the success of all Ryerson’s varsity teams “unprecedented,” with six of the eight going to the playoffs.

“Our teams’ performances across the board, of all of the teams, have been at the highest level since I’ve been here and prior to when I came here,” said White, who first came to Ryerson in 2008 as head coach of the then Ryerson Stingers. “I think overall, it was a successful year. We had more teams making the playoffs and going deep into the playoffs than ever before.”

The athletic season also started with its first ever win on the baseball diamond, led by team head coach Ben Rich, and ended with the men’s hockey team going its furthest in three years.

“We did a lot of good things,” said Andrew Buck, captain of the hockey team.

“We broke the regular season record in terms of wins and we finished in the top four of our division which was a goal that we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year. I think the next stage is national championships for every team.”

Though the men’s basketball team failed to return home for the OUA Final Four, they did advance to the OUA East semifinals for the second straight year. They ended losing by a single point to the eventual OUA champions, the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

But the team had several successes. Jean-Victor Mukama won the OUA East Rookie of the year award and Jahmal Jones was named to the all-star team.

In women’s basketball, Keneca Pingue-Giles was named to the OUA East second all-star team.

But it was quieter for some teams, like women’s hockey and women’s soccer.

“Being that it was only our third year playing in the CIS, our expectation was to make the playoffs this year,” said women’s hockey team captain Nella Brodett.

And even though women’s volleyball team failed to make it back to the OUA Final Four, they made it back to the post-season for just the second time in eight years.

But with winning comes expectation, and the bar has been set high for every team to follow.

“We expect that we’re going to compete every year for a playoff position,” said White.  “It is an expectation now that all the teams will make the playoffs.”

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