The dream of winning an Atlantic University Sport championship on home court ended in the semifinals for the UNB Varsity Reds women’s volleyball team.
After winning a dramatic five set game (24-26, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 16-14) in Friday’s quarterfinal over the Acadia Axewomen, the Varsity Reds lost an equally dramatic — but much more disappointing — five set match (16-25, 25-21, 25-22, 9-25, 12-15) to the Dalhousie Tigers in Saturday’s semifinal.
The Varsity Reds had a four-point lead at one point in the fifth set against Dalhousie, only to have the Tigers claw their way back and win it 15-12.
“It’s a tough loss. You can’t help but be sad about it — especially me [where I’m] graduating and done my volleyball career here at UNB,” said a teary eyed Vanja Mitrovic who was named UNB’s player of the game with 14 kills. “It’s been a hell of a run. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“I’m just proud of everyone’s effort. We did the best we could and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for.”
The first set of Saturday’s game was close early on, but the Tigers managed to pull away late and win it 25-16. In the second set, the Varsity Reds were cruising, leading by eight at one point. Dalhousie snuck back into it but the V-Reds hung on for a 25-21 win.
UNB got off to a hot start in the third, leading 7-1 early. They carried that momentum through much of the set until Dalhousie closed in again. But the Reds managed to hold off the Tigers and win 25-22, taking a 2-1 lead.
The fourth set wasn’t pretty for the Reds as the Tigers ran away with it, winning 25-9. UNB rebounded in the fifth and deciding set only to have Dalhousie erase a four-point deficit and win 15-13.
“That fifth set, I mean, I thought we had that in the bag,” said Mitrovic.
“It’s luck, right. Yesterday luck was on our side and today just wasn’t our day, that’s all.”
In Friday’s quarterfinal, UNB trailed by as much as four in the fifth set. They never led in the set, but two late attack errors by Acadia gave the Reds a 16-14 win and booked their spot in the semifinal.
Varsity Reds head coach Jilliane Goulet said errors played a big role in her team’s elimination.
“Unforced errors were kind of the name of the game on our attack. That was really a big difference between the way that we were attacking as the match went along versus how Dal was attacking,” the coach said.
“We try to play an aggressive game. Unfortunately tonight that meant making a few too many errors to stay ahead points wise.”
Goulet admitted that fatigue might have played a factor in UNB’s inability to close out a semifinal victory.
“I think you could see people not jumping quite so high or reacting quite so fast as the match went along. That’s the beauty of having some depth on the bench. We were able to make a couple switches there and make some substitutions.”
The Tigers, who finished second in the AUS regular season standings with a 10-6 record, had a first round bye, which gave them Friday off. The Varsity Reds finished just two points back of Dalhousie in the standings and the two teams split their regular season series.
“I think if this had been our first match of the weekend we might have had a different story going to five with this team — but you never know,” said Goulet.
“The girls really played their hearts out and really followed what we needed to do to stick with them and almost take them today. I couldn’t be prouder of the girls for today, yesterday and just for all the work that they put in this season.”