The Dalhousie University (Dal) Tigers were positioned perfectly for their photo-ops, the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) champions banner perfectly centered.
The Varsity Reds stood on the other side of the court. Seniors and rookies alike were holding back their feelings of disappointment at how their season ended.
They would not be AUS champions two years in a row.
“We’re disappointed that all of us aren’t heading out on a plane to Calgary,” said head coach Dan McMorran. “But hopefully we’ll be ale to learn from that and move on and have a better season next year.”
Despite the final two losses, the men held a strong 11-6 record to finish their season.
They also managed to rank as high as sixth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) standings, and spent almost every weekend in the top 10.
Although they lost to the Tigers in the final two matches, they walked away with a few more awards to add to the already impressive resume.
Fifth year Julio Fernandez received the Most Valuable Player award for the fifth year in his five-year career. Teammate Chhase McFarlen got Libero of the Year – one of only three in UNB’s history to get the award, alongside Kyle Blanchard in 2010-11 and Andrew Costa in 2012-13. Fifth year Logan Keoughan got the Student-Athlete Community Service award for the second year in a row, and Fernandez, Keoughan and Eivind Andersen were named to the All-Star team.
“[We] played a very high level of ball throughout the course of the season,” he said. “It’s hard at the time, when we lose, to put things into perspective, but well over half of the teams in the country would have loved to have had the season we had.”
One of the main downfalls to their season was not having their best performances when it counted. Their last few matches in particular, the final two against Dal, showed a lack of offence trying to be compensated with playing safe.
McMorran believes this is because of the desire to hold their title as AUS champions. The men have won the last two of four seasons – this past one included – breaking the Dal 24-game winning streak in in the 2010-2011 season.
“We were trying to play a little too safe, I think,” he said. “When that happens and another team is coming at you, it’s playing more of a defensive tentative style, opposed to an offensive aggressive style.”
But a deep roster is keeping McMorran positive about next season. He isn’t worried about having to start fresh after seniors Fernandez and Keoughan graduate this year – two of their key, and starting, players.
The program is based on rolling players over, and he has players who are ready to step up and fill those impending voids in those positions.
“Julio Fernandez, he’s a league MVP, and you don’t replace the league MVP right now, “ said McMorran. “But we definitely have players that can fill in and that are going to do a fantastic job next year.”
Some of those players are returning for his fifth year offensive hitter (OH) Marc White and fellow offensive hitters Tristen Burridge, Pascal McCarthy and Ryan Colpitts.
“It’s going to give those guys an opportunity to step, and I think they’re going to do that.”
McMorran is hoping to fix the mindset of the men for next season, and get back their aggressive offence.
“We paid the ultimate price in having to lose a match,” he said. “But I think that’s sport and hopefully that will make our team next year, and our program next year, all the more stronger.”
It’s been a rough week for the men, having to adjust to their season ending and starting post-season training earlier than they hoped. McMorran is travelling to Calgary to be a spectator of CIS and attend coaches’ meetings, but he said it will be hard to sit and watch teams he wanted to be facing at CIS nationals.
“We’re actually eager to get the guys with their off-season programs and eager to do a bit of volleyball here before the guys leave for the summer,” he said. “In a lot of respects I wish the season would start next week so that we could get back and do some of those things that we wanted to do. But, just looking ahead and looking forward to getting back at it.”