It was a disappointing weekend for the UNB Varsity Reds men’s volleyball team.
After winning two of four pre-season games in Manitoba a couple weekends ago, the Varsity Reds played their first home matches of the exhibition season this past weekend at the Richard J. Currie Center and lost both to the Queen’s Gaels.
“We were a Jekyll and Hyde team from the team that was out west,” said UNB head coach Dan McMorran following Saturday’s game. “I’m very disappointed in the performance this weekend. We tried a few different lineups to try and see if we could get something going. A couple guys had opportunities to step up but we just didn’t think, as a team, we had enough of that.
“There wasn’t a lot of leadership out there this weekend and we really lacked any kind of a consistent performance by anybody. There were times when some of us played well and we weren’t able to keep the consistency with that.”
While disappointed in his team’s performance, McMorran hopes his team can learn from the pre-season contests.
“I know our guys are probably incredibly disappointed as well. It’s early. This is kind of what the pre-season is a little bit about. It’s not about coming out and having your worst performance but it’s about trying to iron some of the kinks out.”
Queen’s head coach Brenda Willis thinks the Varsity Reds are capable of better play as well.
“The talent UNB has … I’m quite confident they can challenge for their [conference] title,” said Willis. “They had an off weekend I think. I watched some tape and saw them play quite a bit better with the same people.”
The Varsity Reds began the weekend with a 3-1 loss to the Gaels. Queen’s won the first two sets 25-18 and 25-20 before UNB grabbed a 25-21 win in the third set to stay alive. But the Gaels were too much for the Reds as the visitors won the fourth and final set by a large margin of 25-13.
On Saturday afternoon, Queen’s swept UNB by scores of 25-21, 25-14, and 25-18.
There was a notable name on the floor for Queen’s on Saturday. Freshman Ben Harper, the son of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saw some action in the later stages of the match.
“He is a regular player,” said Willis. “He’s just an 18-year-old guy who’s trying to find his legs at the university level. He’s a really good kid. The life that he’s lived probably hasn’t been the easiest — it’s certainly been unusual — but I think he’s handled it really well.
“He’s very grounded, very modest, and really methodical in managing himself. I’m really proud of him so far. The guys have been nothing but supportive.”
When Harper came into the game on Saturday, a group of fans in the front row began to yell his name to try and throw him off his rhythm. It probably won’t be the only time this season fans try to get under his skin, but Willis believes the rookie will be able to handle it.
“Ben has played for Team Ontario and in national championships so I think he’s probably accustomed to it — probably more so than the average person because of who he is.”
Up next for the men’s team is the first AUS-RSEQ Interlock of the season at Memorial University on Oct. 24-25. UNB will play Laval, Montreal and Sherbrooke at the event.
The Reds begin AUS conference play on Nov. 1 at the Currie Center against the Dalhousie Tigers.
Meanwhile, UNB’s women’s volleyball team won two of three games over the weekend. The successful home stand comes after dropping all three of their previous pre-season games in Laval and four of five in Ottawa.
On Friday, all five sets were needed for UNB to defeat the Acadia Axewomen 3-2. The Reds lost the first two sets 27-25 and 25-21 before coming back and winning the final three sets 25-21, 25-23, and 15-13.
On Saturday, UNB took on the Western Mustangs and lost 3-1. Western won the first set 25-22 but UNB responded with a hard fought 27-25 win in the second set. But the Mustangs were too much for the Reds to handle as they went on to win the third set 25-19 and the fourth 25-14.
On Sunday morning at the Currie Center, the Reds and Mustangs met for a rematch and this time UNB came out on top, picking up a 3-1 victory. Western won the first set 25-21 but UNB went on to win the next three 25-20, 25-23, and 25-23.
Up next for the women’s squad is an Oct. 25 match against the Université de Moncton at the Currie Center.