Written by: Christian Ryan; Photos by: Alex D'Addese

Gregory Vukets (Aukland, New Zealand) was among the Rams players who impressed in their first major appearance of the season, taking their home opener 3-0 over the Trent Excalibur at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Sunday afternoon.

The win saw the Rams improve to 4-0 in their second meeting with the Excalibur this season. A 3-0 final score doesn’t sufficiently express the closely fought game, as two sets were decided by the very last play.

Trent took an early lead, but could never fully pull away from the Rams. A shift in momentum would see the Rams leading 16-11 by the technical timeout before Trent fought back to tie the set late, 23-23. A kill by Taylor Jordan (London, Ont.) and service ace by Brett Whitley (Brighton, Ont.) would close out the first set in favour of the Rams.

The second would see the Rams fall into a groove and dominate, taking a 2-0 lead with a 25-7 showing. However, the third set would see the fresher Rams lineup face a strong Trent opposition. While Jordan nearly put the game away, the Excalibur continued to push back before a deciding kill by Simon Davis-Power (Conception Bay South, Nfld.) sealed the match 29-27.

Vukets, the sophomore setter from New Zealand, played his first full game in the OUA and impressed with 21 assists and a game high 10 digs. His performance is part of the Rams’ recent push to showcase the talent throughout their roster complimenting their strong senior core. While coach Adam Simac is largely seeing the experiment as a means of finding what areas to build the team, he remained impressed with Vukets’ arrival to the OUA.

“I thought [Vukets] did an admirable job of coming in,” Simac said. “He settled himself very quickly within the first few points, and he made a lot of right decisions tonight. It’s one thing for him to make that decision, but he needs his teammates to help by putting the ball away.”

Adjusting to the OUA coming out of his native New Zealand, Vukets revelled in the opportunity to play a complete match.

“I felt really good about how I’ve adjusted in the last couple of months,” he said. “Today was really different because you can’t simulate a game scenario, no matter what you do in practice. The stakes are just completely different, no matter how you try and replicate it. So it was fun, it was a learning curve, and there will be plenty more opportunities.”

As the Rams return to the road to face the U of T Varsity Blues this upcoming Friday, Simac is looking to push the team’s newer faces in the right direction after getting an idea of what they can do against Trent.

“There are some other pieces where I have to go ‘why did they perform the way they did this evening and how can we change that for the better?’” he said.

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