The Ryerson Rams men’s soccer team will be looking to spoil the party as it takes on the McMaster Marauders on enemy territory in the Ontario University Athletics semi-finals Saturday.
The Rams are coming off a convincing 2-0 win against the UOIT Ridgebacks in the quarter-finals last weekend. Associate coach Filip Prostran was pleased with his team’s stingy performance, and said Ryerson will be trying to do the same against the Marauders.
“McMaster is a top-level university and has an excellent program,” said Prostran. “We have to be ready, and that means conceding very little defensively and making sure we tighten up at the back. Playoff games are usually decided by a goal, so we’re going to need to maintain our focus.”
That will be difficult in front of a rowdy McMaster crowd and in a pressure-filled atmosphere. The Rams have had eight road games this season, but none have come close to the hostility Ryerson is about to face on the Marauders’ home turf. Prostran said the players know what’s ahead of them and, as long as the team keeps a cool head, it should not affect the outcome; in fact, it could help motivate the Rams.
“What’s most important is not to get frustrated over it,” said the associate coach. “The crowd could actually add fuel to the fire and motivate the players to spoil their [McMaster’s] party.”
The two teams come into the semi-finals evenly matched on paper.
Led by first-team all-star goalkeeper Christian Maraldo, and an impressive back end, the Rams allowed just 13 goals, while tallying 31 goals in 16 regular-season games this year. Viktor Anastasov topped the squad with seven tallies.
Their opponent, the Marauders, have also been an impressive defensive team, allowing just 10 goals in their 16 regular-season matches. McMaster goalkeeper, Angelo Cavalluzzo, posted a solid 0.29 goals against average and .914 save percentage. The Marauders also recorded the third-most goals in the OUA with 44.
Looking at those numbers, it’s easy to see why McMaster has made it this far. Given the Marauders’ star-studded roster and home-field advantage, the Rams may even be considered underdogs in this contest.
Ryerson associate coach Prostran said the task will certainly be difficult, but stresses the team needs to stick to what it’s done best all year long.
“For our team, it has always been about chemistry,” said the coach. “Our success this season has come from team cohesion that supersedes skill and talent. Backbone, hard work and a structured system is why we’re playing Saturday.”
Prostran said one of the best things about coaching in the Final Four is watching his veteran players get the chance to play for a championship. But perhaps the most rewarding part of the job for the seasoned coach has been watching the university’s soccer program grow in 2014.
“I’m most proud of the connections we’ve created with families and alumni. It’s great to see alumni travelling up to an hour and a half just to watch our games, cheer us on and embrace us when we win.”
The Rams will take on the Marauders at 5:30 p.m. at Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton. Ryerson students can attend. A fan bus leaves at 3:30 p.m. from the Mattamy Athletic Centre Saturday and will be available on both days of competition this weekend.
If you can’t make the game, make sure to follow our live blog at The Ryersonian.