Rebounding from their quarter-final defeat Friday, the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) champions UNB Varsity Reds broke down the Queen’s Gaels over two extended sets before racing away in the third, and into Sunday’s consolation final at the TELUS 2018 U SPORTS Men’s Volleyball Championship at McMaster University.
“We were fortunate to be up 2-0 going into the third set,” said UNB head coach Dan McMorran. “It was a battle all the way through and Queen’s had a couple of leads late, and we were able to play some side-out ball that we haven’t been able to play too often this year. We came up with some blocks when we needed to, and we were in system a lot more than we were yesterday.
“I think some disappointment set in with Queen’s, and we were able to continue to build a spread between us.”
In her final match at the helm, Queen’s coach Brenda Willis was left reflecting on her team’s struggles in crucial moments.
“Again, we put ourselves in a position to win, like we did in the fourth against Alberta, and then were tentative passing when it really mattered,” said Willis. “We let two sets go, and frustration took hold, and I don’t think we came out ready to play in the third.”
A five-time OUA Coach of the Year, Willis leaves Queen’s after 31 years as head coach and five OUA titles. Her all-time record with the Gaels ends at 367-196 (.651).
Willis was hopeful that her story as a pioneering female coach of a men’s program will encourage a new generation of female coaches to break through as leaders in high-performance sport.
“I never set out 31 years ago to be a trailblazer or whatever you want to call it,” said Willis. “It was just circumstance and opportunity that allowed me to coach men, and it went well pretty quickly. I was just lucky to turn my hobby into my career.
I just hope that my legacy is a message to women that they can coach at a high level and coach men if they want to, and not to let stereotypes stand in their way.
UNB’s outside Ryan Colpitts was nearly unstoppable on the afternoon, hitting .520 and racking up 16 kills versus just three errors, while adding an ace and a block and a half for a team high of 18.5 points.
His teammate Pascal McCarthy was named as the Reds Player of the Match, with seven kills, two aces and two blocks in the win.
On the opposite side of the net, Zac Hutcheson took home Player of the Match honours after hitting .478 with 13 kills and two errors, while adding an ace and a block assist for 14.5 points.
Evenly matched from the afternoon’s opening serve, there was little to choose between the Varsity Reds and Gaels in the first set. A kill from Markus Trence brought the teams into the technical timeout with Queen’s leading 16-13, but UNB immediately set to work to eliminate the deficit.
Trailing by three at 22-19, the Varsity Reds called time and emerged from the break with renewed purpose. They proceeded to reel off seven of the next nine points to steal the set, sealing it when Colpitts wiped wide off the block for 26-24.
Play continued to be exceptionally even in the second set, as the Gaels took a two-point lead into the technical timeout after a kill from Joel Rudd. Once again, UNB managed to erase the deficit as the teams raced to the finish line, and forced extra points.
There, the Reds dodged four set points before converting on their first opportunity, following a Connor McConnell ace with an emphatically-killed free ball from Brad Stewart for 30-28.
Disheartened by their finishing through two sets, the Gaels were slow out of the blocks in the third, and the Reds took advantage. Well ahead by the technical timeout at 16-9, UNB kept their foot on the pedal to close out the set, and the match, comfortably when a Colpitts kill brought up match points and Queen’s Julian Krygel missed the mark with a serve.
Players of the Game
- School: UNB - Pascal McCarthy
- School: Queen’s - Zac Hutcheson