The Ontario Tech Ridgebacks men’s soccer team secured a crucial three points this Sunday, beating the RMC Paladins 2-0 at home.
This win boosts the team’s win streak to 5 games as part of a 10-1 season so far. The impressive showing thus far has Ontario Tech sitting comfortably in first place in the OUA East.
The recent display of soccer excellence has edged the squad into school history, as the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks men’s team has been nationally ranked for the first time.
As of Sunday evening, the Ridgebacks are ranked seventh overall out of all universities in Canada, with the team likely to increase in standings after a win over the Ravens.
Head coach Ramin Mohammadi said the team’s consistency in practice has been a driving factor in its success this season.
“They’ve been very consistent, we practice every day and I think that’s the key. Consistency, retaining information and wanting to strive,” he said.
However, this achievement did not come easily. The Ridgebacks finished the 2021-2022 season with a disappointing 5-2-3 record. Mohammadi says summer training helped his squad produce better results this season.
“I think we had more time to plan during the summer when the players play with the other leagues like League1 (an Ontario semi-pro men’s soccer league),” said Mohammadi. “Their game fitness, their game competition improves so when we come back for the pre-season, they are not very far away from what we want.”
The way teams are ranked has changed this year. According to U SPORTS, the overseeing body for university sports in Canada, 2018 marked the first season of a new top 10 format.
Previously, the top 10 were determined weekly based on votes from coaches and media panels.
According to an article on the U SPORTS website, this change was driven by “the will of the organization to implement a more visible, more consistent and ultimately more credible and objective Top 10 for all sports across the board.”
Team captain Jacob Begley said the squad is happy with the national ranking, but won’t fall into the trap of statistics.
“We’re finally beginning to get a little bit of recognition and it feels great. Being in the top 10 in Canada is something special and especially with such a good group,” he said. “It’s something we’re very happy about but also something we’re not stopping at, we want to be number one. Six is great but there’s still lots to do.”
With one away game left, Begley said the team has to look past the pressure of a national ranking and finish the season strong.
“This might be the first time the team has been ranked but it’s not the first time the team has had pressure,” he said. “I think in the past seasons when teams have sat back we’ve had trouble breaking them down and finding a way to win. I think this season is different, we’re finding ways to win and, as a team, we’re not settling for draws anymore.”
The Ridgebacks will take on the Lakers this Saturday, Oct. 22 in Nippissing. Regardless of the result, Mohammadi said he believes in the ability of his team.
“As a coach, nothing makes me more proud than (when) the boys see themselves on a stage that they deserve, they work hard,” he said. “Honestly, it is a privilege to be with these 25 kids, day in and day out it doesn’t matter what the situation is, they come out and put the work in.”