Rams prepare for big test at soccer nationals

A unified Rams squad prepares for the program's first-ever trip to nationals. (Marissa Dederer/Ryersonian Staff)

A unified Rams squad prepares for the program’s first-ever trip to nationals. (Marissa Dederer/Ryersonian Staff)

The Ryerson Rams men’s soccer team lost its first game of the year in the most untimely fashion, falling short against the York Lions 1-0 in the OUA final at Birchmount Stadium on Sunday.

The game marked an end to Ryerson’s hopes of securing the first OUA championship in school history, though the team will have a shot at glory once again in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national tournament.

Losing the OUA title, while having their 15-game unbeaten streak snapped in the process, wasn’t the ideal way for the weekend to end. Despite the disappointment, qualifying for nationals for the first time in the program’s history was seen as a major success.

“The national berth is what we were looking for,” said associate coach Filip Prostran. “That’s where all of our focus is right now.”

The loss was also perceived as a wake-up call for the players.

“We needed to experience a loss,” said Rams goalkeeper Christian Maraldo. “I think a loss — unfortunately in the OUA finals — is good for us so we can experience that and know this feeling of losing, and not bringing it to the national tournament.”

While the loss in the final will leave the team wanting more, the Rams made no secret of their main goal — to make the CIS nationals. Having met that goal, Ryerson’s squad will be full of confidence heading into the tournament.

“(The loss) isn’t really going to affect us,” said Armin Tankovic. “We’ve been here before, especially us older guys. We’ve been here for five years and have experienced a lot worse than this.”

The CIS tournament begins Thursday in Fredericton, N.B., with eight Canadian teams vying for the national title.

The sixth-seeded Rams will face Laval on Thursday at 3 p.m. EST in the quarter-finals. Laval, the third seed, qualified for nationals with a first place regular-season finish and conference championship in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), Quebec’s equivalent to the OUA. Laval (7-1-4) is a favourite for the national title, alongside York and UBC.

For Ryerson to progress, they’ll rely on fifth-year striker Alex Braletic to continue his torrid pace. Braletic led the nation with 13 goals during the regular season. The Rams defence, meanwhile, will try to contain Patrice Dion, who led the Rouge et Or with nine goals this season.

The OUA final game was, in truth, a one-sided affair. York controlled much of the possession, created more chances and scored the only goal of the game.

Mark-Anthony Kaye scored in added time of the first half. Kaye pushed forward before cutting the ball to his left and snapping the shot. The ball deflected off a Ryerson defender and beat the keeper, giving York a precious lead right before the half-time whistle. A bit of solid defending secured the 1-0 score line and the title for York. It’s the Lions’ second OUA title, the last coming in 2007.

“You have to put this in the past and look forward,” said Rams player and OUA East rookie-of-the-year Cameron Galea-Andrews. “We want to look forward to bigger things now, and that’s winning the national championship.”

Ryerson made the finals after defeating the Windsor Lancers 1-0 on Saturday. Martin Dabrowski scored in the first-half and gave Ryerson the win. After the match, an emotional Dabrowski spoke to the press.

“It’s been a hard week for my family,” said Dabrowski. “My dad passed away on Monday. I did it for him, to be honest.”

Dabrowski’s goal put Ryerson into the finals, and gave the Rams a spot in the CIS national tournament.

All 11 tournament games will be streamed live at www.CIS-SIC.tv.

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