Now in his 11th season as head coach of the UNB Varsity Reds men’s volleyball team, Dan McMorran has experienced both highs and lows over the course of his career. The 2013-2014 season, however, was certainly one for the books.
The men’s volleyball team went 11-6 in regular season play last year, before suffering a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Dalhousie Tigers in the Atlantic University Sport final.
McMorran isn’t looking back, though. With a team full of young talent, UNB looks poised to compete once again in the regular season.
“Our team goal is qualify for the AUS championships again first and foremost, and try to win an AUS Championship. Then we’ll have to try to make some noise at the CIS level,” said McMorran.
It won’t be easy.
The team faces a tough interlocking schedule, as well as strong competition within the Atlantic conference from the Dalhousie Tigers who are perennial contenders.
“If you take a look at the last four years, we’ve won two season series and Dal has won two, so they’re definitely a tough opponent for us,” said McMorran. “The Quebec conference is much stronger this year than they have ever been before, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
In order to repeat last season’s success, the coaching staff is relying on both veterans and several key new recruits to fill in the gaps left by departing players.
“Ryan Colpitts is one of our returning players who is stepping into a different role this year. He was a first year player last year who didn’t get much court time at all. He started to really develop at the end of the season — so much so that he was selected for Canada’s junior national team this summer. That experience definitely helped with his development.
“Ryan is eager to play a huge role for us this year, where he didn’t step on the floor that much last year.”
UNB can also count on the immediate impact of several first-year players — most notably Markiel Simpson, who comes to UNB following a successful two-year career with Capilano College, a strong volleyball program in British Columbia.
“Markiel is a great athlete who has loads of potential. He’s constantly trying to improve so he can become a regular in our starting lineup.”
McMorran was pleased with his team’s performance during the pre-season but admitted there remains room for improvement.
“I was very happy with our results from our pre-season games in Alberta,” he said. “Western Canadian teams have been known as the strongest teams in the country for the last 30 years, so I’m happy with how we competed and kept up with those teams, especially on the defensive end.”
McMorran cites consistency as an area upon which the V-Reds could improve, particularly when it comes to players assuming new roles with the team.
“At this stage of the game, our players are just beginning to feel comfortable with the new roles that we are expecting of them this year. The sooner we can adapt to these changes, the sooner we will improve on both the offensive and defensive side.”
All in all, the team looks to be in good shape to take another run at the AUS title this year.
“I’m excited to see how this season unfolds and how we can cope with the challenges that come our way,” said McMorran.