Women’s volleyball head coach Ryan Ratushniak told The Journal in early October he wanted his team to stay in the moment and focus only on what is of their control.
“If we do [that],” he said, “our success is going to take care of itself.”
Considering the team’s midseason 6-2 record, the coach’s statements seem to ring true.
Earlier this week in his alumni lounge office in the ARC, Ratushniak — who’s in his first year as head coach of the Gaels — appeared very happy with his team’s second place standing in the OUA East. He said the roster he inherited over the summer has gelled quickly, noting in particular “on-and-off the court we’re a real cohesive unit.”
“I couldn’t be happier with the buy-in from the team,” Ratushniak said, alluding to his players’ adaptability to different styles of play.
A fresh face pacing the sideline often brings periods of uncertainty and growing pains for varsity teams. Against this trend, the Gaels and Ratushniak have made a fitting partnership. Much of that can be credited to the growing unity amongst the roster, the first year coach explained.
He said having a culture off the court — one where teammates feel connected — is just as important as the one on it.
“Just playing for each other out there and building that trust … [Knowing] that if you make a bad play, your teammates are going to try and make up for it. They’re going to have your back.”
Now with the midseason break in their rear-view mirror, Ratushniak said his team is ready for what comes next. After three consecutive losses in the OUA’s first round, Ratushniak said the Gaels are eager to “get over the hump” and push for a spot in the conference’s Final Four.
“It’s going to be a challenge, no doubt about it,” Ratushniak said about the provincial playoffs. “But we want to able to compete with those four top teams in our conference — and we want to start beating those [top four] teams.”
Despite the consistent early postseason exits, the Gaels don’t seem to be fazed by the pressure associated with winning a first-round game. They’re staying in the moment and taking a proverbial game-by-game approach to their season.
“It’s a process but I think everyone’s enjoying it,” Ratushniak said of his team’s resolve. “They’re enjoying being a part of this team, enjoying the process and experience.”
Along with their growing sense of unity, Ratushniak said the team’s strong offense has also been a larger part of their early success. He said one of the team’s biggest strengths have been the speed at which they execute offensive sets and how their consistent serving has placed considerable pressure on the opposition.
And the proof is in the stats.
Compared to last season, the Gaels have improved in categories such as blocks, aces and digs per set. Even with this strong play, Ratushniak wants his team to continue improving. Of the six other teams in the OUA East, three are just a game behind Queen’s with 5-2 records; Ryerson, who ranks first, leads the bunch at 8-0.
Although happy with their spot in the standings, Ratushniak admitted the Gaels’ record could be misleading considering their relatively light first half schedule.
“There’s going to be a lot of movement [in the OUA East] in the next two, three weeks once we start playing league [games] again,” the coach said. Securing a chance to host a playoff game — something Ratushniak said is a goal for the team — will be contingent on small strides they take to improving their play.
When asked if he sees something unique about his team, especially in relation to his coaching experience at the national level, Ratushniak responded bluntly and with conviction.
“I think if we are able to play the way we train and practice, then I definitely see us being a top team in this conference.”
The Gaels resume regular season play this upcoming weekend as they hit the road with trips to both York and Nipissing.
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