The first half of the 2014-15 season has not been easy for the UNB Varsity Reds men’s volleyball team.
Following a devastating loss in last year’s AUS championship series, the Varsity Reds looked to rebound this season with a revamped roster. While the team lost three of its main starters from last year, they have also been playing without star libero Chhase McFarlen, who was injured early in the season.
Despite the circumstances, the V-Reds have held their own against strong competition from the Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The team currently sits second in the Atlantic university standings with a 4-6 record.
Head coach Dan McMorran lists early success at the Brandon Bobcats tournament in September as one of the highlights of the first half, as well as strong play in the team’s first AUS-RSEQ interlock in Newfoundland. UNB went 2-1 in St. John’s, with 3-0 wins over Laval and Sherbrooke.
That being said, McMorran still believes there is ample room to improve heading into the final stretch.
“In the first half of the season we played some of the best volleyball we’ve played in years, but we’ve also had matches where we struggled both offensively and defensively, so consistency has been an issue,” said the coach.
“This is due, in part, to the number of players who are getting major minutes for us this season who didn’t last year, as well as some having to play a different position than they’re accustomed to. This has resulted in some of those peaks and valleys that we’ve experienced, but we’re hoping that this is what will make us stronger down the stretch.”
McMorran credited several of his returning players for taking on more significant roles with the team, both on and off the court.
“Matt Losier has played some of his best ball as a Varsity Red so far this season, and Marc White has also added some much needed stability for our service reception and behind the service line.”
Outside hitter Ryan Colpitts has also impressed in his second year with the team, where he moved into a starting position and currently leads the conference in total points.
“With the injury of McFarlen, Tristen Burridge has moved into the starting libero role and has done a great job. Brett LeDrew has earned a starting position in the middle this season, and both he and Craig Toonders have made solid contributions to our team’s overall play.”
Heading into the second half, UNB’s roster will be bolstered by the addition of Elvind Andersen, a 6’4 AUS all-star right side player who will be returning from his native Norway.
“Andersen has been a big part of our program for the last few seasons and will definitely help us this semester,” said McMorran.
“All of our players have been working hard to improve as individual players and as a team, in the hopes of achieving our goal of winning another AUS Championship and returning to nationals.”
The team also recently announced the signing of two recruits who will join the Varsity Reds for the 2015-16 season. Simon Davis-Power is a 6’4 outside hitter from Conception Bay South, N.L., while Francois Pitre-Pelletier is a 6’11 middle from Balmoral, N.B.
“UNB is gaining not only two excellent athletes in Simon and Francois, but two top-level students as well,” said the coach. “We expect that these young men will help us compete for a CIS title while performing at an exceptionally high level in the classroom and in the community.”
The Varsity Reds men’s volleyball team returned to play Saturday, defeating Sherbrooke 3-0 in exhibition play. The team’s next league match will take place Saturday, Jan. 10 at the Currie Center, as the V-Reds take on the MUN Sea-Hawks. Game time is 8 p.m.