Watching the Rams triumph through a lens

I’ve spent almost the last two seasons covering everything from soccer, to hockey, to volleyball, to basketball. Thankfully, when I was offered the job as one of the Ryerson Rams’ photographers, I had joined Ryerson at a time when their athletics programs were blooming. In two seasons now, I’ve seen five of the eight major teams at Ryerson hold a top-10 spot on the Canadian Interuniversity Sport rankings; I’ve seen exhilarating playoff wins and heart-wrenching playoff losses; I’ve seen seven of the eight major teams make the playoffs, with five of them making it to the Ontario University Athletics’ final four — and four of those teams wound up competing for OUA gold as well.

TORONTO, ON - Nov 4, 2015 : Ontario University Athletics Mens Basketball Home Opener game action between the Ryerson Rams and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. (Photo by Alex D'Addese /Ryerson Rams Athletics)

TORONTO – Nov. 4, 2015: Ontario University Athletics men’s basketball home opener game action between the Ryerson Rams and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. (Photo by Alex D’Addese /Ryerson Rams Athletics)

At the beginning of the school year, the 2015/2016 season was being touted as the best year the Ryerson Rams would ever have. The men’s basketball was coming off a bronze medal win at nationals, while women’s basketball finished sixth in the nationals and competed in the OUA finals for the first time, earning a silver medal. The volleyball programs were looking to rebound after tough losses in the OUA quarter-finals the previous year, while the men’s hockey team was looking to recover after being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by cross-town rivals, University of Toronto.  The women’s team lost to the top-ranked Guelph Gryphons in the first round as well. Finally, women’s soccer had a late season push, but fell short just barely missing the playoffs.  Men’s soccer made OUA final four, but lost in penalty kicks to McMaster. The number one thing still looming over the Ryerson Rams heads: the elusive first OUA Championship banner.

TORONTO, ON - Aug 29, 2015 : Ontario University Athletics Soccer Game Action between Ryerson Rams and University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Praveen Ahilan #1 of Ryerson Rams leaps high and pushes the ball over the ball out of play. (Photo by Alex D'Addese /Ryerson Rams Athletics)

TORONTO – Aug. 29, 2015: Ontario University Athletics soccer game action between Ryerson Rams and University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Praveen Ahilan #1 of Ryerson Rams leaps high and pushes the ball over the ball out of play. (Photo by Alex D’Addese /Ryerson Rams Athletics)

This season has certainly lived up to the hype. Men’s soccer kicked it off by finishing first in the OUA East, while the women’s team had a bit more of a trying season, finishing 6-8-2. The men also topped off their season by adding to their trophy case, with Raheem Rose winning OUA East MVP; head coach Filip Prostran winning Coach of the Year; and Kyle Stewart, Martin Dabrowski, and Nick Lambis named first-team all stars. Countless days and nights spent at Downsview Park, rain or shine, warm or cold, there was a game to be played. I’ve lost track of the number of times I looked at my hands in the middle of a game and saw my knuckles turning purple. Soccer is one of the worst sports to shoot because of the elements you have to face (rain, snow, freezing temperatures later in the season) but it’s also one of my favourites.

TORONTO, ON - Feb 26, 2016 : Ontario University Athletics Mens Hockey OUA West Semi-Final Game 2 action between Ryerson Rams and Guelph Gryphons. (Photo by Alex D'Addese /Ryerson Rams Athletics)

TORONTO – Feb. 26, 2016: Ontario University Athletics men’s hockey OUA West semifinal game two action between Ryerson Rams and Guelph Gryphons. (Photo by Alex D’Addese /Ryerson Rams Athletics)

From the pitch to the ice, the men’s and women’s hockey teams had polar opposite seasons.  Women’s hockey finished a difficult year that saw more injuries than wins. On the other hand, men’s hockey, after some key acquisitions, reached the OUA conference semifinals but would close their series 2-1 to the Guelph Gryphons. Men’s hockey has left me with one of the best memories since I arrived at Ryerson: the image of seeing captain Mike Fine come down the ice, put the puck between his legs, drive to the net, and tuck the puck under Gryphons’ goalie, Andrew D’Agostini, then fly through the air and celebrate, is that will forever be implanted in my memory.

The basketball teams made history this year, as men’s basketball were briefly ranked as the number one team in the CIS. It was the first time that a school other than Ottawa or Carleton took the number one ranking. After a tough loss to Windsor early in the season, the men have rebounded nicely and are poised to make a run at the OUA Championship again this year. On the women’s side, they have been ranked as high as second in the CIS.

The most memorable game by far this season, though:, was the men’s basketball team versus Brock University. About 1,400 fans came out to the game, making it one of the craziest atmospheres I’ve ever been in. Fans dressed up in all kinds of costumes, from bacon to Drake. As always, the “Ram Pack” led the charge in getting the crowd pumped up, cheering or taunting the Brock section.

TORONTO, ON - Mar 4, 2016 : Ontario University Athletics Womens Volleyball Final 4 Semi-Final game action between Ryerson Rams and Western Mustangs. (Photo by Alex D'Addese /Ryerson Rams Athletics)

TORONTO – March 4, 2016: Ontario University Athletics women’s volleyball final four semifinal game action between Ryerson Rams and Western Mustangs. (Photo by Alex D’Addese /Ryerson Rams Athletics)

Finally, the Volleyball teams. I had never really been a big fan of the sport either, so I decided to make an effort to get out to more games, learn the sport, and understand how to shoot it.  Now, volleyball has become one of my favourite sports to shoot. The emotion, focus, and intensity on display during every point is something you won’t find in another sport. After seeing how talented both teams were coming into this season, I had a feeling that one, if not both, would make the OUA Finals — and they did not let me down.  The men’s team made their first OUA finals, while the women made them for the first time in 15 years. 

As I write this, the men’s and women’s basketball teams are preparing to play in the OUA final four, with the chance to bring home Ryerson’s first OUA championship banner.

As great of a season it has been on the court, ice, and pitch for the Rams, this year’s graduating class is arguably one of the best in Rams history. Thirty-four players will be graduating from Ryerson at the end of the year. Thank you for all the hard work you’ve put in. Thank you for the time you’ve invested into your respective teams. Thank you for allowing me to capture your successes over the last two seasons. You have made this job the easiest one in the world. It doesn’t even feel like work to me, I love coming to games. Thank you for treating me with the utmost respect and class.